Columns, Concerts, Rocko's Travels

Prophecy Fest 2021 Part I

Hey there, Rocko here. I was at the Prophecy Fest 2021 in Balve, Germany, and would like to take you with me on my little journey. I’m going to write a special and personal festival report here, not just about the bands playing, beer and stuff, but also about the very special location in which the festival was going to happen, as well as the surrounding areas. To me, it will be not just the festival, but also my holiday this year. I’m not just looking forward to some very special performances by, for me, very special bands, but also to some beautiful nature while hiking through the Sauerland region.

The Prophecy Fest has existed since 2015 and is organised by German label Prophecy Productions. During the last years, Prophecy Productions presented not just their own bands but also estimated bands and friends. 2021s edition is a very special one, not just because it is the first since the global pandemic, but also because we’re going to celebrate the label’s 25th anniversary. 

Prophecy Productions started in 1996 with the release of Empyrium’s first album 

A Wintersunset...” First the idea was to just release this one album, but because of the success Martin Koller, the founder of Prophecy Productions, was able to continue his work with very special artists and art in all kinds of its varieties during the next few years. Since the beginning, there has been a special connection between Prophecy Productions and Empyrium, between Martin Koller and Markus Stock – mastermind of Empyrium. 

In Stock’s Klangschmiede Studio E many important albums were recorded since the collaboration started in 1998, The Vision Bleak are one of the label’s best selling artists. 

Prophecy Productions stands for long term collaborations between the label and its artists, for high quality releases as well as a big variety of musical directions. You can find Black Metal, Doom and Neofolk as well as Wave, Ambient and Indie-Rock. This big variety can be found on the Prophecy Fest 2021 as well, each band is different but all of them belong to a big family and are connected in one way or another.

So, let’s start with my journey. The town Balve is roundabout 90 minutes away from my home town Duisburg by car. I had a night shift from Wednesday to Thursday and instead of getting out of work a little earlier as planned it got, of course, even a little later and my plans for being there during noon got cancelled. I slept 5 hours, till 2pm, got in the car at 3pm, and arrived at the hotel at 5:30pm because of the traffic and me being stupid and missing my highway exit. But I was able to pick up my wristband as well as my book before I arrived at the hotel. 

My hotel was the Antoniushütte in Eisborn, a small place 10km away from the location. My room was fine, I dropped my luggage and went to the bar/terrace to order a cup of coffee and a beer. And 5 minutes later I was in a conversation with some other guys having the same plan from Stuttgart, who were waiting for some of their friends from Cologne. After a while they arrived, we drank a few beers together, had dinner in the hotel restaurant, and thought about getting a taxi to go to the festival area where Prophecy’s 25th anniversary/ birthday-party took place with some acoustic music at a bonfire, free beer and food. While waiting for the taxi, a rain shower started, followed by thunder and lightning… Well, we decided to stay in the hotel and go to the bar for a few more beers. It was a nice evening, not the way it was planned, but I found a nice group of people, with whom I shared the next few days.

After my breakfast on early Friday morning, I took my time to hike to the festival area.

I crossed some fields directly behind the hotel to enter a forest area at the foot of the hills, which surrounded the area. I followed a little creek downhill, but I also needed to walk some little rises. In one area, several trees were cut down, and one of them laid across my way, so I needed to climb through its branches. It took me nearly two hours to get to the location, including shopping some drinks in the end, because, me being stupid, I forgot to take some water with me on my walk. I was very thirsty in the end, but I arrived right on time at the location, the biggest cave in Europe used for cultural events regularly, the Balver Cave. The entrance was really huge.

First band of the day was Vrîmuot. The band’s debut, “O Tempora, O Mores!” was released in September 2020. The German Neofolk band from the Teutoburg forest is actually just one single person, T.S., who is responsible for all the instruments, recordings, vocals and the songwriting on the album. On stage T.S. stood behind some kind of altar, with two black candles on it and was supported by two masked percussionists. In the background, we saw some clips from old silent movies or nature shots. Poetic lyrics, usually in German, here and there but even in Latin. A deep and powerful voice. Love, lost, lust, anger… everything can be found in the lyrics. The track “Peter Hagendorf”, a bonus track of the album’s special edition, uses so many different styles and influences such as folk, marches and blues in combination with lyrics I associate somehow with the first World War, I don’t know why… I think this performance is quite impressive. I think it was no easy job to play as the first guy at the first festival or even concert for most of the audience. But nonetheless: Well done.  

