Most Metal festivals nowadays are happening in bigger, well established venues or on open spaces as Open Air festivals. Those are usually the festivals, which are growing bigger either in audience or in lineup. Contrary to that, there are these smaller, more regionally focused events, which – like the Easter Cross – happen in your local community event hall. So now you might ask yourself, why an event would be interesting, that doesn’t require a stadium to contain the crowd. Fair question. Let me provide you with a simple answer. This one is a hidden gem! What makes the Easter Cross so special, is a big lineup in an unusually small local venue.
The Easter Cross combines a lineup of locally rising stars with world renowned headliners. With Stick To Your Guns and Caliban for the Metalcore fans and Sodom for the more old school Thrash Metal crowd, the festival provides some heavyweights on top of their billing. With a venue capacity of 1200-1300 people, the Neckarhalle Oberndorf should be well undersized for the kind of traction those bands provide. With 800-900 people on Saturday and 1100-1200 people on Sunday, the festival was closing in on being sold out for the first time, but didn’t quite hit the goal yet. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will finally happen to the organizational team of the OMI next year (Oberndorfer Musik Initiative e.V. ~ Music Initiative Oberndorf). They would definitely well deserve it.
To anyone who might think about visiting, please consider this – as formerly already stated – a hidden gem. While it is small and provides some fantastic regional acts as well, the Easter Cross could easily happen in a venue twice the size. Still, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will become less hidden and more glowing, i.e. “sold out”, in the future, so it continues growing.
Day 1 – Heathens come together
On the Easter weekend of every year, the Easter Cross takes place. With a public holiday on both Friday and Monday, the festival happening on Saturday and Sunday is well wrapped in the necessary bubble wrap of physical as well as mental preparation and recovery, making it super easy to travel to the festival and back and also go back to work on Tuesday with no problem at all.
So all the Heathens, who are willing to rather turn the cross or burn a church, are more than welcome to rather come together to the festival and celebrate the fantastic fireworks of a show. Greeted are all these godless Metalheads on this most Christian of holidays by local runner-up Vex. The fantastic band from the Black Forrest brings together a great mixture of what the untrained ear might identify as Hardcore or Metalcore, but they themselves call “Groovecore”. And groovy they definitely are. As the band website charmingly says “it’s like cutting the cake with an axe”. Unfortunately, that doesn’t just affect the unique and innovative soundscape, but also how fast their show was over. Enjoying their set, it ended in the blink of an eye. Well, cutting cake with an axe isn’t exactly a time consuming deed, I guess. Unfortunately.
Worth mentioning is also that Vex are only the first of quite a lot of local bands from within the state of Baden-Württemberg in Germany. Some well known, some smaller still, do they all offer a variety of first class Metal that captivates the crowd.
But enough about local bands for now and let’s welcome the first international bombshell on stage. Intense deathcore is promised and nothing less is delivered by Czech formation Abbie Falls. I’ve already had them on my radar, since they are currently one of the guests on Necrotted’s “Against all Tyrants” tour, together with Defocus. Those of you who read my review on last year’s Metalacker festival in the Black Forrest, might remember, that I was heavily impressed by Defocus back then already, so obviously I kept my eyes on them. Which is where their company on the road of course caught my attention as well.
But let’s focus once again, before we talk about Defocus. Abbie Falls were fast. Not necessarily musically. Their musical style was intense, aggressive, dark and heavily shaped by some sick breakdowns. The band on the other hand was fast. Jumping around on stage like there was a price on the highest heart rate measured for any musician on stage. That as well as their colorful appearance made it not only musically but also visually a pleasing encounter. I’m quite happy for them, that they have also received a spot on the billing of this year’s Summer Breeze festival. So if this sounds like your cup of tea (with some vicious, gnarly nails instead of the regular milk and sugar), be sure not to miss them.
As already teased before, next up are Defocus. With a simple yet visually effective stage design comprised of a bar chair and some LED stripes, they once again showed that you can do a lot with very little in regards to showmanship. But that is absolutely the perfect strategy for them anyways, because this band doesn’t need any costumes, fancy stage setups or whatnot. Their music speaks for itself and it speaks loud and clear to us. Wait a second. Did I say bar chair? Oh yeah. This time not only the drummer is sitting, but also singer Simon Müller. Due to an accident, of which the details are left to our imagination (being in a Metal band is a risky job after all), the usually quite active frontman can only sing sitting down this time. Yet he isn’t the first injured person we’ll see on stage throughout the festival. So the motto is quite clear. F*ck your headache or your papercut. If musicians can be on stage, e.g. with a broken leg, then so can you be in the venue and enjoy their performance. Maybe bring some company to compensate for your lack of physical activity. So did he after all and delegated his activity quota to already heavily active bass player Marcel “Bambam” Heberling.
