Overview from Kilkim Žaibu 2023

For me, Kilkim Žaibu is already some kind of a tradition, where we meet with friends in a nice environment and usually enjoy a great lineup. However, we were not planning to visit the festival this year, because some members of our crew couldn’t come and honestly, the lineup was not as good as in previous years. I will mention this fact in my overview quite often (probably it will be more useful for organizers). At first, I have to say, that a weaker list of bands meant that not so many people were interested in taking such a long trip with us so far. We have been searching for people to join us until the last minute. Most of our crew decided to go because of the trip and holiday, not because of the bands. I must mention that half of our companions have never been to Kilkim Žaibu and people, who already had been there, told me that they would go with us if there was be a better lineup.

For photos I would like to thank to Varnalėša, Vytenis Jurevičius and Garvis. Article’s title photo by Varnalėša. Slovak version of overview will be published later.


Festival area and first impressions

Visiting this event every year, I can compare its development – negative and positive sides. One of the most positive things is the area of the festival, it is a beautiful place of historical residence of the first Lithuanian president Antanas Smetona by Lake Lėnas. You have the opportunity to swim there, jump into the water from the pier, enjoy a sauna, or just walk in the park full of very old and massive oaks – sacred trees of Thunder god Perkūnas (the big stage is dedicated to Perkūnas and smaller one to Pikuolis, a lower god/deity/creature from Baltic mythology). As it is known, the festival also consists of non-musical activities such as living history groups reconstructing the world of ancient Baltic tribes, craftsmen, sports activities (Viking football and wrestling), as well as bonfires. The first minus is, that all these activities are listed in a nicely designed physical program, which you get at the entrance, but unfortunately, it is only in Lithuanian language. I would consider translating the whole program for the upcoming years. I am an honest and straightforward person, and I have to say, that I didn’t watch every band. It is impossible and not every musician is just my cup of tea.

Thursday

The first day of the festival usually begins later and this year wasn’t an exception. All started at about 17:00 o’clock with reenactment groups and the first band started to play at 18:00 – it was Hellhookah with their stoner doom metal. Btw they have great merchandise designs. After a few songs, I moved to the area of craftsmen, considering these activities more interesting for me (which means I missed the band Tručas) after that I appeared near Pikuolis stage when Andaja started to play. I remember this group from past when they played pagan metal. The group disbanded in 2009, but came back in 2017 with a new album and a bit new style. Andaja is now playing softer music, which could be described as folk-rock inspired by Lithuanian folklore. The sound itself was a bit inconsistent since the beginning, and the keyboard almost couldn’t be heard. They were introducing their latest album Pavidalai, which was released last year. As a starting band of the festival, it wasn’t bad, they created a nice atmosphere. I liked the song Velnio vestuvės.

I have to admit that I never heard of the band Wolfheart, but I knew that someone would name a band like this (honestly not so original name after looking at metal archives). Going to watch and listen to these Fins was recommended to me by Tomas from Orbis Metallum (Czech webzine), whom I met just recently. And it was definitely not a bad idea. Wolfheart surprised me and we agreed with Tomas that it sounds a bit like old Insomnium (which I used to like). As I remember, they played a song about the year 1940. I assume that it was about skiing and shooting Russian invaders, which used to be the Finnish national sport at that time.

At 22:00, the stage was taken over by the Latvian pagan/folk metal band Varang Nord, which I described earlier in my overview from 2021 – I didn’t like this band, the copy-paste Korpiklaan-ish metal is not up to my liking, I am sorry. I rather went to take some beer and check the burning of the ritual bonfire near the lake. Time flew so quickly, and it was time for the headliner of Thursday. Honouring the day of Thunder god, came the thrash metal legends Sodom. It is a big and very well-known name, which should attract a lot of people. And there were many of them, I was watching the show from a distance, listening, and realizing, that thrash metal never was my style. Of course, I liked Agent Orange, but that’s all, I guess. It was nice to see them, but that wasn’t a headliner for me.

The last band of the day was Tankuojis with their special metal performance. I have seen these freaks a few times and it was always fun. Lithuanian folk songs about the partisans, interwar and postwar period, and lot of humour. These guys have such a vibe, that even a person who doesn’t understand the Lithuanian language must dance and have fun. I appreciate that it is so natural, not constantly shouting ‘skal’ and ‘beer&mead’, etc. Absolutely great end of the evening!

