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.:Festival Reviews:.

27/07/2008 – ALCATRAZ METAL FESTIVAL (Brielpoort, Deinze, Belgium)

Alcatraz Concerts (website) has already organised several concerts, booking bands like BOLT THROWER, OCEANS OF SADNESS, GOD DETHRONED, LAAZ ROCKIT, AFTER ALL, W.A.S.P., MORBID ANGEL and many others, plys having a few festivals dedicated to the big names in Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. In addition, they were also the organisation that took/take care of FORBIDDEN's European tour this year. Just head over to the website for more info.

While for the big names one is usually obliged to go to the Biebob in Vosselaar or wait for Graspop, Alcatraz Concerts held the first edition of its own festival and to celebrate this they made a very interesting bill (see below) that made anyone not attending the fest jealous as hell, also because it's not so often that such bands (e.g. EXODUS, DORO, LEGION OF THE DAMNED, ...) play in this area of Belgium. Sadly enough, a few days before the start PRIMAL FEAR had to cancel their appearance, due to presales not reaching the desired number. Was it the wrong timing? The fact that it was close to Wacken Open Air? Decreasing purchase power? As Nico from said on the organisation's MySpace blog: "The absentees were wrong not to come." A replacement was found in time: the Belgian Thrash/Hardcore band TRENCHFOOT, who would then open the festival.

Upon arrival there were already many Metalheads enjoying the burning sun or the coolness of the venue. As more hours passed more people joined and the venue became even more crowded, which was also the case outside. But it was never too full like you had to push your way out or anything.

Alcatraz Concerts logo

13h00: Doors
14h00-14h40: TRENCHFOOT (B) -
16h25-17h10: MORTAL SIN (AUS) -
17h40-18h30: BENEDICTUM (USA) -
19h00-20h00: LEGION OF THE DAMNED (NL) -
20h30-21h45: EXODUS (USA) -
22h15-23h45: DORO (DE) -

TRENCHFOOT hit the stage at 14h00. This is a Belgian Thrash/Hardcore band that seems to have been alive since a couple of years (how about ten?), yet I have to confess they're totally new to me. But that's ok, you can't know 'em all and it's always interesting to hear new stuff. The vocalist immediately took the crowd by the throat and told 'em what to expect, but in a friendly/humorous manner, though. ;-) The enthusiasm and passion litterally dripped from their skins. The five guys have a new album out since a few weeks, "Turn On.Tune In.Drop Out", so it was normal that a lot (if not all) of the material would come from that release. Fast riffing, violent drumming and words flowing out of the speakers to energise the crowd and get some activity going. The sound was very good, at least to my ears. Guitars, bass drums, ... heavy, powerful, well-balanced and realistic. I had no reason to complain. Although the main part consisted of the heavy riffs, there was a short solo in a few songs. Lyrically the texts are, as Vez (vox) stated, about titties, sex, pedophiles (he also gave a rant about those people, about them being the worst thing alive)... about life, in short. The song titles also give you some sort of indication of that. Anyhow, all things considered I found TRENCHFOOT a very decent band that could get far, even though it's nothing original. They showed their potential and as an opener they succeeded very well.


Heads On Sticks
Cultivated Christ
Earn Your Stripes
Your World Is Dead
Putting Out The Fire
Dead End Love
Terminal Disease

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The Dutch band THE LUCIFER PRINCIPLE hit the stage next. They play a groovy kind of Death Metal, but the special element in their instrumentation is the contrabass instead of an electric bass guitar. And instead of the guy simply playing the bass, at most times he almost tore the strings to pieces, plucking at them enthusiastically. Earik may not be the biggest guy, but he sure has one hell of a throat. The music was very energetic, and there was a nice change between the uptempo and slower songs. So far THE LUCIFER PRINCIPLE has two demos and one full album, which surprised me, because I thought this band had been Metallizing the world to Death for several years with of course at least three full albums. Seems like its members and Earik in particular do have gained lots of experience in the past. Either way, it was great to witness this storm of brutality, although I would have enjoyed a bass solo. ;-) The setlist contained two songs I couldn't place: "Bibs" and "Grave". It certainly aren't titles off their two demos or full length.


