Euroblast 2018

author KW date 21/10/18

Being the massive progressive metal fan I am, of course, I had to venture to this German haven of progressive music once again at Euroblast. Last year was the first time I went down south from Denmark to Cologne to indulge in forward-pushing metal music, a trip that ended up being one of my favourite festival experiences I’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying. The atmosphere was lovely, I made lots of new musically like-minded friends, so this year’s edition of the festival was indeed a big event on my calendar. Like its English brother-in-arms festival UK Tech-Fest of which I am a veteran, Euroblast hosts the very cutting edge bands in the progressive and technical metal sphere, and this year was no exception. The bill wasn’t the very best I’ve seen, but still had quite a few bands I’ve been meaning to experience live but for one reason or another never did, like Humanity’s Last Breath and Caligula’s Horse. As such my excitement was definitely still there, but as it would turn out the resulting festival experience wasn’t that successful for me personally for a few reasons, which I will get into in a bit.

Euroblast mastermind John Giulio Sprich by Quinten Quist

To get to Cologne, the cheapest option for me was to take the train to Copenhagen and then fly out with a direct flight, which is really cheap if you book in advance. The flight went smooth and the trip from the Cologne Bonn Airport to the city center was also hassle-free (there are both direct trains and taxis right where you come out of the gate). Euroblast is held in a venue called Essigfabrik in the city, and as such is not a camping festival so accommodation-wise I recommend getting an AirBnB flat for your stay, which can also be quite cheap. We lived 5 people in the flat for 5 days, which amounted to under €100 per person. So no camp shenanigans here but in return a nice and warm bed to sleep in. The festival ran from the 5th to the 7th of October with a warm-up party with 4 bands on Thursday the 4th and the ticket costs €119, which is definitely a fair price for over 30 bands. Getting to and from the venue is usually done by taxi, as it’s not that expensive and really easy to book through a phone-app, but trams and buses are also available running directly to the venue.

So the reason why my enjoyment of Euroblast 2018 was unfortunately stifled? A bad case of food poisoning after Friday night, causing me to be ill from that point and a whole week forward. I’ll spare you the dirty details, but it basically resulted in me having to get in late and leave early Saturday and Sunday because of my illness, making me miss some of my top acts for the festival Vildhjarta and Soen. As such my reviews are not as extensive as I was aiming for, but the bands I did get to watch were generally pretty fantastic. I am not entirely sure where I caught the bug but am fairly sure it did not originate from the festival food. So a bit of a personal failure and a disappointment overall for me, but I did try to have as much fun as I could and watch the bands I was able to, everything considered.

FESTIVAL AREA

Essigfabrik is located in an old industrial area of Cologne and was probably some kind of warehouse before being the annual home of Euroblast. It sports two stages, a main big stage and a smaller basement side stage, which are both indoors. Outside the stages, the food trucks, merch tables, and gear demo areas are located, alongside lots of benches for seating which is a definite plus when you have to rest your legs after a rowdy pit. Toilets are located inside both stages and are generally well kept, and I did not experience any long queues. The festival area is located close to a gas station and a supermarket if you want to buy cheap drinks and food outside of the festival area, but be aware that re-entry is prohibited after 7 pm so you are not able to leave the festival area and get back in after 7. You are not allowed to bring any food or drinks inside the festival area, which is, of course, to be expected.

FOOD & DRINKS

Seeing as I did get hit with food poisoning, it was a minimal amount of food I actually got to try out at Euroblast this year, but generally, the food I tried out was alright. I tried out some fried rice with vegetables and spicy jerk chicken, where the chicken didn’t impress me much, but the rice and veggies were fantastic. I also tried some German “Nudel” which is basically deep fried dumplings with different fillings (I tried the ricotta spinach ones), which were pretty good. But that’s as much as I can really say when it comes to food since my appetite was generally ruined. Vegan and vegetarian options are also readily available.

There are bars located at each stage, but it should be noted that there is a drinks card system, where you can either buy a €10 or €20 euro drinks card from which you can exchange for beers, spirits, soft drinks etc. Not really ideal and I don’t really understand why the system is like this, but it’s not too much of a hassle and it is also possible to exchange remaining money on the card back to cash. The drinks selections are finally limited: lager beers (Beck’s, Früh), vodka, rum, whiskey, Jägermeister, coke, lemon soda, Red Bull etc. The beer selection is very disappointing for a country which is known for their great beer, it’s just your standard non-offensive lager. The prices are alright, about €3.50 for 40 cl beer and €7.50 for a 4cl spirits + mixer drink.

