Chaos Descends 2018 – A visit to the German wilderness
For the first time in years I don’t have the opportunity to go to the great little festival Headbangers Open Air this year. Located close to Hamburg it’s easily accessible for a southern Swede like myself, the lineup is always good and the festival itself both cozy and well organized. It was also the place where I met my girlfriend. All in all a festival that’s hard to beat for me personally.
When it got apparent that we weren’t going to HOA this year because of people travelling, getting new kids or just having your kids at your place that weekend, me and my friend Matti started thinking about what we could replace it with since we still wanted a festival in July. After discussing about some different options the decision fell on going to Chaos Descends. A festival with a good reputation for being great and that had a formidable lineup this year. Said and done; I got my press accreditation and off we went on Thursday July 19. Our first stop was Hannover since the drive from Malmö was over 9 hours. After a great burger, some local craft beers and a night’s sleep at a warm hotel we started our last leg of the trip to get to the festival, which is located in Crispendorf in Thuringia, the eastern part of central Germany.
Although we had missed the pre-show with Occulta the day before we were still filled with anticipation on what to expect, since this was the first time at this festival for both of us. I like the feeling of trying out new festivals, some stick with you for a long time and som get weeded out immediately. Once we finally got off the autobahn and onto the smaller country roads we really felt the mood rise. Soon we would get beers and get out of the car! The festival was located in the middle of absolutely nowhere, far out in the German forest. It felt like we drove for ages on the narrow path before it eventually revealed a neon vest on one of the security personnel. In a typically German way he politely asked to search our car for glass and other prohibited items. We let him and, even if he found the bottle of rum I had bought the day before, he wasn’t being authoritative about it but simply asked me to pour it over into a plastic bottle instead. While I was doing that, Matti had gotten his wristband and payed his camping fee. I went and got my wristband too and then we drove on, there was still some forest road to conquer before we got to the campsite.
Upon our arrival at the actual festival and camping area we quickly realized that turning up on Friday afternoon was considered late, since the campsite was well packed. After some scouting around for a bit we managed to find a spot big enough for the car (that I also sleep in), Matti’s tent and the gazebo we brought. The heat hit us like a brick wall in the face coming out of the AC cooled car, no time to waste, we needed shade. So the assembly of tent, gazebo and making of the “bed” in the car went fast and efficient and afterwards we sat down and got ourselves some beers and reflected a bit on our surroundings. We discovered right away that there was no reception what-so-ever on our phones, neither internet nor phone worked. Guess this festival really is a break from the every day walk of life.
The first band I saw, and my first visit at the festival area, was GOSPEL OF THE HORNS from Australia. Their blackish thrash metal in the vein of early Sodom/Destruction/Slayer worked very well and the singer even looked a bit like 80’s Tom Angelripper. The music was quickening and a perfect start to the festival. I met some friends and talked a bit and bought my first drink, glad to discover that besides beer the festival had a great bar with punch, long drinks and other treats. I bought a Cuba Libre and started to feel like home, as I often do on small and well organized festivals. The festival only has one stage with 20 minutes change-overs. Tight, but it seems to work decently and it’s very comfortable that everything else that you need within the festival area is within the space of about a football field.
Next band up was MANILLA ROAD, one of the foremost cult acts in the metal genre as a whole and pioneers in the branch of epic heavy metal in particular. The gig started out a bit uncertain, the guitar sound was off and the
vocals were a bit hard to hear. To me the voice of Bryan Patrick isn’t really what I want out of Manilla Road either. Despite the fact he’s been in the band for around 10 years or so and does a respectable job, it’s Mark Shelton’s voice that will forever be THE voice of Manilla Road. The times Mark do sing it sounds just as expected and the band overall was tight and seemed to have a good time on stage. At the time when the timeless classics from the Crystal Logic album turned up towards the end of the set the band had totally won you over and it all ended on a high note. Great show!
Next, and last out on the Friday since Wolvennest had problems with their flights, was the reason why this festival was especially interesting to me; the mighty TORMENTOR! Hungary’s black metal pioneers that were only matched by Bathory in rawness and sheer evil atmosphere during the 80’s. This for me was the black metal event of the year (Decade? Century?). The band surely didn’t disappoint. Evil, disturbing, well played and nice looking. Attila (also in Mayhem) just felt natural in his role as high priest in this congregation of East European black metal madness. I’m very excited to watch the
band again at Brutal Assault in a few weeks (chronicle on that coming up as well of course), because this was excellent. Despite the reasonably early hour I went to sleep after Tormentor was finished, all the driving had taken the best of me and I needed some rest.
On Saturday I woke up at about 9.30 and felt ready for a new day. Matti felt the same so already at 10 we had mixed our first grog and was on the way to a great festival buzz. Our stereo played a mix of forgotten 80’s metal and cheesy AOR, and even though the weather had turned and it was raining a lot we had a very nice time. Eventually it stopped raining and that was just as well, because it was time once more to actually see some bands and not only hang out with friends at the camping ground.
First out was HÄLLAS, the Wishbone Ash worshiping Swedes that managed to get something of a hit song in the metal and rock community last year with Star Rider. The guys play well and the ever present guitar melodies have tons of hooks and goodies. A good gig, and better live than on album I felt. After the gig I met some friends and we had more drinks and more camp hang out-time. Those Cuba Libres just tasted better and better… The hangout resulted in me missing both Demilich and Pallbearer, luckily none of them were on my must list.
The next band on the other hand was, you can never watch NIFELHEIM too many times. A band that always delivers and that is always relevant despite their low flow of releases. The gig was of course great and I enjoyed it while eating a spicy gulasch. The food on the festival was above expectations overall I must say. I had pasta, gulasch, meat with potato sallad (truthfully it was Matti having that), breakfast sandwiches… Besides the pasta being a bit over done, it all tasted nice. Well done on that part indeed!
I managed to miss the very beginning of PAGAN ALTAR, but fortunately I managed to see the majority of the gig because it was really special. Brendan Radigan’s voice fits in well and the whole concert felt like a fitting tribute to Terry Jones, who sadly left this earth in 2015. His voice and sense of melodies really made Pagan Altar stand out and this gig very much respected and reflected that. This to me was a very worthy end to the festival. Since the hipster fest with Wovenhand (christian alt-country/crap goth) and Wolvennest (ambient/drone/something blah blah) that started next is as interesting as watching paint dry, I went to bed. We did have a 9+ hour drive ahead of us on Sunday after all.
The drive home went well besides a little fender bender with a german man from Hamburg, the insurance companies have to sort that out. We also bought some beer and booze before the ferry over to Denmark so the trip filled double purposes. Overall we had a great weekend at a great festival and our only concern was that it felt too short, if we go again we’ll try to be there on the Thursday. I cant lie though, it felt nice to get internet on my phone again when we got back to society. I guess all of me doesn’t want to go back to the 80’s and 90’s…
TO SUMMON IT ALL UP
Festival: Chaos Descends
Location: Crispendorf, Germany
Accomodations: Good camp ground with WC toilets and showers, buses to the nearest hotels. Who could ask for more?
Best: Tormentor, Pagan Altar and the Cuba Libres.
Worst: The weather – either boiling hot or pouring rain. Can’t blame the organizers for that though.
Would I go again?: Definitely – if the company was right and a good lineup co-existed with me having the economic means necessary to go. A highly recommended festival!