The Pitch Black Dawn
Soul Saviour Throat Cut
Feeding the Land of the Dead
Into Decay
I Am the Law

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The Australians from MORTAL SIN were put on the bill only a few months ago, as 3 INCHES OF BLOOD couldn't make it. Personally I found that news to be bad, since I didn't think too highly about MORTAL SIN's latest album, "Absence Of Faith" (2007), since it wasn't the kind of Thrash I usually expect and also because too many songs were in the midtempo range. Still, I read on several websites and/or forums that the band's live performance was different. So I was very sceptical when the band hit the stage, but with the first song they really surprised me... in a positive way. That was the Thrash I wanted to hear. With the sound being very good, the songs' power came out really well. The band's stage presence was good and especially Mat's and Andy's (respectively vocals and bass) performance could not be ignored. As there was no setlist on stage and I'm not that familiar with the band's repertoire, I can't tell which songs they played, but let it be clear that the newest album wasn't forgotten. While my impression of the studio version of MORTAL SIN was low, I surely can only speak positively about the live version. Thrash fans, this is a band that's worth seeing. Live is where their power lies, not on CD.

Playlist: ??

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And then, another band I had come for and one I really wanted to see live, mainly due to their very good album "Seasons Of Tragedy" (one of the best of 2008) and the interview I had with frontwoman Veronica Freeman last December: BENEDICTUM. You could see there was some nervosity, especially with Veronica and guitarist Pete Wells (or he's just so humble, I don't know ;-)). Veronica had a soar throat, probably from the several gigs and not having enough rest between them. This was a bit of a problem at first, but after a few songs her singing did improve a bit. Let's just say that the energy she put into the performance made the throat problem trivial and neglectable. The band also had two new members on board: Chris Shrum on bass and Tony Diaz on keyboards. Both did a very good job and Chris's performance was actually very good, the sound was very good here as well, even for the bass. Drummer Paul could have continued for another hour or two, seeing with what ease he played. It was hot on stage and in the photopit, so you could see the sweat dripping from his face afterwards. This was the band's last gig on European soil, since they would head home the next day... to continue their lives. BENEDICTUM will return to Belgium in October for the Metal Female Voices Fest on the 19th, which is the second day. Fourth band in a row that gave the crowd and me a very entertaining time. Same place next year?


Two Steps To The Sun
Burn It Out
Bare Bones
Shell Shock
Beast In The Field
Balls To The Wall (ACCEPT cover)
Seasons Of Tragedy
Ashes To Ashes

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Time for another round of Thrash. LEGION OF THE DAMNED, formerly known as OCCULT, has been around for quite some time and thus very active with their music and gigs, especially promoting "Sons Of The Jackal" (2007). Earlier this year they released "Feel The Blade", which was the third album - a re-recording of "Elegy for the Weak" (2003), made when the band was still called OCCULT - for which they worked with produce Andy Classen, to give them a fat, but brutal sound. . This wasn't any different in Deinze, where they really thrashed the place. Great sound, very good throat and overall tight playing. This was an unstoppable force that could only be slowed down a bit, but it would fight back ruthlessly. Three albums up their sleeves, so they had plenty of choice. While LEGION OF THE DAMNED may be a Thrash band, you won't find that many guitarsolos since Richard prefers the heavy riffs. Nevertheless, the result is for the largest part very tastey and it was thus a joy to watch and listen. I think I'm going to get their debut and latest release one of the coming days.


Slaughtering The pigs
Undead Stillborn
Death's Head March
Son Of The Jackal
Bleed For Me
Malevolent Rapture
Reapers Call
Werewolf Corpse
Legion Of The Damned

