Greenfield Festival 2015
Review and photos by James O’Connor
What do you get if you cross some of the world’s heaviest bands, with 20,000 metal heads and the Swiss Alps? Greenfield Festival! Switzerland’s annual summer metal fest has played host to some of Europe and the world’s biggest acts since 2005. For both fans and artists alike this remote three dayer in Bonigen – a village in central Switzerland with some seriously dramatic alpine vistas – is the ultimate destination festival. As my train pulled in, I had to drag myself away from the lure of the mighty canyon walls and mountain peaks because just across the river a serious party was about to kick off.
First up on the main stage were Eagles of Death Metal, or so we thought. A problem with their tour bus somewhere on a Swiss highway meant local band Hathors were quickly switched from the Club Stage. The Zurich-based, three-piece, stoner rock band seized their big opportunity to rock out to a building crowd.
Then up came the Aussies. Byron Bay’s Parkway Drive hit the main stage mid afternoon with an elaborate set and pyrotechnics to a packed crowd. Old favourites were mixed in with new single Vice Grip – a grower that went off live – as the European crowd lapped it up with circle pits and sing-alongs aplenty.
The Club Stage had a looser, ‘anything goes’ vibe, which suited the manic Every Time I Die. A tight and energetic set, with mostly material off their new album, made for the most fun set of the day.
A Day To Remember continued the party vibe with their festival friendly metalcore/punk pop tunes, charismatic leader Jeremy McKinnon, crowd surfer surfing and giant balls.
Then, to round off an epic first day, the mighty Slipknot, playing a set Soundwave-goers would be familiar with, seamlessly mixed in classics with the best of their new album. Psychosocial was a highlight as Switzerland lapped up what is likely to be their last performance for a few years as they announced a hiatus.
Northlane opened proceedings early on day two to an interested crowd. The Blacktown band are pushing hard into foreign territories. A new album due soon and with newish vocalist, Marcus Bridge, now could be their time. My only criticism is that Marcus doesn’t always nail some of their older tracks, like Quantum, but they put on a great band performance regardless.
Hollywood Undead played a set of two halves – three songs of solid nu metal a la early Linkin Park, where five masked rappers jostled for position. Then the masks came off and the tempo dropped for an almost pop tinged second half.
Welsh band Skindred, lead by the extravagant Benji Webbe, mixed punk, reggae, pop and metal with a strong message of unity. They went down a storm and provided a not unwelcome break from some of the heavier bands on the line-up.
Washington DCs Darkest Hour, celebrating their 20th anniversary as a band, were an hour-long whirlwind of power punk, hair and circle pits. Definitely ones to look out for on their next Australian tour.
Then came In Extremo, a German medieval folk-metal band, who used everything from harp, hurdy-gurdy and bagpipes, to Uilleann Pipes, shawm and nyckelharpa, and enough pyro to set fire to the whole of Switzerland.
Sunset heralded the arrival of The Ghost Inside, playing their earnest, uplifting, melodic hardcore. The younger metalcore kids flocked to them while Motorhead – playing at the same time – attracted the older biker crowd. TGI seem to be utilising clean vocalist Jim Riley more live which worked on some tracks but Engine 45 sounded a bit weaker.
Swedish death metal legends In Flames closed the day with a literal bang which echoed across the valley. With the stage glowing like a UFO in the middle of this quiet countryside, their crunching set saw ecstatic crowd surfers pour over the barrier. It would have been a fitting ending to the whole festival, but there was still another band-packed day to go.
Chelsea Grin opened the Club Stage, to a large crowd of hardcore dancers lapping it all up in the beaming sunshine. Think more dust pit than classic Euro mud pit.
US five-piece Defeater opened with an acoustic version of I Don’t Mind before ripping into Bastards from current album Letters Home, a passionate narrative of a working class family in WWII New Jersey. I noticed Amity Affliction’s Joel enjoying from side of stage.
The third and final Aussie band on the line-up were Airbourne. Like the musical equivalent of Fosters, Airbourne are enormous in Europe. They put on an accent stronger than Croc Dundee, opened cans using their heads and encouraged the wildest crowd scenes of the festival. The human towers were particularly impressive.
Jersey boys The Gaslight Anthem played to a relatively small crowd, proving that this lot prefer it fast and loud. And that’s exactly what they got to close the show in Heaven Shall Burn, a less widely-known, but inspired choice of headline act. Lyrics are sung mainly in German (if you can understand Marcus Bischoff’s deep growl) and there are no clean vocals, providing a more brutal alternative to modern metalcore. The crowd responded with some of the biggest circle pits I’ve seen, as the valley lit up with pyro and cannons to close out my first European festival with a bang.
While Greenfield is no doubt a hell of a trip, it’s totally worth it. A clean, well-run festival with great mix of international bands and styles, awesome staging and pyrotechnics and a breathtaking backdrop, metal festivals don’t come more colossal.