Aalborg Metal Festival 2017

author RUB date 19/11/17

Aalborg Metal Festival has, over the years, become something of an institution. This is with good reason, because it has existed for 16 years, including this year’s edition. Before Copenhell was even thought of, Aalborg Metal Festival was (and still is) one of the go-to metal events in Denmark. Since its inception back in 2002, the surroundings of the student house (Studenterhuset) in the northern Danish city of Aalborg has been its cradle while “Denmark’s finest metal festival” has swelled from a one day festival into three days of extreme music — so we’re definitely dealing with one of the heavyweights on the Danish metal festival stage.

The festival has managed to attract some of the bigger names in metal as well. Discounting the likes of Slayer, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden etc., Gojira, Devin Townsend Project, Opeth, Destruction and this year, I Am Morbid have all visited the student house — some even on multiple occasions. In the café, you can sit back and relax (since their biergarten — what they call the ‘jäger grotto’ wasn’t fully functioning for the second year in a row), whilst listening to the various interpretations of metal classics on the karaoke or just several different DJ-sets. Since the possibilities of the festival are limited to the venue and its immediate surroundings, it is neither as big nor as diverse as, say, Copenhell (obviously) but they’re without a doubt doing the best that they can. Part of the institution now includes Jon’s metal sausage (Jons mædl pøller) as the only food-related item at the festival, but if you’re a meat eater, this is a must-visit.

This year’s edition was sadly hit by many cancelations, most noticeably My Dying Bride and of course Morbid Angel. Luckily for us, the bookers managed to pull some strings and get some very good replacements, even though this happened less than a month before the festival was due to start. When all was said and done, this year’s festival had everything from death to black to thrash to core to doom, so there should have been something for everyone’s taste. At least to this scribe, each day had something on offer — both known and unknown names that I’d been looking forward to seeing — so it was going to be interesting to find out whether the space could handle them. The sound at this venue has never been an issue, as far as I recall, and this was going to be crucial to some of the bands to really be able to create the atmosphere necessary to deliver a memorable concert.

All photos courtesy of Michael Løgtholt

THURSDAY

On the first day, I arrive at the venue at roughly 20 minutes past seven. Sadly, this means that I miss Road to Jerusalem, which is probably not the only band that I’m going to miss due to the very high number of artists performing across the three days, and for that I apologize. As I am the only reporter from this webzine present, I really have to keep a tight schedule, so this was bound to happen. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to review the bands that I missed some other time around though.

Livløs @ 19:45

With the same frontman as BAEST, with whom he’ll play at this very festival again on Saturday, energy is most likely going to be key for Livløs — which of course is a good thing, as Simon Olsen is known to be quite energetic on stage. The genre, on the other hand, is slightly different to that of BAEST, as this is more in melodic death metal territory, sounding like songs that Lamb of God are known to play. Just like Olsen, the rest of the band members move plenty around the stage, and coupled with a crowd that already from the first song starts headbanging, we’re off to a very good start. The slow and heavy passages should be enough to satisfy even most the most metal-craving neck, so there’s no doubt that the crowd is being warmed-up in best possible manner. Since this is a normal working day, it is still easy to see that people aren’t quite there yet. Apart from the first couple of rows, most of the audience is enjoying the gig in silence, just casually banging their heads. Of course, that is all fine and dandy, since this is only the second band of the day, and the musicians themselves are having a real metal party not only on stage, but also on the ground floor, as Olsen (in a somewhat signature stage move) joins the front row several times in best party-starting manner.

Both axe-wielders have that very distinctive southern sound that we know from Down, Crowbar and such, and it really helps to establish a live-friendly sound, as most songs are so damned heavy and make it so easy to follow the down-tuned riffs. As is customary, we’re also treated to some energetic moshing that draws plenty of newcomers into the pit, which further shows that the audience is getting warmer and warmer. No doubt Livløs are using basically every trick in the book in trying to accomplish the very difficult task of warming up a crowd on the first day of a festival. With Olsen’s humor, which barely translates into proper English, and a great stage presence the band ensures that the first day of the festival is off to a great start, with the big wall of death that erupts during the final track providing ample proof of this. [7½]

Cursed Earth @ 20:30

This five-piece has come all the way from Perth, Australia to guest us with their extremely heavy hard- and grindcore inspired metal. The first thing one notices is the immense energy from especially the small-statured lead singer Jazmine Luders. She’s wearing a Nails shirt, which I see as extremely fitting given that the band’s music is also intense grindcore. She also has a very ominous and menacing, almost possessed look in her eyes as she jumps up and down. Sometimes she even acts out what is best described as seizures or almost zombie-like states on stage. Most of the audience looks shocked to say the least.

