Midwinter Meltdown

support Rotting Christ + Artillery + Thorium + Materia + Metal Cross + Hoppepude
author RUB date 16/02/19 venue Turbinen, Randers, DEN

It is once again that time of year, where I venture back to the city in which I was born and have spent the majority of my life so far. Who would’ve known that I so many years later would find myself experiencing one of the bands which I have been dying to see for so long? The band in question is, of course, Rotting Christ, who finally made their way to Jutland on a Saturday and not just another gig on a weekday in the Danish capital. This is not the only band I’m eager to see this evening. This festival also marks the return of the local legendary death metal act of Hoppepude (yes, it is translated into “bouncy castle”), whom I’ve also heard a great deal about including a story of when they were booked to a small and local city party, in the belief they were a children’s act; boy, were they disappointed. In fact, this year might very well be the best one yet, since the line-up is a really good mixture of everything from classic heavy and doom metal, to some more modern-styled metal, to death and thrash metal, and concluding with black metal from the Greeks in Rotting Christ. This is really something, as this very festival hosted what perhaps was my best concert experience of 2018 with Evil Invaders. All in all, I was very excited to get the music going, as I find myself arriving just in time for the first act, namely Hoppepude.

All photos courtesy of Peter L. Nielsen

Hoppepude

Hoppepude @ 17:30

Never thought I would get a chance to see this band live. A local death metal act with close to legendary status; at least in Randers. Hoppepude is back after roughly 15 years of hiatus after first starting out as a band in the 90s. My only knowledge of the band is the small anecdote in the very first paragraph, and of course a few of their songs. With that in mind, I had little to no expectations, only hoping I would get blown away. The music is heavy and brutal, and resemblance both Illdisposed and Corpus Mortale, just to mention a few of their fellow Danish peers, and also pack various enticing passages of both technical prowess and interesting takes on the genre. They’re doing a pretty good job getting people going, even though the blast beats were a bit sloppy from time to time, and the energy perhaps wasn’t as intense as the music suggested. However, it was easy to see why they wanted to make a return to the stage: they simply loved it! And this obviously rubs off on the crowd.

The growls are deep and harsh, and the songs actually contained some great riffs even though my knowledge to which ones are non-existing. A little for the Star Wars fans in “Return of Darth Vader”, and finally a joyous return of former lead singer of both Svartsot and Prevail Claus Gnudtzmann to do some guttural and very deep parts of the last song. The crowd was surprisingly sizeable, which perhaps is due to this being their first gig in many, many years, so all in all, a very acceptable start for the festival, and of course the band. All though this was one of those bands, where I didn’t quite know what to expect, I was still very much surprised and entertained, although not quite blown away. RUB

Metal Cross

Metal Cross @ 18:30

Speaking of bands making a return to the stage, Metal Cross did the very same thing back in 2014, only they’re from the mid to late 80s! Also, they too originate from Randers. By this time the venue looks close to full. The classic heavy metal act, yet still with some noticeable references to both Overkill, Black Sabbath and Pentagram each in their own way, still has something to offer the modern metal community. Even though it definitely resembles the 80s-styled heavy metal, it still seems to have enough edge and twists to make a surprising impression on yours truly. From what they display tonight they’re not your dime a dozen 80s heavy metal band, which baffles me as I don’t understand what exactly the reason was that they didn’t get bigger back in the day. But hey, we all probably know the story behind Anvil.

Overall the band is quite tight, but when especially the guitarists aren’t moving this shouldn’t be a problem as experienced these guys are. A new song is also aired; yes, that is a single song, the rest is from their mid to late 80s material. It stays true to origin, but still has that very audible 5-string bass, played by a fairly energetic bass player, which might be one of the reasons why they manage to stick out, as it is usually the guitarists who are more energetic. The song is surprisingly good, so perhaps a bit strange no more is played?

