Aalborg Metal Festival 2012

author MST date 10/11/12

The first Rockfreaks.net coverage of Aalborg Metal Festival coincides with my own returning to the festival after two years of absence. I attended the festival in 2008 and 2009, and I was delighted to be able to return to Denmark's finest in-door metal festival in 2012. It is a 3-day event, with a few domestic acts playing on Thursday night, and a mix of Danish and international acts on Friday and Saturday. I was not able to attend the Thursday night, but we arrived in Aalborg as soon as possible on Friday.

Apart from the many great bands playing the festival, there are plenty of other things that make AMF such a special weekend. It takes place at Studenterhuset, a nice medium sized in-door venue with a decently sized stage and a bar at the far back of the room. The rest of the ground floor building offers a large bar area with plenty of chairs and tables and a pool table, and the Metal Market area consisting of: a merch stand which sells official AMF merchandise as well as official merch from the bands playing the festival, another booth which sells endless amounts of t-shirts and hoodies, and last but not least, a booth which sells CDs and LPs. Heading upstairs, another bar can be found: Jägergrotten (the Jäger(meister) Cave), which offers many seats in front of a small stage on which a Metal Karaoke event takes place. Finally, food can be bought just outside the venue at a stand which sells hotdogs and sausages.

Outside of the venue

Line-up

Thursday

  • Mercyful Diamond
  • Essence
  • Ferocity
  • Scarred by Beauty
  • Rising

Friday

  • Devin Townsend Project
  • Fear Factory
  • Raunchy
  • Puteraeon
  • Billy Boy in Poison
  • Plague of Angels
  • Serpent Saints
  • 9000 John Doe

Saturday:

  • Gojira
  • Decapitated
  • Rotten Sound
  • Iniquity
  • Saturnus
  • Dawn of Demise
  • Dyscarnate
  • Caro
  • Electric Hellride

Friday

Plague of Angels

Plague of Angels @ 17:00-17:30

After having had a beer after arriving slightly too late to catch Serpent Saints on stage, it was time to catch our first band of the day. Plague of Angels hail from Yorkshire, UK, a fact that frontman Dave Hutchinson presents to the crowd coated in a thick dialect. The band play deathcore with all the elements attached to the genre: heavy riffs played at thrashy velocities, brutal growls and screams and, naturally, breakdowns. And apart from the vocalist, who, with his long hair and neutral looks could be any metalhead, the band's appearance fit the genre tag as well: enormously stretched ears and fringe hair cuts. A considerable amount of people had gathered in front of the stage to watch the band from Leeds tear it up. But there wasn't much of a reaction. The banter between songs was hilarious what with the thick dialect and British humour, but other than that it was all pretty standard. Granted, the music wasn't as bad as deathcore can potentially be, but it was no revelation of sonic art either. And with a stationary performance in which the guitarists and bassist would bounce up and down on the spot and the vocalist would stand and wait awkwardly when he wasn't singing, it just seemed like another routine performance. The band introduced a song by dedicating it to the former vocalist of Suicide Silence, who recently died due to injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident (R.I.P.). In what turned out to be the final song, one of the guitarists had problems with his guitar, so he put it down and jumped around and headbanged for the remainder of the song. Plague of Angels were pretty uninteresting, but for a first band of the day it was good enough to get the mood started. [6]

Billy Boy in Poison

Billy Boy in Poison @ 18:00-18:30

Copenhagen's Billy Boy in Poison were up next. The young Danish death/metalcore act immediately made it clear that they mean business. First of all, their music was much more varied than the previous band, but their performance was also more interesting. When the rhythm guitarist wasn't moving around and the vocalist wasn't intimidating the crowd with his guttural growls and semi-screams/shouts, the whole band just played their aggressive music convincingly, with grim faces, headbanging and the whole shebang. Of course there had to be breakdowns, it is metalcore after all, but apart from those I was entertained throughout the set. From energetic metalcore anthems through deathcore with breakdowns and even hints at djent in some of the later songs, Billy Boy in Poison played a convincing set that got people engaged, and warmed their headbanging necks and moshing bodies warmed up. [7]

Puteraeon

Puteraeon @ 19:00-19:30

Because I had to find a new place to park our car, I ended up missing most of Puteraeon's set, so no grade will be given here. Puteraeon hail from Sweden and play old school death metal in the vein of their countrymen before them. Clad in the sacred battlevest, frontman Jonas Lindblood led the onslaught. The first song of the two I caught was slow and heavy, almost drawing comparisons to doom metal bands like Hooded Menace. The next was a blasting anthem for destruction. There was very little communication and not much of a performance going on either, but the band took their music seriously and played death metal of the kind that demands headbanging. Suffice it to say that Puteraeon were a band I had planned to miss, and I would encourage you to go see them if they should swing by your neighbourhood.