STAGES

As mentioned earlier, Essigfabrik contains two stages, the Mainstage and the Sidestage in the basement. The Mainstage is of course host to the bigger bands of the festival, while the Sidestage is mainly used for underground discoveries. Mainstage was generally really good this year when it comes to sound and lighting and having two long bars on each side of the room keeps the queues down fairly well, even during the most crowded gigs.

Smiles at the Mainstage by Quinten Quist

Sidestage was not impressive this year though, providing some of the worst sound I’ve heard in a while during some of the bands I was looking forward to. It might be a difficult room to control soundwise, but I had to walk out during SÜMER and Eden Circus because I was afraid I was gonna blow out my ears from the bassy rumbling going on constantly. I’ve heard tellings that the sound engineering team was hit by illness last minute and as such were understaffed so that is definitely a shame, but the sound down there was mostly unacceptable, only becoming really good during CABAL for me. I do like the more intimate vibe of the basement room but really hope steps are taken to assure better sound next year down there.

That said, I did experience some proper fantastic shows at Euroblast 2018, so let’s get right into the reviews! KW

Photos by: Quinten Quist

FRIDAY

The Dali Thundering Concept by Quinten Quist

The Dali Thundering Concept @ 15:00 - 15:40 on the Mainstage

The festival is started off for me personally in the very heavy side of things. Having experienced a very lukewarm performance at Tech-Fest earlier this year from the French progressive metallers The Dali Thundering Concept, I am anticipating a much more convincing performance from these guys at the Main Stage of Euroblast 2018. The visibly bigger crowd is already a good sign before they start and as the thunderous chugging begins it is clear to me that the quality of the show has been stepped up. The sound mix is loud yet clear, albeit drowning out the drums at times, and the widdly instrumentals are delivered with razor-sharp precision in convincing performances of the groovy 8-string bangers “The Myth of Happiness” and “Phoenix”. The lead vocals seem more powerful at the very start of the show, but still, leave more to be desired as we move along compared to the anthemic screams found on the record. Their frontman seems out of breath and tired for a majority of the set, which is noticeable in the quality of the screams and growls, but does deliver a banging ”Welcome to wonderland, bitch!” as a dissonant, chuggy breakdown hits everyone like a monster truck.

The decision to include the lengthy synth-filled interlude track “Cassandra” from their latest record “Savages” has me bewildered, as the all members except the drummer go off stage to take a break during a 35-minute set. It seems so misplaced to have a backing track play for nearly 4 minutes instead of watching the actual (and very talented) musicians play the show instead like you’d expect, but luckily the following track “There is no Calm Before the Storm” delivers a highlight of the show with a fantastic screeching middle part as everyone charismatically headbangs while the moshpit in front picks up the pace in hardcore dancing and circle pits. A setlist addition I can get behind though comes in the last beatdown of the gig with “Realism - The Stone Ego Paradox”, which serves as an entertainingly ridiculous chug-fest, making it hard not to let out a huge grin. It concludes a show that is just stray of reaching greatness, a tight performance let down mostly by subpar vocals and drums being too low in volume, but it was still a much more enjoyable set than what I experienced at Tech-Fest, which does give me hope that I will get to witness the band knock it out of the park sometime in the future. [7½]

Conjurer by Quinten Quist

Conjurer @ 16:20 - 17:00 on the Mainstage

Time for some more nastiness in the form of one of the bands making a lot of noise in the underground scene of the UK at the moment. Conjurer enters the stage to an unfortunately only half filled room, but as they showed at Tech-Fest this year, small crowds do not faze this band in the slightest. And as I anticipated, everyone who has dared turn up is in for another savage beating in the form of dirty guitar tones, blast beats, and visceral screams and growls from guitarists Brady Deeprose and Dan Nightingale. Once again I am blown away from the first strike of the guitar, as the doomy intro to “Choke” sludges along before culminating in hardcore attitude and speed, with a monstrous sound mix to support the impossibly heavy songs, though I would have preferred some more guitar and vocals in the mix. Bassist Conor Marshall plays an important role in the entertainment value of Conjurer’s live shows, as the two vocalists/guitarists have to be fairly static while delivering their lines, but luckily he is a metal showman and a half, windmilling his long hair during the blasts and shouting along to the song out at the crowd. He takes their stage presence to the next level and becomes quite the visual focus in the process.

What makes Conjurer’s set so dynamic is the effortless transitions between moody post-metal and circle-pit worthy, dissonant hardcore riffage. From the dark and epic slow-jam of “Hollow” to the kick-in-the-face burst of energy “Retch”, Conjurer never breaks the sinister atmosphere by addressing the crowd, but just gaze and shout with anger at an enchanted crowd that hasn’t seen much movement before the last doom-sounding breakdown of “Retch” sets off some much needed pit action as the vocalists scream in unison: ”Get.. fucked!”. And fucked indeed we got.

