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.:Festival Reviews:.

19/08/2006 – GOTHIC FESTIVAL (Waregem, Belgium)

Last Saturday, the 19th August, was a special day for the south of West-Flanders: two organizations - The Black Cave (website) en Purple Moon (website) - taking care of the Gothic Festival. Usually there's nothing much in this area concerning rock/metal gigs, and when big names like HAGGARD and LACRIMOSA are booked you know this is an oppotunity not to be missed!

Tickets were available a couple of months before-hand, so to be sure it was better to get a ticket asap. But to my surprise, the festival wasn't sold out at all. Sure, there were many people, but there was room for another couple of tens of gothic fans.

The atmosphere at a Gothic concert/festival is different than a Metal concert/festival. It's more 'serious', serene, peaceful, less 'enthusiastic'. Next to that, and typical for this genre, most of the people are dressed in that particular way. I've already seen a lot, but it can really get extreme where you see some really devoted fans (next to the 'sheep' ;-)), who spend a lot of time for their make-up and clothes.

The weather was fine to start with, but rain came down as well from time to time. Inside the hall it was warm and definitely not well-aired. A lot of people smoked and since the smoke kept hanging about, it was at times hard to breath normally. Hopefully the organisers can deal with this next time.

This was the schedule for that day, although everything kind of started later, with an average of 20-30 minutes:

13h00 - 14h15 | ROSA CRUX -
14h35 - 15h25 | BLOODY DEAD AND SEXY -
15h55 - 16h50 | ASRAI -
17h20 - 18h20 | ELUSIVE -
18h50 - 20h00 | GARDEN OF DELIGHT -
20h45 - 22h15 | HAGGARD -
23h00 - 01h00 | LACRIMOSA -

ROSA CRUX started the afternoon as the perfect opening band. Well, not perfect, but very good indeed. This French band plays not really rock - despite the use of guitars - but something bombastic with programmaed drums, but real drums. See their website for more info, but I can tell you it consists of some kettle drums, a bass drums, some snare drums and two cymbals. The bombast is also enforced by bells, from small to extra large ones to give the songs a more religious character, although ROSA CRUX is not a Christian band. But the piano remains the key instrument. One band that comes close in a comparison is SUMMONING.

Their performance on stage is assisted by video footage and a choir. On this video footage you could see images of dungeons, caves, dark places, but mainly the "dance of death" or something like that. It consists of two people (male and female, completely naked) executing the same kind of movements while sitting on their legs and covering themselves with sand and dirt. It looks like some kind of ceremony, but one that has a rather creepy touch to it. What's more, these people even were in the hall at a certain moment, being pushed around on their chariot, while executing the same spastic movements. They were covered in clay and used make-up powder instead of sand, and that makes stains on your clothes and smells funny. Yuk! They also had ropes or something similar hanging from their mouths. It was a truly disgusting piece of theatre.

But the focus of course lies on the music, which is not for the simple-minded. It's heavy on a psychic level. One hour is like the maximum to endure it, then it becomes boring and you desperately need some Powermetal or anything more uplifting.

All in all, ROSA CRUX is indeed a great band, but very special.

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BLOODY DEAD AND SEXY, from Germany, was next. This band is so different than ROSA CRUX as they are a more normal formation. Neither of the musicians is really good, except for the guitarist. The vocalist stood there like he was stoned - he probably was - and if it was acted, he sure was good at it. Songwise not one song appealed to me. Musically there were some good things, but mainly the guitarist was the light in the dark. The songs are 'rocking' indeed, somewhat punkish.

So for me they can leave this band at home next time. Contrary to some drunk people who seemed to enjoy the music and acted accordingly to their intake of alcohol.

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Well, since the set of BLOODY DEAD AND SEXY wasn't much to brag about, going outside now and then a blessing, even when it rained. ;-) Next on the list was the Dutch Gothic Metalact ASRAI, who received some positive critics for their last album, "Touch In The Dark". I only knew the band consists among others of twin sisters: one on vocals, the other behind the drums. Seeing their performance it really makes me wonder who gave this band such praise. Musically things are so not alright and neither sister is good at their part. One can't sing - or she was having an off-day, but I doubt that - and the other is just hitting the skins and cymbals to hide the fact she's actually not that good on the drums.

Next to that the guitar sounded too loud and the keyboards were played in a telepathical manner. Oh wait, those were backing tapes or what?

Conclusion: an overrated band, no question about it. There are tons of better bands out there.

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When re-entering the hall, it was a surprise to see an almost empty stage, except for three men doing their thing: bringing Gothic rock like the SISTERS OF MERCY (to name one band). ELUSIVE is the name and one to remember. The three men hail from Norway, from the same area as THEATRE OF TRAGEDY, SIRENIA and TRISTANIA. What's more, two of ELUSIVE's members are ex-players of the first two bands, if I correctly remember the chat I had with Kristian.

All is played with original instruments, except for the bass, drums and keyboards. Those three instruments are sampled, mainly because of the costs when travelling as a five-piece. But so far everything works out great, although I would prefer to see them with a full line-up and more specifically a real drumkit.