Raunchy

Raunchy @ 20:00-20:45

And then it was time to get nostalgic. Raunchy was one of the bands I listened to a lot in my younger years, but nowadays I consider them a guilty pleasure as their pop metal is far from anything I'd ever listen to these days. Regardless, their first three records still have a place in my heart, so I was prepared to sing along to Raunchy's tongue-in-cheek lyrics and enjoy the heavy use of keyboards that the Copenhageners were to play on this Friday night. Opening with "Nght Prty" from their latest album "A Discord Electric", Raunchy set out to conquer the festival. With two guitarists, a bassist, a keyboard-playing clean vocalist and frontman Kasper Thomsen in front of the drum set, the stage suddenly looked very small. But the band used the stage to the best of their capabilities, and despite being a large band they moved around the stage more than most bands on the entire festival. The setlist was impressively varied, and almost handmade for me, with four songs from 2004's "Confusion Bay" and two songs off "Death Pop Romance" from 2006, and only a single song off the band's latest album, "A Discord Electric" from 2010. But alas, all was not perfect. For some reason, keyboardist Jeppe Christensen was playing a tiny keyboard, and only a few notes once in a while, while most of the keyboards usually found in Raunchy's music appeared to be playback. Frontman Kasper Thomsen's vocals also seemed different to what I've seen and heard previously, as his semi-screamed vocals were a lot less harsh than what I'm used to on the older records. And when Christensen was doing his usual clean vocal choruses Thomsen would "sing along" - meaning that it looked like he was singing along passionately, but it was impossible to hear, making it look like he was mimicking. But overall these are minor flaws, because Raunchy's show was a very entertaining one. [7½]

Fear Factory

Fear Factory @ 21:45-22:45

Perhaps the biggest name in industrial metal, Fear Factory ascended the stage in front of the biggest crowd that had been assembled on that Friday night thus far. Celebrating the 20-year anniversary of their classic "Soul Of A New Machine", the 4-piece opened with the title track to their latest album, "The Industrialist". Fear Factory circa 2012 consists of new drummer Mike Heller, new bassist Matt Devries, founding guitarist and main song writer Dino Cazares and founding vocalist Burton C. Bell. And even without having researched the band it was immediately clear who were the most seasoned members of the band. Dino both played convincingly and looked engaged in the performance on stage and even had spare energy to connect with the crowd. Only when playing solos was there anything wrong in the guitar department; not that his solos weren't good, but because he's the sole guitarist in the band, the sound got a bit thin during solos, but that's to be expected. But Bell stole most of the attention - both positive and negative. As a frontman, little criticism can be directed his way because he had the audience completely spellbound. His stage presence is commanding and engaging and shows that if you know what you're doing, you can be almost completely immobile and still be the fixing point of an awesome performance. His characteristic shouted vocals only enhanced this feeling. But when the songs called for his clean vocals, eyebrows were raised. He didn't hit a single note, and it really sounded quite pathetic. If I had been a huge Fear Factory fan, that would have completely ruined the experience for me. But when focusing on his harsh vocals, like in the nu-metal influenced "Edgecrusher", Bell did everything right. Whether FF should find a new vocalist for the clean vocals, get Bell som serious training or focus on tracks without clean vocals in the future I shall let them decide. But even with that little minus, Fear Factory was a blast. What a professional band. [8]

Devin Townsend

Devin Townsend Project @ 23:45-01:00

Having been a Strapping Young Lad fan for years, I knew that Devin Townsend is a musical mastermind, balancing on the fine line between madness and genius. But I'm not the biggest fan of his solo projects, which lean more towards progressive metal than the industrial thrash/grind chaotic entity that SYL was. Nevertheless, I was looking to see what Friday's headliner had in store for the audience waiting in front of the stage as the time got closer and closer to midnight.

When Devin finally opened the ball with "Supercrush!" off 2009's "Addicted", I was completely blown away. The first thing I noticed was that Devin seemed extraordinarily happy, making happy and surprised faces time and time again, both while singing in his impressive, almost opera-like clean vocals and harsh screamed vocals, and when playing solos and walking around the front of the stage while talking and connecting with the crowd. Coupled with the fun and captivating video material shown behind the band, including references to other bands, and the extremely professional performance on stage, this was a complete and utter success. The rhythm guitarist and bassist joining Devin on stage both had bald heads and long beards, and their choir singing, movement and general performance was choreographed to perfection, giving Devin all attention almost all the time.

