Ghost Gathering Festival 2013
@ Heratrau Park, Bucharest
12th – 13th July 2013
Review & phots by Caitlin Smith
Once again calling on the souls and spirits of musical persuasion, Ghost Gathering returns for its second year for another round of annihilation. Romania may not be the most obvious place you think of when metal comes into question. Overshadowed by Slovenia’s Metal Camp, Germany’s Wacken, Belgium’s Graspop, Hellfest in France and Obscene Extreme in Czech Republic for metal festival greats, it should not be completely overlooked. Perhaps the bands playing aren’t the major draws that get signed for the big festivals but this doesn’t mean that it should in any way be overlooked.
Hidden away within the largest national park in Romania, the Herastrau gardens in central Bucharest, the location was Japanese themed parks, which provided a picturesque surrounding that blended perfectly with the focus of the festival. Rather than taking on the usual genre banner and promoting specific types of music, this festival chooses to integrate music and nature, focusing on choosing bands that defy the mainstream.
Summer in Romania is the same every year: hot, sunny and dry, and this year proves to be no exception. Perhaps as a Britain I should be enjoying the hot weather before I eventually returned home to what happens to be equally scorching temperatures, but the prospect of spending the next 9 hours waiting in the burning sun saw me and all the other the early arrivals dashing for the shaded seats placed in the back corner of the festival. With the beer tent not opening till the bands had started, mood was tense as the crowd waited for their early afternoon beer or caffeine fix.
Right from the beginning there seems to be an issue with communication. With no announcer to tell the crowd what was happening and the sound checks running right up to the first performance, it was hard to tell when the band was doing checks and when they had actually started. Eventually after one of the songs plays for over a minute, we decide that the festival has in fact started and dutifully shuffled to the stage to begin the day.
The metal credentials of the first three bands to open are questionable, falling more under the alternative rock category and as a metal review site lets move straight onto the first metal band of the day.
Over recent years depressive black metal seems to have taken a hold over the underground scene, and here to provide despair and destruction are Kistvaen (4/5).
Having only travelled a short distance, being from the Romanian capital themselves, they are gradually starting to gain recognition across the country, and immediately after entering the stage people are already rushing to the front to enjoy the set close up.
There’s always been something about open air festivals that works for black metal, perhaps the return to nature suits the music, and this band seemed right at home in their surroundings. Despite the sunny weather, Kistvaen brought their own brand of darkness with them, atmospheric and nihilistic. Stege’s screaches echo across the park, calling forth all souls to join them, while Fenrir and Vlad knock out bleak and unrelenting harmonies to back him. It’s standard atmospheric death metal, but played at it’s finest; all it needed was an accompanying blizzard.
Flying all the way out from London, Death Doomers Eye of Solitude (4.5/5) take the tone down a few notches with a crushingly heavy set. By this time a reasonable crowd has started to gather at the front of the field, eagerly awaiting the first Romanian performance from this band.
Having seen this band countless times already, this is the first open air set, but this was nothing short of spectacular. Playing a mix of the usual songs, and a couple off their recently released EP.
This was not an average show for the guys though; the crowd was treated to a special guest appearance during ‘The Deceit’ with vocalist Deha from DSBM bands such as Yhdarl, Imber Luminis and Merda Mundi.
Taking on a backing role, Deha’s screams were a heart retching and violent addition to the mix, the perfect introduction of agony to counter Dan’s growls. Despite the warm surroundings, we are left chilled and hungry for more.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t accompanied with an official photographer & after my batteries died I wasn’t able to take anymore photos.
It’s getting dark by the time finishing band Celelalte Cuvinte (2/5) enter the stage. Forming in 1981, the band have gained some attention within Romania with their brand of classic heavy metal. Among the natives of at the festival, they seem quite well known and draw a fair crowd to the front of the stage.
For a festival that claims to be promoting non-mainstream bands, there’s something distinctly, well, mainstream about this band. The sound was a little too close to bands such as the Status Quo or Pink Floyd to really be considered unique. The whole problem was their songs were a little too catchy, putting them out of place with the other bands on the bill at this year’s festival.
As the festival draws to a close for the day, I’m struck by how laid back this is compared to the usual festivals. There’s no pushing to the front of the stage or running frantically through the field to catch the first note of the favorite band on their day. Perhaps the fact that the size of the festival leaves everyone with a great view wherever they choose to stand, but it did all strike me as very well behaved.