Tonight we had a special treat, post-rock rising stars Long Distance Calling are played a full “An Evening With ” concert in 013. No opener, just 2 hours of ambient complex bliss. On their last album, the formerly instrumental band decided to get vocals involved, and this led to some speculation on part of the live shows. Many fans were concerned the instrumental epochs the band was known for would be shoved aside by the new tunes with vocals. The new vocalist also made us very curious to see how he preformed. It’s one thing to sound good on record, but live is a completely different set of playing cards.
The first thing we noticed when the band started playing is they didn’t have their vocalist in a prominent place up front. He’s hidden behind the keys, synths and computer elements, with the guitars on the front of the stage. Another thing we were quite happy about is the mix of songs of the set. Instead of focusing on their newer work from their last album, they provided a good mix of older, instrumental songs, flowing seamlessly into newer songs with vocal elements. The two hour show was in two parts, with a short intermezzo between the first and second hour. The first part relied more on a little more edgy and up tempo set, with vocals coming in at different intervals. In the second set they mellowed out more and it felt more like a lengthy jam, where they wove several numbers together, including a brand new song. Vocalist, Martin Fischer, also got a somewhat bigger role to play in the second set. His vocal timbre fits well into the music and reminds a little of Brian Molko from Placebo and Alice in Chains original vocalist, Layne Staley. Where I can listen to this band for ever, it’s not for everyone and I can see how the use of almost the same chord schemes and tonalities can become a little dull. The music is more rhythm driven in it’s variations at times. These elements do mean they can seamlessly weave their music together, pulling the listener deeper and deeper into the world they sketch, almost becoming hypnotic. All in all, a very good gig and definitely a band worth looking out for.
Saturday 14th: After a fitful night of sleep and a late brunch we’re back in Eindhoven at two in the afternoon. Today’s program is a little more light hearted, mixing folk metal, some more experimental death metal, and symphonic metal. We start the day with The Monolith Deathcult, who gets to wake up the sparse and bleary eyed crowd with their a little more highbrow and complex death metal. The music and the show feel bigger than their slot suggests. The intros get a bit cheesy after the first few songs but the sound mix is excellent, though a little heavy on the double bass drums.
After a short respite we get treated to the old school trash-metallers of Destroyer 666. Sadly, their playing is a little sloppy and messy, possibly due to the inhumanly fast pace they keep it. The vocals seem pretty decent, but drown a little in the pummeling heavy base mix that plagues the venue yesterday as well. They do give a good an energetic show and the room quickly fills up with happy metal heads finally woken up.
We travel shortly to the cold regions of Russia with Arkona taking the stage. Their folk infused metal is less happy and energetic than most folk metal, and a little more somber. The whole music feels Russian, even if the singing wasn’t in Russian. Sound-wise, the guitars are very, very low in the mix and the vocals very high, which means the drums and bass overpower the vocals quite often. Interestingly enough the folky whistles and the bagpipes are very well audible in the mix, while usually they’re the first things to die. The folk influences are a little more subtle and apparently with their newer music the band is moving more towards the back metal side, though their folk roots stay important to them.
We return to death metal with Hail of Bullets. Normally death metal isn’t my cup of tea, but these guys are great and I find myself nodding along to the beat. With a great songs and a nice little party vibe going on throughout, even for the non-death crowd that’s was there was into it. That it’s a great show however shouldn’t be surprising as this band shares a front man, Martin van Drunen, with the incredible Asphyx, and the rest of the all star line-up of the band. This may also be the reason the sound mix is very well balanced and crisp. All in all a great show.
In metal it’s not rare for a band to form a completely new band simply by addition of a different, usually more prominent, vocalist. The best known example probably is Ihsahn with Leprous. Elvenking and Martin Walkyier’s Skyclad are a similar story. Elvenking played for forty minutes before being joined by Walkyier, and turning into Skyclad and playing another forty minutes. The music doesn’t change much between the vocalist addition (Elvenking’s somewhat emo styled vocalist stays on for the full eighty minutes, running around the stage behind Walkyier). It stays a sort of emo-folk inspired metal. They have a pretty good sound mix and a good performance, but Davide “Damna” Moras’s vocals get on my nerves a little. The switch in the feeling of the music when Walkyier joins the band is amazing. The music, feeling a little more emo oriented at first suddenly gets a darker and more power metal feel when Walkyier’s vocals join in. Sadly, Walkyier’s grand entrance fell a little flat with the crowd, where he clearly expected a grand recognition only confusion shone on the crowds faces when Walkyier walked up, arms spread like a messiah.
