Mystic Festival – Gdansk Poland

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Mystic Festival was arranged in Gdansk at its old shipyard area for the first time ever. Originally Mystic Festival has been carried out and arranged in Krakow. Obviously things didn’t work out, therefore the organization of the fest switched the location and city. Basically arranging the Mystic Festival at the old shipyard only a few kilometres away from the centrum of Gdansk was a wise move. All the hotels and other facilities were located nearby. As for the fest, the four day event offered plenty of amazing artists and bands from a wide range of the metal genre, of course legendary names such as Judas Priest and the reactivated Mercyful Fate. The opening day was technically a warm-day headlined by Tom G Warrior performing Triumph Of Death and doing own gig with Tryptikon. Anyway here is a brief write-up of this awesome fest.


 

WEDNESDAY

The area consisted of two main outdoor stages : Main Stage and the second stage called Park Stage being a little bit smaller. Then there were two indoor stages and yet one tiny outdoor stage. Running between stages to catch bands on time had to be coordinated and scheduled carefully.

The opening day was kicked by by Spectral Wound. The combo started the gig quite exceptionally as the famous opening drum parts of Painkiller by Judas Priest roared out of the monitors, immediately followed by the material of Spectral Wound.

The death metal squad Skeletal Remains  had faced a real mean setback. Their gear and equipment were lost by an airline company. The four-piece didn’t have any choice, but get on the stage with the borrowed equipment. Skeletal Remains did five songs and left the stage. Honestly despite the borrowed gear, the bands soldiered on thru the set by sounding as Skeletal Remains. Of course playing with strange instruments was definitely tough.

When being at the Polish festival means the Polish band has a good home-field advantage. That could be testified when Decapitated hit the outdoor stage, Park Stage. The whole area of Park Stage was totally packed when Decapitated kicked off. The set list of Decapitated consisted of songs picked up from several albums. It was obvious the latest effort CANCER CULTURE had five songs in the set. However the band combined the groovy elements with death metal approach. Of course some people were willing to hear older stuff whereas the new modern stuff was a priority for the band.

Returning to the indoor stage, cos the Swedish old school death metallers Lik was about to start. Lik is known for having got influences from the old school “Stockholm death metal” sounds ala Entombed and Dismember. Their songs and sounds definitely were reminiscent of the early day albums and demos by Entombed/Nihilist and Dismember.

The warm-up day was quite insanely busy. As when the Swedish LIK had dismembered the audience, Carcass was about to exhume to consume at the Park Stage.  The Carcass set had of course these mandatory Carcass classic songs, but of course the four-piece did a whole bunch of newer songs. Well Carcass was and sounded like Carcass, as the four-piece did so safety and unsurprising set with no bonus unexpected songs. Walker joked by talking a few words in Polish to gain some points.  

Once again a rapid transition to the club area, when the old school Bay Area thrashers Heathen was about to kick off. Lee Altus has always been an essential keymember of Heathen since year zero. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to be involved in the Heathen Eurotour for a reason or anoher. He had been replaced by a Canadian guy who filled the empty shoes by Altus more than perfectly. Heathen focused on the newer material off the latest great album EMPIRE OF THE BLIND, whereas the old stuff wasn’t the essential part of the set. However Heathen was in damn great strike throughtout the set. The frontman, David White, sounded bloody great. Heathen would deserve more recognization and more attention as they still kick ass.

When the Bay Area thrash was finished, the legendary Tom G Warrior unleashed a two-hour set covering his long history and career as an extreme metal pioneer. The first hour had been focused on the Hellhammer material; the second part of the set was dedicated to both Celtic Frost and Triptykon. The Hellhammer set for obvious reason was based on the most hailed HellHammer tunes. Songs such as “Messiah”, “Aggressor”, “Reaper” got performed and of course the majestic bombastic “Triumph Of Death” concluding the first part of the two hour set. During the obligatory roadie break, the stage got the Tryptikon outlook. As far as the second part of the set, it basically equally consisted of the Celtic Frost and Tryptikon stuff. The traditional Frost tunes ”Circle Of Tyrant”, Usurper”, Procreation” were more than mandatory choices, but it was kind of a pleasant surprise to hear ”Mesmerized” being played. Warrior himself was outspokenly pleased to have an opportunity of performing the old Hellhammer classic tunes. He thanked the audience for following his long career. As for Tryptikon, the opening “Goetia” sounded heavy and literally massive. Finally the whole set was concluded with the long epic ”The Prolonging”. The whole set of two hours and more was epic and mesmerized and unique experience of hearing these songs. Frankly the world needs the third full-length Tryptikon album out… and really soon…

