Music festivals can be strenuous. Camping in tents, lack of proper nutrition, lack of proper sanitation and unrelenting weather conditions. Sounds almost like a mountain climbing expedition. When you’ve already been to a few festivals over the summer, the only thing you want to do on a free weekend is sit at home, probably Netflix and chill (literally or otherwise) and get food delivered to your doorstep.Exactly, what I wanted to do that after Wacken 2015. The majority of the bands were unimpressive, Wacken in itself had lost its charm to someone who had been there religiously over the last 6 years. I had no intention of visiting another festival where I’d be subjected to more rain and mud and bad music. Which is why when Marc, a friend of mine over at myrevelations.de insisted that I join him at Party.San Open Air 2015, I was quite apprehensive about another festival spread over 3 days and far away from home. But because he was so insistent, I decided to give the festival a dekko and visited the website. First thing I noticed was that the line-up was quite different to all the festivals that I had been to last summer. A very aggressive, enticing mix of Extreme metal and Death metal bands that got me interested. And then I read that it probably had no more than 10,000 metalheads who visited the festival and I knew that this was going to be a festival that I was going to love. I immediately sent an email to the Press Liaison of Party.San requesting press accreditation, even though it was just a week away. Surprisingly, almost a couple of hours later, I received a pleasing confirmation email and I was all set to visit the festival I had almost zero clue about a few weeks earlier. Transport had to be sorted, being as Party.San is unfortunately not as easily accessible by rail as some of the other larger festivals. Once that was arranged, rucksack was emptied of its contents from Wacken and refilled with fresh clothes for what would most certainly be my last festival in the summer.
Party. San Open Air takes place in a quaint little town in Thüringen, called Schlotheim. An old East German airfield serves as the venue for this extreme music festival, spanning from usually the third Thursday to Saturday in August. Getting there is a bit of a hassle if you do not have some sort of private transport. Trains are not that frequent to Schlotheim but are more regular to Mühlhausen which is a slightly larger town than the former. However, Party.San does have shuttles to both train stations. Registration was a breeze, luckily, as temperatures soared to around 30-35°C in the afternoon. This was not what I had expected, my wellington boots and my rain coat being testament to my unpreparedness. The skies were clear and the sun just did not stop being the sun for even a minute. Tents were pitched in record time, because all I wanted to do before heading out to watch the first band was catch up on some R&R.
Morbus Chron took stage about 30 minutes late because the sound console just refused to continue working after a set by Degial, who hail from Sweden kicked off proceedings. Morbus Chron played a mix of Doom & Death and despite the sun beating down on us, the set was well received. Midnight, from Cleveland, Ohio was up next and was the find of the day for me, personally. The band plays a fast, speedy mix of black and heavy metal and certainly brought the crowd up on its feet and got it finally moshing. Midnight is a band that can make it bigger but are musically perfect where they are right now, and their underground status is certainly a well coveted one.
Nuclear Assault was the first high profile act of the day and did not disappoint, furiously belting away their thrash metal classics one after the other. Their composure on stage is quite admirable, soaking in the sun with their cooling glasses and yet not letting go of the tempo they started their set off with. The evening was loaded with lots of theatrics and pyrotechnics, as Secrets Of The Moon, The Ruins of Beverast and Primordial brought their dark extreme brands of metal to stage. Behemoth is a band that I have watched often and I have had experiences that varied from tremendously entertaining to very pedestrian. On this day though, Behemoth brought their A-game and were brilliant from start to finish. The pyrotechnics and the band’s overall performance as the day’s headlining act, delivered and how. Nergal did take a tumble midway through the set but continued to play without any sign of injury. Be it At The Left Hand Ov God or O Father, O Satan, O Sun; the Polish black metal giants ensured that no fan left the infield of the festival disappointed.
Day Two began early and not because the first band took stage early, but because the heat in the tent was unbearable. I was willing to rather be sun burnt than baked in my tent. A festival breakfast (bread and cheese) later, I was up and ready to enjoy some good old fashioned gore-grind the Dutch managed to churn out in the form of Cliteater.