It’s now time for one of my personal highlights of the day, Arcturus. I had no idea what to expect but the avant-garde metal troupe of masked entertainers is incredibly good. Their music has so many influences it’s hard to really describe, but the vocals have a certain power metal/prog type feel and the music contains traces of black metal, but also power and symphonic. Simen Hestnæs’ vocals often drowned in the drum and bass parts, unless he belted, and the guitars ate the, quite atmospheric, keyboard additions. Still the show was incredibly good, and I hope to see them sometime with a better mix.
Coroner is described as the Rush of thrash metal. Now I like thrash, especially the hyperactive, aggressive party vibe it seems to share with punk. The more progressive and technical approach coroner has, while they do what they do very well, somehow just doesn’t connect with me. I have the feeling I’m not the only one, since the room is surprisingly empty for what basically is a headlining band. The feeling that if they were programmed in Tiamat’s slot yesterday and Tiamat switched to this slot, both bands would have been in front of a better crowd crept up on me. Again, in the back of the room, Coroners music got lost in the thundering low regions. The band does an energetic attempt to move the crowd, but people seem paralyzed in the sheer amount of sound coming their way. A real pity.
Finally we get to Therion, the proper headliner of the day. Being the symphonic-metal giant that they are, the stage feels a little small for them. With three vocalists (who are also the main crowd entertainers) guitars, bass, drums, keys and a huge amount of razzle dazzle (including a belly dance act.) Very nice. This show cannot disappoint. It’s magnificent to watch and, while softer than certain bands on today’s line-up, they certainly pack a pretty metal punch. The sound-mix is really well balanced, which is needed when you have such subtle vocal harmonies to balance against raging guitars. The soprano vocalist sometimes sound a little harsh and sharp in her high notes, but this is forgiven for the sheer amount of show this band puts out. Even is symphonic metal isn’t your thing remotely, you have to admire the enormity of the show. This was definitely the best band of the day, and rightful headliner.
Since this show cannot be topped by Gothminister and last train needed to be caught, we left Eindhoven Metal Meeting’s party awestruck, exhausted and satisfied. Though the venue was plagued by less than supreme sound, certain bands shone through, and especially the ambiance was magnificent. Eindhoven, thank you for the party! Until next year.
Eindhoven Metal Meeting is quite the event in the southern Netherlands and even most of metal loving Europe by now. This year the festivities were three nights starting Thursday 12th through Saturday 14th of December. Billing 40+ bands in various genres and a very restricted press list, Ghost Cult was more than happy to be their press partner this year. Being solo, our reporter and photographer decided to only follow the main stage, excepting the Thursday when the running order was a little more forgiving.
Day one: Thursday 12th the party begins. Sadly we missed the apparently brilliant set by Death Angel due to travel issues. Apparently these classic thrashers played a great deal of their newer work with verve and gave one hell of a show. Sadly, they didn’t play much of their older work in this set. Arriving just when Sabaton started playing the main stage, the power metal party was starting. Sabaton know how to engage an audience. They may be a bit over the top, although compared to the rest of the power metal genre, they’re pretty timid. Their show was bombastic and everyone in the room enjoyed them very much. There was a smaller crowd than you’d expect with a name like Sabaton, but maybe the variety of the line-up accounted for this. It seemed that the core of the audience came more for the thrash and death related acts. Sabaton decide to play a somewhat different set than they usually do, citing they know many fans at this gig have seen them many times before. The vocals and mix are a little off, but the solos and general mood were awesome. It’s clear though they were playing for a “home crowd.”