 

THURSDAY

The second day of the festival offered a varied and interesting line-up of bands presenting different genres.Maggot Heart has previously played for example at Roadburn and in general reached a solid following. The band’s line-up is interesting as featuring the former The Oath member  Linnea Olsson.  Maggot Heart is a three piece hard rocking combo and definitely sounded as the second chapter of The Oath. The music had been drawn more from rock, especially old school hard rock elements. Songs had catchy riffs and sounded killer. The club environment   was the perfect pace for Maggot Heart’s gig.

Modern-day metalcore bands, basically all of them, got a midday opening slot like Bleed From Within from Glasgow. The outfit did quite a routine set of the aggressive sounding core without higher expectations, but with a professional attitude. Even though the audience hadn’t arrived at the festival area, that didn’t prevent them from offering a solid performance.

The Norwegian rock/metal whatever squad Kverlertak now stands for, is known for asskicking energetic shows and a reckless and wild current frontman. The vocalist Ivar Nikolaisen turned out to be such a wild, insane rocking vocalist that fits to the music of Kverlertak more than perfectly. The dude, besides singing and jumping all around the stage enjoyed the bottle of booze and smoked. That didn’t prevent him from going totally nuts. Kverletak didn’t let anyone down as their rocking metallic elements were catching and had a lot of great hooks.

Gggolddd was both an interesting and eccentric booking to Mystic. The whole concept of Gggolddd was tied up around the sexual abuse of the singer of Gggolddd, that happened in her teen age years. Therefore she goes thru that dark era in the Gggolddd music. Gggolddd’s stuff sounded so atmospheric and etherical, anyone had to concertrate on listening to it. The singer of Gggolddd went thru emotional affect when tears were falling on her face and she didn’t sing for a moment. However she handled the gig perfectly. Gggolddd’ performance was amazing and totally dumbfounded.

Mastodon’s turn to start on the main stage. The four-piece did  a very solid, basic set covering songs from several albums. “Thunder And Lighting” concluded the 90 minute set of progressive whatever rock or metal. Mastodon didn’t let down, but didn’t offer any special gimmicks. Basically it was just like another day at the office and a next one tomorrow.

Heilung’s gigs and shows are primarily ritualistic performances and have absolutely nothing to do with the music. Listening to that kind of stuff at home is quite painful and tormenting. Instead, their performances and shows were fascinating. Some weird-looking shaman spelled incantations by jumping all around. Some chick with the white dress mumbled some spells or incantations. Several soldiers with spears were an impressive view. Heilung is such an eccentric combo. They are booked to metal festivals, shaman events, and all kinds of folk/ancient festivals/concerts. They seem to appeal to a wide range of audiences from different genres and subcultures.

The headliners on Thursday was of course Opeth. Even though the playing was more or less 90 minutes, but the Opeth songs are always epic long and above all Åkerfeldt’s smalltalk and communication being the part of the basic Opeth gig. Therefore the Swedish progemetallers only did nine songs from each album. Åkerfeldt funnily linked some well-known band or artist to every Opeth song performed at Mystic. For example “Demon Of The Fall” was referred to “Damnation” by Morbid Angel, as the titled would have been borrowed from that Morbid Angel song, but modified for Opeth. Opeth’s progressive metallic approach appealed to the festival audience perfectly. Opeth was quite entertaining and especially sounds and lights gave the progressive metallic feeling.

 

FRIDAY

The third day was kicked off by the British metalcore outfit The Raven Agen at the main stage. The outfit has got a major boost for their career by gigging and touring with Iron Maiden around the the planet. Well the guitarist of The Raven Age is Steve Harris’ offspring. However the old fact could be pointed out touring with Maiden hasn’t helped that much as hope because of the field of the main stage was basically empty. Of course playing time at Noon was without any doubt nasty. The British metallers pulled an intensive gig with a professional attitude and thanked the audience.

