The sleepy town of Tolmin in Slovenia is as idyllic and rural a holiday destination as you could imagine. With friendly locals, beautiful mountain scenery and glorious weather, it’s the perfect destination to go away for quiet relaxation… unless you picked this week. Because this week, thousands of excitable, loud and drunk metal fans have descended on Tolmin for the 12th annual MetalDays festival, formerly known as MetalCamp, for five days of music from an impressive cast list including Saxon, Behemoth, Dream Theater, Devin Townsend, Black Label Society and Cannibal Corpse, all playing up to 3.15am. And then there’s MetalDays’ USP: the manmade beach that sits on the site’s edges and promises everything from yoga and landscape painting classes to striptease and Men-In-Thongs volleyball. “This is more than just a festival,” MetalDays’ head of promotion, Bjorn von Oettingen, tells us on arrival. “It is metal on holiday. Yes, there are plenty of bands here that you can watch, but we also put much more into the festival than that. We want people to be able to come here and experience the beautiful surroundings and relax and have fun with their friends… and make new friends, too.” That sounds pretty good to us, so we squeeze into our Speedos to investigate…
15.00 – Arriving on site, the first thing we notice is the stifling heat. So, as much as we’d love to stay and watch Main Stage openers Total Annihilation, it’s time to explore.
15.30 – In a scene reminiscent of the movie The Beach, but a tad more Satanic, we see the festival’s beautiful surroundings for the first time. Sandy beaches, clear blue water, a very cheap bar and a PA blasting out In Flames and Pantera greet us… it’s Heaven, in other words.
15.39 – The first person we bump into is a gentleman standing on a rock, in the smallest budgie-smugglers ever witnessed. His name is Marcus. Having a good time? “Everything here,” he tells us in total seriousness, “is metal.”
16.08 – A young man sits down next to us and offers us some magic mushrooms. “They’ve been sat in the sun all day, so they’re free!” he tells us. Er… nah, trying to cut down, mate.
17.01 – We wander over to see Brit hardcore heroes Krokodil… and it starts raining! Thanks for bringing the weather with you, lads. FFS!
17.09 – Two people are bashing each other over the head with inflatable crocodiles during Krokodil. Irony there.
19.53 – Ever seen a circle pit doing the conga around a man dressed as a parrot during a Devin Townsend set? Standard MetalDays behaviour.
21.09 – We take a wander down to the beach. Only three people are in the water. It’s Lags, Simon and Chris from Krokodil. “This is fucking amazing!” shouts Lags, having a lovely time.
00.03 – A naked man strides purposefully past us and into the empty water. He comes straight back out. Looks cold in there… if you get our drift. We make our excuses and leave.
13.21 – After a lie-in at our own personal cabin atop the mountains, complete with cows, chickens and a ginger kitten for company, Hammer arrive on site for day two, and are greeted by a very sweaty-looking Skindred. “I’m still gonna wear my full stage get-up!” Benji Webbe tells us.
16.56 – After seeing Skindred perform a typically superb live set, we head down to the beach with the boys to cool off. Benji gets a lot of attention, and a young man enquires if he can purchase one of his dreadlocks. No dice. “I’ve heard some weird shit, but that’s up there,” laughs guitarist Mikeydemus.
18.07 – Goaded on by the ’Dred, Hammer take our first plunge into the water. It’s freezing. Benji puts one foot in and scarpers. “Fuck that! That’s too cold!” he mutters.
18.30 – We’ve acclimatised to the temperature and the sights in the water are something to behold. A group of pirates are loudly attacking innocent dinghies, and there’s a man rolling and flopping about into the water from the beach like a fish. But there are smiles all round, and we think a few people might have had a drink.
18.46 – We decide to grab a drink. At the bar, we meet Tero, who’s come all the way from Finland but isn’t happy with his glass of wine. “Why’d they put ice in the fucking wine, man?!” he shouts at us. “You put it in the fridge, right? Explain to me!” We can’t, Tero, we can’t. “Well, fuck this!” he says, and runs at full pelt, fully clothed, into the water.