As this is their first tour outside of Australia, they’ve teamed up with Make Them Suffer and Novelists to make it happen. As is the case with some of the tracks by Make Them Suffer, they draw beatdown-like inspiration for some of their songs; simple, but very heavy — and works well in a live setting. The whole appearance of the band, both visually and audibly, is just straight-up insane, like some strange soundtrack to an insane asylum. This has completely caught me off guard — in a good way, of course. The band is not necessarily as chaotic as, say, The Dillinger Escape Plan on stage, but their very nature on stage is pure malevolence. Across their fairly short set, more and more people join in on the fun, and the experience is best described as getting blown away — literally.

A few flaws are witnessed, however, as the bass is way too audible at some points, which destroys the overall soundscape — and other minor issues like that. But when such a young band (Cursed Earth was formed in 2014) manages to blow you away like Cursed Earth does, one can only be positively surprised. Luders keeps banging her microphone against her head for the entire concert, whilst mimicking talking to some weird demon, which looks quite disturbing. I ask her about it after the concert, and it goes to show that it is just a way of acting out her stage persona. At first glance thus, this is an insane first experience with Cursed Earth and if they ever stop by our latitudes again, be sure to check them out! [8]

Novelists @ 21:15

And now on to the progressive and djent-style feature of the festival. With both clean singing and growling, the Parisians of Novelists execute their dreamy and emotional soundscapes with finesse. With only one guitar, they play a very technical take on metalcore in the vein of Volumes, Intervals or even the Danish act Ghost Iris. Quickly, it becomes apparent that they could really use a rhythm guitarist to be able to unfold the aforementioned soundscapes and demanding songs in a better way, because the songs are just so challenging from a technical perspective. The vocalist does a decent job on the clean sections, but it’s when all the instruments join in that the band really shines. “Are you shy? Come closer”, utters lead singer Matt Gelsomino in order to try and lure the retained audience in, which honestly does not look all that impressed. In a desperate attempt, he jumps down into the crowd instead, which admittedly has a successful impact on the first couple of rows. Alas, one can’t help but think that the band is somewhat the odd thumb out tonight when the expressions on the faces of the audience are lit up by the flashing lights. Perhaps too ‘modern’ for this crowd? Whatever the issue might be, it doesn’t take anything away from the band though, since they both play with flair and to a high professional standard.

Again and again, the group tries to make the crowd bounce to the jumpy rhythms, but sadly that doesn’t stop a noticeable amount of patrons from exiting the room. The two last songs once again invite the listener to get off their feet, and again the front rows highlight themselves by really giving it their best, which even results in a small, spontaneous mosh pit. The crowd doesn’t compare to the two previous bands however, and even though Novelists do a decent job, the audience is just not with them this time around to a degree where their set could become truly memorable. [5½]

Make Them Suffer @ 22:00

Even though I am familiar with some of the songs by Make Them Suffer, I am a bit surprised to see a keyboard/synth player on stage. The few songs that I’ve heard don’t contain anything like that — or at least not in the amounts presented at this gig. When that is said, however, the sound is still very much deathcore, with plenty of heavy breakdowns and with that characteristic chugging sound from both guitars and drums. Apart from the synths and keyboard that tend to drift in and out of the songs somewhat, we’re dealing with a very heavy and macho-sounding band. It is a juxtaposition to the feminine backing vocals that said keyboardist, Booka Nile, almost echoes in the back of most songs. It is a different look if one hasn’t seen the band before, because the rest are dressed in classic, sort of stereotypical outfits: big muscles, oversized tank tops, branding bands like Obey the Brave on their shirts — you know what I mean. This is by no means meant to be negative, but just to give you an idea of what kind of band we’re dealing with.