Proscription hailing from Finland was a total in-your face barbaric blackened death metal. The whole 60 minute set of the most sadistic intensive was so mind blowing and so brutal resulting Proscription as the most brutal band at the fest (well besides Azarath). The band didn’t waste the time by communicating, just letting the full force of intensive playing roll over. The singer sounded truly barbaric. Killer stuff

Time for the old school death metal when the British death metal veterans Benediction offered a lesson of the early 90’s death metal. The whole band got a new breathe and rebirth after Dave Ingram made a return to front this legendary British death metal band. The latest effort titled SCRIPTURES is a goddamn masterpiece. Of course the songs of the latest albums had a lions share of the setlist. The setlist consisted of the songs selected from GRIND BASTARD, KILLING MUSIC. Unfortunately THE GRAND LEVELLER was missing. Benediction proved they were still vital, energetic and the most important thing to remember the old death metal lives and well. Of course Ingram’s voice sounded a thunderous great as this is a true trademark of the Benediction sound. The man definitely enjoyed being on the stage.

The latest album by Tribulation titled WHERE THE GLOOM BECOMES SOUND came out in the worst Pandemic era, so the album may have been forgotten. But the biggest blow for Tribulation was Jonathan Hulten’s departure from the rank. His role in the band was absolutely an important piece of puzzle as his stage presence and playing created the magic of Tribulation. As he is gone now, that could be testified from Tribulation’s stage manner. All kinds of personal jumping and moving were totally gone. Instead there was basic standing and playing thru. Damn as Tribulation however sounded splendid.

The long-time British metal veteran Saxon never surrender or slow down. The legends still play on and on. The NWOBHM five-piece veteran’s set was a pure best of best gig with all the classic ones with newer ones. As for the newer tunes, “Battering Ram, Thunderbolt” got heard, for a reason or another none of songs from the latest CARPE DIEM was on the set. Saxon was pure Saxon, they always offer the best and high quality heavy metal.  As did they now. Hearing the Saxon classic tunes such as Motorcycle Man, Wheel Of Steel and a whole bunch more was a real metallic nostalgia feeling.

Surprise surprise the whole of the Park stage was totally crowded. Mgla’s success when speaking about their home ground benefit, was definitely expected. The four-piece could have easily played on the main stage and definitely would have drawn a huge crowd as well. Mgla’s performance followed the traditional path what could be expected to be seen at the Mgla show. A four guys unleashing catchy yet cold grim sounding black metal with all the faces hooded. Especially the lights created the amazing atmosphere and succeeded to give a more perspective for the gig. As for the set, songs from both AGE OF EXCUSE and EXERCISES IN FUTILITY took a major part of the setlist, well why not, cos songs are great.

When Mgla had concluded the set on the second stage, another Polish band Azarath kicked the set off on the indoor stage. The extreme brutal barbaric blackened death metal assault by Azarath was so raw and so nihilistic as the combo didn’t show any mercy any weak moment and any wimpy sounding riff. Azarath’s set was intensive and fast played deadly metal and definitely sounded truly splendid

Judas Priest was next, headlining the third day. At this point, it is kind of useless to long for Glenn Tipton’s return, as it seems like Andy Sneap will ride with Judas Priest till the end.  The guitar playing of both Faulkner and Sneap was sharp as hell. Both the guitarists moved all around the stage, from one side to another side, whereas Ian Hill kept standing in the same spot next to massive monitor wall during the whole time of the gig. The gig was the basic Judas Priest, though the band was in damn vicious strike thru the set. Halford’s voice was as strong as the British steel. As for the setlist, all these mandatory Priest classics such as “Living After Midnight, Hell Bent” were the part of the set. However hearing the newest song “Lighting Strike” was a welcome choice. Judas Priest is the defender of the true British heavy metal to the last breath. The band sounded damn tight.

Finally the Norwegian black metal, which hadn’t been witnessed at Mystic. That was kind of an unexpected surprise. Mayhem was honored to present the Norwegian grim black metal. The set had been divided to three different parts. The first one basically covered the material off DAEMON, CHIMERA, whereas the second part consisted of three songs off the DE MYSTERIIS album and finally the third one just contained a couple of songs of DEATHCRUSH and of course the mandatory “Carnage”. Attila growled and spun around the stage with the cave vawing . Teloch’s paints were tremendous great. It was a pity, seeing Attila’s corpsepaints was quite hopeless as the lights on the stage were quite darkened. Nowaday Mayhem doesn’t offer any surprise whereas all kinds of things just happened at the Mayhem show over 20 years ago.