Back to the 30-year old stuff, which recalls the classic “aaaahhhh-ah-aaahhh” chorus of Iron Maiden, but the crowd is not feeling it just as much. The band, especially the frontman, does his best to entice the crowd, and all though there are many bystanders, a few rows are banging their heads up front. Towards the end Per Krogh Hansen and a backing singer only known as Anette, is invited onstage for the last couple of songs in “April 27th” and “Waiting for the Dawn”, which Per wrote being part of the original line-up. This was yet another present surprise; that’s two out of two, which suggests that this could very well be the best year ever here at Midwinter Meltdown. RUB

7

Materia

Materia @ 19:45

Next up is what you could probably call the outlier of this day of mostly old-school death and thrash, which is also noticeable in the subpar crowd here at the front. One of two bands who are not here from Denmark, Materia from Poland didn’t exactly leave that much of an impression on me when I briefly checked them out on Spotify the week before. But after an eerie interlude, all hell breaks loose and that skepticism is blown completely to bits by insanely tightly played syncopated djent riffs supported by an enormous sound mix to boot. I am left absolutely gobsmacked by how monstrous these sounds are, and the screaming and low gutturals from bassist and frontman Michal Piesiak sound fierce, and additionally, it’s also great to see some movement from him even though he’s filling both duties, charismatically grinning and smacking his bass. Brutal breakdowns are supported by heavy use of squealing vibrato guitars, with some genuinely interesting lead guitar work which does keep the admittedly fairly standard modern djent metal from becoming too stale. This really is a case of how somewhat generic music can be brought to a whole new level by just playing it almost to perfection in a live setting, it almost reaches Meshuggah and Gojira levels of tightness (which are incidentally two acts Materia is quite clearly heavily inspired by).

Unfortunately, my initial excitement does hit a speed bump somewhere around the middle of the set when the inevitable melodic metalcore single is played. The clean singing here is just not very convincing, and the impressive riff writing from the first couple of songs turns into a jumbled mess. Materia also dips into straight deathcore territory at one point, and while it’s nice to see some variety in their sound, the start/stop djent riffs are definitely more effective. It does include a very cool old-school Meshuggah sounding breakdown but ends up generally a less interesting track than the first few. Then I suddenly become anxious for the band, when they start commanding a circle pit from the crowd, seeing how few are actually up here which can get very awkward very fast, but to my surprise a decent and very energetic circle pit actually does form. The pit signals the end of a set, where the songwriting could definitely use some work, but it’s ultimately saved by phenomenal technical skills, entertaining stage presence, and gigantic sound mix. KW

8

Thorium

Thorium @ 21:00

As this next band enters the stage, frontman “MHA” is wearing shades inside, so you just know this band has an attitude. They play a style of Swedish death metal with edge and groove in the veins of Entombed, Entombed A.D. and L-G Petrov newest band Firespawn, with equally low and guttural growls. It is definitely beer-chugging time as MHA announces that this next song was written “back when people still collected porn”, which is why the Danish expression for Thorium’s brand of death metal is best described as dølle. This can both be described as a negative or a positive thing, but for this band, in particular, it’s definitely the latter.

MHA tells weird and funny stories in between the songs, and the music itself has plenty of tremolo and blast beats to keep everyone entertained. It is delivered with cheer and a happy grin, and every festival should have a band like this because it helps keep the mood and atmosphere fresh and entertaining while still being as brutal as death metal in fact is.

There’s a raw and infectious feeling to their music and it entices the crowd; in fact, its resemblance the same funny gimmicks the infamous Bo Sommer of Illdisposed uses to entertain the audience. The music stays very much in the veins of before said band and Crocell, just to mention a few Danish counterparts, although it does get somewhat monotone throughout an entire concert, when it’s delivered with such flair and passion, you still find yourself very much entertained. RUB

