Even though I was getting to the festival alone I decided to drive the whole way. This basically means 10 hours in the car, driving, on your own. I might rethink that till next time, haha. Anyways, on the way down I got company from my friend Matti, who tagged along to Hamburg to get his car, that stranded there two weeks earlier when he visited Headbangers Open Air. After getting him to his repaired car I still had 5 hours left before I reached Mühlhausen, where I would spend my nights at a hotel in the center of town. Mühlhausen proved to be a very cozy little town with a lot of historical buildings, a medieval defence wall and cobbled streets. Since I arrived on the Wednesday, the day before the festival starts, I took a long stroll through town, had dinner and a beer at an old brewhouse and got some beers from a grocery store just 10 minutes before closing time. After the long drive and the long walk I slept very well.
I started the day with hotel breakfast, took a few drinks with me and then went to meet up with my friend Rogga and his festival roomie Marcel who drove from Berlin the same morning. They arrived in the early afternoon at their hotel, a few blocks from mine. We quickly got sorted and headed for the shuttle bus that was set to leave at 15.15. We got there in time, bought our weekend bus passes and were on our way. Excitement started to build. Once at the festival we got our passes, got inside and had the first (of many) cold beers. The weather was sunny and very hot, but the backstage area offered shade at the same time as you actually hear whats going on at the main stage.
First band that we got a decent listen to was SKYFORGER, their Latvian pagan/folk metal was well played, I’m just not that big on flute in metal… Old timers INCANTATION also delivered a well played set. Their, in my opinion, rather typical American version of death metal isn’t very appealing in the long run though. We therefore went to the VIP camping, from which we got to listen to SOILWORK ripping of an insanely tight and energetic set. The band’s music isn’t my thing at all, but you have to be impressed by the musicality and energy they present on stage. An unexpected booking for this festival, that clearly didn’t backfire, and the fans must have been thrilled.
By now it was time to get inside the area to properly look at some bands. I was looking forward to my first time seeing CRAFT, a band who’s early work I hold in high regard. Unfortunately the gig reflected much of what the band has done on their later albums – which is pretty standard “middle of the road” black metal. Nox is doing an amazing job with the vocals and the band is well rehearsed, but it never lifts. Next band up was German deathy black metallers ASCENSION, who did a very good job. The stage looked great and the dynamics of the singer adds a lot to the overall experience. There’s tons of atmosphere and beautiful guitar melodies the whole set through. Maybe not the tightest band on the festival, but without a doubt one of the best ones!
BELPHEGOR impressed with their musical abilities and a lot of pyrotechnics, but got boring pretty fast, so the beers were calling me back to the backstage area. HELLHAMMER (performed by Tom Gabriel Fischer’s Triumph of Death), on the other hand, really got me hooked from start to finish. There’s a lot that can be said about Mr. Fischer’s resurrection of one of the most influential black metal bands in history with only himself left from the original lineup. But to be honest, how could he fail with material like this? The songs are primal, brutal and honest to the core. HELLHAMMER was a huge part in forming the entire genre of black metal, and it’s somehow touching that Fischer pays tribute to his past in this way. But lyric sheets on stage? Really? The gig itself was great though and I’m very greatful that I got to see it.
From the backstage area I heard HYPOCRISY closing the festival. They’re a band I’ve never really gotten the hang of. Their music actually bores me immensely… Half an hour after they’d finished their set we got on the bus back to Mühlhausen.
Friday started with a slight hangover and a pulled pork burger, since I had missed breakfast at the hotel. I then took the bus to the festival alone, since the others were even later than me to get started. This was yet another very hot day, so I started the festival day with some Cuba Libres in the shade of the rum bar. First band I saw was THE CROWN. Their set was furious and extremely tight, these guys know their stuff and are well accustomed to being on stage. The sound was great and Johan Lindstrand is a great front man – it’s hard to get an audience going in blistering heat and sunshine around 14:00 in the afternoon.
After yet another rum drink I got to witness SOLSTICE take over the main stage. Even if the weather made their heavy and melodic doom seem a tad bit out of place, the gig was still excellent. Paul Kern has a great voice for this type of epic sound and to me personally there’s something about British doom bands that most others can’t really get right. Great gig!
By now the rest of the gang had managed to join the party and I heard MIDNIGHT while sitting at the VIP camp. The band has slowly but very steadily built up a big fan base and a lot of people seemed excited over the gig. For me the performance sounded good, but I can’t say that I’m very into the band. Their VENOM-sounding speed/black really comes to life in a live setting though. At this time we went inside to watch a bit of KRISIUN. This trio of brothers, in the service of riffy death metal since 1990, really give it their all on stage. There’s crazy amounts of energy in the performance and even if it’s not the tightest when it comes to playing it sure sounds massive for a trio.