The very last breakdown puts the tempo close to 0 in ridiculous fashion and has me properly mindblown by the sound it produces, the core of my body and the whole room is shaking from the ten tonne sludge tone being blasted out from the main stage, which also causes one of the guitarists to break the menacing demeanour and let out a huge smile. It is simply another masterful performance from a band that isn’t getting the attention they deserve. Conjurer shows once again why they’re one of the best live bands from the UK right now, and I sincerely hope they make the trip to Denmark such that more Danes get to experience the absolute pummeling this band is. [9]

SÜMER by Quinten Quist

SÜMER @ 18:35 - 19:15 on the Sidestage

One of my more anticipated sets of the weekend comes from a band I have never had the honor of watching, SÜMER from London impressed me with their 2014 release “The Animal You Are”. A concoction of a lot of prog elements I like, mainly very prevalent Tool and Karnivool vibes, I had heard great things about their live shows and as such showed up in the basement side stage with anticipation. The first chords to the instrumental track “Progenesis” are played but as soon as the song properly starts, all hell breaks loose in the sound in the well crowded second stage. The sound is incredibly bassy and keeps feedbacking with a nasty rumbling coming from the microphones, causing most of the instrumentals to be almost completely inaudible. These are clearly great musicians but the show is not off to a great start, and I can confirm that I am not just some snobby audiophile of a reviewer, as several heads in the crowd keep turning around to give confused looks at the sound booth. Frontman Tim Bonney handles it well and politely asks the sound engineer with a smile to turn the bass down several times throughout the show, but as the show progresses no real improvement is made to the horrid sound. Usually, bad sound can be somewhat overlooked, but this is a case where there is simply no control over the room whatsoever. There are moments of clarity here and there during the quieter Tool-sounding parts, but as soon as things get heavy, my eardrums feel like they are going to burst. As such, I leave the room a little over halfway through the set in awe and disappointment of the incompetent sound engineering that took place here. As a result, I will not be giving the band a rating, as I feel that would be unfair, and hope I get the chance to witness them properly in the future. What a shame.

VOLA by Quinten Quist

VOLA @ 19:20 - 20:00 on the Mainstage

I must admit that I am a bit of a fanboy when it comes to the Danish darlings in VOLA. I wholeheartedly think they are one of the best bands my home country has produced in years, and after a staggering show a Tech-Fest earlier in the summer, I was prepared for another spectacular performance from the Meshuggah/Mew fusion band. The heaviest track off their newly released sophomore album ”Applause Of A Distant Crowd” comes in the form of “Smartfriend” to kick things off with its mind-bending chugging, fantastic cymbal grooves, and bit-crunched synths and while everything is played as tightly as I’d come to expect and the vocal harmonies between guitarist Asger Mygind and bassist Nicolai Mogensen are spot on, the guitar, bass, and general volume are lacking that oomph needed to give the heaviness the punch it deserves. It is great to see the main stage packed with people though, showing the force the band has become through multiple shows at the German festival, and the band is clearly very appreciative of this, being all smiles for the duration of the show.

VOLA by Quinten Quist

It is great to see that VOLA are so comfortable playing their new material, as half the set comprises of songs from the new album, all performed as tightly as their classics. “Ghosts” catchy choruses are delivered by frontman Asger with masterful precision, “Alien Shivers” sends shivers (I’ll show myself out) down my spine in the subdued, haunting vibe of the second verse, and “Whaler”, a personal favourite of mine, brings the heavy, doomsday Devin Townsend vibes with Asger’s long hair being thrown around in a slow headbang, resulting in a roaring applause from the ecstatic crowd. But the classics do still garner the best responses from the crowd as would be expected, “Your Mind Is A Helpless Dreamer” sees some very enthusiastic fans in the front jumping up and down sporting horns in their hands, while some decent pit action starts in the back to the Meshuggah groove of the bridge. It is also during this that I cannot keep my eyes of drummer Adam Janzi’s fluid movements, he is simply a very entertaining drummer to watch. However, the room reaches the boiling point during the obvious crowd favourite “Stray The Skies”, which might as well be called VOLA’s hit single by now, evident by the sheer amount of people screaming along to ”’Cause I’m beginning to stray the skies everywhere!” and it is great to see Adam taking some creative liberties with his drumming during the breakdown, applying his own personal touch with small drum solos and groovy fills. The crowd once again roars to conclude today’s show, which didn’t exactly reach the same excitement as Tech-Fest for me personally. This is mainly due to the somewhat underwhelming sound production, which while not bad in the slightest, lacked the power the songs truly deserve. The band was on point, the performance was on point, the crowd was on point, but unfortunately, the sound just wasn’t entirely convincing, leading to a show that was “just” great and not completely fantastic like I expected. [8]