7

Artillery

Artillery @ 22:00

Full disclosure: I might not be the best-suited reviewer for these vintage gentlemen in Artillery, seeing as their brand of old-school thrash and heavy metal really is not my thing. Nevertheless, here I am, trying to keep an open mind. And sure enough, this is definitely some old-school metal we are dealing with here, but like the other shows before this one, the sound is simply spot on, which right out of the gate definitely helps me along the way to see past my negative biases. The playing is tight, the choruses soaring and delivered convincingly by frontman Michael Bastholm Dahl, who at first is also the only one really having any stage presence to speak of. His great expressive faces stand in stark contrast to the guitarists and bassist who are mostly just concentrating on playing, entirely stone-faced. Not exactly the most exciting show to look at, but the playing makes up for it by just being generally razor sharp, and when Artillery pulls out a doom sounding intro from the newest album “The Face of Fear” I am really getting into it. It leads into a great and blistering thrash section which in turn sets the big crowd on fire in a blaze of flailing arms. “Ka’ I li’ metal?!” frontman Dahl screams as the next track is blasted out, but the boring stage show continues, it sometimes looks like only their frontman and drummer actually want to be there which is a shame because I am positively surprised by almost everything else going on here. The drum performance is generally stellar, and drummer Josua Madsen succeeds in playing tight and technical while also being an entertaining showman to watch.

This next track is probably the highlight of the show for me, and warms my progressive metal heart with really interesting tempo changes and twists and turns, while also including a heavy almighty thrash riff which absolutely makes it impossible to keep my head still. And this riff might’ve actually finally warmed the rest of the band up, now we finally get to see more action and smiles at the audience, but it feels like it’s a little late. The crowd is loving it as well when the obligatory "whoooa-whoooa" singalong part makes the room roar, and while I normally find these kinds of parts really cheesy, it actually works out to a great finish to a set I never would’ve guessed I’d actually enjoy. As you might’ve guessed I am not all too familiar with the band but count me positively surprised. I’m probably still not going to be playing this regularly at home, as it is still just not my cup of tea personally, but there is absolutely no denying the force these guys can still provide, which is in itself pretty impressive when you take into account that some of the members were playing back in the early ’80s as well. Artillery ends up continuing the fairly high standards of this year’s Midwinter Meltdown. KW

Rotting Christ

Rotting Christ @ 23:30

Finally, after an evening of surprisingly diverse and well-executed performances by every band, I was about to witness Rotting Christ live. And to ease the crowd into this occultic and anti-religious mass the band started with “Hallowed Be Thy Name” off their latest effort “The Heretics”. This seemed strangely appropriate, as to warn off believers that four Greek heretics had just taken the stage. This quiet and calm build-up would eventually make the floor explode as the bagpipe infused “Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy” off their 2013 outing made sure that the entire venue erupted. Next up was yet another new song in “Fire God and Fear”, and even though it seemed like the venue had room for more in the back, the entire front area was packed as in a massive metal party. You actually had a feeling that the concert was rehearsed, but I’m quite certain it was only the result of the band being so experienced and well-established. They had a clear script to what they wanted to do and how they wanted the gig to progress. It was not like they did the classic side-by-side twin guitar play or anything like that, it was just part of the atmosphere. The interactions are kept at a minimal, but very professional, level, and for the untrained eye it would seem that every move is closely orchestrated; but it isn’t. It all comes so naturally to both the band and the crowd. As when they suggest that the crowd start a circle pit, they respond in a fitting manner.

Rotting Christ

Where it is possible for the band to perform it live, they don’t resort to samples of the atmospheric choir- or chanting-sounds, which just makes the performance that more convincing and impressive. They play so many great tracks with their majestic and grandiose soundscape, which have made the band so revered, such as “Grandis Spiritus Diavolos”.

For some reason, it seemed like people scatter towards the end of the set, at least in the back. The remainder of the crowd and the band relentlessly keep things going as strong as ever. Sadly, this is sometimes the example of the Danish metal community mentality, but still just a class example of the prowess and willpower of the ones who chose to stay, and of course the manner in which the band just kept going; they gave everything they had left.

Once again, the good people behind Midwinter Meltdown have pulled yet another impressive headliner out of their hat. Just like Evil Invaders last year, Rotting Christ delivers a stunning display which captures yours truly. Hands down I had very high expectations for this band. And truth be told, a little fanboy inside might have upped the grade a tiny notch. But the deliverance was still so convincing, and their entire performance was delivered in such a grandiose fashion and managed to create a very suiting atmosphere for the year’s closing act. I just hope that it won’t be so long before I get to witness this impressive display once again. RUB

9

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