Friday

New day, new man, new experiences. Well not that much of the new man though, Lithuanian beers strike hard. Let’s slowly start a day with some good food and here I must appreciate the really wide offer of various meals for pretty fair prices. After breakfast/lunch, it was time for a walk in a ‘alley of crying wallets’, where you spend your last cash. Some of the merch tents are very nice and welcoming, but some of them are kurwa annoying. I was really happy to see the tent with guys, who are supporting the Ukrainian armed forces.

The musical part of the day began with Maros Rijos, Lithuanian traditional songs. It was a pleasure to listen to them from the distance, enjoying the beer and fine weather – not super-hot like last year and not the hail storm like the day before. Due to ongoing craftsmen activities, I missed the Latvian band Hypervert, so the next band for me was Gyvata. Honestly, I have seen them many times, but I am always looking forward to seeing them again. In 2021, they released the album Saulala and in past years most of their playlist consisted of these songs. I should mention that the band really struggled with searching for a stable lineup. Many people changed on various posts (guitar, drums, various folk instruments), but it seems they finally have found it. The stable core, consisting of Elena (violin and vocals), Agneta (kankles), Audrius (guitar) and Vaidotas (bass) was accompanied by a new guitarist and drummer. That day, the stage of Pikuolis had a very decent sound and so it was with Gyvata performance. What was surprising, was that new members brought in some doom-metal influences into their music, and we could hear some new songs. Nice, very nice (how much? – with Borat voice). At the end of the setlist, they played my favourite song and title of the last album – Saulala.

The next band at Perkūnas stage was the Estonian Kannabinõid playing some kind of stoner doom metal. As I said before, this is not my cup of tea, but these guys were pretty cool. It was classic stoner metal with not that many vocals, but I liked it with the technically very well-managed drums (which are mostly boring in this genre).

Then we moved to the area of Pikuolis stage and waited (praise the Gods, not so long) for the beer, while the stage was taken over by Burying Place. One wise man told me that this is a Lithuanian old-school death metal cult band. And, actually, we have bands, which didn’t do anything and just existed for a long time, in Slovakia as well (surprisingly, also of the death metal genre). Well, after 30 years of existence, these guys finally released an album. Congratulations to them, but brutal death metal is stuff that I don’t like at all.

Further on, we moved to the area of craftsmen and warriors. I am talking a lot in plural, so yes, mostly we – me and my friends from the historical reenactment group Slavibor, who are reconstructing early medieval Slavs from Central Europe (‘Great Moravian’ Kingdom). wandered in all together. The leader of the group Filip(as) criticized (as it is common in their bubble) some costumes and styles of fights. Here my power ends, I can talk a lot about religion, mythology, and stuff, but material culture is not my area of interest.

(Do you know the term grammar-nazi? Of course, you do, so this is known as ‘living history fascism’ – people, who are very strict with historical costumes, armour, and accessories). So LH facists are criticizing the others for wrong armour and etc.

The next band on the Thunder god’s stage was Auli. The Latvian ensemble of folk instruments mostly consisted of bagpipes and drums. 9 people on the stage using the power of the bagpipe’s sound and rhythmic drumming. If I am not mistaken, the songs were inspired by Latvian folklore and their leader was very eager to communicate with the crowd. With such type of music, it is a big plus. I liked this show and anytime Auli will appear around, I would definitely go visit their show.

At 19:00 o’clock I was curious about the Polish black metalheads. In Twilight’s Embrace. Their album Lawa from 2018 is a great piece of honest black metal. Last year, they followed up with another good album Lifeblood. This is exactly the music that I like, and I am searching for. This type of Mgl-ish black metal is still popular nowadays, but I was surprised that not so many people gathered during their performance. Certainly, such a band would suit the darker part of the day, but who can be picky in Lithuania, when the sun is setting at about 23:00? It is just my personal feeling, but the manner of the vocalist was too much of Erik from Watain. It was sometimes a bit funny (stroking his hair too much), but musically it was great!

The next band was Grimner from Sweden. Oh Gods, please save me from the pagan/Viking folk bands (I am really tired of them). Gods (and organizers) heard my call and there was another program – Lithuanian partisans were telling the audience (in Lithuanian language, unfortunately for some people) how they were kicking asses of the Soviets for a long time after World War II ended. Long live Miško broliai!

And then it was the time for one of the headliners of the festival, at least for me and some people of our crew. Midnight from the USA came with their absolute, freaking, dedicated performance. The trio on the stage with masks? (bags?) on their faces started the craziest show of the festival. These guys don’t need no meth, they are meth on the stage. Both bass guitarist/vocalist and guitarist wildly smashing their instruments with musical and technical easiness. Fucking Speed and Darkness, Szex Witchery, Satanic Royalty, and other catchy hymns were played tonight! Amazing show and hats down to the bass guitarist, who was fingering his bass in that tempo the whole concert. For the next USA president’s elections, please vote for Midnight!