Devin Townsend

If the music, performance and extra effects weren't enough to keep people satisfied, Devin were prepared to force people to be happy at his show. With comments like: "Do it! Say "Hey"! It's fucking cheesy!", "Invisible choir!" (as the programmed keyboards and extra effects suddenly included a female vocal choir), "My penis will never be this hard again!", and "You're all gay!" when a cheesy part of a song included plenty of rainbowy colours shown behind the band, Devin won over all the skeptics and ensured a party of cosmic proportions. Devin Townsend truly deserves everything being said about him: when taking his music, personal performance and live show into consideration, Devin is nothing short of a God. And had I personally been a bigger fan of his solo records, I would not have sufficed with giving him a: [9]

Saturday

Electric Hellride

Electric Hellride @ 14:00-14:30

Saturday started early. It's never easy to play a festival in the early hours as some (maybe even the band's members themselves) will probably still want to be sleeping, and most of those who are awake will have severe hangovers. As Electric Hellride opened the final day of Aalborg Metal Festival, that fact was painfully obvious; there were around 20 people scattered in the stage area. But the winners of the Danish leg of the Wacken Open Air Metal Battle didn't mind a challenge, and there was neither disappointment nor a lack of joy of playing metal visible in the facial expressions and performances by these sludgey thrashers. Led by vocalist/bassist Casper Villumsen, Electric Hellride were on a mission to destroy. Their energetic tunes quickly attracted more people to the room, and we even saw a few headbangers at the front row. And honestly, no one could ask for more from an opening band this early: both guitarists played their aggressive riffs with ferocity while constantly changing places and engaging the audience, while Villumsen uttered his harsh vocals. In the end, without being overly brilliant, the show was definitely a solid success. [7½]

Caro

Caro @ 14:50-15:20

Another Wacken Open Air Metal Battle combatant were up next. Hailing from Frederikshavn which lies 60 km from Aalborg, Caro are pretty much locals. They play death/thrash metal, a genre that so many others play, and apart from the deep growled vocals of frontman Michael Olsson there is practically nothing that sets them apart from the pack. Luckily though, music has to be pretty fucking bad to make a good performance bad for me, and Caro have proven time and time again that they are one of the most solid upcoming metal bands in Denmark when it comes to live shows. They play their aggressive music alongside an energetic performance, and with Olsson having gradually become a better and more confident frontman, the entertainment is ensured. At this stage his confidence has resulted in a cockiness evident in the constant smiling we're witnessing up front, as he is constantly either transcending the monitors or at least has a foot on one of them. With all other members providing back up vocals for some occasional gang shouts and drummer Sigurd ''Sigge'' Jøhnk-Jensen being in charge of half of the vocals for the choruses in a single track, the band seems to be very well sown together as an entity. But alas, they have a single weakness. Guitarist Laust Normann Sørensen is the least active of the bunch, and he looks shy on stage. He should be much more confident, because his guitar skills are top notch. Even so, over all Caro are always very entertaining live, and this show was no exception. [8]

Dyscarnate

Dyscarnate @ 15:40-16:25

The first international band of the day had actually visited Studenterhuset in Aalborg earlier this year, at Day Of Decay 2012. I really like their energetic mix of death metal and grindcore, but as a three-piece with only a single guitarist the guitar riffs are far from complex, and with both the guitarist and the bassist on vocal duties there's not much to capture one's attention on stage. Opening with "Cain Enable" from "And So It Came To Pass" from this year, the trio incited some headbanging action from the crowd. The first half of the setlist was predominantly made up of their more mid-tempo material, and with the stand-still-and-stare performance they've got going on, the slower material doesn't quite cut it for me in a live setting. As the pace was picked up later in the set I found myself enjoying the show significantly more, but not even the fan favorite "The Promethean" was able to get rid of my feeling that Dyscarnate's music works better on record than live, at least the way the band functions at the moment. [6]

