The smallest European metal fests are sometimes the best! One of the role model is Dokk’em Open Air Festival, held in Friesland, the Netherlands since 2002. A good atmosphere, good organisation (nice people) and value for your money as you see the lineup of the festival over the years. Dokk’em’s lineup always seems to be the cream of the crop – and this year was no exception, featuring as it did the likes of DTA Death and Annihilator, plus a host of extreme and underground bands from every subgenre you could name.

Some weeks before the heavy Stonehenge Festival, I was sent out to Dokkem, all the way in the north of The Netherlands, to check out Dokk’em Open Air. Dokk’em Open Air lends its name because of the place where it’s held: Dokkem.

dokk_em_open_air_2014I arrived late (TomTom was having a bad day), so sadly enough I already missed Teethgrinder, I was just in to catch the last songs of the Dutch black metal band Cirith Gorgor replaced Troll, who cancelled on short notice for the festival. This was a really good replacement, as the band managed to keep the audience entertained very well.

Next up was M.O.D. These American thrash metal veterans always know how to rock the stage, and today was no exception. After seeing one of the best shows of the day, the other side of the spectrum was opening with Nocturnus A.D. From the start of the show the sound was off balance. So i talk the time the go to the press tent to have something to drink. Before starting the show of the Norwegians Circus Maximus, but they where have a bad day. There equipment was not not delivered, so the got delayed, only a small group of fans where staying, they were happy to see the band.

For me the next stop was a interview with one of my favorites artist of all time: Paul Masvidal (Cynic and Death and DTA Death) so i missed MaYan and Arkona. I just checked in when Napalm Death demonstrate why they are still around!

Frontman Mark ‘Barney’ Greenway did an excellent job of entertaining the crowd. The whole thing was a lot smoother than the somewhat dirty sound Napalm Death have on record, and whether or not that’s a good thing is largely down to personal preference. I certainly enjoyed it a lot though, every instrument cut through the wide, spacious mix and the band performed with aplomb. Recommended.

Gamma Ray showing they know how to slow things down and build tension as well as go hell for leather. The Helloween cover I Want Out’ hit the mark of the audience.

Who is Chuck Schuldiner? Can we ever know? Is the first question pups up in my mind just before DTA Death enter the stage in Dokkem. Schuldiner was a complicated, ever-evolving person, and his music reflects that. And because he wrote such idiosyncratic music, we assume that it must reflect something of him as a man. So many of us fell in love with Death after Chuck died in 2001 that the mythology is all we have to go on.

There was an air of inevitability about DTA Death greatness. Even if the performances were half as powerful, there was no way that the show would be a disappointment. For the Death veterans on stage this was a chance to reunite with old. For the fans, Death to All contributed to the hagiography of Chuck Schuldiner. Watching a group of metal legends join forces for the first time to play the music that helped make them legendary, we not only witnessed history being made – we witnessed history being confirmed.

Last but not least of the evening was Metal Church. Is there any band that has aged as gracefully as Metal Church? Their art has only improved over time, and as usual they made effortless work of upstaging bands less than half their age.

On a bill with little in the way of heavy metal, Metal Church perhaps the closest one could get to that maligned by some and lauded by others genre. These American just get better every time I see them, delivering a slicker, tighter and consistently improved performance. The last songs where several classics, thats all where the fans where hoping for.

Thanks Dokk’em Open Air crew to make this all happen!

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