Caligula’s Horse by Quinten Quist

Caligula’s Horse @ 21:00 - 22:00 on the Mainstage

It’s time for some more “traditional” progressive metal with flashy guitar work and complex song structures. Another band I have been wanting to witness for a long time, all the way from the other side of the globe, Australian band Caligula’s Horse is met with a decently crowded main stage as an explosive start immediately blow me away with “Dream the Dead” from their latest record “In Contact”. Right out of the gate the sound is phenomenally clear, and the instrumental playing is exuding confidence with a vocally gifted frontman in Jim Grey who has complete control of his vocal delivery. The song walks the line between flashy syncopated riffs and more moody progressive rock sensibilities and as the intensity is turned all the way down towards the end, Grey’s delicate falsetto voice overwhelms me with chills already. What a way to kick off a show, a show I can already tell is going to be very special to me. More “In Contact” material follows with “Will’s Song (Let the Colours Run)”, showing the darker and more aggressive side of the band as the intensity is turned all the way up again. The scarce djenty parts make them all the more impactful when they strike the crowd, who as a result greet the heavy parts with flailing limbs in the pit, much to the amusement of the showman of a guitarist Adrian Goleby, who is all smiles as he whips out one impressively played guitar riff after the other seemingly like it’s the easiest thing in the world to perform.

The sexy grooves of “Dark Hair Down” are played to absolute perfection from everyone involved, and the resulting solo from lead guitarist Sam Vallen shows what a complete virtuoso of his instrument he is. Sure it may be a wank-fest to some with how flashy it is, but also just mind-blowingly impressive and soulful, with tasty vibratos and whammy bar usage to really make the guitar notes squeal. Generally, the solos on display here are so well executed throughout the entire set, that I can’t do anything but stare in awe and try to pick up my dislocated jaw from somewhere on the floor. “Rust” overwhelms me with a wall of sound, anthemic choruses and synchronized headbanging in the crowd, and then Grey turns to the crowd to make them start off the next song “Songs for No One” by guiding them through the vocal intro. In typical Australian dry fashion he exclaims: ”One more time for safety, ‘cause that was shit!” which gets everyone bursting out in laughter. It shows a very confident frontman, which he also has every right to be with the vocal pipes he’s got. The atmosphere is just lovely between the band and the crowd, a fitting uplifting mood to their playful music.

“The Cannon’s Mouth” brings back the darkness with swingy drumming and low tuned guitars, reaching the heaviest pinnacle of the show before culminating in the crowd favourite and groovy banger “Marigold”. The whole band gives their last burst of energy with fierce headbanging, energy that seems to be transferred to the middle pit which looks like the happiest mosh pit of the festival. It concludes an absolute tour de force of a progressive metal show, the talent in this band is just incredible and I caught myself several times just exclaiming to myself ”What the fuck?! in excitement. Everything just seemed to come together right at the moment, and the only way the show could’ve been better for me personally was if the crowd had been bigger and if they had added “Into the White” and “Old Cracks in New Earth” to the setlist. Caligula’s Horse simply provided one of my favourite sets of the year and I couldn’t stop smiling as I left the stage to get another beer. Bravo. [9½]