Dawn Of Demise

Dawn Of Demise @ 16:45-17:30

Apparantly, Dawn Of Demise had just returned from India where they had played for over a thousand people. I think it's safe to say that Dawn Of Demise don't usually play to crowds anywhere near that size in Denmark, but nevertheless the Danish death metallers from Silkeborg have gained an increasingly large fanbase over the years. I can see a couple of reasons for that. One thing is the way they've made brutal death metal sound so simple and accessible. Their sound is characterised by heavy riffing, mostly mid-tempo drumming and extreme guttural vocals, from the "regular" deep, guttural growls to Scott Jensen's characteristic style of exreme vocals produced by placing the microphone in the hollow space between his hands, thus creating a much bigger, and more brutal sound. But another thing is their simple, and very likeable performances. The band is led by the brothers Jensen, with Scott doing vocals and Bjørn playing the bass as well as providing back up vocals. The guitarists stationed themselves on either side of the two middle figures and provided the visual element for the members of the audience standing in the sides. Now, I'm not much of a Dawn Of Demise fan myself, but while Dawn Of Demise are far from incredible live, their demeanor on stage is so charismatic that it would take a true pessimist to not enjoy at least some of it. Scott seems to take pride in his size, and uses his belly to seduce his fans even further if using it as a table for his microphone wasn't good enough. If death metal at a perfect headbanging velocity and some lighthearted fun is what you desire, look no further. [7½]

Saturnus

Saturnus @ 17:50-18:45

There's more to metal than breakdowns, blastbeats and moshpits. Saturnus were here to remind everyone of that. The Danish melodic doom/death legends are renowned for their three previous records, and are now returning with a new album, "Saturn In Ascension". Thus, a third of the setlist consisted of two new tracks from that new album. As I write this, I've listened to the new album many times in preparation to write a review for it, so I didn't mind those new songs as they are some of the best on the album in my opinion. With a keyboardplayer, two guitarists, a bassist and a frontman, Saturnus are a large band on a stage such as the one at Studenterhuset. But seeing as a Saturnus live show involves no moving around at all, that didn't matter the slightest. A slowly headbanging bassist, Rune Stiassny lulling himself into a state of trance while playing the band's amazing guitar leads and solos (and his own leads and solos from the new album), and Thomas A. G. Jensen moving back and forth with his eyes closed while grasping his microphone stand firmly; these are the things that matter when your eyes are opened at a Saturnus show. I was completely blown away when I saw the band perform at Royal Metal Fest 2012 earlier this year, but this time the band opted to cut loose and joke around with each other on stage a little. That ruined some of the melancholic feel that I was otherwise feeling. But after all it is all about the music, and being present while the band weave emotions that penetrate the very spirit. It requires patience, but with enough patience a Saturnus show can be really, really beautiful. [8]

Iniquity

Iniquity @ 19:10-19:55

The last Danish band to play the festival this year was quite special. Iniquity are legends of Danish death metal, but they've been disbanded since 2004. This year, they have reunited to play a few final shows before disappearing for good, so a considerable amount of death metal fans from northern Jutland were waiting to see the legacy act hit the stage in Aalborg. The reunited four-piece is line-up that wrote the "The Hidden Lore" EP in 1998, of which guitarist Brian Eriksen and bassist/vocalist Martin Rosendahl are the only members currently part of an active metal band, namely the brutal death metal band Corpus Mortale. So, first of all: the music. It's semi-technical, it's brutal, it has an old school vibe, but overall it's just quality death metal with no extra bullshit whatsoever. Personally though, I've never been a fan of Iniquity and thus I didn't recognize any songs other than the classic "Serenadium" from the band's debut album from the same year. I was immediately caught by the atmosphere among the audience, though, as the legendary tunes rolled out through the speakers. Now, to the performance. The band more or less let the music speak for itself, with Eriksen headbanging once in a while and Rosendahl generally just looking fucking fearsome both when uttering his extremely brutal guttural vocals and when between vocal lines. The between song banter was extremely limited, but when a song was dedicated to the original vocalist, Brian Petrowsky, who killed himself in 2011, the response from the audience was, naturally, huge. What this all amounts to is a show that didn't have as big of an impact on me as the guy who yelled "This is, objectively speaking, fucking awesome", but it was clear from the crowd's response that the legendary act were more than welcomed back into temporary existence. [7]

Rotten Sound

Rotten Sound @ 20:20-21.05

A long day of concerts was getting closer to it's end, and now only three international acts were remaining. First up, Rotten Sound from Finland had come to grind the crowd to pieces. Extreme metal doesn't get any simpler than grindcore: it's basically just hard and heavy, and fucking fast. During the 45 minutes the band had available, they managed to play almost 20 songs, and they still had time to stop and address the audience once in a while. But what mattered were the simple, chaotic and brutal tracks the band were churning out, and the headbanging, moshing and even a circle pit during one song that resulted from the extremity is a testament to the power of simplistic aggression that four men can create on a stage on a Saturday night. The guitarist and bassist were active on stage constantly, moving around, headbanging and everything, but they made sure to let vocalist Keijo Niinimaa control the show. His mid-to-high-pitch growls were forming lyrics at an extreme speed, further enhancing the chaotic feel of the performance while he hurried from one part of the stage to the next, addressing individuals personally. It was a great less-is-more show, and it wasn't supposed to do anything new. It was just fierce, unadulterated ferocity. [8]