After the show of Midnight, there could be only one band (in my eyes), which could beat their performance. Yes, it was time for the Latvian pagan metal legend – Skyforger. Many of our crew were looking forward to their special set. Skyforger released the album Latviešu strēlnieki, which was dedicated to Latvian riflemen, who fought for the first Latvian independence during and after the World War I, in the year 2000. And tonight, it was the show, when they played the whole album. I still have goosebumps when I think about that show. That was something unique. There was barbed wire and huge projections of historical photos and videos, as well as cinematics done by members of the band on the stage and behind the drums. There was also an English intro, explaining the history behind the formation of the Latvian riflemen. This was absolutely stunning. I thought that it was just an intro, but it was during the whole fucking setlist after every song! That was so fucking amazing that I was just standing there like stoned – this was beyond perfection and every single member of our crew said that nothing can beat Skyforger’s show at this festival. I don’t need to name every song, that they have played because you can easily open metal-archives and check the album Latviešu strēlnieki. Throughout this whole perfection, there were a few negatives, mainly with sound itself. Vocals were a bit down at first, and some people were complaining that the concert itself was too loud.

The concerts of Skyforger and Midnight completely blew my mind. Suddenly I was very tired after the whole day and there were still bands waiting for us. Honestly, I am not a big fan of Urgehal, their first albums are fine, but later their music has become a bit boring. Many people would not agree with me. I also missed Septicflesh, which is a huge band, but they never caught my interest. Well, you don’t need to like every single band at the festival. People told me, that their performance and sound were amazing, I must believe them, but I don’t regret it. Going to sleep sober is sometimes fine. The last act of the second day was Lili Refrain, the favourite one of my friend Kempinski, who created a festival playlist for our readers. This is something that I wish I didn’t sleep through. Mr. Kempinski told me that the one-woman show of Lili was stunning. And yes, the next day he grabbed a CD – a dedicated fan I would say!

Saturday

On the third day of the festival, you begin to feel tired, but not when you went to sleep sober, hah! There were still lot of things that were going to happen and some great bands we were waiting for. The first band of the day (I know it is the most ungrateful time) was Stifer and I skipped. Not because I am a true-pure black metalhead elitist (I am not), but just because there have been other things to do. Spending money on gifts and supporting local craftsmen. My first band on the list was just the second one – Svirtis. A group of young people, playing traditional Lithuanian folk songs, which I have seen last year. I guess that band grew up with members. Many songs are humorous, so characteristic of the common folk, who was struggling with daily life. From traditional instruments, I noticed kankles and ryla – a Lithuanian variation of the hurdy-gurdy, I guess.

The third band of the day was the local melodic death/groove metal band Awakening Sun. Once again, this was Kempinski’s pick – he said that this band should sound fine. So, we went to check them out, even though I don’t have any interest in this genre. I don’t know if it was due to sound, but we didn’t last there long. Even my friend said, ‘Meh’ and off we went for a beer (the sound was really bad). We also skipped the doom metal Sinamort, as there was some kind of wrestling and „viking football“ happening in the craftsmen area!

If we should vote for the worst band of the festival, the prize would go to Czech fantasy folk Deloraine (some friend of mine mixed it with the Lithuanian word dešraine – sausage). Fantasy kitsch based on Witcher’s fame is such a cringe, that I am not able to watch them. I knew what it was, I had seen them live once and that was enough.

The next band after some disappointments was the German Finsterforst. Their music is familiar to me, but I was never paying that much attention to them. I would label them as kind of epic, pagan/black/folk metal with quite long songs, which were not bad at all. I appreciate the vocalist, who seemed to be drunk, but sang the clean vocal parts absolutely great.

Pensées Nocturnes were on my list of bands that I must see. First of all, let’s describe their music because it is something unique. Try to imagine that Peste Noire, Vulture Industries, and Igorr would have a child. Pretty retarded, yeah? So it was, but the best word to describe their amazing show was ‘grotesque’. Their show was like a cut out from the images of Francois Rebelais’ grotesque. 6 dirty freaks with instruments in their hands dealing the best baguettes in the hood. The combination of black metal riffs, French native melodies, and bizarre outlook was absolutely original and rocking. If you don’t know these guys, go and run to buy their latest album Douce Fange! Best show of the day!