 

SATURDAY

The Danish deathmongers Baest have reached more and more success during the past years. The five-piece has got influences from the old school Swedish death metal scene as LIK has done the same. The main difference between these bands, Baest doesn’t sound so obvious as a Swedish old school death monger. Baest was quite relentless and above all sounded extremely tight on the stage. The frontman Simon Olsen turned out to be a real beast as a singer. The club atmosphere created the more suitable place and atmosphere for the death metal assault by Baest.

The French Igorrr has made the real breakthrough as playing at various fests and of course gigs of their own. Is this metal ? Well it is a mix of all kinds of different elements picked up from several and various musical genres. The frontman of Igorrr had done a crazy looking Abbath lookalike mask and turned out to be a reckless person on the stage. Whereas the lady with the skull on her hand also dominated the set with her way of performing on the stage. Her voice and her personality brought more opera elements to the chaotic approach of Igorrr. Frnakly Igorrr’s eccentric, but original and weird, metal fusion with all those different elements would have worked better indoor venue, cos that would have brought more insane feeling.

The long-time Polish death metal mongers Vader invaded the main stage. The legendary four-piece had announced playing the DE PROFUNDIS album from back to back. They definitely did it, but quite unexceptional way. The album wasn’t played in a coherent order, instead several songs picked up from other albums had been sprinkled between songs of the DE PROFUNDIS album. Afterward it was found out Vader had covered the old KAT song. It was quite impossible to recognize, cos Vader’s fast and furious death metal was a pure blitzkrieg from the beginning to the end. The Polish death metallers didn’t slow or sound soft, just pure extreme aggression.

Imperial Triumphant has risen from the catacombs of the black metal underground to ge recognized by the bigger masses. The band is known for the bizarre looking masks and capes. The three-piece’s black metal has different kind of elements and multidimensional aspect, taken from jazz and other experimental things. Those elements have been taken to another extremity. The band’s fusion jazz black metal sounded fascination, original and unique.

The mighty Mercyful Fate has returned from a helluva long break and was about to start on the main stage. The stage had been coved by a huge Mercyful Fate curtain, which was taken down and carried away. The stage was simple but looked “evil” with stairs and massive inverted cross hanging from the ceiling. The stage construction somehow was remsincent of King Diamond’s stage, but modified to look simply. “The Oath” opened the 90 minute of the old school blackened heavy metal of the early and mid 80’s.

King Diamond’s custom and new mask looked both weird and cool. The long black veil or whatever cloak looked odd, but on the other hand quite gloomy. Goat horns on his head definitelt referred to the front cover of DON’T BREAK THE OATH. It would have been extremely thrill to see the old 80’s Mercyful Fate mask on King’s face.

Mike Wead has been King Diamond’s wingman for decades, therefore his routines and skills are widely recognized. Of course it would have been superb to have a slot for Michael Denner, when the whole set of Mercyful Fate was only based on the 80’s material. Another iconic character is definitely the one and only Hank Shermann. He must have rehearsed the old school Fate songs with fingers bleeding and sweating as he hasn’t touched most of songs for decades. However some weird problems occurred with pedals, but it got solved by a roadie. Joey Vera from Armored Saint had been recruited to handle the bass. Of course his presence looked weird, but he is one hell of a monstrous bass player and definitely deserved his place in the line-up

As stated above, the set was a total timecapsule back to the 80’s. None of songs from the 90’s albums was on the list at all, which was quite odd. Black Funeral”, ” A Corpse Without Soul”, ” Melissa”  and finally ”Satan’s Fall” concluding the gig were all real gems.  The new song titled “ The Jackly of Salzburg” needed to be worked a little bit to reach the same magical feeling as the older material. The opening riff sounded already catchy.

King sounded amazing, splendid and didn’t have any back-up vocals as sounding so sharp and evil.

Mercyful Fate will be touring in Europe – Do Miss this

 

Mystic Festival

www.mysticfestival.pl