There are bands that take the whole gore/grind scene very seriously and get on stage, belt their tracks out, screech and growl about murder or gore and violence, and then there are bands like Cliteater, who, whilst taking their music “seriously”, also ensure that the crowd gets involved in their antics. A fun 30-40 minutes later, I headed off to seek some much needed shade and refreshments, whilst Vanhelgd, Gehennah and Aeternus occupied the main stage. Soulburn, also a Dutch band and influenced heavily by the likes of Bathory, took stage and played exactly as well as they did when I caught them with Bolt Thrower and Morgoth a couple of years ago. The band up next however, was the find of Day Two for me. I had heard of Deserted Fear before, but had hardly given them any of my attention as I had expected them to be just a flash in the pan sort of a band. I could not have been more wrong. Deserted Fear, from the region, enjoyed what they do and played a very energetic and relentless set, packed with their version of modern death metal and ensured I had to skip Melechesh and Agalloch, because I was certainly not going to endure another couple of sets under the hot sun. Asphyx was however, not a band I was going to miss. Old school death metal is something too enticing to let pass and when it is packaged as Asphyx, you do not say no. Up next was a band that I had seen for the first time at Wacken a couple of weeks earlier and was not impressed by, at all. Bloodbath with Nick Holmes fronting the band was drab and mediocre at Wacken. At Party. San however, Bloodbath simply blew my mind. Powerful and loud, Bloodbath was tight and brutal, despite a 20 minute delay to the set. It was definitely the concert I needed to erase memories of the horror show I’d experienced a few weeks ago. Ensiferum, oddly, played to a very sparse crowd, most of whom even, were the least bit interested in what the Finnish pagan metallers had to offer. Luckily, the end of their set meant that the band that I travelled all the way to watch, was finally going to take stage. Another delay of 30 odd minutes meant that Cannibal Corpse was going to take stage at 1 AM.
When the band is Cannibal Corpse, you wait. Come what may. Because it is guaranteed to be brutal and neck breaking. Scourge Of Iron to Devoured by Vermin, the band just does not ease up and leaves you euphoric and done for the night. I must mention here however, that the sound for CC was much better at Wacken.
Saturday, meant Day Three of Party.San, but would also mean that I would have to begin my day with packing up my tent and my bags, because I had a train to catch back home, as my ride into Party.San would not be returning to Hamburg any time soon. Considering that the last train back home from the nearest station would be at 6PM, I would have to make my way to the shuttle at 4PM and hence miss almost all the bands that I wanted to watch at the tent stage, namely Ophis, who hail from Hamburg, Germany and Mantar would have to be given a miss. My early departure from Party.San would also mean that I would be missing My Dying Bride, Toxic Holocaust, Ghost Brigade and Rotting Christ. I did manage to however catch a little bit of Cowboy Bob And Trailer Trash, who played at the tent stage. I would rather not go into the details about the band, the name should suffice. Holocausto Canibal, Portuguese grind-core, were mildly entertaining and have potential. Evil Invaders were a bit out of place in this festival, I must say. The heavy metal that they play has too much of a power metal influence for my liking and many who attended the festival did seem to agree.
Party.San Open Air was an experience that I will not forget. The ride to the festival, the sun burns, the fatigue, the bands, the cheap (!!!!!!) drinks and the atmosphere. The festival is a very well organised one, with extremely friendly and accessible staff and a zero problem crowd. If you are a fan of extreme, hard hitting, death metal, Party.San should be the festival you prioritise over any other in the region. You should be here and plan all your other festival trips around it. I know I will be doing that this year on. 2015 was my first time at Party.San Open Air and I can ensure you that 2016 won’t be my last. Because true to their tagline, hell IS here.
P.S – Much gratitude to Toni B. Gunner of Mondkringel Photography for the concert photos that were used in this article.