Next up in the small room downstairs was Izegrim, a local up and comer in death metal. These guys have been playing all over NL of late and personally I hadn’t caught them yet. Their female vocalist promises to add a slightly different touch to a genre that is usually pretty conservative in its taste. When they started playing, inexperience, and possibly nerves showed. There are some good show elements (stepping forward to the edge of the stage to solo and such), but they last only a fraction of a second, giving their show a nervous feeling. The guitar solos sound a little patchy and the music in general is straight forward death metal as we know it. It’s well constructed though and while inexperience shows in the lie show, these guys could definitely grow bigger after they relax due to some more stage experience.
Finishing on the main stage is Accept. These hard rockers have been around for years, and experience showed. Their show is big and well executed, but carefree and relaxed at the same time. The best thing to see was that they really enjoy themselves. This infected the crowd who, even if it’s not their cup of tea musically, seemed to enjoy them. The sound too was exceptionally good too. Props to these guys for pulling off flawless solos and vocals, thundering drums and even slight improvisations while giving a great show, building a real party. Since I hadn’t seen Death Angel, they were my highlight of the night, but I heard Death Angel could rival them in excellence.
Friday 13th: The next day we return to Eindhoven Effenaar for a second day of loud. This day had a distinctly less party feel with mostly death and black metal bands playing the main stage. No power metal, thrash, or hard rock today, but bleak, dark, aggressive metal. Because of the denser programming today we could only cover the main stage. When we arrived we found out Fleshgod Apocalypse sadly had cancelled due to travel problems. The fans who came especially for this band (and there was a few of them) milled about the main room and in front of the venue aimlessly.
Now opening on the main stage is Morgoth. This German death metal outfit’s name is so common as a metal band, it’s a bit of a search to know who you have in front of you. They make a very quick solo filled type of death metal, with a very tight drum base. Sadly, many of the songs sound very similar, with growling vocals, and loads and loads of shredded solos. They’re very good at what they do (even though the sound is a little off, with the bass drum being overly represented.), but not very special. Good, more traditional and solid death metal.
At the same time Dues Mortem are playing in the smaller room downstairs. Since Morgoth couldn’t keep my attention I decide to have a look there. The room is decently full, but it seems most of the crowd prefers Morgoth to Deus Mortems somewhat slower, more song structured and listenable black metal. The Polish outfit is less black than some of the other billed bands, and doesn’t really use the more complex chord schemes and high vocals that normally characterize the genre, but pull off a good show.
After this we go to catch Belphegor. A quick discussion over genre-types with a clear black metal connoisseur in the press pit leads to the label of “Blackened Death”, who, while starting out as a black metal outfit, is moving more and more towards death metal. They still work with the wall of sound approach, but the vocals are lower and more growling, there are less dissonant in the guitar work and the song structure is simpler than most black metal. These guys also definitely know how to give a show, adorning the stage with some interesting bone sculptures. Melodies that almost float over the wall of noise created by blast beats, and quick guitar strokes are actually quite good and catchy. Definitely a very enjoyable band.
Napalm Death takes the stage next, and definitely show the punk roots in their hyperactive, aggressive grindcore and death metal. Running around the stage, vocalist Barney Greenway never leaves a dull moment in their 2-3 minute elapsing songs. They get 50 minutes to completely annihilate the crowd. Sadly, the sound is poorer than usual with these guys, and it kind of muddles and confuses the more crisp sound they normally have. Everything was very loud, which is good for Napalm Death in general, but now gets a bit over the top, especially with the sloppiness in both the playing and the mix. Definitely not a bad gig, but I’ve seen them do better.
The next band is one I’ve been looking forward to for some time; Carpathian Forest is, according to my black metal connoisseur, the only real black metal band on the bill. Being one of the relics from the old Norwegian scene, they should be exceptional. Sadly, the mix is terrible, laying emphasis on the bass drum and low sounds, vocals strangely mixed, where‘s vocals drowned out whenever the second set came in. It almost felt like a death metal mix, and even then was very poor. A fan mentioned, flabbergasted, that he hardly recognized the songs they played. Definite disappointment, while from an engagement and visual point of view the show was exceptionally good.