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Due to PRIMAL FEAR having been cancelled and TRENCHFOOT technically replaced them, EXODUS got an upgrade as co-headliner of the festival. And I can't say it was a bad move, because many had come to see these veteren Thrashers. Active since almost 30 years (1979), this band has influenced many, including METALLICA, to keep the Thrash flame burning. Many words have already been written about this band, many gigs have been played, and the band can be proud on what they've recorded so far. EXODUS has been fighting back since 2004 with "Tempo Of The Damned" to show the world they are still alive and kicking and to show how Thrash should be played. Seeing EXODUS on Belgian soil isn't easy, since it's mostly on festivals, especially at Graspop, Belgium's biggest Metal festival. Seeing them in the large area of my backyard, so to speak, was not to be missed and an excellent and first opportunity to witness this band live. I have several of their albums, but since they don't come to Belgium every year, I couldn't do anything else but wait for a suiting event/date. The set started with the classic "Bonded By Blood", which got the whole crowd (or biggest part) shouting it along. After a few songs, Rob was getting angry why there wasn't a moshpit yet, indicating it with an angry face and circling with his finger. He was the loudest and most active member on stage. Gary has been playing guitar since ever, so he didn't need much effort to do his job. Lee on the other hand seemed to have some sound problems during a solo. At some point I thought he was going to stop playing at all, since he seemed to be aggrivated, checking his amplifier and what not, but for me there was no problem. Perhaps it was his monitor. Rob shortly afterwards also indicated that his mic was too loud. Just little things that didn't bother me or the crowd, but somewhere in the middle of the set Jack's bass came through very heavily in the monitors and you could see the setlist dancing up and down. Speaking of which, since I went outside a few times, I missed a few songs, so "Death" could either be "Deathamphetamine", "Now Thy Death Day Come", or one of the older songs like "'Til Death Do Us Part", but my guess is that it's one of the first two. Oh right, Tom Hunting? No problem at all for him, as he hit the snare with such power like it could crack any moment. To cut things short: it was heaven on earth. My first EXODUS gig and it was perfect all the way. They still Thrash, even more than many newer bands and their time certainly isn't over yet.


Bonded By Blood
Funeral Hymn
And Then There Were None
Children Of A Worthless God
Now Thy Death Day Come (?)
War Is My Sheppard
Toxic Waltz
Strike Of The Beast
Shovel Headed Kill Machine

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The last band to occupy the stage was the mighty DORO. Scheduled for 22h15 the band had some troubles with the soundcheck, lights, backpanel, ... and you could see (backstage) that Oliver Palotai (guitar/keyboards) walking around nervously. The other guitarist, Joe Taylor, was in desperate need of rest as his eyes showed evidence of longtime acitivity. But two beers brought him a bit back to life to give his all on stage. Doro herself is quite little, which was a surprise for me. Yes, it was also my first DORO gig. Of course, the majority of the crowd had come for the Queen of Metal, who will soon (in December) celebrate the 25th anniversary of her career in Düsseldorf (her hometown), Germany. The sound was awesome and heavy. While on CD the band is good, here too the real power and entertainment value lies in live performances. There was absolutely not one moment that I found the gig boring. I like pure Heavy Metal a lot, but DORO isn't among my favourite bands, although I can appreciate her work when I hear it. In the photopit the number of people had grown to about three times the number of several hours ago. It was insane! How can you do your job if that place is packed like sardines in a can? Lots of those people only appeared in the pit when DORO came on. After a few songs members of Alcatraz Concerts intervened and told everyone to leave. About the show: like I said, it was quite simply awesome to hear, to see, to be there. Doro showed lots of gratitude for the people in the venue, for the fans, for the great times she's had so far. From time to time she talked about the past, about her first time in Belgium, and other little things. Since she had a career with WARLOCK in the 1980s before continuing under her own name DORO, it's obvious that her repertoire is so much bigger and offers a lot to choose from. And this was another reason why I very much enjoyed the show: the old songs. It was also very cool that she let some die-hard fans sing the words to "All We Are": "All we are, all we are we are, we are all, all we need". Every now and then she'd pick someone from the crowd and point the mic to him/her. The drumsolo was a very entertaining and welcome extra for a show that was a 100% success. Doro live = must-see!