And now – you might’ve guessed it already – Necrotted enters the stage. Yes, exactly, they came to the Easter Cross bringing their support bands with them, basically filling half the day with their tour entourage already. Now while we’ve mostly seen different styles of Core so far, Necrotted breaks that pattern a bit. Still rough, but quite differently, their Death Metal style cuts deep. Hidden in mist, dark purple light and a hood is singer Fabian Fink. And hidden is quite a lot here. He is an extremely capable and versatile vocalist. Clad in the morbid, dark soundscape, Necrotted are 100% a Death Metal gem, that seems to excite the crowd heavily. Now the venue is filling up and the energy can be felt in the air.
Also, Fabian and his brother and the band’s guitarist Philipp are well connected members of the German Metal community. No wonder considering their place of origin coinciding with that of the Summer Breeze Festival, for which Philipp also functions as an organizational key member.
Now, did I mention that we are leaving the Core territory a bit? Well, we are leaving the Metal world entirely now and getting some good old Hard Rock drilled into our ears. Motorjesus are probably as close as we’re getting to biblicalities today. With a bright stage design focused on the theme of an old race track workshop, we are getting ready for a bright, powerful and – considering the other bands – quite unusual race. Closer to the likes of Mötley Crüe, they could drop the ball in regards to audience engagement. But on the contrary, they get them even more riled up and active. Might also be due to the fact that a Jesus look alike – or for all we know the real deal – is appearing on stage to bless some of the first row audience members with a cold can of beer. This band definitely knows how to captivate a crowd that might be a bit further away from their usual fans. The show was over way too soon and has us all hoping for more. They definitely win this race in regards to speed as well as crowd acceptance.
Now we are getting close to the top of the hill. Near the mountain top, Parasite Inc. takes over our bodies as their host. And quite effectively so. With their mixture of catchy melodic parts and heavy Death Metal riffs, the band from Aalen gets the crowd heavily excited. Well, wouldn’t be the first time an aggressive parasite claimed some casualties. I can definitely say for myself, that the screams are still in my ears and have caught my attention for the foreseeable future.
Last, but not least, we reach Sodom. But it’s definitely not lonely on the top of this lineup. Rather the venue has heavily filled up by now and the energy is bursting through the roof. Which is all the more reason that the excitement turned to impatience, when the Thrash Metal stars can only start with a few minutes delay due to what seems to be technical issues. But make no mistake, they play their full set and a bit more, delivering what they promised, no matter what. Much to the delight of their audience. Not only their style, but also their stage design is quite grim and gloomy. Combined with the typical Thrash sound it feels like a bulldozer is driving out of the darkness with no headlights and full on into your ears. You feel knocked out and yet strangely satisfied. Sodom definitely is a worthy headliner for the first day of this fantastic festival.
Now let’s wrap this day up by eating something at one of the food trucks outside and enjoy the atmosphere of a fully charged Metal crowd together at the aftershow party. After all, there is no commitment for you besides being up and running half a day later for the second half of the lineup.
Day 2 – More core, more people, more power
So let’s hypothetically say you went to bed after the after show party around 3 am and you woke up around 4 pm again to be ready in time for the doors to open at 5 pm, then you would have had all the time in the world to relax, process the last day and get amped up for day 2. While some of the organizers weren’t as lucky and were closer to 3 hours of sleep than to 13, the audience definitely isn’t tired at all.
And neither is the first band on stage, Pinghost. Positively surprised to have as many eager metalheads in front of them during their opener slot, the Metalcore band from nearby town Balingen set the Neckarhalle on fire. Frontman Andy Ritter definitely brings a fantastic vibe to the stage with a mixture of charming humility and childlike excitement. Well, that’s why you never skip the opening acts of any show. They will pay you back your presence and energy thousandfold and sometimes you will find a rising star this way. I can definitely say that I will aim to watch another one of their shows soon, since the fantastic atmosphere and progressively influenced Metalcore really make me have a great time.
And next the torch is passed to Backstabbed from Offenburg, making them another band with a rather short travel distance home. In case it isn’t clear at this point yet, I really love the fact that lots of the bands are from around an hour or two around Oberndorf. The moment Backstabbed enters the stage, I’m wondering whether Chester Bennington might’ve been revived. At first glance, the way their vocalist looks and moves reminds me quite a bit of him. Well, that’s where the similarities end, because while we also have a very capable vocalist and energetic powerhouse at the front of the stage, the musical style is quite different. With an aggressive wave of hardcore the audience is knocked into the ground. Quite clearly, they like it though as can be seen from the action in the pit. Additionally, the entire band obviously has a great amount of fun here. An effect that is only further amplified by the fantastic feedback from their fans.