Then it’s time for odd duck on today’s billing; Tiamat. The new wave/Goth metal band would have been in front of a better crowd had they been billed the next day, when there is more melodic metal booked. This means that the rather dull song structures and lethargic deliverance which works wonderfully for goth fans does nothing at all for the more death and black oriented crowd today. Many trickle out or silently abide, waiting for whom they really came for to get on stage next, Watain.
Playing on Friday the 13th of the 13th year of their existence, the show doesn’t seem to hold much special value for Watain themselves. Having heard horror stories of the bands stage props and blood chucking habits, I was prepared for the worst, but didn’t get anything too bad. They left home their rotting sheep’s heads, only tossed one goblet of old blood into the awaiting crowd (which hit a very excited young man and his much less thrilled girlfriend), and had their fire rig set up flanking the drummer, accompanied by two huge screens made up of skin and bone panels. The band still has their own particular funk, but nothing too bad, and the sound was actually the best of the whole day in the much plagued room. I think the band has toned down the gore for a festival gig, where the next day the same room still has to be used for a full day. The show was excellent and really engaging, even though the band is mostly interested in their own ritual performance, and not much in the ecstatic crowd. Definitely worth waiting for the witching hour for them to start.
I could not think of a better way to spend my Sundays than with a concert close to home. No traffic, no getting lost trying to find the venue and no needless getting tired from traveling before you even get to the thing. But is metal a good way to spend a day best spent free of worries? It is when you visit Into the Void. Just some carefree stoner, sludge and doom where you can gently bob your head up and down to the tones of New Keepers of the Water Tower, Monomyth or Abysmal Grief, to name a few. We can already assume I was not the only one who enjoyed himself, because the date for next year has already been set. But how enjoyable was it exactly?
Supposedly the organisers of Into the Void mentioned in casual conversation with Midnight Ghost Train, while on the Roadburn Festival elsewhere in the Netherlands, that they should visit Leeuwarden some time and they would get a show to perform at. Thus the first band for the new festival, from the same people who brought us Into the Grave, was set.
A wide range of other bands were also invited of course, like Night of the Lotus Eater, 44 Venom, Yama, Cherry Choke and Toner Low. Each had their charm, but a couple clearly stood out. Monomyth for example, who cleverly hid the fact they had no intention of singing, by making the first two songs sound like an intro. At some point I started to wonder when they would start singing, when I noticed they had nothing to sing into. Not that they needed the superfluous luxury of lyrics, because their set list had been neatly designed into a build-up to an epic climax. I thought the climax could have been a bit more climactic though, because I felt the performance ended just as they were about to hit it – but maybe that is just the way they make you want to listen to more of their music. Though, the audience me they got exactly the climax they wanted, by giving an approving applause.
But if you were looking for something a little less smooth and a little more complex, you were still at the right place in the former theatre, former church. Yama, for instance, were not at all afraid to turn up the bass and the distortion, just to remind you what genre exactly you were listening too. I am not sure I would have gone with the same light plan, but it did suit the music.
I would have to say New Keepers of the Water House Towers, gave me a bit of a mix between the two: a little more rough than Monomyth, a little less lyrical than Yama. As a pleasant surprise the voices reminded me of the Queens of the Stone Age, like in QOTSA’s Songs for the Dead. As they were playing I noticed there was no gentle bobbing, but either intense focus on the faces of the audience, being swept away in the flow of the music, or firsts with horns in the air. The applause afterwards told me the audience had enjoyed the solid riffs and hypnotizing voices as much as me.
The band that stood out most to me was Abysmal Grief. They set the mood the moment they appeared on stage, bathing in red light, neatly dressed as a priest, a rabbi and a dark monk and surrounded by candles and crosses. To live up to the showmanship of the promising setting, the “rabbi” enlightened us with his dark voice and his ominous church organ, which was actually a synthesiser disguised as a lectern. It was not just the looks that drew me and the audience in though, the dark tones combined with the low, ominous singing had a way of taking you over, compelling you to stay and listen. The audience was not afraid to show it either, with rounds of applause and horned firsts in the air that seemed to plead Abysmal Grief to keep going.
In conclusion, if I decide make a habit out of metal concerts on Sundays, Into the Void definitely did the job of convincing me and would definitely be on the top of my go-to list.