Earthshaker Rock
I Rule The Ruins
You're My Family
Burning The Witches
True As Steel
Above The Ashes
Burn It Up
East Meets West
Für Immer
Breaking The Law (JUDAS PRIEST cover)
All We Are
Love Me In Black
Fight For Rock
Metal Racer
Always Live To Win

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Conclusion: A sort of mini-Graspop full of qualitative Metal in my (very large) backyard isn't something that happens every weekend or month. Usually one must go to the Biebob, Vosselaar, to see big bands perform and that isn't such a favourable location, especially if you can't stay the night with a friend or have your own transport. Therefore it's a blessing to have organisations like Alcatraz Concerts who bring Metal to the people in a wide region. It took 'em a few years, but they finally managed to hold their own festival and for a first edition it had to be special. Being able to add bands like EXODUS, LEGION OF THE DAMNED and the Queen of Metal (Doro) deserves kudos. Sure, with PRIMAL FEAR it would have been even better, but the other bands all did a more than great job at making this an awesome day. If all goes well, we should be able to have this experience every year or maybe every two years, depending on the necessary means. It ain't Wacken, it ain't Graspop, but it does have the atmosphere and pleasure that is so important. So, here's to the first edition and - cheers! - and fingers crossed for more editions.

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04/04/2008 – PAGANFEST (Hof Ter Lo, Borgerhout, Belgium)

Paganfest (website) is an organized travelling group of bands that play in the same league, musically or thematically. You could compare it with Gigantour, although the bands there don't have a spcific bond. The Paganfest tour will travel through several European countries in April and May before crossing the Atlantic ocean to hit the American and Canadian shores.

The European line-up consists of TÝR, ELUVEITIE, MOONSORROW, KORPIKLAANI and ENFISERUM. For each country there was a contest where local Pagan Metal bands could enter and acquire votes to gain a spot on the list, to open the show in their respective country. For Belgium the victors were ANGELI DI PIETRA, who are from Antwerp, so they didn't have to cross such a big distance. This band had set up a big campagne, especially via MySpace, making sure lots of people would vote for them. Seems like the efforts paid off.

Upon arrival little less than one hour before the doors opened, there were already a lot of people waiting outside and many were waiting to obtain their ticket. Many Metalheads were dressed for the occasion, wearing a Folk/Viking Metal t-shirt from e.g. FINNTROLL, KORPIKLAANI, TÝR, ... Before I go on, I'd like to thank Bob Schoenmaekers for putting me on the list.

Paganfest logo

18h00: Doors
18h15-18h45: ANGELI DI PIETRA (B) -
19h00-19h30: TÝR (FRO) -
19h45-20h15: ELUVEITIE (CH) -
20h30-21h15: MOONSORROW (FI) -
21h35-22h25: KORPIKLAANI (FI) -
22h50-23h50: ENFISERUM (FI) -

ANGELI DI PIETRA hit the stage soon after the doors were opened and played for a good 30 minutes. As you might remember from my review of Rock Mandeldaele (lower on this page), that was my first acquaintance with the band and their music, which was a very pleasant experience. I could basically use pieces from that review for this one here, but there are a few things that need their own words. The sound was good to very good, including Vincent's drumkit, indeed. The guitarwork, courtesy of Gael and Quevin, was again of a high quality - I didn't expect anything else - and the singing was also very much alright. At least, Guy's growling was close to flawless, but I thought that Sjoera lacked some power compared to a few weeks back in Izegem. Perhaps the large crowd surprised her and prevented her from singing out of full chest. But that was only a small detail as the overall performance was actually better than before. Everyone was very confident that they would do well. The crowd left little doubt alive, as they cheered en masse after almost each song and especially when the band's playtime had come to an end. ANGELI DI PIETRA were hailed as heroes, despite them having to get used to the many people in the room. The future looks bright, let that be clear.


R.I.T.N.W.M.A.P. (Intro)
The Moor
For Us, Fallen Ones
Mannanán Mac Lir
Legendary Forest

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At 19h00 it was time for TÝR to present itself and its music again, after their performance back in November 2006, when they were on tour with WINTERSUN and AMON AMARTH. That was also the first time I saw this Faroese band live. They did a good job, although mainly their stage presence could still use some tweaking. Like before I had an interview planned, but that would proove to be a difficult undertaking - not about seeing the guys again, for that went very well - since they were either too tired or had their minds set on other things. It certainly wasn't easy to get the answers out of mainly Heri and Terji. But let's focus on the gig: Like ANGELI DI PIETRA they were given 30 minutes, despite having 2 albums up their sleeve. Well, 3 if you count "How Far To Asgaard", and a new one, "Land", coming out next month. Because of this new album the setlist was composed to lift a tip of the veil. The first two songs were new - "Gandkvaedi Tróndar" and "Sinklars Visa" -, but "Wings Of Time" brought the focus back to the band's current album "Ragnarok". "Fipan Fagra" was the third new song. The band's classic "Hail To The Hammer" ended the setlist. This song is also to be found as re-recorded version on "Land", whereas the original version was one of the bonustracks on the re-release of "Eric The Red".