But we didn’t stop, it was just the beginning because the next band was Joryj Kloc. Ukrainian folk music with a lot of modern influences and melodies. The leader of the band serves in the Ukrainian army and defends his country from the Russian invasion. While his brigade was on rotation, he got a few days off to play shows abroad with his band. Hats down and Slava Ukraini! Their show was energic, crazy and many people started to dance. It was one of the most heartwarming parties of the festival. Of course, they didn’t miss the great hits like Siadaj, Siadaj, or Baba.

During Asphyx, the Dutch legend of death/doom metal, on Perkūnas stage, Svirtis and Tankuojis were hosting a folk song evening. Kinda hard to decide, since I have seen Asphyx a few times and I am not the biggest fan, so I skipped them. Oh yes, shame on me. Next was the burning of the ritual fire near Perkūnas stage and Darvaza on Pikuolis stage. Here I must criticize the organizers, because the timing was really bad. In the past years, we could watch the bonfires and the playing band at the same time, this year we couldn’t and that was really a pity. Someone really fucked up the schedule. Darvaza is a special black metal band, which caught me with their first release and EP The Silver Chalice (2016). There are no more words needed, their live shows are just rituals.

Kill me, but Electric Wizard wasn’t a headliner for me. I am not saying that they suck, but it is just a band that I could watch if there is nothing else to do, or while sipping beer from a distance. And this is maybe the reason why the attendance this year was so low. I knew that it is going to be like this since I came to the festival area. Headliners were mostly not so interesting for a lot of people (I spoke to many), because they have seen these acts many times at some typical ‘just metal music’ concerts and festivals. And… Kilkim Žaibu for us was always something more than just a concert and a festival. The bonfires and the whole ritual stuff around is not just cinema props, it has some special meaning of a summer solstice time. Oh yes, don’t fuck my brain, that summer solstice is around 21–22 June, I know that. But these longest days are the celebration not just for one or two days. Honestly, I didnt expect that my headliners would be Skyforger, which I have seen maybe 6 times, with their amazing special show, and French band which I listened to for the first time two days before the festival.

 

Conclusion

And so, this was personal experience at this year’s Kilkim Žaibu. Meanwhile I was writting this overview, festival organizers wrote a huge post about the festival, hard times with the storm, the amount of trash (I noticed that the festival area was clean btw), and, of course, the low attendance. I am sorry, for any minus. I organized some shows in my life, and I know how disappointing it is. As Bes Webzine, we already donated to the festival. If you would like to support the festival too, you can do the same here:

Recipient: Association Pikuolis
Account number: LT047300010002498510
Bank: Swedbank
SWIFT code: HABALT22
Purpose: Donation

 

P.S.: Thanks to the team of Kilkim Žaibu organizers for the hospitality (namely especially to Vytenis Jurevičius) and great festival. We are returning every year with pleasure. 

Vytenis Jurevičius full gallery, Varnalėša full gallery, Garvis full gallery

 

Written by editor-in-chief S.


At the end of the festival, we made a survey between our crew, which bands (name max. 5) would you like to see at Kilkim Žaibu 2024 and what would you like to improve?

S.: Bands: Dordeduh, Bialy Vitez, Inferno, Heiden, Krajiny Hmly. Improvement: Better scheduling of ritual bonfires with musical lineup.

Kempinski: Bands: Kanonenfieber, Minenwerfer, Krajiny Hmly, Negative Bias, Winterfylleth. Improvement: I would like to see some more optional non-alcoholic drink on tap. Not everyone likes the kvas/gira. Also, more showers and a long festival sink, which is better than barrels with water.

Filip: Bands: Primordial, Dordeduh, Finntroll, Aeon Winds, Inferno. Improvement: Better attention for the historical reenactment.

Lukáš: Bands: Aeon Winds, Rome, Bialy Vitez, Dordeduh, Cult of Fire. Improvement: More showers and with warm water! Program in English.

Janka: Bands: Silent Stream of Godless Elegy, Tomáš Kočko a Orchestr, Gyvata, Heiden, Thy Catafalque. Improvement: More showers and program in English!

Ondřej: Bands: Radogost, Silent Stream of Godless Elegy, Cult of Fire, Malignant Tumor, Čechomor. Improvement: Bring the huge festival/field sink, more toilets, program in English, paying with card or ATM at the spot.

Tomáš: Bands: Moonsorrow, Skyforger, Kampfar, Winterfylleth, Taake. Improvement: More toilets, program in English, better scheduling of bonfire and more traditional Lithuanian food with English description.

Marek: Bands: Krajiny Hmly, Mallephyr, Moonsorrow, Kampfar, Helheim. Improvement: More benches near Pikuolis stage.

Author: S.

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