Hailing from Perth, Australia — just like Cursed Earth — Make Them Suffer chug through their songs with razor-sharp precision. The sound is modern and you can’t take anything away from the energy they express! So even though it perhaps isn’t the most technical or original of styles, the music still works well in a live setting. Sadly, as was the case with the previous band, the crowd is only partially into this kind of metal, even if it is an interesting take on the core genre by virtue of the contrast between the feminine backing vocals and the macho chugging sound. If you take a more pessimistic view however, you could call it quite annoying thanks to the two very different elements combined in the music. Luckily, I’m more in the former category, so even though it is perhaps a bit out of the general crowd’s comfort zone, they still manage to throw on a pretty decent concert, albeit still not quite equalling the huge surprise brought by Cursed Earth. [6½]

Invocator @ 23:30

The legendary Invocator! Hailing from the great decade of thrash, the Danish four-piece plays a technical variant of the genre like it was meant to be played back in the ‘80s. Lead singer and guitarist Jacob Hansen has fronted this band since its inception and after some years on hiatus, they returned in the new millennium with a brand new album and fresh touring. Since then, nothing new has been added to their catalogue, however, as Hansen has primarily focused on his recording studio, Hansen Studios, in the town of Ribe. This hasn’t stopped the band from appearing at various Danish gigs and concerts though, and they’re still able to put on a good ol’ thrash party, as it turns out!

Entering to a grandiose theatrical and instrumental intro, the stage is quickly transformed first into thrash, then heavy, and finally death metal! All of these genres are mixed into a technical vortex, and for metalheads who were alive back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, Invocator takes them back to when Danish metal was still a young and aspiring thing. The vocals are yelled and clean and easy to decipher, and accompany the fast pace of the songs well. It is obvious that the tracks are from a different time though; nothing is over the top, nothing is in excess, and there is nothing fancy or catchy in them — just twisted rhythms mixed with great riffs and drum patterns. It is therefore very easy to see what made them so popular back in the days, and from popular to legendary when they once again returned to the stage.

When all this is said and done, however, and even though they obviously still have something on offer, it is easy for this scribe to notice how differently the various segments in the crowd view the show. The Danish legends play a concert that includes a long parade of renowned tracks, to which some of the spectators are having the time of their lives, taking a trip down memory lane. But others seem to be ‘merely’ puzzled by the complex rhythms and guitar work. One has to acknowledge and experience the group’s sound as it was meant to be heard in the time from which it originally stems. This is also, in my opinion, key to reviewing a band like this, one which hasn’t released a studio album in more than a decade. I will not count myself as an old-school fan for obvious reasons and hence I’m not too familiar with their albums, but I still find myself somewhere in the middle of the two types of spectator present this evening. When last track “Through the Nether to the Sun” airs, however, it is met by thunderous applause and results in a sing-along from many patrons, so at the very least one can appreciate the great conclusion to an above-standard concert! [7½]

FRIDAY

Wayward Dawn @ 15:00

First band of the day, first artist to review; Wayward Dawn plays death metal like so many other bands, but instead of just being a dime-a-dozen sort of act, they distinguish themselves by being damned young. Since it is this early on a weekday, not many people have shown up yet. This is sad, because the band’s music is actually not bad, and perhaps, down the road, these youngsters from the town of Skanderborg could go places with some more exposure and more practice. As long as they continue to evolve as a band and keep their flare, passion and will intact, both their music and their showmanship today make it obvious that they want to be here and play. These days, a band as young as Wayward Dawn that denies many of the modern trends in metal and manages to get the exposure from an esteemed festival such as this, are few and far in between. No bullshit — just heavy death metal. On a final note: the band shouldn’t be discouraged by the poor turnout, since the first band to perform at a festival rarely attracts many spectators, though I must personally admit to finding their performance a rather sterile experience. Nevertheless, I hope to see more from these youngsters, because they definitely show potential. [5]

