Loud Park 2012 (Saitama Super Arena) LIVE REPORT

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"The heaviest metal festival in Japan". Or so the slogan goes. Usually one would attribute the use of superlatives to marketing and be done with it, but this time… The slogan was quite accurate...
This is a long, brutal report… so get comfy before you hit the Jump.

I arrived at the venue a bit early and was not surprised to see a queue had already formed outside. I didn't quite understand the point of it all till a bit later but I figured I would be in the middle of whatever pit formed for whatever band I wanted to see so I didn't join the pack. Evenually I got inside and got the lineup card. It was spaced nicely but There was one clash that meant I had to choose between Dir en grey or Sonata Arctica and In Flames. I chose the latter obviously.

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This year was only a single day which was initially a bit of a disappointment but in retrospect, if I had to endure a second day at that intensity I would likely be dead. There was an extra stage where particularly hard bands played and that meant that there were more fans of particularly hard metal… As one would expect, their ideas of how one should conduct oneself at a metal festival were the same as my own. I got a beer and headed to the extreme stage to see some Swedish Black Metal.
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Being the first band up, they were preceded by the MC who checked to see how long people were waiting to get in (some from the previous day WTF?) and how far people had come. We had a full spread from places as far away as Hokkaido and Okinawa. He then went on to outline that we should under no circumstances crowd surf or mosh. The band came on and started playing...
Two circles formed instantaneously and ladies were hoisted above people's heads. F*** the rules! That was the nature of this Loud Park's crowd. With only one day, everyone was out to go hard from the get go and I was no exception. We waded into each other as the band played on. 
In truth, I am not a huge fan of Nagalfar. I don't much care for black metal aside from Dimmu Borgir, Immortal, Chthonic and Cradle of Filth (Yes I know they are not quite Black Metal… cry me a river). I do love moshing however. It was a pretty good mosh and a good start to the day.


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Brazil's finest were up next on the Big Rock stage. Having not quite seen their whole set the last time they were at a Loud Park, I was keen to get it all in this time.
They were power metal personified. Clear piercing vocals laid above a base of speed and precision that got the crowd amped and the circles turning. They played a good deal of new stuff and a fair amount of older stuff that I actually knew. It is amazing how one track that you know really well can set off the tension that the preceding tracks built up in you. Power, Speed and win. 
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Needless to say this was one of the bands I bought my ticket to see. The legendary speed demons of metal. DRAGONFORCE! One of the bands on my bucket list. A band that I have dreamt of seeing live ever since I heard them for the first time. 
But… I was worried too. I had not heard anything with their new vocalist, Marc Hudson, yet and as one would expect from the internet babblings of those that had, his reviews were not stellar. ZP's shoes were rather large to be fair and anyone would have a hard time filling them. It was his first time in Japan and he was stepping out in front of the biggest Metal crowd that The Land of The Rising Sun could muster. His nerves were visible. and in the first track, they were audible.
That said Dragon force would not have chosen a vocalist who would crack under the expectations of thousands of fans and he rose to the challenge. He did an awesome Job. I was well pleased. While I am not sure I would not prefer ZP, I am not in any way disappointed with Hudson.

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I thought that Hibria had power… and they do! But f*** me… Dragonforce are Dragonforce. The power… THE SPEED!!!!  
to use the dictionary:
Awesome (def): To inspire awe
Awe (def): overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, fear,etc., produced by that which is grand, sublime, extremelypowerful, or the like.


Lunch, rest and a T shirt: 

After Dragonforce there was a bit of a break in the bands that I had wanted to see and I took the opportunity to take a time out. I had gone 100% to three bands straight, with only Hibria providing one song chilled/unknown enough to me for a breather. Stuff hill sprints. Moshpits, Circles and Walls of Death are the ultimate cardio workout. I got a beer at the extreme stage bar (it had no queues) and went in search of an eat and a seat.
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Earlier on I had wondered why people were queuing so damn long when they would all get in on time anyway. When I eventually got into the venue I noticed how long the queue for band merch was. This video says it all...

Instead of standing in that long snake for what looked like an eternity, I decided to try later and hope for the best. I didn't get the in flames shirt I wanted because of it but I got to mosh to Nagalfar so it was a fair trade. I did eventually get to the merch stand and the only shirt available in my size was a festival one. I got that and a Dir en grey towel. 
I then hit up one of the Mos Burger stands (again, no queues) for my food and after my first bite I realised why people weren't queueing up for it. Let's just say that MOS BURGER is DISGUSTING and it doesn't sit well in a post mosh stomach. Half a burger later I turfed it and made up the calories with more beer. I also caught a bit of Buckcherry from the bleachers.
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Sonata Arctica:

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Another bucket list band and after Dragonforce, I was beyond amped for this. Which resulted in my first and only musical disappointment of this festival. It is not that they were not good. They were amazing. Tony Kakko's vice was clear and strong. They were tight. they were professional. They were solid. For a power metal band however, they lacked the power. They played mostly new stuff which I am not too keen on and they had a disproportionate number of ballads in their set. They only played 3 old tracks and only one of them was of the pace that made me a fan of the band
Again. they were good, they were just not what I wanted. Standing and singing and waving your hands in the air doesn't quite do it for me. DEFINITELY not at Loud Park. I wanted what dragon force and Hibria gave me. I wanted Blank File, Weballergy, San Sebastian, Kingdom for a Heart and Wildfire!

