Tons Of Rock Day 3, June 21st 2014
Photos by Eivind Nakken
Scarred and bruised after last night’s meeting with the trident Tygers, Saturday is not off to a good start. Body and soul is aching, but it’s festival-time so after a hair of the dog that bit us we are climbing back to the fortress. The god of the sun still smiles upon us as we scurry like cockroaches into the cooling darkness of the tent-stage.
Halden locals Warp Riders are warming up the dazed and confused crowd with a fuzzy instrumental jam. Then dreadlocked singer Ben Bouker takes the stage, and we’re treated to some rockin’ desert vibes. They may still be a relatively young band, but these riders can groove with the best. Like the day before, the sound from the small stage is muddy and less than ideal, but it’s more than made up for by a great performance – especially considering the clock just passed two in the afternoon! Even the most hungover of us can’t help but nod along to the laid back stoner vibes and trippy psychedelia.
On the sunny side of the festival-area, some crafty geniuses have managed to rig up a fully functional time-machine backstage. After carefully applying a considerable amount of plutonium, a band is beamed from the groovy late 60’s and straight to Halden. By far the best dressed band of the festival; Woodstock never ended for London’s Purson. Opening with the crawling bass of “Spiderwood Farm”, they proceed to both charm and bedazzle the rather sparse but enthusiastic crowd with their enigmatic fusion of Jefferson Airplane meets The Beatles.
Frontwoman Rosalie Cunningham is delightfully charismatic and has a voice to match, and despite her claims that the sunlight is messing with her guitar, the sound is pristine. Tie-dyed bell-bottoms and the stomping psych of “Mr. Howard” is a brilliant fit for a lush midsummer day. The acoustic lamentation “Tragic Catastrophe” rounds of the excellent set with a perfect understated glimmer of hope. Today we are all Purson-people.
Another lady with a powerful voice is getting ready at the western stage. Jennie-Anne Smith may not have much of a background in metal, but the rest of Leif Edling’s youngest baby Avatarium have a lot of experience between them. Due to a prior engagement (presumably touring with Candlemass?), Edling himself is unfortunately not present today. His band still delivers a heavy salve of epic doom metal, while Smith’s haunting pipes and Carl Westholm’s eclectic keyboards does a decent job of distancing the material from its older brothers Krux and Candlemass.
Despite solid material, the absence of its main songwriter somewhat strengthens the lingering feeling that Avatarium is first and foremost a side-project. Still the present members do an admirable job with the material, and Smith’s voice especially shines. The band are obviously having a blast on stage, even Messiah Marcolin’s dance of doom finds its way into the set. If the project is allowed the time and effort to expand and evolve, thereby finding its own path, this could be something truly special.
After the doom-rocking Swedes have done their thing, we decide to take an extended break to soak up the sun and the Halden atmosphere. This is as good a time as any for some reflections on the Tons Of Rock experience. Although the opening day seemed a little under-attended, initial worries have surely been expelled by the impressive crowds drawn by bands like W.A.S.P. and Ghost. The accumulated experience of the organizers is clear in almost every aspect of the festival, from the facilities to the handling of security. To my knowledge, there has been a minimum of hiccups other than the initial chaos at the campsite, which is quite a feat for a festival’s first year. We eat some delicious hamburgers, drink some Swedish beers, and relax in the shade. Energy must be conserved for the final round of brutality.
At the main stage a storm of thrash is brewing. New York legends Anthrax need no introduction, reinforced by the roaring audience. We might approaching the end of the festival, but the energy is reaching unmatched levels. Whipping the hungry spectators into a frenzy, Scott Ian, Joey Belladona, and the rest of the guys have come to tear our faces off. Setting off the only (to my knowledge) circle pit of the festival, songs like “Indians” and “Deathrider” are welcome classics. A cheesy tribute to Dimebag and Dio, and a somewhat silly cover of AC/DC’s T.N.T. push the show towards ridiculous, but Anthrax aren’t the kind of guys to give a fuck.
Being the smallest of the Big Four has the added bonus of lowering the pressure; Anthrax are an explosion of unadulterated fun. As they end on their high octane version of Trust’s “Antisocial”, the old fortress is practically shaking under the manic berserkergang. The time-machine has brought us back the 80’s but without ever feeling outdated.
Picking up the pieces left in the wake of Anthrax could be a daunting task. However there is one name ringing out, a name that has been carved into a thousand arms and tagged on countless decaying brick walls. I am, of course, talking about a young band of upstarts with the catchy little name Slayer. The darkness has long since set in when the near mythic figures appear as charcoal silhouettes against the blood red drapery of smoke. Completely filling up the concert field, Tom, Kerry, and the newly rejoined Paul Bostaph are joined by Exodus’ Gary Holt, attempting to fill the shoes of the late Jeff Hanneman.
From his graying beard and his somewhat static appearance, it’s obvious that Tom Araya isn’t a young man anymore. His voice still holds up, however, and us savage ton of rockers are treated to a cavalcade of classic cuts, which of course includes “South Of Heaven”, “War Ensemble”, “Raining Blood”, and the crowning jewel “Angel Of Death”. Despite looking like a beefcake covered in tribal tattoos, King still shreds like a motherfucker, and the atmosphere is electric. One could argue that Slayer have seen much better days, and that their heyday has long since gone. However, tonight none of this matters. Thousands are here to see Slayer, and for most of those people Slayer are still reigning. The constant blur of raised fists, long hair, red lights, and a whole lot of liquid amber, speaks for itself.
The morning after a festival comes to an end is always agony. Sore necks and throats, bruised elbows, and splitting headaches are par for the course. Three days of fantastic doom, thrash, death, and black metal in historical surroundings makes it all worth it. I think it’s safe to say that the first incarnation of Tons Of Rock has been a great success. Here’s to many more, cheers!