Returning to the Effenaar venue on day two of Eindhoven Metal Meeting, logistical issues with trains sadly meant I missed the opener on the main stage, Izegrim. As I arrived I decided to do my best to at least catch Dervaza, but it quickly becomes apparent today is the “meat” of the fest for most people, and somehow it is even busier than the day before. Watching the bodies trying to squeeze into the small room, a line forming of metalheads craning their necks to see the band, I’m left to strike pretty much everything I wanted to cover in the small room off my itinerary today.
Somewhat dejected at this disappointing start I decide to make the most of things and go see Fleshcrawl on the main stage. The crashing of hefty grunts and roaring guitars of this death metal quintet manages to squelch the disappointment from my brain, at least momentarily. Death metal may not be my genre, but it sure is good at smashing things out of your head.
Reinvigorated I decide to chill in the anthill the bar area has become today, and wait until Harakiri for the Sky takes the main stage. Post Metal at its finest, the melancholy guitar lines soothingly pull you deeper under a smothering blanket of painful sorrow. The screamed vocals lonely as a man screaming at a storm. A beautiful sadness exudes from the bands’ music, which is excellently played.
People. People everywhere. The main thing I sense and hear all day today is it’s so god damn crowded. The bar area is cut in half by two constant streams of people trying to squeeze past one another in opposite directions like some long intestinal tract. The merch sellers must be despairing as people can barely reach their booths, let alone browse in the constant onslaught of the crowd. Wistfully I brainstorm with a few other EMM veterans if maybe having the merch in a heated tent outside, as a sort of heavy metal Christmas market, could help relieve some of the pressure? But for this year none of that matters. Face the crush of bodies we must, again and again.
One of the few bands I do manage to squeeze into the small room for is Valkyrja, the Swedish black metal outfit smash face very hard. In a chaotic whirl of drums and screams, the pit opens up beneath you and swallows you whole during the impressively active set. The experience, however, has to be cut somewhat short as I need to make my way through the narrow hallways to get to Necrophobic. These veterans of the stage don’t waste any time spreading out their black and death metal mix, chilling the crowd to the bones, leather-clad with blacked out eyes the creak and growl in the vocals is delightfully understandable, with the odd wailing solo giving you something to almost hum.
Having successfully wormed my way in once, I decided to at least give getting in a go with Archgoat. By now a meaty security worker blocks the door of the small room to count those going in and coming out. Being one of the photographers I get to try and squeeze in anyhow, but my only chance is on the balcony. However, this just gives one a clear view on the full stage. The low growls and a deep end of the band clearly throw the sound engineer for a loop a little, as it takes a while before the balance is met where the very low and slow growls of the vocals are distinguishable from the logger-headed riffs.
Now the festival is working up to its peak performances, with first Shining (Swe) taking the stage. Niklas is clearly in no mood to be trifled with but behaves surprisingly well. His simmering displeasure just seems to give the music power, as the vocals get an extra edge. The bouts of laughter Niklas throws in songs really amp up the asylum factor. The band knows what they’re doing and do so very well, even though the particular darkness and insanity they bring has never been one I personally enjoy, the gathered crowd clearly very much do.
After Shining’s unhinged offering the long wait is on for the main course of the fest. Many of us gather in the 80’s pop Valhalla of the bar to wait until Triptykon takes the stage. When the wait finally is over, the main hall is packed full too, eager witness the originator of the “ugh” slowly envelop us all in a dark putrid anger and misery. Mixing up the setlist of the band with some Celtic Frost offerings as well, you can clearly tell this band is comfortable in their position as progenitor and boundary pusher of multiple genres. With a quiet confidence bordering on disdainful arrogance exuding coldly from the music, the crowd is made to feel empowered yet insignificant at once. We are but ants, but much cooler ants for having witnessed this.
After Triptykon’s earth-shaking performance all that is left for us is the ritual aural waterboarding that is Marduk. Uncompromisingly painful, unpleasant and relentless the band smashes into you. They don’t care what you feel, they want you to feel awful, get offended? Exactly what they want, run away screaming? Even better. Or stand there and get sucked into the mania and horrors of war and human depravity they mean to bring to us in aural form, and enjoy a grim smirk of joining them in the depths of what humanity can bring itself to, however briefly. As always Marduk leaves you feeling somehow sullied and violated but in a good way.
And as things wind down, we step outside the venue, the den of depravity and darkness left behind us, out onto a thin layer of fresh snow, fallen when we were exploring the dark corners of the world. It blankets the night in light. It cleanses us of the mud and grime we just picked up on our visit to the dark, and it leads us on. On into Christmas land, the land of family and merriment. There was no better way to close the festival.
WORDS AND PHOTOS BY SUSANNE A. MAATHUIS