If the sound was good to very good for ANGELI DI PIETRA, things were a bit more raw for TÝR, but the band's stage presence was much better than before. The Faroese Metallers seem to be quite popular in Belgium, as the crowd's enthusiasm didn't cease. On a sidenote: drummer Kari couldn't make it for this tour, since he got injured. His cousin and pupil Amon Djurhuus replaced him and will do so for the rest of the European leg of Paganfest. He did a good job, but in my opinion he still misses the feeling Kari puts into the songs and drumming in general. Time and practise are two important elements to improve your skills. I'm sure Amon will get better and who knows, will be a fixed no. 2 when Heri and co. need someone to fill in for Kari.


Gandkvaedi Tróndar
Sinklars Visa
Wings Of Time
Fipan Fagra
Hail To The Hammer

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Switzerland's ELUVEITIE was the third to conquer the stage, whereas in The Netherlands they played before TÝR - or so I was told. Earlier this year they released their second album, "Slania", the follow-up to the successful "Spirit". At the moment they are in the grand league of Folk Metal bands, together with KORPIKLAANI, ENSIFERUM, FINNTROLL and others. The success has increased tremendously and with the new album that should improve even more. On CD they are good, very good, but when it comes to live transitions I had yet to witness the splendor and greatness of their performances. First of all, the line-up. This is more than a 4-man band, so that alone left an impression on me. Seeing them play their songs with great enthusiam - especially Sevan Kirder, responsable for the tin and low whistles, Irish flute and gaita, who really had a great time apparently, but violinist Meri Tadic (fiddle, vocals) also enjoyed the time on stage - made the experience only better. Most of the songs came off the "Slania" album, although a couple off "Spirit" completed the setlist. As difficult it might seem to bring this mix of Folk and Melodic Death on stage, ELUVEITIE did a very good job, on all levels. The crowd was more than exstatic, I can assure you, even though I didn't watch the entire set due to the interview with TÝR. To cut things short: Make sure you go see this Paganfest tour and/or ELUVEITIE seperately, for it's really worth it.


Inis Mona
Gray Sublime Archon
Of Fire, Wind & Wisdom
Bloodstained Ground
The Somber Lay
Your Gaulish War

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I was back right on time to see MOONSORROW, the Black/Folk/Viking Metalband from Finland. This band has been alive since 1995, born Black Metal grounds and gradually heading into a Folk/Viking direction. So far they have 5 full albums on their account, with this year having added an EP, "Tulimyrsky". While their CDs, or at least the few I heard, gave me a fairly hard time to stay focused (I listened to them at the shop, so that might explain it all a bit better), I was curious to see how they pull it off live, since they might be one of the bands that really shine in a live setting. And I have to admit that their mix of Black/Folk/Viking Metal went down quite easily. I can't say I didn't like this or that song. Speaking of songs: there was no sign of a setlist and since I don't own any MOONSORROW release, I can't add which songs they played. But I guess they will have chosen a good mixture off their 5 albums. I do know that they played at least one song from one of their demos, also because Ville Seponpoika Sorvali (bass, vocals) asked who in the audience knew the band's demo stuff. At a given moment, I did want something different to listen to, or at least something faster. The 'down' moment - let's call it that - was soon eradicated by the songs that followed. Right now, I'm doubting whether or not I should buy (at least one of) their albums. I'll see for some online samples, listen properly at the shop and then decide, even though chances exist at least one album could find its way to my collection. For now, I prefer their Swedish colleagues from MÅNEGARM, of whom I have the entire discography. Anyhow, MOONSORROW live turned out to be a very interesting experience.

Playlist: none, sorry.