Second band on stage was St. Michael Front from Hamburg, Germany. A singer in a dark coat in the forefront and a guy with an acoustic guitar a little more in the back, as well as a computer for the backing tracks. In the end of the second song, the computer lost its connection and the band was forced to stop their performance for a few minutes. To be honest: They didn’t catch me. I decided to have a look at the merch, stood in the long row, and had to wait nearly an hour. During that time I listened to the band, and it felt as if I was listening to the same song again and again and again. The reason for that came, in my opinion, from the backing tracks. All the songs sound like 60/70s Italo-western with these huge echoing drums, trumpets, pipes and horns. That is the band’s concept, but with a wink, I guess, that’s what I got told. 

Third band was Sun of the Sleepless, and for the first time we got a big drum kit and real amps on the stage. Sun of the Sleepless is the Black Metal Solo-Project of Markus Stock. 

Cold and raw, but not afraid of clean vocals or melodic interludes. It got loud in our cave, and for a few moments I wondered where all the people were coming from. Two guitars, bass, and drums, lyrics in German and English… it fit really well into the cave, and I believed it got even a little colder in there. After the rather quiet bands in the beginning I was surprised about the good sound of a “full band” with a loud distorted guitar sound. I was afraid of a muddy, chaotic wall of everything, but that wasn’t the case. Good job my dear engineers !!!

Hekate, band number four on Friday, started their career already in 1991 with a mixture of folk, medieval, classical with prominent percussions and even electronic elements to form their very own way of neofolk. But the very first thing I realized was “Damn, that stage is nearly too small for them!” Two drum kits, separate percussion in the front of the stage, chimes, keys, guitars, the big gong, two singers… Damn! The music itself was huge and atmospheric, somewhere between acts like Wardruna, a movie score and French chanson. 

I think it was between Hekate and the next act when I took some time to walk around a bit. Yes, of course, I got some beer and other beverages in between, I took a look at the offered food in front of the cave, and I passed the entrance and saw Arthur Brown arrive at the Prophecy Fest, smiling and with big, shiny eyes when seeing all the music loving people. When I saw him arriving I was a hundred percent sure that it would be something special.

Concerning the food & beverage, everything was paid by tokens, which could be bought at a tent near the entrance. There was one beverage-truck, which had beer, softs, water and even some shots. There was a small truck for fries, meatballs, sausages and schnitzel, and a tent with some vegan turkish/arabic food, red lentil soup and filled wine leaves for example. In the cave itself was a counter for drinks as well. During both days I never needed to wait long for my next drink or something to eat. Even the toilet-situation was good. No portable plastic toilets!!! 

Next act was something special, Dordeduh playing songs by Negura Bunget. Dordeduh was formed in 2009 after internal tensions in Negura Bunget. Negura Bunget still exists today, with new musicians, but for the Dordeduh-fraction the old band is dead. So it’s a little like Ross “The Boss” plays some Manowar-Stuff, but just with transylvanian Folk/Black Metal instead of swords, steel and men in real tight fur-panties. 😉

To be honest, personally, I didn’t know any of the bands, neither Dordeduh nor Negura Bunget, but I listened to both of them the days before the festival and became interested in their show. Atmospheric, black, space and time for calm parts, interesting arrangements, all of that combined with a convincing, powerful performance in a unique location. That’s all I need. 

My last band for this day was the acoustic show of Dornenreich. That was a very special one for me, because it was the first time in 20 years I listened to this band to see them live. It is one of my favorite bands but somehow, we didn’t come together. Originally it was planned to celebrate another anniversary, 20 years “Her von Welken Nächten” the album I got to know and love this band. But unfortunately the metal-setup was not realizable due to the pandemic, so an acoustic-set was performed by the band, with acoustic guitar and violin.

In the end I’m ambivalent with this performance. I was happy to finally see them after all these years, but the festival wasn’t the right location for such an intimate moment. Especially the acoustic-set needs room to breath, it lives by it’s dynamic between the calm moments, the whispered lyrics and the loud outbreaks… and calm moments at 8pm on a festival are difficult for some people. I saw a flyer for a show in 2022 in Oberhausen, and I hope to get my “perfect experience” there. 

As mentioned before, Dornenreich was the last band for me on Friday. I missed Arthur Brown and I missed Primordial. I think I’m getting old. But if you like, you can take a look by yourself at Arthur Brown’s show, as well as the other bands I mentioned before. Prophecy Productions kindly released a copy of the live-stream on their Youtube-Channel of both days, Friday and Saturday, of nearly all the bands, excluding the headliners of each day, Primordial and Empyrium. Please don’t miss your chance to get an own impression of the performances at the festival: 

Livestream von Prophecy Productions

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