Morild @ 16:00

This atmospheric black metal quintet from Copenhagen just released an excellent EP about two months before the festival, and were booked as a replacement to one of the many cancelations. So needless to say, I was very much looking forward to this, having given said EP some spins. Wielding no less than three guitars, the bleak and ominous soundscape from that release really come to life here; the sound is fluent, beautiful and even dreamy at some points — but only until the haunting vocals kick in with their shivering force. As many other bands in this genre, the musicians tend to really lose themselves in the music and therefore often don’t put on a show in traditional terms. This is not the case with lead singer and guitarist Tue Krebs Roikjer though, as he is clearly very passionate and energetic in his antics. One could’ve wished that he didn’t have to wield his instrument at the same time, because he looks like he’s about to burst most of the time. The rest of the band also deserves a mention, mind you, as they all seem to feel the rhythms and beats of the songs, moving to the tune of every note.

In the droning and longer passages the atmospheric elements obviously work very well. But when they come from a young band such as Morild, this is not something that is a given. The songs are just so mesmerizing to witness both with your eyes and ears. This works just as well when they pound away in the best black metal manner, and in the quieter and more droning passages. Indeed, as impressive as it sounds on record, the band’s music definitely sounds even better live! The light show compliments the music, too, with massive dark green and dark purple lights flashing to the notes, and helping establish the bleak atmosphere that the music births. I was pleased to see them added to the bill, but anxious whether they could actually deliver their EP in the live setting; and now I am pleased to report that they can — and then some. Keep a very keen eye out for this band, because they have the capacity to explode onto the national as well as the international arena sooner rather than later! [8]

Konvent @ 17:00

The quite hyped all-female doom/death metal band Konvent was also a band that I had been looking forward to witnessing for the first time. Although I didn’t check this group out prior to the festival, I’d heard good things about them. Having formed just two years ago it is once again impressive how fast they’ve grown in terms of their popularity. The music starts out very slow and heavy, and when frontwoman Rikke Emilie List opens her mouth, she spews out an all growled vocal that would make most men feel emasculated.

This band and genre works very well as the third act of the day, and more people have already started to enter the room, eager to witness what all the fuzz is about. Sadly, for me at least, I don’t quite feel the band reaching out to that audience and to me, they never really seem to get past the edge of the stage. As a first timer to this band, I somehow feel that I need more, and as such don’t quite understand the hype as much as I do with, say, Morild. This could partly be because I haven’t checked out their music in advance, but still I can’t help but feel a little flat. I know the genre is very gloomy and dark but to me, the band lacks spirit not just during the songs, but also in between. For example, I can’t tell by the lead singer’s demeanour whether she is happy or even excited to be here. The riffs are great and the music is wonderfully dark and heavy, but that’s about it — at least this is my experience. As far as I’m concerned there’s room for improvement, which is totally fine and expected from a band as young as Konvent. [6]

ORM @ 19:00

Sadly, this section was supposed to be about Deus Otiosus, but since I’m the only reporter here, their performance was when I chose to eat my dinner. My deepest apologies to the band and the festival, but hey, a man has got to eat… So on to the next band: ORM. They have quickly established themselves as one of the go-to metal acts in Denmark — and a very potent one at that. Featuring members from popular artists such as (all of) By the Patient and Förtress (Simon Sonne Andersen on vocals and guitar), the musicians have already shown that they know their way around melodic metal. This time around however, they have turned up the black metal element (when compared to the pure death metal of By the Patient, that is), and can now be considered a more melodic, blackened death metal act, once again pulling it off in the best possible manner. With songs containing droning passages and evil tremolo, they manage to grasp both the genre and the audience with well-produced tracks. Keep in mind that this is a fairly new band — but their level of skill, finesse and performance that have been built up through the years of experience, making their delivery so marvelous and already revered.

The backdrop of dark blue lighting fits well with the group’s bleak and ominous take on Norse mythology, the grim nature of Scandinavia, as well as the onset of winter just outside the venue. They rely on clever song structures and composition where nothing is sacred. The ‘classic’ structure of songs with verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, etc., is not a given with these guys, and as such the band takes you on a veritable journey when they unfold their take on the genre on the stage. The interaction is kept to a minimum in order to keep the suspense of the atmosphere in situ, but you never miss it because instead, you can just focus all of your energy toward soaking in all the different riffs and nuances.

