Picture this: you’re watching the first act on at a massive festival, and it’s already the highlight of the entire weekend. A show which you know will be difficult to top, and which will probably go down in festival history for all the right reason. This was the case for the second day of Rock am Ring, which featured more highlights than you could count on two hands but peaked incredibly early on The Fever 333. Jason Butler and co. proved worthy maniacs on day two, with the rest of the line-up absolutely stacked and definitely leaning more towards the heavier end of the rock spectrum.
So back to the beginning, which in this case is around 2pm. A man comes out onstage dressed in black overalls, a bulletproof vest and bag over his head. This is Jason Butler, the far from outspoken frontman of politically conscious punk maniacs The Fever 333. They’ve got the tough task of opening proceedings on the Crater Stage, using their time to demonstrate exactly why they’re one of the most sought after rock acts of the minute. From the moment that Butler removes the bag from his head, shit absolutely hits the fan and he goes off. Set opener Burn It is the perfect tone setter for today, allowing Butler and his bandmates (Steven Harrison on guitar and Aric Improta on drums) to lose their shit and ensure the crowd follow suit. It’s a powerful track to open on, but then again everything The Fever 333 do is built on immense power and a sense of reckless abandon. The frenzied We’re Coming In marks Butler’s first foray into the crowd, and it takes him all the way to the sound desk, from where he delivers an impassioned speech about the state of America whilst looking down over the crowd. It’s a special moment in the set, and it puts Butler right in control of everything. Throughout the rest of the 9-song set, Butler has the crowd in the palm of his hands, not letting go until the very last second. Rock am Ring was The Fever 333’s own little playground, and we were just the kids watching in awe. As day openers go, this was something special, and also something which couldn’t be topped. Not even by Underoath, who pulled on an impressive main stage set in front of a crowd way too sparse for what they’d deserved.
Sometimes a band comes along who just defy any and all expectations you may have had of them in the past. I Prevail are one such band, taking to the Crater Stage for their first ever performance in Germany. Not that you’d have expected, this, though; on the contrary, with a crowd as big, loud and enthusiastic as theirs you’d have thought that the American metalcore quartet were regulars. Despite garnering a massive following back home in the States, Europe hasn’t exactly warmed to I Prevail as much as you’d think, largely due to the fact that they spend so much time on the road at home. From the moment they kicked off their Crater Stage show, though, everything kicked off. Crowdsurfers flew over the barrier left, right and centre, with an early highlight coming in the shape of Scars, arguably their most recognisable hit. The tracks may border on the more predictable side of metalcore but it doesn’t take away from the fact that they absolutely rocking the stage for their second ever show on the European mainland. Trivium followed on that very stage a short half hour later, showcasing their longevity on the back of acclaimed new album The Sin & The Sentence. It’s a welcomed return to form for Matt Heafy and co., who were at risk of falling below the heavy metal wayside. Fall they didn’t, though; instead, they conquered. In Waves will always be a classic, and so it was splendid to see the German masses lose their minds to its all-encapsulating riffs and pummelling rhythms. If only the by-numbers Three Days Grace could have captured the same memorability as I Prevail and Trivium…
If you’ve ever been to see a band with a large live production, you’ll be aware of the fact that they tend to have dozens of crew members scurrying around stage trying to get their jobs done as fast and efficient as possible. Although this was clearly the case for the seasoned veterans in camp Dropkick Murphys, it seemed as though having a good time was also high on the list for the American band’s crew. In a good way, of course! Banter among soundchecking crew before the set made for some laughs from the crowd, including one moment where a technician told someone offstage that they “smelt like shit”. With such a happy tone set by the crew alone, you wouldn’t be surprised to know that Dropkick Murphys’ own show on the main stage was nothing short of absolute craic. From the moment the Boston collective took to the stage, one thing was clear: they’re here to have a good bloody time. Over the course of nineteen songs, Al Barr and Ken Casey served as the perfect pair of frontmen (they’d be great pub landlords), raising hands on Cadence to Arms, diving into the crowd on The Boys Are Back and ensuring no one stood still during big hits Rose Tattoo and I’m Shipping Up To Boston. The latter closed out the entire show in rousing style, allowing for Dropkick Murphys to leave a good taste in everyone’s mouth. If it didn’t want you to go find a Guinness, then nothing ever will. Over on the Alternastage, emo rapper Nothing, Nowhere had to make do with an unfortunately sparse crowd. Which is somewhat of a shame, although you can’t help but think that the setting Joe Mulherin had to make do with was not the right one. His minimal emo rap has struck a chord with hundreds and thousands of fans around the world, but when you’re up against Three Days Grace and Dropkick Murphys you’ll find that you’ve drawn the short straw.
Back on the main stage, Bring Me the Horizon marked the first massive crowd of the day. New album amo is a big departure from their previous output, serving as the perfect sonic progression for a band who have never been afraid to switch things up in the studio. This time round, they’ve also switched things up live, upping the production value with tons of TV screens, walkways, creepy dancers and the like. Frontman Oli Sykes wears a red suit emblazoned with newspaper cuttings off mass murder verdicts (including the Manson cult), his vocals a mix of snarling growls and serene cleans. People have given him shit in the past for not delivering live, but it seems to be the case that he’s cleaned up his vocal act for the better. Set opener MANTRA (complete with the aforementioned dancers) set the tone instantly, hitting hard as co2 blew across the stage like a mushroom cloud. A frenetic House of Wolves followed early on, turning the intensity up by a few notches before the restrained medicine turned it down a touch too many. The 75 minutes long set served as a perfect time capsule, focussing on everything the band has done so well in the past whilst also providing doubters with a glimpse of the future. Shadow Moses and wonderful life produced the pits, with Grimes collaboration nihilist blues starting a mini rave on the Volcano Stage. It wasn’t until set closer Throne that everything came together though, with the Sheffield quintet absolutely tearing the house down in what should serve as their best Rock am Ring appearance to date. It’s going to be a busy summer for the band, but at this rate it looks like it’s going to be one hell of a strong one. Sabaton did well to match the power of Bring Me the Horizon later on, transforming the Crater Stage into a makeshift First World War trench, complete with dazzling fireworks, flames and enough barbed wire to last a lifetime.
As the night slowly reached its end and German cult heroes Die Ärzte careered towards the finale of their two and a half hour set, plenty descended upon the Crater Stage for Slayer‘s final ever show at Rock am Ring. The American thrash metal legends are calling it a day once and for all, having just embarked on their final string of European festivals. It was the band’s fifth appearance on the Ring, doubling up as their best in the process. A spine tingling Repentless opened the show, complete with all of the fire and flames you could ever wish for. Sure, a lot of Slayer songs sound the same, but that’s the essence of thrash metal and something you shouldn’t blast the band for. When they pulled Raining Blood out of the bag near the end of the set, you’d swear that the gates of hell had opened somewhere. It was dark, it was grisly, and it was most definitely SLAYER. The somewhat controversial Die Antwoord had some initial difficulty topping Slayer, pulling a decent crowd to the Crater Stage for their 1:30am rave session. Although the field seemed apprehensive at first, the likes of Fatty Boom Boom and Banana Brain managed to convince revellers that going apeshit was the only way forward. And with that, the second day came to a blistering end.