Monuments by Quinten Quist

Monuments @ 22:45 - 00:00 on the Mainstage

I can’t say I was massively looking forward to tonight’s headliner, mainly due to the fact that the new album, released on the same day as their appearance here at Euroblast, disappointed me greatly. I did hold out some hope though, that the tracks would click more for me in a live setting so I still was somewhat interested to see how it all turns out, as the band nevertheless has always put on an entertaining show. An orchestral intro serves as an unexpected touch, and the band is greeted with an absolutely packed room of drunk metalheads ready to give their last energy of the night. And it doesn’t take long before the first crowd surfer surfs over the rails in the front as the lead single from their new album “A.W.O.L.” starts pumping out, but the sound seems a bit off out of the gate in the higher spectrum, making the djenty metalcore riffs sound piercing to the ears. But I have to admit that the track does get me a bit more excited than on record, with a very decent breakdown performed incredibly tightly, and frontman Chris Baretto’s charisma and control over his audience makes it hard to be a complete “play the old stuff”-dismissive critic. Another new track “Leviathan” does prove to me just how basic much of this new stuff is though, rather than being at the forefront of the djent movement like they were 4-5 years ago, they seem to have regressed rather than progressed, making rather dull melodic metalcore with a technical edge. The following two new tracks just keep being completely uninteresting to me aside from the odd tapping riff here and there being pretty cool. John Browne’s otherwise great sense of melody under the technical riffage seems to have been replaced by a lot of focus on groove and chugging, which isn’t all that exciting. It’s not even that bad, just painfully average and as soon the Michael Jackson sounding “Atlas” comes on I start to wake up again and so does the crowd it seems, the amount of people jumping around and dancing is a joy to witness. However, Baretto’s vocals don’t seem to be completely on point this evening, which becomes even more apparent during the oldie “Doxa”, where seemingly none of the high notes are sung, which does take away from the epicness of the last fantastic vocal line of this technical onslaught of staccato riffs. The old tracks definitely still are bangers by every stretch of the imagination though, with “Regenerates” crushing dissonance being a clear highlight of the set as Baretto crowd surfs all the way to the sidebar while still singing. “Origin of Escape” and “Degenerate” provides the closing singalong tracks everyone has been waiting for and the true greatness of Monuments is shown right here. It all concludes in a show that definitely had its moments but ultimately gets saved by the overall showmanship and an amazing crowd. [7]

SATURDAY

CABAL by Quinten Quist

CABAL @ 15:40 - 16:15 on the Sidestage

My general enjoyment of CABAL was unfortunately probably gonna be lowered by a bad case of food poisoning I caught Friday night, but nevertheless I was somewhat ready to receive my blackened deathcore pummeling from these forward rushing Danes who have been turning heads with their debut album ”Mark of Rot”. To further cement the dark cultish vibe of their music, the band has brought two naked trees on both sides of the stage, which is a nice little touch to the stage production and the room is completely packed with people, showing that perhaps they would’ve been able to play the main stage? I was ready to be disappointed with the sound again after the failure that was SÜMER’s show yesterday, but was pleasantly surprised to hear clear improvement in this aspect, as the beefy chugs sound massive while still sounding clear, so props have to go out to the sound engineer who apparently succeeded in taming the basement room. Like the last time I was very impressed with the band’s performance band’s performance, the lighting work has reached professional levels by placing blinding stroboscopes behind the band, following every beat of the music, making all members appear to be mere silhouettes throughout most of the show, further adding to the cultish visuals, like being part of some godforsaken ritual of low-tuned grooves.

The sinister vibe continues throughout the set with breakdowns upon breakdown that shake the very core of the audience and the set reaches its first peak when Filip Danielsson from Humanity’s Last Breath joins the band on stage for “The Darkest Embrace” with his deep guttural growls, causing the whole band to fiercely headbang while the excited audience members are wooing in approval. CABAL clearly feel right at home playing in this dark, hot basement, battering its crowd over the head with their stupidly heavy music which gives rise to numerous pits in the middle. Frontman Andreas’ black metal screeches are on point tonight, evident especially on “Nothingness” and “Innocent Blood”, the band’s breakthrough track you could say, a slower jam filled with chugs and pick scrapes, causes the whole room to shake. Once again you can hear mind blown audience members shouting in excitement during the absolutely ridiculous breakdowns. The syncopated groove of “False Light” finishes off yet another impressive show from these dark Danes, who should be ready by now to take over the world. [8½]

Rolo Tomassi by Quinten Quist

Rolo Tomassi @ 16:20 - 17:00 on the Mainstage

Atmospheric mathcore outfit Rolo Tomassi are next on the main stage which a lot of people seem to not have noticed, judging by the average turnout. Having played a great show here in Denmark earlier this year, I was very much looking forward to seeing them on a bigger stage where their huge sound could potentially be fully realized. The dreamy soundscapes of interlude “Towards Dawn” sets the mood before the almost arena rock-sounding “Aftermath” comes on, as lead singer Eva Spence sways around on stage in her typical interpretive dance moves. But the vocals are barely audible to start with and when the volume gets under control, Spence’s vocals sound slightly off-pitch and tired. The rest of the sound is punchy and huge, though some feedback issues break the grandiose spellbinding sound the track is supposed to represent. “Rituals” suddenly turns the mood sinister with its mathcore attitude and blast beats as Spence’s fragile clean vocals are turned into banshee howls that sound great but technical issues seem to be prevalent as the guitar sound suddenly cuts out for a moment. Not off to a good start, but the crowd finally starts to show up when keyboardist James Spence grabs his mic to join the screaming the blackgaze intro of “Funereal”. The pair of vocalists fiercely bang their heads while making animalistic noises. The big arm movements from drummer Tom Pits fits the onslaught of noise perfectly. The slow start of the show has vanished as this song is simply masterfully performed in all its twists and turns raging from post-rock sensibilities, jazz, and brawly hardcore riffs. “Estranged” turns the intensity to 11 as complete chaos initiates in another convincing display of mind-bending chaotic hardcore. Unfortunately, the otherwise beautiful track “Flood of Light” gets plagued by feedback issues once more and doesn’t quite hypnotize its audience as it’s supposed to, but the last trio of songs “Alma Mater”, “Stage Knives” and “Balancing the Dark” shows that the chaotic side of their tracks seems to be on Rolo Tomassi’s side more than the atmospheric cuts as they are performed very entertainingly, ending a set that wasn’t convincing from start to finish, but really did shine when the technical difficulties stopped pestering them. [7½]