In Flames:

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I left the Sonata Arctica stage a bit early to get my place in the circle for in flames and it was a good thong too. I ended up at the head of what would become a pretty long queue. The marshals were being ABSOLUTE BASTARDS by restricting access to the areas in front of the stage. They said it was dangerous… they were basically a bunch of self righteous shits with official T shirts who took orders from corporate 'holes who didn't give two shits about the bands or the fans…

"If you are reading this Loud Park administration... F*CK YOU! "

Anyway the crowd behind me got really pissed off as one would imagine and a good old fashioned push from behind ensued… so as not to be trampled, us at the front just pushed down the barriers that the hipster officials had erected and charged in. They somehow managed to restrict the flow again after I got in though because the are at the front was empty. A good 300 more people could have fitted in there and there would have still been room to mosh. 
The lack of people killed the vibe in a big way and even the band noticed it. Trust officious bastards to stuff up the fun. The pit had very little resistance which was a bit disappointing but it fuelled my rage and I just went harder (that meant I just got more tired too) I wasn't gong to let officious bastardry kill my fun to yet another bucket list band.

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The set was very new. While in flames's new shit is not tame and got people going.Their older shit is so much better. They did play Embody The invisible and Bullet Ride though. As you may well imagine I pulverised what little pit there was. I had Atoms of excitement that were split by anger an frustration and the resulting explosion was quite impressive now that I think back on it. I was not the only one. Everyone wanted more people in the front and everyone had grown frustrated with the marshals and so despite the reduced numbers, there was violence aplenty.

"I only wish we could have given the band back as much energy as they gave us..."

This one hardcore dude did the funny hand waving hardcore dance thing in the cicle too… It was not such a good idea though, a wayward fist caught me in the Jaw. It was a mistake so I didn't punch him back but I did piledrive him particularly hard and after picking his startled ass up off the floor, told him that he can dance how he wants but metal heads don't appreciate fists to the face. He didn't stop doing his thing (which I fully respect) but he moved to the middle of the circle where a few others like him formed a hardcore eye to our seething (albeit small) metal typhoon… Who says Metal and Hardcore can't get along?
In Flames was brilliant. I only wish we could have given the band back as much energy as they gave us. 
Back out to the extreme stage this time where there was much more space and where the marshals had already realised (thanks to Cryptopsy and Dir en grey) that it would be futile to attempt any form of control. 

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I made my way to what looked like a good spot and waited for the band… the area got more and more packed. The sound check ant on and the people kept streaming in. On either side of the sound tunnel there must have been thousands. It was mental.
They came on and subsequent eruption was mind-blowing. 
By this time I was operating on adrenaline and awesome. My body had long since passed fatigue and I was in all kinds of pain. Surprisingly, no big injuries, but still. I had not joshed this hard in my life before up to this point and Bodom had just begun. 

"By this time I was operating on adrenaline and awesome. My body had long since passed fatigue and I was in all kinds of pain…"

The pit was so packed that it lacked flow but it was brutal and violent. All the big guys in Japan must have come to that one side because I have never seen so many big and strong Japanese people in one place… ever. They all got in on it. I was not the dominant force. I just was one of the many likeminded hate crew going mad to my favourite band. We brutalised. The band helped me out too. Their setlist was heavy in older tracks… the ones that had direct influence on the course my life took. the ones with special meaning to me. 
When I heard the intro to Silent Night, Bodom Night, I just charged… I don't know where I found the power but I was determined to raise the tempo of the pit. It worked because a circle started up and we got some speed into it. Someone on the other side of the tunnel had the same Idea because when the band was done with the song Janne commented that seeing 2 intense circles was the coolest thing he had ever seen. Upon doing that I used my mosh engineering skills and prepped everyone for a wall of death. Next track we charged and then spun and as things went on the circle just got bigger and bigger and bigger. By the end of the show it was maybe 30-40 meters in diameter.
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The band also played in a way that was more like one would expect them to play at a small dive pub. there was great audience interaction, they were dicking around on stage and generally having a good time. They enjoyed playing as much as we enjoyed watching them. 
Before I came to Japan I wanted so badly to see this band. I have now seen them 4 (or 5 I can't quite remember) times and against all logic they get better every single time. When they come back, I will see them again and I think they may have a hard time beating this one… But they are such a mindblowingly good band!!! If anyone can best Bodom, Bodom can! 

"...against all logic 

they get better every single time."

They were the last band on the extreme stage so we managed to squeeze a short encore out of them. This made me late for Slayer. But who cares… Children of Bodom is the best band in the world. 
Oops, I did it again. I wore myself out to Children of Bodom and had nothing left for Slayer. Thats twice now. You guys must think I am mad but I have my priorities.
The marshals weren't really restricting anyone from getting in but they would have been killed if they tried.
That said there was no space at the front by the time i finally got there. I said stuff it and went back up to the seating area to chill out and listen (I forgot to even take photos.. thats how tired I was!) I should have taken vids of the pits though. I thought Bodom's were intense but in the confined space of the main stages and with the numbers of people packed in there, Slayer's looked amazing. 
"I was just so Bodomed  out that It didn't have nearly as much impact as it should have…"
The band were as brutal and intense as one would expect them to be and I enjoyed the show. I was just so Bodomed  out that It didn't have nearly as much impact as it should have.
I was excited to finally go all out to the legendary slayer, but after Bodom's name was added to the band lineup I always knew that I would have to postpone my slaying till the next time. And so I shall wait and hope that I get to see them on their own, or at a festival Where Bodom are NOT playing.
And so ended The most amazing Metal experience of my life thus far. I am not sure Japan can give me better than this and so It is time I start saving for Wacken. 

Heavy F*cking Metal!

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