Eindhoven Metal Meeting: Part I – Live At Effenaar

Every year as people around the world gather to celebrate their own midwinter celebrations, usually focussing around light and warmth, the Effenaar venue in Eindhoven instead celebrates the dark and heavy. Eindhoven Metal Meeting is seen by many as the Christmas party of the Benelux metal family. As in previous years, Ghost Cult Magazine sent me to report, and take some snaps.

The first thing you notice when you go to EMM is that no matter who early you get there, there is no escaping the giant line when entering the venue on day one. Every person gets checked and patted down, tickets scanned and bags checked before festival bracelets are handed out. For press and guests it means two lines, as we also need to queue for our actual admission. Sadly, this invariably means missing the first band, and so we get in when Pentacle start. The straightforward Dutch death metal band are a decent warm up to the rest of the day, but as the line is still huge outside they play to a somewhat tepid half filled main room.

Next Disharmonic Orchestra are definitely the odd duck of the day, and heavy in their own way, but more along psych and early prog lines, with more low end and distortion in. There’s a fun sort of aggression in this almost proto-doom style. The vocals are low and guttural, the drum especially adds the almost proggy feel to the band. Though there are only three guys on the stage it doesn’t feel empty at all and the sound they provide is very thick.

After that enjoyable detour, the main hall takes a turn for the black with old school proto blackmetallers Blasphemy. Keeping things simple and rather close to the punk roots black metal shared with death metal, the band are punchy and heavy and like getting an army boot to the face. A certain sloppiness in the play adds to the chaotic charm of the quick-fire violence. The songs don’t really require a great deal of sophistication, as long as afterward you feel sufficiently pummelled, a promise this band can definitely fulfill.

Carpathian Forest; A band the old school black-metal fans love and adore and still pack an incredible punch, Carpathian Forest are somewhat of a highlight for me on this first day. Vocalist Nattefrost saunters around the stage either ill or intoxicated, at the very least not overly aware, when a skull drops off of his mic stand and gets handed back to him by an audience member, he attempts to reattach it, before getting annoyed and smashing it on the stage. There’s some flaws in this performance, but in general the band pull through very well and are definitely entertaining. One of my favourite shows of the day even with the state Nattefrost was in, the rest of the band is such a pummelling machine it’s unstoppable, even if the sound mix was a little off. And apart from being a little wild-eyed, Nattefrost’s performance is still very good and engaging.

Certainly for many one of the highlights of the day as many gathered into a packed main hall, but somehow Dark Tranquillity just can’t capture my attention. They do what they do very well, but sometimes something just isn’t your thing. Wandering from the main room I happen to check my program and see by happy coincidence the fact Dark Tranquillity left me utterly unmoved means I am now freed up to go see Dool. The Dutch band had become quite the household name for those who like guitars and darkness in the Netherlands. Their singers’ raw androgyny,,vocals, and the sincere dark that emanates from their first album release means the band, made up of seasoned touring veterans, have endeared themselves a good spot in the heart and minds of Dutch fans. But they are still a little unknown abroad. Live the raw emotion and stark nakedness of the music in its in your face simplicity gets to you quickly. No gimmicks, just a band pouring their darkness, pain and struggles with life into rock music. If you enjoy bands like In Solitude and Grave Pleasures, these are a band you should really look into.

Finally, the day ends with the visually very impressive Cult of Fire. Setting wise you could think Batushka, only instead of picking their holiness from orthodox Christianity, they’ve chosen to go south-east Asian and seem to play more with Indonesian imagery or at least a culture from around those parts. Sadly for me, the band suffer from a similar problem as Batushka do. Once you’ve seen a bit of the show you’ve seen it. the vocalist piously gestures in his robes behind an altar-like pedestal, the candle glimmer and shine, the band hide behind the imagery and robes, and musically they play well, but there’s nothing that made me go wow, this is it. Still definitely not something I regret seeing.

WORDS AND PHOTOS BY SUSANNE A. MAATHUIS