Heart Of A Coward by Quinten Quist

Heart Of A Coward @ 17:50 - 18:30 on the Mainstage

Having also witnessed my first gig with newly added vocalist Kaan Tasan at Tech-Fest, which turned out to be a generally impressive showing off his vocal chops in the context of the brutal grooves of Heart of a Coward, I was definitely ready to be subject to another beating by these gentlemen from Milton Keynes. Without much bullshit, the band goes directly into the anthemic metalcore track “Hollow” and right off the bat Kaan’s vocals impress once again, providing some truly powerful screams while also seeming more comfortable on stage, commanding the massive crowd with his will. ”We are not gonna start before we see a fucking circle pit.” he stubbornly exclaims as the crowd starts spiraling without any music playing before the macho hardcore grooves of “Turmoil I - Wolves” gives the circle pit some sense. The band fittingly wears the typical metal frown to convey the attitude of the heaviness throughout the song. Up until now the sound does suffer a bit of clarity issues when it comes to the guitars, as it’s hard to make out most of the other notes aside from the percussive chugging, which is definitely a shame, as the rest of the performance is spot on alongside a vigorous crowd who are clearly loving it. Luckily the sound hits a turning point when we are all taken back to the album that started it all “Hope and Hindrance” with the absolute classic “Shade” and its signature ”Suffer.. bitch!” breakdown. This is also the point where I conclude that Kaan has successfully taken over the reins of this beast of a band and I can’t wait to see where he will take them in the future. The whole room is commanded to take a knee for “Nauseum” before exploding into a jumping frenzy with one of their grooviest cuts with some great atmospheric guitar tapping on top. Unfortunately, “Collapse” dampens my excitement as I simply just don’t like the track very much, only elevated by Kaan’s amazing vocals, while the basic yet powerful chug-fest of “Deadweight” turns up the violence of the pit to send everyone off with their adrenaline pumping. A pretty great show let down by subpar sound in the first half of the set, keeping it from reaching remarkable status. What the show did convince me though, is that Kaan Tasan is here to stay and has properly filled the big shoes left by old frontman Jamie Graham. [8]

Terminal Function by Quinten Quist

Terminal Function @ 18:35 - 19:15 on the Sidestage

I walk into an eerie piano interlude sounding like it’s ripped straight from an 80s horror movie for this next band in the basement of Euroblast. Terminal Function from Sweden is another unknown band to me, but having heard that these Swedes play some fierce tech-death I, of course, had to check it out. And while the sound isn’t unbearable like it has been down here before, the kick drums are drowning out most of the instruments with its loud clickiness. Luckily this seems to get better pretty quickly, providing some decent sound throughout the set. Sonically, Terminal Function lies somewhere between Meshuggah and Gojira, and especially the vocals lead my thoughts to Jens Kidman. There’s a really cool doomsday sounding atmosphere going on in this first track and a genuinely interesting song structure, which seems to carry over into the next track. It sounds a bit messy at first, but some impressive continuous kick drums turn the tempo all the way up in some pure tech-death flashy riffage, only let down by a pretty awful guitar solo.

The lead singer has some decent stage banter going on between songs, proclaiming in slightly broken German: ”Wir spielen technische totenmetale!” much to the amusement of all the Germans present here before switching the sound over to some djenty start/stop riffs served with weird and glitchy guitar solos, which definitely leaves an impression on me. The next track is according to their frontman their most romantic song about civilization collapsing and some crazy shifts leads into some clear Gojira worship, with a riff that sounds eerily like “The Heaviest Matter of the Universe”. Not faulting the band for this though, because it sounds banging. The last track gives me some The Schoenberg Automaton chaotic tech-death vibes, ending off a show that, despite average sound mixing, left a pretty good impression, with a fun little set that overall was impressively played. I will for sure be checking these guys out in the future. [7]