Having just watched ORM exactly one week ago in Århus, I can say without a doubt that I’m not yet bored with their music — in fact, I’m mostly excited to hear what they have planned to do next! They seem to deliver every time and their ‘deathened’ and sometimes progressive take on atmospheric black metal is just so breathtaking that it would seem that these guys have so much more to offer and can’t be stopped. The next obvious step would therefore be to conquer Europe! [8½]

Solbrud @ 20:15

How Solbrud hasn’t achieved more noticeable international success by now is beyond me. With their atmospheric take on black metal, they’ve managed to create what most Danish bands only dream to be able to do: completely spellbind audiences. The bleak stage lighting and the smoke hanging heavy over the stage create an atmosphere so thick you can almost cut through it, and with lyrics delivered in the band’s native tongue, the venue is quickly transformed into a melting pot of heat, being jam packed! Just like ORM managed just moments ago, Solbrud grasps the listener by their throat and once again manifests itself as one of the true highlights of Danish black metal right now and indeed ever.

As was also the case with ORM, I just witnessed this spectacle at the Radar venue here in Århus one week ago, and again I cannot say to have lost interest in them. Even in the long, droning and atmospheric moments of the concert, you don’t get bored or lose your concentration, as the song structures are just that good. Like has been the case with every other concert that I’ve seen with Solbrud, they come off strong and majestic, and it sometimes feels like entering a whole other world or dimension because of the way the band seizes the listener and never lets go. Furthermore, the thick smoke and dark lighting makes sure that you are engulfed by the mood and atmosphere, and become submerged within the realm of Solbrud’s lyrical universe of darkness and nature. What the band projects onto the audience both visually and audibly is simply magnificent, which ensures that it’s always a pleasure (if one can use that term about the darkness that evolves around Solbrud) to witness their grandiose spectacle. [8]

Myrkur @ 21:45

Having seen Myrkur in her early (black metal) days at both Roskilde Festival and at Copenhell, I can say that I wasn’t very impressed. I wanted to see what all the hype was about and gave it a shot with an open mind, but those two performances fell so short in my book. Now though, in a more intimate environment, I really hope that my opinion would change, and indeed my first impression of this gig is way more positive. First off, I definitely feel the thickened black metal atmosphere that the talented Myrkur tries to project. The droning and hauntingly beautiful female vocals echo brilliantly against the dark, down tuned and heavy riffs, and I’m already more intrigued than I’ve ever been about this act. She has an amazing vocal range, spanning from high tones to malevolent shrieks, and when the songs enter a full-on black metal tremolo segment, you can really feel the structure and punch of the music. I can’t help but make a comparison to Huldre’s live presence — just with more punch and black metal atmosphere, which is meant in the most positive way.

But apart from that, I’m still not quite convinced by Myrkur, because the feeling that I’m left with is still a bit futile. Alas, perhaps I just don’t ‘get’ it — it being the hype and attention connected to and surrounding Myrkur. I think hers is a very beautiful take on black metal but as a live experience, I fail to ever really get sucked into the atmosphere and as has been the case with some of the other bands that have played this evening, it feels like something is missing. Apart from the obvious juxtaposition in the tremolo and blastbeats, and the clinically beautiful vocals (which works very well, mind you), I’m just not quite there yet, even if Myrkur manages to make a much better impression on me than she has with those previous two concerts I mentioned. There is still room for improvement and you can call me biased if you will. But when I know what to expect from the last band of the night, I just can’t help but feel like something’s amiss. [6½]