Hunger kicked in, so we got ourselves some burgers and watched a bit of NECROVAULT, which unfortunately sounded like pretty standard guttural death metal to me. Now a small beer and cocktails frenzy kicked in and we were all enjoying ourselves until we went to see ROTTING CHRIST. The Tolis brothers and company definitely gets an A for effort here, it’s all in from the word go. The music is also, even if I’m not totally sold on the later material, very headbanger friendly. The audience seemed to pick that up and it felt more engaged than at the earlier bands. A bit into the set some of the older classics start turning up and you can’t avert from getting caught in the atmosphere and special Greek groove that ROTTING CHRIST represents.
The weather got increasingly worse during the afternoon and evening. The rain came in time for MGŁA. This Polish black metal militia always delivers in my opinion. There’s no imagery or grandiose stage show – it’s just faceless entities dressed in black serving you some of the best black metal written in the last 10 or so years. The weather destroyed the possibility to just stand and enjoy the chance to “feel” the music physically, as well as hearing it. I soon took shelter in the backstage area and heard the rest of the gig from there. The same rain infused M.O. was conducted for the DEICIDE gig. I think we all doubted whether the gig would actually take place or not, Benton has a track record of cancelled gigs in the past and the gig at Brutal Assault a day or so before this had been cancelled. But just before MGŁA started playing we saw Glenn Benton entering the backstage area and he seemed to be in a very good mood. So the gig happened and it sounded like DEICIDE. Since I’m not a huge fan of the band I can’t say much more, but besides the weather I can’t imagine any fans being very disappointed. They played a lot of early stuff (first 3 albums) and the band sounded tight and energetic. One complaint is that the vocals drowned a bit in the mix and was hard to hear.
The night was ended with TESTAMENT playing a set of classic US thrash. It’s a well oiled machine that sound tight and focused, but it never really lifts. The bus home afterwards stopped consisted of a lot of badly homemade German and very immature humor. Lots of laughs, but also one or two rolled eyes from our fellow travellers. Sorry about that!
The plan for Saturday was to leave early to be able to see SVARTIDAUÐI, but of course that failed miserably and we couldn’t leave until 13.15 as usually. To lighten the burden of our heavy consciences we bought some merch and CDs from SVARTIDAUÐI. Luckily me and Rogga plays the same show as them in a few weeks, so we will still get to see them.
The Saturday was overall a day with not many bands that tickled our fancy. Playing when we arrived was JUNGLE ROT who sounded awfully “modern”, and even more awfully American, in their death sound. The same could be said for the next band SUICIDAL ANGELS, although they play thrash and aren’t from America at all… Also VOMITORY passed by without much notice. The band was tight but sounded pretty tame.
SATAN, togehter with NIGHT DEMON who played the Friday, was the heavy metal representation on the festival in 2019. I really like SATAN – their album “Court in the Act” is a timeless NWOBHM classic and their later material has been between good and excellent. Only problem is I’ve seen them an infinite amount of times. They play everywhere, all the time. Sometimes I expect them to turn up and start playing at my local pizzeria… There’s nothing wrong with this per se, and they are a good live band, it just gets me a bit full on the whole thing. From what I did see and hear they were as good as always and played the classics as well as the nicest stuff from the later albums.
From now on the Saturday mode was set on full and we had such a great time that the clock was somewhat forgotten in the process. Therefore the last bands are a bit of a haze with bits and pieces of all the gigs, combined with amazing times with friends. I did see a bit of IMMOLATION, while eating a pasta, and the musicality was impressive. NAGLFAR also delivered a tight and nice set, but with no real frills. SOLSTAFIR isn’t a favourite of mine, even though I fully respect what they’re doing. It sounded pretty much like expected, but I haven’t listened enough to their records to say much about the performance other than it sounding good. BLOODBATH was only heared from the backstage area and sounded, to me, rather generic. Shame on a once promising “all-star band”.
The last bus ride back was a futile hope for night food, which apparently isn’t a thing in Germany. I can’t even imagine a Swedish town that doesn’t have pizza or falafel to eat in the middle of a Saturday night… Anyways, we found some chocolate in a vending machine at Rogga and Marcel’s hotel before packing it in.
Party San is a nice and decently sized festival with a nice angle towards the more brutal parts of metal, with a couple of surprises here and there. The drinks are good, the people are nice and the atmosphere great. Three festival days pass by so quickly and you always want it to last for just one more night. This was my second time at Party San and first time doing the hotel and bus thing. I must say that it worked very well and that it was paradise compared to the campground in 2015 when it was insanely hot the whole festival. I hope I get the chance to return to Mühlhausen and Schlotheim for more great times at Party San Open Air!
To summon it all up
Festival: Party San Open Air
Location: Schlotheim, Germany
Accomodations: Camping at the airfield where the festival is situated or accomodations in the nearby towns, with shuttle buses going there every two hours and back half an hour after the last band has finished.
Food: Not great, but you won’t go hungry at least.
Drinks: No complaints, normal german pils, dunkel and a good assortement of other drinks.
Best: Hanging with nice people at the VIP camping and the backstage area, Mgła, Hellhammer, Ascension and Rotting Christ.
Worst: Food wouldn’t suffer from a touch up and the rain storm on Friday sucked. It’s also on the same weekend as Brutal Assault which is a big shame.
Would I go again?: Yes! This was my second time and it will most likely be more times.