SUNDAY

Eden Circus by Quinten Quist

Eden Circus @ 15:40 - 16:15 on the Sidestage

A band completely unknown to me, the German quintet Eden Circus is next on the second stage. Jazzy clean chords and breathy clean vocals envelop the room providing a soothing atmosphere. It is performed really well and serves as a welcome more relaxed sound than many of the other bands present at the festival, giving me clear Karnivool vibes with some post-rock clean passages. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for that awful rumbling sound to return as things get heavy and now everything is a complete jumbled mess again. It is hard to make out the otherwise great lead vocalist in the cacophony of bass feedback and I am left to try and discern through the bad sound what the band actually sounds like. In their defense, you can actually hear there is something pretty cool going on if you dig hard enough, some interesting chord progressions, lofty soundscapes, and Tool-like bass and drumming. But you aren’t supposed to imagine what a band sounds like at a live concert, and halfway through the set, the sound hasn’t improved in the slightest as I can feel my ears starting to hurt again. Another total mess sound-wise unfortunately, and as such I will give them the same treatment as SÜMER and not provide a score as it is out of the band’s hands. However, Eden Circus did make me interested in checking them out on record, as it sounded like something I would thoroughly enjoy if I could actually hear what was going on. And I can confirm, they’re pretty great, so definitely go check out their music on your favourite streaming service.

Humanity’s Last Breath by Quinten Quist

Humanity’s Last Breath @ 19:20 - 20:00 on the Mainstage

One of my absolute favourites in the deathcore scene, it doesn’t get much more heavy and filthy than Humanity’s Last Breath. This will be my first time witnessing this powerhouse of evil and one thing I was especially looking forward to was how well the horrifying screeching noises of the records would translate live. It doesn’t take long to be enveloped in darkness as a black metal sounding intro fills the packed room, and the crunchy sound production does the band justice, who is being backed by absolutely stellar lighting work that perfectly suits the morbid atmosphere and follows every beat of the music perfectly. The nasty bends of “Harm” paired with some great guttural growls from Filip Danielsson come off as completely merciless though I would have preferred the guitars higher in the mix. A personal favourite of mine “Bellua” continues the sonic barrage with crazy tight playing especially from drummer and main mastermind behind the band Buster Odeholm, and the track hits with such force that the front of the pit is sent into a frenzy, resulting in probably the most action I’ve seen so far at the festival. We’re treated to a completely new track from the forthcoming album which sees the band continue the more black metal focused sound seen on “Abyssal Mouth” instead of the more chaotic and screechy side of the band. Definitely digging this direction.

The gradual slowdown of “Detestor” is played to perfection as the sound is improving, and I keep thinking to myself: ”This is genuinely the heaviest shit ever.” while the two guitarists are headbanging so close to the ground that it looks like they are about headbutt the floor. The sound becomes spot on for the groovy, more straightforward deathcore banger “Human Swarm”. Another new track then impresses, which sees the band produce some of the most unlistenable noises they’ve done yet in the best way possible. Circle pits are constantly going, crowd surfers are flying through the air, the pit is total madness like no other band has even come close to achieve. I am left with the sensation of having just been through some sort of bad trip that I actually enjoyed, and am thoroughly pleased with how well this show turned out. Some problems with the sound for the first half kept the show from being completely mind-blowing, but nevertheless, Humanity’s Last Breath convinced me that they might be the heaviest band on the planet. [9]

Sordid Pink by Quinten Quist

Sordid Pink @ 21:00 - 22:00 on the Mainstage

David Maxim Micic from Serbia has been an integral part to the tech-metal community for years, being a masterful guitarist and songwriter on his own and in his poppier prog metal band Destiny Potato. For reasons unknown to me, that admittedly silly name has been laid to rest in favour of another, well, still kinda silly name Sordid Pink. The darlings of the tech-metal community have taken over the main stage to a buzzing room full of fans, and while I’m a much bigger fan of Micic’s solo work, I am fully expecting catchy tunes and good vibes this Sunday evening. And this is exactly what I get with “Love Song”, a djenty pop song about complicated relationships that does have some interesting tempo changes and surprising blast beats, yet Aleksandra Djelmas’ vocals, unfortunately, sound weak this time around, mainly the high notes are flimsy and don’t sound convincing. The sound is good, though I’d like some more guitar in the mix, but that might be the fanboy in me speaking. Djelmash’s vocals sound way more comfortable on the Eurovision-esque metal track “Walls of Thought”, which does contain a soaring earworm of a chorus. See, that’s the thing with the Destiny Potato tracks, even though I’m not a massive fan, I can sing almost any chorus from their debut album “Lun”. The same can be said for “Take A Picture” that contains heavy Korn vibes, an infectiously bouncy song that gets the pit going and Djelmash does succeed in impressing me with very solid screaming. Bassist Siebe Sijpkens is a joy to behold during this heavier bit, clearly enjoying the hell out of the massive crowd they’ve drawn.