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KORPIKLAANI hit the stage around 21h30. These Fins have so far 5 full albums up their sleeves, since 2003's "Spirit Of The Forest" and is also one of the best-known bands around. So in a way it's very logical that these Fins were given a longer playtime than the previous four bands. KORPIKLAANI's success increased rapidly and encouraged them to release an album each year, starting with "Voice Of Wilderness" in 2005, "Tales Along This Road" in 2006, "Tervaskanto" last year and since a few weeks - via their new label home Nuclear Blast - "Korven Kuningas", for which this Paganfest event is used as promotional tool. With each album the band grew into a more solid Folk block, conquering many nations, acquiring more fans for their legion. The fact that several dates are/were sold out is partly proof of how well the music is accepted. Considering the longer playtime they had, Jonne and co. chose to bring a varied dish consisting of songs from each of those 5 albums. Around this time the crowd was pumped up enough for this 'party' and the crowd-surfers were omni-present, giving a lot of work to the people of security. I don't think too many people minded, although it did interrupt your view of the show, you had to shift your focus to make sure you didn't get kicked or hurt, as was the case with at least one person. Songwise the classics were not forgotten: "Journey Man", "Happy Little Boozer" (one that really got the crowd going!), "Hunting Song", ... It all went down extremely well and for many in the room the evening was already more than a success. I had the impression the band has a very pleasant time, too. :-) KORPIKLAANI are nice on CD, but very entertaining live, oh yes they are!


Wooden Pints
Cottages And Saunas
Tuli Kokko
Keep On Galloping
Journey Man
Paljo On Koskessa Kiviä
Happy Little Boozer
Hunting Song
Let's Drink
?? (my picture of the playlist isn't that clear there)

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ENSIFERUM is the headliner for all European dates and it was around 22h50 that their time had come to conquer the Belgian audience. As last band they had 60 minutes to play their set, but due to the extreme enthusiasm of the public they extended their set to a good 70 minutes. The band's first two albums were good to very good, mainly because of Jari Mäenpää (vocals, guitars, keyboards, ...). He left the band in 2004, the year of "Iron", and formed WINTERSUN, of which the debut came out in that same year. Petri Lindroos from NORTHER joined ENSIFERUM to take over the guitar and vocal parts. The band also needed to seek a new bassist and drummer, who left one year after Jari's departure. I had seen Jari at work in November 2006, when WINTERSUN was on tour with TÝR and AMON AMARTH. I can assure it was a very solid performance, making you long for more. Anyhow, the new ENSIFERUM line-up worked on the follow-up of "Iron" and released it last year under the title "Victory Songs". All in all a decent album, although somewhat different than before. Seeing this band also came to Belgium made me excited. Not that it's one of my favourites, but I do think they bring very decent Folk-influenced Melodic Death Metal.

Personally I thought the entire band did a very good job and Petri showed he has a good throat, although he's no Jari. The guitarwork, the backing keyboards, the extremely well-played drums and the very enthusiastic Sami Hinkka (bass) made this last hour very enjoyable. The setlist was very diverse, covering all three albums and each of those songs was well executed. The public definitely loved the material. The many girls in the crowd showed their sympathy and love for Petri by screaming many times. Like with KORPIKLAANI there were many people that did some crowdsurfing. But as 'few' as there were at that time, the numbers of surfers increased severely during ENSIFERUM's show. Speaking about the musicians again: it's a pity Emmi Silvennoinen stood so far away, even though the shield in front of her was inline with the theme, and so were the band's own side-panels, instead of those with the Paganfest logo. Unless these weren't ENSIFERUM's panels. But that's a detail.

Drumwise I have nothing but respect for the stamina Janne Parviainen showed. A diverse setlist was indeed needed to properly divide the energy, but even in the last 15-30 minutes he played with such ease, as if he had just started. Uptempo, midtempo, back to a faster pace... no problem at all. But I guess he did need to re-energize himself with food and drinks afterwards. ;-) To conclude I can only remain positive. ENSIFERUM was great, or at least very good and proved to be a good closing band. The harder Metal was welcome after the more Folk Metal of their country fellow men.


One More Magic Potion
Lai Lai Hei
Guardians of Fate
Token Of Time
(Finnish?) Medley
Victory Song
Battle Song

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Conclusion: The Paganfest tour is a great initiative and a great opportunity for many to see some big names in the Folk Metal genre, or better said, Pagan Metal, although that refers more to the lyrical aspect than the music itself. The organization was very good, the people enjoyed the show, and having sold out since many weeks indicates that these bands or this genre is very much liked in Belgium and in other countries. Letting local bands 'battle' for a place on the list is also an interesting idea, as sharing the stage with big names stands good on their CVs, plus the crowd gets to know upcoming talent. I basically can't say anything bad about this event, for I'm very glad to have witnessed it and spent a very nice evening. For those that still have to attend the show: you won't regret it, I assure you. Those doubting or still not in possession of a ticket: go for it!