Dark Funeral @ 23:30

When it comes to black metal, originally one had to look to the north to either Norway or Sweden if one wanted to find class acts and a blistering sound. Luckily, this is no longer the case, but bands of the old guard such as the one in question here still deliver, even though they are soon celebrating their existence for a quarter of a century. Many things have happened since Dark Funeral’s inception, but the only remaining member, Lord Ahriman on guitar, is still holding the torch high. The group’s latest outing, “Where Shadows Forever Reign”, saw new vocalist Heljarmadr (who joined in 2014) carry on their old-school take on black metal with finesse and even put on quite the memorable concert about one year back, when yours truly witnessed them in Århus. And he already seems very integrated in the band as they take the stage before a full venue this Friday and launch into the first track of the aforementioned album: “Unchain My Soul”. “Är I der Danmark!?”, Heljarmadr screams to get the crowd moving, which immediately sparks moshing in the middle of the room. The visual aspect is taken care of in the most iconic of ways, as the entire band is wearing corpse paint, and therefore exhibits a grim and menacing visual aesthetic.

If one takes a look at the setlist, it strikes you that five tracks are taken from their latest release, and that makes you wonder how big a mark the new vocalist has actually managed to set on Dark Funeral. This is pretty standard when the vocalist is replaced, but one can’t but feel a little flat given that they only have that single album featuring him, and this tour is not even in support of it. Roughly 40% of the setlist consists of material from that record, which is a shame because they’ve put out so many good songs earlier in their career. Whatever the reason may be, about half way through the show it becomes evident that this gig will never truly reach what was witnessed last time here in Århus. The show is still a frightening spectacle when tremolo blasts through entire songs, whilst the band boasts its malevolent appearance. In some weird way, both band and crowd look to be alright with settling, as neither makes a powerful demand or attempt to change things. It is thus a decent show, but I can’t help but feel somewhat disappointed, given that Dark Funeral have staged much better performances in the past. [7]

SATURDAY

BAEST @ 16:45

Entering the venue slightly later on this last day of the festival only to catch the last tracks of Prevail was sadly not sufficient for a review of that band, but I’ve heard good things of both them and the first act Chronicle, so hopefully I will be able to review them some other time around. This makes BAEST my first band of the day and, true to their nature, they deliver the sound wake-up call one needs after two days of beer and metal. This is sorely needed, as the audience looks tired and in dire need of a boost — which is BAEST’s specialty. With their mix of groove and old-school death metal, they kickstart the worn-out crowd and look to be in a jolly good mood, once again managing to put on a very entertaining and well-performed show.

Like lead singer Simon Olsen did two days ago when he played here with Livløs, he is once again making a big effort to get the crowd going. He paces from side to side and ventures down into the welcoming arms of the crowd to scream them directly into their faces. The same powerful force he used with Livløs is put to the test again and he commands the audience to form the biggest wall of death at the festival yet, which is obeyed without hesitation. The twin guitars lay waste to the gritty soundscape that is not unlike the sound generated by the notorious Entombed. By now, people who have seen BAEST before know what to expect: a well-executed concert with high level of intensity and showmanship. Personally, I had hoped that they could surprise me again with a show on par with the one at this year’s Roskilde Festival which they do not, but still, after the energetic eight-track set, I’m left very convinced by their delivery this time, too. [7½]

Artillery @ 18:00

Although Artillery was formed in 1982 has undergone some changes in its line-up — most recently in 2012, with both a new vocalist and drummer added — the band still manages to sound both fresh and young. The two brothers, Morten and Michael Stützer, must still be considered the flag-bearers of the band, but the younger Michael Bastholm Dahl on vocals does his best, too, to really get the crowd going. This is quickly achieved as they both cheer, clap and even sing back at him, and just as Invocator managed two days ago, they are able to take the spectators back to the ‘80s heyday of thrash with plenty of solos and fast-paced songs that ensure that no fan of the genre is left craving for more. Although the room isn’t as lit as it was during Invocator’s concert, Artillery still puts on a rather good performance, albeit never really managing to surpass that.