But that’s as many Destiny Potato tracks we get for now, as Djelmash signals the change to Sordid Pink by losing her white jacket while the lighting turns pink. This new track does see the band change it up completely in a mid-tempo groove and a chilled out, Chon/Polyphia-like vibe to the instrumentals, yet I am still not digging the vocals. David shows off with solos here and there and reaches a peak in a swingy song, showing the virtuoso he truly is. It’s truly great musically but does little for me vocally, unfortunately. I did hear that Djelmash had suffered from some illness before performing tonight, so that’s a damn shame, but it just makes the whole thing fall a bit flat for me. It doesn’t change a lot with the last track “Indifferent” which is definitely a crowd favourite and does contain a fantastic noodly main riff, but I am left underwhelmed yet still somewhat interested in what the transition to Sordid Pink will entail. Generally, it seems everyone else is enjoying it a lot more than me, as each song gets a larger roar of applause than the next. I, however, can’t see the performance as more than above average, unfortunately. [6½]

Long Distance Calling by Quinten Quist

Long Distance Calling @ 22:45 - 00:00 on the Mainstage

I was thinking that Long Distance Calling might’ve been a bit of an odd choice as the very last headliner of Euroblast 2018, seeing as they are only really big in Germany, while also playing some fairly non-techy post-rock/metal. Nevertheless a band I very much enjoy on record, even more now that they’ve gone back to being instrumental after an underwhelming experiment with a clean vocalist. The band is clearly ready though, as seen when the marching, hard rock riff of “Trauma” blasts out the speakers with great force. The sound is heavy and clear but also dynamic enough to support the atmospheres created on top of the power chords of this main riff. Off to a good start and the crowd also haven’t lost all their energy on this third day, as some energetic headbanging can be seen everywhere though the room is not nearly as full as what Monuments drew. The energy and intensity continue in the sludgy Mastodon-like “Ascending”, that further on develops into an epic melodic post-rock finish through an awesome transition from triplets to meticulous drums. There are some definite Pink Floyd vibes going on in the solo of the intro to this next song which uses some soulful slides and bends, consisting mainly of humming synths and electronic beats, resulting in a hypnotic change from the heavier side we were treated to in the first two tracks. The stage setup works really well, with the bassist in the middle in front of the drummer and the two guitarists on either side, and the lighting switches colors depending on the mood of the song. The only criticism I could have with Long Distance Calling’s music is that it’s not exactly reinventing the wheel when it comes to riff-based post-rock, but I can’t fault them too much when the playing is tight (especially drummer Janosch impresses with his excellent dynamic sound), the sound is great and the music solid nonetheless. “Black Paper Planes” and “Out There” impress me the most with their long runtimes, progressive sound structures and lead guitar soundscapes, and while I was very sad to not see the uplifting grooves of “Into The Black Wide Open” make the setlist, Long Distance Calling did provide a nice send-off into the after party and a fitting last gig of Euroblast 2018. [8]

Long Distance Calling by Quinten Quist

FINAL WORDS

Euroblast 2018 might not have been the greatest success for me personally due to the reasons mentioned earlier, but as you can tell in my reviews, the gigs I did witness were generally great. Do you agree with my assessments? What was your favourite band of the weekend? Everything considered, I still had a good time at Euroblast 2018 and will no doubt be returning next year, and I already can’t wait for the first batch of bands for the 2019 edition to arrive in December. Per tradition I will end off with the good, the bad and the ugly and hope to see some of you readers in Cologne next year. KW

THE GOOD

  • Pretty good lineup only missing a proper knockout headliner for me, but also nice to see some generally non-techy bands on the bill to spice things up.
  • Great scheduling, only providing the rare occasional clash due to bands overstepping time limits.
  • Lovely atmosphere.
  • Good toilet facilities.
  • Lots of seating outside to rest your legs.
  • Weather was basically perfect, sunny, 25 degrees and no rain.
  • Generally pretty affordable prices.
  • The stage production on the Mainstage was great this year.
  • Didn’t really run into any massive queues.

THE BAD

  • Food poisoning (not the festival’s fault, but it was definitely annoying as hell).
  • The drinks selection. Mainly the beer selection which is thoroughly underwhelming, in a German city nonetheless.
  • The 7 pm curfew, but I’m guessing it’s to keep people from going to the supermarket to buy drinks instead.

THE UGLY

  • Horrid sound at many of the bands playing Sidestage, definitely needs improvement next year.

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