Decapitated

Decapitated @ 21:35-22:35

The Polish technical death metal giants in Decapitated were supposed to have visited Aalborg Metal Festival in 2011, but due to problems with the airplane that was to take them to Denmark, they were forced to cancel their appearance. When Marduk and Melechesh postponed their tour and, ultimately, cancelled their shows at AMF, Decapitated agreed to come to Aalborg and thus make up for last year's absence. Despite the cancelled festival appearance Decapitated have been kind enough to visit Denmark a couple of times though, and on one of those occasions, namely Royal Metal Fest 2012 I was present and enjoyed every bit of it. With slightly less alcohol clouding my brain this time around, I was eagerly waiting in the front row to get my inner fanboy treated. And Decapitated did not disappoint. Of course not. The three-piece tore the place up with their extremely energetic and technical death metal, and I had to force myself out of headbanging to actually pay attention to what was going on. With sole founding member and lead guitarist Wacław "Vogg" Kiełtyka playing his immensely technical riffs while still being able to perform better than most guitarists, Rafał Piotrowski being a brilliant and thoroughly captivating frontman, swinging his enormous dreadlongs around in between spewing forth lyrics to all the great tracks played on this night, and their touring bassist doing his best to perform while leaving the Vogg with most of the attention, it was safe to say that a fantastic performance was in the cards from the very start. And with a setlist to die for starting with "The Fury" from 2004's "The Negation", let's just say the fanboy inside me was definitely pleased. The only serious criticism I have is what I tell all bands with a single guitarist: during solos, the lack of a rhythm guitarist who can play the underlying heavy guitar riffs usually supporting the solos will make the sound thin, but if hiring a second guitarist is not an option that's just something I'm going to have to deal with. Criticism aside once again, Decapitated are a formidable band, both on record and in a live setting. [8½]

Gojira

Gojira @ 23:35-00:50

At long last, I got to see the mighty Gojira. Having previously released four great records, each album making their sound more and more unique as time went by, the Frenchmen released album number five, "L'Enfant Sauvage" this year. I don't personally think it reaches 2008's "The Way Of All Flesh", and most certainly not their masterpiece, "From Mars To Sirius" from 2005, but it is another great addition to an impressive back catalogue. The band's popularity has been steadily rising, and the fact that they're headlining over Decapitated (a fact that vocalist/guitarist Joe Duplantier brought up with questionmarks written all over his face) just shows how incredibly unique they are, while still being accessible enough to attract a large fanbase.

Opening with "Explosia", the opening track off the new album, everything did, indeed, explode. The room was packed tighter than ever, and I was forced to keep my arms in the air for most of the show because it was almost impossible to lower them - and equally challenging to raise them again if lowering them should turn out to be possible after all. After that opening track, it was clear that Gojira aren't the type of band to promote every record by occupying half of the setlist with new songs. It was time to visit "From Mars To Sirius" with three ridiculously good tracks in a row, and if I'm ever going to use the word "orgasm" in the context of a gig review, this had better be it. And with a nice amount of songs from "The Way Of All Flesh" and even an old song in "Wisdom Comes" alongside the new tracks, I was absolutely loving the setlist.

Gojira

If then, for some odd reason, Gojira's music didn't anything for you, the band made sure to also entertain visually. Behind the drumset, a backdrop with bright, star-like LED lights scattered across it set the general mood of the stage. In front of it, Mario Duplantier, the powerhouse of energy that he is, was a true sight to behold (spot the pun), making sure that the three musicians playing on strings weren't the only ones getting a workout out of the show. Speaking of the other musicians: the riffs, bass lines and vocals were played pretty much to perfection, and there was still enough spare energy to perform as if there were 50.000 people standing in front of them. From videos and stories I've learned that bassist Jean-Michel Labadie always goes all-in in a live setting, and this show was no exception. But naturally, most of the attention was directed towards Joe Duplantier, whose passion for the band's lyrics and music shines through him with every word he utters and every stroke on his guitar. In my mind Gojira were, quite simply, the best band of the entire festival. [9]

Setlist:

  • Explosia
  • Flying Whales
  • Backbone
  • The Heaviest Matter Of The Universe
  • L'Enfant Sauvage
  • The Art Of Dying
  • Toxic Garbage Island
  • Tron
  • Wisdom Comes
  • Oroborus
  • The Axe
  • Vacuity

See you next year!

All photos by Marika Hyldmar

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