I don’t think it would be hard to find people who disagree with me but to be honest, I never feel this particular concert to be all that special. They try their best but it looks like the majority of the crowd thinks it’s merely decent, too. It is primarily the older segment of the crowd that appears to really enjoy the proceedings, most likely because it primarily reminds them of a time when Danish metal was still young. But out of the two legendary Danish acts on the bill at this year’s edition of the festival, Artillery draws the shortest straw in my book. [6]

Hatesphere @ 19:15

Time for some death metal — Hatesphere delivers the soundtrack to a true metal party. In an almost full room, the somewhat dopey demeanour of frontman Esse ensures that the moshing is executed perfectly, such as when the track “Heaven is Ready to Fall” is aired. Newer material like “New Hell” is played tonight, but much to my surprise, the setlist mainly consists of older songs. Before launching into the pure intensity that is “Lies and Deceit”, Esse even announces that they haven’t played this song for ages, even though it used to be an integral part of every setlist after the album “Serpent Smiles and Killer Eyes” was released a decade ago.

The high energy, as well as the familiarity of many of their songs are making people move. But also the slower and heavier songs such as the fan-favorite “Drinking with the King of the Dead” guarantee headbanging all around the bouncy room and the lyrics of the chorus being screamed back at Esse. Especially the front seems to be feeling the heavy tones, moshing and moving without any hesitation. The tempo is heightened even more when the highlight “Forever War” is aired, which is yet another example of the sole remaining original member, lead guitarist Pepe’s songwriting abilities — the riffs are both catchy and heavy. The gig ends on what is perhaps their best, or at least most popular and iconic song to date: “Sickness Within” from their brilliant 2005 album of the same name. This particular track features a vocal cameo from BAEST and Livløs frontman Simon Olsen and, as Esse roars, provides “the last chance to dance to a Danish band at this festival”, which naturally results in yet another wall of death. Overall thus, Hatesphere delivers a fairly good combo of both new and old material, albeit only with “Death Trip” representing the first couple of albums. But to be fair: Hatesphere has so many great tracks to choose from, so it is hard to always satisfy every single spectator. [7]

Firespawn @ 20:30

With Firespawn, the festival delivers yet another strong booking. The group plays groovy death metal with edge and crushing elements, and of course with the legendary LG Petrov of Entombed (now Entombed A.D.) on vocals. It is brutal, mean and fast and serves as a complete opposite to the huge grins that Petrov wears on his face. The gritty and groovy elements that Entombed is revered for have been a clear inspiration to Firespawn. That, coupled with a knack for writing guitar riffs and hooks with plenty of variation, makes for a great and interesting listen. Alas, visually Petrov is the only one in the band doing anything worth speaking of on stage, with the rest either standing completely still or banging their heads slightly from time to time. Petrov, on the other hand, is killing it, running from side to side, banging his head while grunting in his signature gnarly manner. Yet he still manages to smile and grin. He really knows how to reach out to the audience and truly get into people’s faces.

Petrov’s appearance is key to really be able to enjoy Firespawn, as he makes the entire concert very entertaining. The sound is still quite menacing, but also packed with both humor and laughter due to the in-between song banter that he masters — for example, his apologising for drinking water instead of beer. The drums keep blasting and pounding and never lose pace and the guitars remain tight throughout as well. But without something more, the concert never reaches a level where it becomes truly memorable or special — just as has been the case with several other shows today. Having said that, Firespawn nonetheless deserves some recognition, mainly because of how tight the instrumentation is, and how entertaining Petrov comes across as. [7]

Destruction @ 22:00

In the crowded and heated room, Destruction looks ready and excited to woo us with a blast of good ol’ thrash metal. What keeps amazing me is how well the lead singer and bassist, Mike Sifringer, is still able to hit the high notes in track like the iconic “Curse the Gods”, even though this band has existed since 1982. Just like LG Petrov before, Sifringer is able to get the audience into a good mood with some cheap laughs. “My Danish is bad. The only thing I can say is ‘pølsefest’ [ed. sausage party]”, he offers, which sparks massive cheers and laughs around the room. The trio is, as always, a sure and stable thrash metal party and it quickly becomes evident that this concert is no exception. This is equally impressive when you take into account that many of the spectators weren’t even born when Destruction first saw the light of day. Pacing from side to side and switching between different microphone stands they thrash their way through an hour of old school riffs and rhythms. Lone guitarist Schmier is still acing the demanding technical riffs, which underlines why Destruction are so popular at this particular festival.