ELUSIVE played a mix of both their albums "Destination Zero" (2001) and "The Great Silence" (2005). The first being more rocking, the second having a more 'dancy' character and the guitars being pushed back a bit in the mix. The performance was top notch and especially the vocals surprised me. Despite the man smoking a lot, his voice sounds remarkably well. The reason he gave for not quitting the smoking was lame (;-)), but I still think he should consider it.

The band is also working on new material for their third album and they hope to release it this Christmas... or next year... or was it October 2008? ;-) For the recordings they might get a real drummer. The man who's got the most chance of being asked is the one responsible for the kit in THE MISSION, with whom they've toured. They (ELUSIVE) are all really friendly chaps and down-to-earth. ELUSIVE is certainly a band worth checking out.

On a sidenote, the band is looking for a decent distribution company, so if you know someone who knows someone who knows some people in a certain position... you know what to do. :-)

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GARDEN OF DELIGHT plays about the same kind of music as ELUSIVE, but heavier. The drums and keyboards are also sampled here. Because they used lots of smoke, it was hard to take pictures. And silly me forgot to adjust the iso-value of his digicam, and I didn't realise it until LACRIMOSA hit the stage. Guess I was having too much fun, ey? ;-)

Where ELUSIVE can play for quite some time without becoming boring, the repertoire of GARDEN OF DELIGHT is not that varied. Some songs are fine, but not for an hour. Overall it's a good band playing some nice music, but if only their songs would be more varied... and less sampled.

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And then, the first big band of the day: HAGGARD, masters at combining classical music and Metal (so are THERION, of course). I had heard only some samples from their website, but this was a band of whom I was certainly going to get some albums. And so I did after their performance.

The band began later than planned, were with a couple of members less - in total 12 people were on stage - and had several microphone problems. Mainly the sopranos and classical instruments were sometimes hard to hear and you could see Susanne indicating to the sound engineer to lower or rise the volume of their mics. After two songs, frontman/grunter/guitarist Asis told the soundmen that half of the instruments could not be heared. This was soon no longer a problem.

HAGGARD mainly played songs from "Awaking The Centuries" and their last "Eppur Si Muove". What's so special about this band is not only the fusion of classical and Metal, but also the musicianship of all the members, be it guitars, drums, vocals, violin or anything else involved. The variation in their songs is also amazing. At times you'd think the song has ended, but that's far from the case. There is also a lot of room for e.g. the violin or the sopranos to be in the spotlight. No matter the song, everything fits and despite the sound problems, the band's performance was superb! The audience was extatic, but not as extatic as with LACRIMOSA, who were the heroes that day. HAGGARD is nevertheless a must-see live!

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Headlinging band LACRIMOSA took their time to soundcheck and put everything ready, resulting in a delay of at least 30 minutes, but once the band kicked off there was no stopping and the enthusiasm of the public could not be measured. Tilo Wolff came on stage as the last man, but once he's there in front of you... you can having nothing but admiration and respect for this great artist.

The sound was very much alright and the guitars and drums rocked like no other. For this alone I like LACRIMOSA very much, unlike other bands who put the focus on keyboards.

Tilo has got a strange voice and this is one of the typical elements of this band, but probably also the biggest obstacle to conquer to appreciate the songs. Next to his voice, Tilo's behaviour on stage is also eh... special. But that's part of the play, right?

The setlist was very well composed with a nice mix of rocking and more atmospheric songs - from almost every album, but surely not forgetting the latest, "Lichtgestalt" -, so to speak. Here and there, the drums came out very strong and powerful - to my delight, hehehe. :-) But although this is far from one of my favourite bands, I did like every single song they played. Be it heavy or mellow, it was sheer perfection.

Most of the people were fans of LACRIMOSA, which was also very clear in the number of t-shirts that they wore. Tilo was very pleased with the positive response of the crowd, when the band made two come-backs. You could see his eyes twinkling and with the typical hand gestures he thankfully accepted the applause.

His partner in crime Anne Nurmi handled the keyboards, but also took Tilo's place behind the mic (while Tilo took Anne's place behind the keyboards). She too knows how to sing. A great voice, I say.

LACRIMOSA is an other of those bands that are simply flawless in a live setting and therefore a must-see. I'd gladly see them again, especially when I have more energy. ;-)

Playlist (random order, not complete): Intro - Ich bin der brennende Komet - Stolzes Herz - Senses (Anne Nurmi) - Not every pain hurts (Anne Nurmi) - Kelch der Liebe - Alles Lüge - Kabinet der Sinne - Schakal - Lichtgestalt - Der morgen Danach - Copycat - Road to Pain

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The Gothic Festival was all in all a good one, mainly because of HAGGARD and LACRIMOSA, but let's not forget ELUSIVE and opener ROSA CRUX. Those were the band that stood out for me and in that order. Another pluspoint was the location, which was close to my home. More bands should come there or at least in the neighbourhood. I enjoyed it, discovered great new music and now have extra work with checking those bands out. ;-) If there will be another festival next year and the line-up contains bands of the same level as HAGGARD and LACRIMOSA, then I might be present again.

More pictures can viewed at this location.

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