19.10 – After seeing Tero’s antics, we, like most people, head back to the Main Stage where Black Label Society, Dream Theater and Cannibal Corpse treat us to an evening that veers from beer-swilling rock’n’roll, to prog wizardry, to overwhelming death metal brutality. All killer, no filler.
09.30 – Hammer are up bright and early today. Who would want to miss Austrian Beer Troopers defeat The Angry Beards in the Men In Thongs Volleyball competition? Not us!
10.10 – Men In Thongs Volleyball has been replaced with Ladies Topless Badminton. Only two girls get involved. Suddenly more people are watching. Who’d have thunk it, eh?
10.23 – “No hurry, ladies. Take as much time as you need! Heh heh!” the guy commentating is seriously creepy.
**14.05 **– After another lengthy dip and a stroll through the campsite, where we see everything from a black metal face-painter to a group offering beer to anyone who’ll flash their willy at them, we grab an ice cream. Instead of a Flake, it’s got Mars bars in it. They don’t fuck around here.
22.30 – After great sets from Sepultura and Hatebreed, we head to the now-deserted beach. Oh, it’s not deserted, there are people in the bushes… oh, they’re having sex. Bye, then.
01.30 – Turns out the beach was deserted as everyone was watching Accept and Carcass close the day. The atmosphere continues to be joyous from morning to night. Beers are swigged, heads are banged and everyone seems to be smiling. It’s alright here.
14.12 – We have another wander through the campsite to see how everyone is getting on. One party have made actual saloon doors for their camping area, with a MetalDays logo on and everything! “Come on in!” shouts Jan from Slovenia, as we admire his handiwork. “We have beer! We love this festival! Such cool people! Such cool bands!” Don’t mind if we do, Jan.**
16.08 – On the beach, people are starting to wind down after the last few days’ partying.
It’s quiet, relaxing, civilised… what’s going on?**
23.00 – Arch Enemy pull one of the biggest crowds of the weekend. The field goes nuts. Guess that’s what everyone was saving themselves for.**
02.30 – Unearth close the Main Stage and kill it, but sadly they’re playing to a far smaller crowd. This is possibly because most of MetalDays has gathered by the beach to watch the striptease show. It’s a small stage and there’s a drunken and excited throng who are clearly more excited by titillation than us. Time for bed.
13.00 – As we arrive for the final day, we bump into Suicide Silence guitarist Mark Heylmun. Hot here, eh, Mark? “Dude! You call this hot?” We do, actually! Bloody Californians.
15.13 – At the beach, everyone is soaking up the last bit of sun, including Daniel from Switzerland – a man who has as many band tattoos as your average patch denim jacket. How many do you have, Daniel? “Oh, I lost count a long time ago. But it’s a good conversation-starter.” As he says this, notorious wine/ice cube hater Tero runs past in nothing but a rubber ring and dives into the water. Someone must have put a straw in his cider.
18.47 – Suicide Silence are about to take to the stage. “As soon as we finish,” vocalist Eddie Hermida tells us, “we’re heading straight to the beach and getting naked in the water. You wanna see my butt? You’ll have to airbrush the zits out!” Er… deal?
19.30 – Holy shit! Suicide Silence are on fire. A man dressed as a tent is losing his mind to a brutal Wake Up.
20.02 – We head down to the beach with the SS boys. True to their word, Mark, Eddie and bassist Dan Kelly all disrobe and jump in.
**20.07 **– They’re all out again. “I need some weed,” says Eddie. You’ve earned it, buddy.
23.00 – The Black Dahlia Murder close the second stage. A dude is crowdsurfing in his rubber dinghy. “That guy’s a fucking hero!” shouts vocalist Trevor Strnad.
02.30 – What better way to close the festival than with the set of the weekend from Behemoth? It’s a staggering sight from a band on world-class form. And, just when we think we’ve seen it all this week, the sight of Nergal lighting a pair of upside-down crucifixes with two huge flaming torches is some way to bow out. Metal on holiday? Best. Idea. Ever.
THE NEXT METALDAYS TAKES PLACE JULY 23-30, 2016