“Bar keeper, can I get some beer?”, Sifringer asks in order to entice the crowd to come party with him. Beer is delivered and the party continues. As the set reaches the end, we’re treated to a second ‘visit’ from the butcher (the first one being the obvious “Mad Butcher” played earlier), as “The Butcher Strikes Back” is aired after an intro of chainsaw sounds. On bigger stages, this track is played alongside the real butcher (an actor dressed up), which adds so much to the atmosphere. But sadly, on smaller tours and stages, he is not featured — at least not this time around. Before the final song of the night, “Thrash Attack” is blasted through the speakers, and that is exactly how this gig feels like as a whole: crushing, fierce and tight all the way — just the way we like it. It is a display of thrash metal force that many of the younger bands of the genre out there can only dream of mastering and thereby admire, and simply because Destruction has written so many classics of the genre. Accompanied with lots of moshing, “Bestial Invasion” then marks the end of the thrash attack for this festival — and it is done in such an impressive manner that the show turns out to be probably one of the best concerts this year for me. [8]

I Am Morbid @ 00:00

Much turmoil has recently surrounded this band, and even their gig here. For starters, Morbid Angel was forced to cancel less than a month before this festival, and by now it is pretty much Trey Azagthoth’s Morbid Angel, as he was left alone in the band after a feud between him and David Vincent resulting in Vincent exiting the band once again. Luckily for us, the bookers managed to hire I Am Morbid in Morbid Angel’s stead — David Vincent’s new band, who only play the iconic first four albums of Morbid Angel (“Altars of Madness, “Blessed Are the Sick, “Covenant” and “Domination”). Alongside Tim Yeung, Bill Hudson and Ira Black, they pound, scream and riff their way through all of those classics, and while I will not go into detail about this whole change in line-up and who has the right to play what, I will address the name I Am Morbid. Clearly, there’s some bad blood between Vincent and Azagthoth, which is somewhat odd because Vincent is not the original vocalist. He is, however, the revered voice on the aforementioned albums, so with that he states that in a sense, he is Morbid Angel. Or, at least, that is my interpretation.

The quartet enters the stage with very little fanfare, but Vincent looks more than ready. Both guitarists are also on fire, windmilling all the while mastering the riffs, and needless to say, they play insanely tightly, which one can imagine is the least of what Vincent demands. Already early on, it becomes evident that even though many people were unhappy about the cancelation of both headliners — Morbid Angel and My Dying Bride — the festival has picked up a true headliner in I Am Morbid. The band showcases so many classics that I eventually lose track of them; “Immortal Rites”, “Blessed Are the Sick”, “Rapture”, “Maze of Torment” and “Dawn of the Angry” are just a few of the songs aired off their respective opuses.

About halfway through, we’re treated to first a drum solo by Yeung, and he just loses it. Next, a guitar solo arrives, first by Ira Black and since by Bill Hudson, which shows both how highly these artists are regarded in their own genre and bands, and how keen they are to put their own mark on Morbid Angel’s music. And everything just works: the hair on your arms slowly manifests into spikes as goosebumps start to creep in all over when “Dawn of the Angry” is played, and that is exactly the feeling you get now that the concert has truly unfolded. I lose myself in the music and don’t even recognize the massive mosh pit operating just behind me until, as a token of appreciation, Vincent screams: “YOU ARE MORBID!”.

In the end, you’re left with just one exclamation: Wow! Were there other songs the band could’ve played? Obviously. Could the entire atmosphere have been just a tad more intense? Sure. But even so, an intimate experience like this with such a revered band is not something you’ll see every day. And when both songs, atmosphere and sound all come together, you cannot but acknowledge the grandeur that I Am Morbid achieves. It is difficult to satisfy every audience member in terms of song choices, but this is still such a demonstration of power, and perhaps even a statement directed at Morbid Angel. Indeed, a memorable concert… so why not go half or a whole grade up, you ask? All I can say is that the 9.5-10-feeling is just not there tonight — not that it takes anything away from the magnificence of the experience. Hats off to I Am Morbid, and see you all next year for another round of metal at ”Denmark’s finest metal festival!” [9]

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