Next up, without any mercy, we will get no harm or shelter. Quite literally actually, since the originally lined up band Harm/Shelter had to cancel their performance on short notice. Make no mistake though, the Easter Cross is not doing things halfway. Instead they offer us Half Me from Hamburg. With their brutal hardcore, they also cut the crowd in half only to unify them in perfect musical harmony again with some pretty rough Wall of Death. Not a tough thing for them to do, since the heavy breakdowns in their music are predestined to do exactly that. They are definitely a worthy replacement for Harm / Shelter and most certainly got their fans over the missed opportunity quite quickly, winning them over with such a fantastic musical landscape. They also fit the lineup quite well. For anyone who might not have picked up on the pattern just yet, the first day was more of a mixed bag, basically a bit of everything and very interesting for people with a versatile taste in music of different genres. Day two on the other hand was very specifically in the realm of hardcore, metalcore and deathcore. Something the fans apparently are quite excited about, because at this point the venue is almost at its capacity and the room is heating up.
That’s where the Venues from Stuttgart come in, because one venue apparently cannot contain the crowd much longer. The band should’ve been on the lineup of the last Easter Cross already, which unfortunately didn’t happen due to conflicting appointments in the end. But this time the Post-Hardcore heavy weights around Daniela ‘Lela’ Gruber and Robin Baumann could finally make it and boy oh boy is everyone happy about that, including the organizers and myself. I didn’t know them before, but this concert blew me away. Especially the broad mixture of clean singing, growls and screams of the two vocalists caught my attention. But also their guitar players Valentin Hahnemann and founding member Constantin Ranis deliver a visually and musically spectacular performance.
A while ago I spoke to a friend about the lineup of the Easter Cross. His first words when he saw the lineup were “I’d travel through half the country for the Landmvrks alone”. Unfortunately, he couldn’t make it after all. But he definitely didn’t undersell them. With a big neon V, their trademark sign, which you can also find in the intentionally changed writing of the word landmarks in their name, the stage is illuminated initially. In certain parts of the show we don’t even get that much more light. But we don’t need that either. The gloomy, mysterious lighting is for one absolutely sufficient to build up a great setting and atmosphere, but it also wouldn’t change anything about the great performance of the Landmvrks if it weren’t. Well, not only their fans would travel a bit to see them, they also do. After all, they came all the way from Marseille, France to be here with us. Vocalist Florent Salfati might seem inconspicuous at first, but hell would it be a mistake to underestimate him. At least for your ears that is. His voice will tear you apart if necessary. And nothing less was offered from the musical surrounding it was embedded in.
Once again, we are closing in on the last few acts. On the same billing order as last days headliner Sodom, we have Caliban playing today. With the first show after five months you might wonder whether they are a bit rusty. But on the contrary, they used that time to get well prepared to shred us all to dust. Unfortunately for the band, the crowd didn’t fully pick up their speed for quite some time and so singer Andreas Dörner is heavily trying to motivate the people. If you would’ve asked me, the crowd wasn’t as familiar with Caliban’s lyrics as they could’ve been and the band seemed to be having a hard time dealing with that. Not to mention that not being able to sing along to the headliner might’ve been the one and only real blasphemous deed done during this Easter weekend Metal festival. At some point we are even presented with the fact that lead guitarist Marc Görtz isn’t even supposed to be playing or standing on stage right now. Instead his doctors told him to rest because of a recently endured stomach operation. But he made it and is partying like hell, so everyone else should be, too.
But over time the ice melts and band and audience are finding their common wavelength to party together. At latest during their cover of “Sonne” by Rammstein, they find a crowd, that is also familiar with those lyrics and finally fully engages with the band, the way they deserve it. A circumstance that plays out very well during the performance of “Intoleranz” (~ intolerance), where the crowd is encouraged to lift the middlefinger to the sky to any hate and intolerance. And there is no hesitation at all here. The audience 100% agrees with that statement.
Stick To Your Guns
And finally, we are introduced to the headliner of the Easter Cross festival 2023. Where Day one headliner Sodom started a bit late, Stick To Your Guns can’t contain their excitement any longer and comes on stage early – much to the surprise and excitement of the audience. It is very obvious that the American hardcore champions attract quite a lot of fans and so for one last time with the full collective power of their music and the crowd, they finally tear down the venue for good. A worthy headliner and a fantastic last act on stage.
Having said that, I can only once again recommend you to keep your eyes open for the ticket presale for next year’s Easter Cross festival. Here you get world class headliners, local hidden gems and a top notch organization at the usual size of your town’s band contest. A truly unique and fantastic combination, that you shouldn’t miss out on.
Photography and Article by Cat Maverick
Proofreading by Friend.X aka Mr. Deep
Visit the official homepage of the Easter Cross Festival.