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Dark Troll Festival 2017

Absu, Balfor, Belenos, Bucovina, Countless Skies, Enisum, Eïs, Ferndal, Hate, Jörmungand, Knaat, Lagerstein, Manegarm, Minas Morgul, Nargaroth, Raventale, Suidakra, The Committee, Thorondir, Vargrimm, Vike Tare, Waldschrat, Waldtraene, Wolfchant, Wolfheart
in Thursday, 25 May 2017 at Burgruine Schweinsburg
by Erika Kuenstler

There is perhaps no better way to celebrate the advent of the summer festival season than at the utterly enchanting Dark Troll Festival. Although I only discovered the festival last year, it has quickly become my favourite, despite the veritable deluge of festivals on offer in Germany. Balmy days under cloudless skies flow by with lugubrious ease, whilst the intimate atmosphere ensures friendly and like-minded company. And then there is the music: featuring a host of both international as well as underground bands, this festival always puts on an excellent lineup.

Added to all this, Dark Troll is one of the most picturesque festivals I have ever been to. Passing rolling hills blanketed in fields of blazing yellow flowers, a small track winds up a hill near a remote village in Germany, with apple orchards slowly giving way to verdant forests interspersed with glades speckled with blooms. And it in these lush woods we find the ruins of an old castle. Completely enclosed by a wide wall, the renovated inner courtyard gives a sheltered niche overlooked by a stage built into the remnants of what was once possibly a bell-tower. A towering spire looms majestically over all, giving stunning vantage points not just of the stage, but also a panoramic view the surrounding countryside. Encamped at the foot of this tower is a small group of re-enactors, their simplistic lifestyle from bygone centuries lending an authentic medieval air to all. And it is in this stunning setting that Dark Troll Festival takes place each year, featuring a slew of Pagan, Folk, and Black Metal bands. This combined with four days of perfect weather, with clear skies and cool breezes, resulted in a small slice of Metal heaven.

Another outstanding feature is the attitude of the festival. Dark Troll is by far the most relaxed festival I've been to, with the organisers taking a very casual stance, rather putting emphasis on a pleasant festival experience for all. Everything has a very familial feel to it, all the way from the smiling and friendly security though to the ever-cheerful bar staff, despite the long and grueling hours spent on their feet. Thanks to all of this, the festival’s reputation is growing massively each year, not only within Germany, but also internationally, with many fans coming from neighbouring countries, just for this festival. Some had even driven over 1000 km, all the way from England, just to be at the festival.

My usual reaction to a good festival goes along the lines of “it was great, but it would have been nice if…”, yet Dark Troll is the only festival which has managed to leave me impressed on every single level. The ablution facilities were clean, with not only portaloos being available, but also flush toilets (that being said, there was a considerable queue for the showers, but when is there not); there was a wide range of food and drinks available, catering to every budget; the sound was decent for the most part (at least much better than the sound at most festivals); and there were plenty of areas to sit and just enjoy the music.
And speaking of the music, as always, Dark Troll featured a whole range of bands both big and small. One of the most unexpected performances was by COUNTLESS SKIES, an English Melodic Death Metal band named after BE’LAKOR’s opus “Countless Skies”. Although this is a very new band, who has just released their debut full-length album “New Dawn” last year, their performance at Dark Troll blew away all who were there. Despite some technical difficulties with one of the microphones, this was easily among the best concerts of the festival. Following this, LAGERSTEIN delivered a fun-filled and infectious show with their drunken shenanigans both on stage as well as in the circle pit together with their fans. But then what more could you await from Australian Pirate Metallers? This drunken party was followed somewhat abruptly by a complete change in genre, with the cult Black Metal band EÏS delivering a spellbinding show. And with startling rapidity, it was already time for the headlining acts of the first day, namely WOLFHEART and THE COMMITTEE. Despite being three quarters of an hour behind schedule, fans eagerly awaited the bands, and were definitely not left disappointed, with an opportunity to see much of WOLFHEART’s brilliant new album “Tyhjyys” live. THE COMMITTEE ended off the night with their dark and sombre melodies, made all the more mysterious by their complete anonymity.

Not to be outdone, Friday’s lineup contained some equally attractive gems. Starting off the day was FERNDAL, a relatively unknown German Melodic Black Metal band. However, they set the bar high for the following shows, warming up the crowd that had already gathered despite the early hour. Up next was a further Black Metal barrage, featuring bands like VARGRIMM, BALFOR, and THORONDIR, with a bit of Pagan thrown in, courtesy of JÖRMUNGAND. And with their relentless touring, there are few who haven’t yet seen Polish masters of Blackened Death Metal HATE, who can always be relied upon to deliver a ferocious set. The headliners here were NARGAROTH and ABSU, much to the delight of the Black Metal fans. NARGAROTH always put on a riveting show, and this was a great opportunity to see some of the latest songs from the recently released “Era of Threnody”.

Finally, the last day of the festival dawned, with a balmy day making it the perfect end to the festival. The menu for the day featured a fine selection of Pagan and Folk bands, all the way from the relatively unknown VIKE TARE, the humorous KNAAT, and BUCOVINA, whilst bands like WALDSCHRAT and BELENOS covered the Black Metal side of the spectrum. Following on from this was MINAS MORGUL, one of the founders of the German Pagan Metal scene. Needless to say, it didn’t take much to get hair flying and moshpits going, despite the high temperatures. Headliners on this last night were SUIDAKRA and MANEGARM, who both delivered fantastic shows, with SUIDAKRA flawlessly picking up where MINAS MORGUL had left off. MANEGARM’s set was one of the most memorable of the festival, playing one crowd favourite after the next. Despite the crowd having given their all during the previous bands, their infection melodies had the crowds going mad, ecstatically screaming along to their Viking hymns. Ending off the festival was perhaps the most haunting and unforgettable show of the festival, courtesy of ENISUM, an Italian Atmospheric Black Metal band. As mesmerising chords came cascading down from the stage, the crowd stood completely enthralled, reveling in the raw emotiveness of the melodies.
The camping itself was also well organised. As usual, the nearby sports field was available for campers, which also included use of the sports club’s ablution facilities. These were kept impeccably clean by the club, who worked tirelessly to make the camping experience as pleasant as possible. However, not all were fortunate enough to camp here: due to the increasing number of visitors, Dark Troll opened up a second campsite this year. Whilst the organisers spared no effort in ensuring that this campsite was just as comfortable as the primary one, the secondary campsite had the distinct disadvantage of being situated at the base of the hill, making it somewhat far removed from the stage, with fans having to trek up over 100 steps to see the shows each day. So, for those of you who would like to avoid such rigorous activity (translation: spend more time in your campsite drinking beer before catching the bands), be sure to get your tickets early.
Overall, this was a completely stunning festival that should be an absolute must-see for all Metal fans, particularly if you're into more Pagan and Black Metal music. In short, if you've had enough of thronging masses found at larger festivals, and are looking for a small, intimate, and well-organised festival, with awesome music and friendly people, look no further than Dark Troll. So be sure to keep your eye out for next year's installment, which will feature the likes of BORNHOLM, ODROERIR, and UNLIGHT. For the very first time, this year’s Dark Troll Festival was completely sold out well in advance of the festival. Thanks to it’s growing popularity, it most likely won’t take very long for the tickets for next year’s festival to sell out too. So be sure to get your tickets early! If you’ve already been to this festival, you already know all about how fantastic it is. If you’ve never been, I can only sincerely recommend this festival. I’ll see you there next year!

For more photos, check out Valkyrian Photography

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