Blog | A Few Days At Graspop Metal Meeting 2024

by Raymond Helebrand

This year I was at Graspop Metal Meeting for a few days. Not as a photographer or reporter, but to help accompany some bands. Making sure the bands were picked up for their signing sessions and possible interviews. And of course enjoying all the beauty that Graspop Metal Meeting has to offer.


Leading up to the festival, I seemed to find myself in a bit of a DejaVu moment [Wacken Open Air Festival last year], as weeks of rainfall had caused the grounds in Dessel to suffer considerably and the fields [read mainly camping and parking lots] could not be opened to visitors. The organization was forced to activate the emergency plan and ask visitors not to come to the campsites and to try as much as possible to come by combined transport. Buses were deployed and the residents of Dessel and the surrounding area were asked to provide space for shelter or parking for as many visitors as possible. Heavy Metal unites, because somehow it all worked out. Fortunately, the continuation of the Graspop Metal Meeting was never in jeopardy and the daily visitors [+/-55,000] were able to enjoy all the great things this Belgium festival had to offer again this year.


So on Thursday I left somewhat early for the holy grounds, because you don’t know beforehand what you are going to find and how things would be arranged with these special circumstances. Well I can state that it was all top notch. Yes, it was busier on the roads towards GMM, but really everything else was top notch. The Press parking lot was passable and the festival meadows were in pretty good shape.  Although it’s fair to mention that those meadows did get a little soggy as more rain and days of pedaling festival-goers went by. Quite soggy, but even that apparently couldn’t take away the festival joy of the average visitor.


Also this year, the organization has chosen to work with the Cashless system. The so-called Skullies you can put on your cashless card and thus pay everywhere. 1 Skullie is € 3.50 and if you have to pay 3.8 Skullies for your Bicky Royal Burger, it is a fairly expensive Burger. And that’s not even the most expensive thing you can get in one of the many food stalls. I think there is some room for improvement there, because it is quite a drain on your money if you walk around on the holy grounds for 4 days. And you have to eat and drink anyway.


In terms of musical offerings, GMM does have its act together quite well again. With headliners such as TOOL, Alice Cooper, Five Finger Death Punch, Judas Priest, Avenged Sevenfold, Bring Me The Horizon, Deep Purple, Scorpions and Machine Head to name a few, it had also managed to secure attractive headliners in 2024. That’s not even mentioning the rest of the acts. A total of 134 acts provided the musical whipped cream. And we’re also talking about a very wide range in terms of style, because it really goes from traditional Hard and Heavy to Grind Core, Punk to Hair metal and everything else in between.

That there was a reasonable amount of downpour on Thursday and Friday didn’t seem to have any impact on the mood of the people. Singing along loudly, moshpits, screaming, drinking, smiling faces. You can see everything passing you by. Especially if you take a moment to quietly take things in. You even saw people checking the soccer and the lines at the autograph stand were not less long because it was raining. No, people just want an autograph from their favorite artist. That’s cool anyway. And if you take your fans seriously, as a band, you also take a moment to do an autograph session. Those people are coming for you!

Saturday was already a lot sunnier and warmer as a prelude to the bright Sunday.


What I personally did find somewhat on the late side were the times the last headliners played. TOOL 11:30 pm, Five Finger Death Punch 11:59 pm, Bring Me The Horizon 11:59 pm and Machine Head 11:30 pm. I get that as an organization you try to make the total experience as great as possible, but I’ve talked to people who just dropped out because they were broken after a day at the sacred fields and couldn’t take it anymore. Or people who didn’t come until around 8 pm and so could really only see the last few bands. Sure they are choices, which you can make for yourself, but fact is fact, it’s late and long. Especially when you consider that on Friday night it was also quite cold due to rain and wind.


So were there any musical highlights? Yes there were. Brothers of Metal performed at the Marquee Tent on Thursday at noon and it was packed!!! The band’s popularity was also evident during the signing session, because despite the weather, there was a mega-long line of fans waiting for their moment with the band. Kerry King was insanely on a roll, with his band. Definitely one of the highlights of GMM 2024. TOOL was an oasis of musicality for many. Avantasia managed to leave a top impression. Herr Sammet was insanely in tune and with a kind of ‘best of’ set he managed to get the audience pretty much to his liking. Electric Callboy is doing insanely well with the fans, not my thing, but the fans are clearly into this band.

Judas Priest does not disappoint with their show and Five Finger Death Punch manages to bring enough energy to the holy grounds even at the late hour that the crowd is on fire again for a while. Flotsam And Jetsam is solid like a rock. Also in 2024. Occasional project Mr. Bungle is a surprising act composed of heavyweights such as Dave Lombardo, Scott Ian, Mike Patton, among others. There were even some S.O.D. songs thrown in. Pestilence also did good business at the Marquee. Sunday’s highlights I unfortunately have to leave you with, as I was not at GMM that day.


And where there are highlights, bands also fall through. And for the top 2, I would like to nominate Babymetal and Steel Panther. Babymetal because it’s just a bucket of noise, with three girls trying to sing  and doing dances, and the majority of the audience is just clearly not waiting for it. Witness the long lines at the food stands and restrooms. In that sense, it is a good choice to have such a band playing, because people also need a break now and then.
Steel Panther, because this flat-out gimmick is kind of done. Singer Michael Starr and company have been doing the same bloated trick for years now. The same jokes, the same misogynistic bullshit. And really very little music is being made and that’s what a band should be about. Everything about this band is just fake. Please do me a favor and just stop this failed parody.


Other than these misses, I can only be positive about GMM 2024. Everything was well organized, I really didn’t hear a band with bad sound, which in itself is worth a big compliment. The weather situation was super anticipated and solutions were sought where necessary. I therefore think that everyone who visited GMM 2024 went home with a good feeling. And that is what it is all about. Once again Metal unites.

See U next year Graspop Metal Meeting.

All photos by Raymond Helebrand



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