More pictures can viewed at this location.

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15/03/2008 – ROCK MANDELDAELE: Female Voices (Izegem, Belgium)

Rock Mandeldaele is a local event, organized on a monthly basis, by the people of Café Mandeldaele (website). This takes place in Emelgem, an adjacent community of Izegem, Belgium. Rock Mandeldaele is a general name for the concerts: one time you've got cover bands coming over, another time the organizers opt for something more extreme and last Saturday, the 15th, 4 female-fronted bands were scheduled, all Belgian, except for the Dutch headliner: EVERGLOW, GWYLLION, ANGELI DI PIETRA and SYLVER MYST. Although I had never heard of this event or the whole setup of ROCK MANDELDAELE, my attention was drawn because of the poster that SYLVER MYST put on their MySpace page.

I've known the Dutch Gothic Metallers (not just the music, but also the people) since 2 and ½ years now (September 2005), thanks to winning a small competition at the time of the release of their MCD "Depths Of Illusions". You can read the review of the release party, the MCD, their preceding demo "Strains Of Souls" and the band's first album "Emotions Revealed" (2006) on the respective Review pages. Since the band was always being booked for gigs in The Netherlands, I found it strange no one in Belgium did an effort to bring them over. Seems like it's easier to book EPICA, AFTER FOREVER, WITHIN TEMPTATION, etc... But after many months of nagging from my part (hehehe), they finally got their first Belgian gig and close to where I live, which makes it even better. More below.

Before I talk about the bands, I'd like to thank Guy and Hilde for not only organizing Rock/Metal gigs on a monthly basis and so close to home, but also keeping the flame burning in West-Flanders in general. Hail!


EVERGLOW had the honour to start the evening, not at 18h30, but around 19h, most likely because the soundcheck took longer than expected. This female-fronted band from Melsele was formed in 2000 is to be catalogued under Power Metal (midtempo with a couple of uptempo songs/moments) and have so far two demos up their sleeves: "A New Life" (2001) and "Turn Back Time" (2005). Like so many bands they've undergone a couple of line-up changes, even not so long ago, as two new members were introduced last Saturday: guitarist Thomas Abeel and keyboardist Katrijn Van Hoye. Both did a good job and Thomas certainly is a strong addition, even though his guitar didn't come out well enough and was drowned by Alain's heavy riffing, but also Katrijn's atmospheric keyboards.

Cindy, co-founder, has a very clean, melodic voice which fits reasonably well amongst the heavy guitarwork, although after a couple of songs it became clear to me - with all due respect - that her voice lacks power. On certain occasions I was also expecting a more gently voice. I did have to take some time to get into the material, since I hand't checked out EVERGLOW before. Musically there are some good things to discover, but I didn't hear anything that really suprised me, nor was there anything catchy or sticky. The guitars provide the power, the keyboards have a more backing role and sometimes I even wondered what the purpose was of this instrument, since certain songs could be carried perfectly by the guitars. Standing out throughout the entire set were the drums and I can only conclude that it's up to Stephan to keeps things interesting and alive.

EVERGLOW played for a good hour, playing almost everything from their two demos, thus giving a more than good 'view' of what their music is about. All in all I can say that their performance was good, but nothing superexciting. The vocals remain the weakest link and if you're going to use keyboards, I hope it's not just for backing. With two new members I hope they'll evolve further and create even better material, else I fear the band will remain stuck on this level.


Far Away
Turn Back Time
Like A Shadow
The Other World
Frozen Tears
The Escape

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Around 20h50 it was time for GWYLLION to hit the stage. Wouter's enormous and stunning drumkit took the most space, leaving little room for Steve, Martijn, Annelore and Thomas to move around. The band from Kortrijk had to start earlier, originally, but due to major sound problems the start had to be postponed again and again. One time the drums were too loud, then the keyboards and guitars weren't well matched, Annelore not hearing anything through her monitors.... In the end the guitarvolume was decreased to let the keyboards come out stronger, although the drums still remained the loudest instrument.

I could copy-paste the text from the report of Frostrock, but considering the sound problems, it wouldn't be right to do so. Annelore once again sang extremely well, perhaps even better than at Frostrock. I couldn't believe my ears and I don't care how much butt I'm kissing here. Wouter's performance was - like before - top notch and nothing less but perfect. Excellent drummer, I tells ya! The guitarwork was still loud enough to do the songs justice. Joris (keyboards) was now more in the spotlights, which was good. The setlist was long, even longer than in January. Of course they played everything from their debut album, "Awakening The Dream", plus the two new songs "Entwined" and "Void". If I recall, they did come back in the end, after the many cheers they received from the crowd, to play "Running Together" again, with Wouter adding some improvised fills for the fun of it.

In the last part of the set the people from SYLVER MYST had arrived and looked with great interest to what GWYLLION was doing. Like me they were enjoying the gig very much. ;-) Or in short: GWYLLION live = always a great time! I'm really looking forward to the new material, but that will have to wait until fall or later, since the mixing and mastering is planned for this summer.


Strings Of Fate
Forever Me
Curse Of The Wise
Running Together
Once Upon A Lifetime
Lost In A Dream

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ANGELI DI PIETRA was the surprise of the evening, as far as I'm concerned, although SYLVER MYST also showed a great improvement since the last time I saw them. Weeks before this show I got to know the band via MySpace and found their material quite good, but I never properly checked them. Buying their demos probably is useless, because sold out.

Long before the show I had a talk with vocalist Sjoera, who showed to be a sympathetic human being, so to speak. ;-) When hearing she had to work the next day (Sunday) it was clear she wouldn't stay too long, but that didn't mean her performance would be less, oh no. Together with Guy, who's in charge of the grunts and screams, she did a very good job contrasting him with soft, angelic singing. The first input from Guy made me frown a bit, as I found his screams and grunts a bit more fit for Hardcore and similar, but once his throat was warmed up that reference was banned immediately.

Musically the band plays Gothic Metal, but put a big Folk stamp on it (e.g. "For Us, Fallen Ones"). The setlist was composed with new songs and material from their second demo, "Believe In Angels" (2005), which is like the first, "Songs Of Solace" (2004), completely sold out. The band will soon enter the studio to record their first full-length album. To still the hunger until then, there was a possibility to obtain a free EP containing pre-demo recordings of "For Us, Fallen Ones", "Torquemada" and "Dawn Of Possession" (off the "Believe In Angels" demo), during and after the show. But you had to be quick.

There wasn't one song I thought was bad, also because the band had created a good setlist, offering a good dose of variety. There was one song that had an Arabic feel - via the guitars, which was a pleasant surprise -, but I can't recall the title. The atmosphere was good, very entertaining and Guy's stage presence was good. He really brought positive energy, jumping around like a kid getting new toys. ;-) It was strange, though, since it was a Metal night, not a Jump night. The music was very good, very tight - absolutely great guitarsound! - and everyone was very coherent, except during the cover of FINNTROLL's "Trollhammaren", when Gaël didn't stop the lead, but soon corrected that after a quick glance at Guy. That specific moment was quite funny and shows that 1) things don't always have to go perfectly and 2) they're human, meaning mistakes can happen.

Kudos is also appropriate for Vincent for his powerful and well-executed duty behind the drumkit. Still, GWYLLION had sound problems during the warm-up, but the drums never were in trouble. With ANGELI DI PIETRA it was exactly that instrument that needed more attention, but I think that would have postponed things even more. The hits on the snare were good, yet nothing more, but the toms were barely audible, even though Vincent did hit them. I was hoping the soundman would correct it, but nope.

All things taken into account, it's safe to say that ANGELI DI PIETRA has a bright future ahead of them and are, like GWYLLION, one of the underground pearls/diamonds in the rough of Belgium. Or Flanders, if you wish to keep it local.


Storm Over Scaldis
Ride Into Oblivion
Dawn Of Possession
For Us, Fallen Ones
Trollhammaren (FINNTROLL cover)
Mannanán Mac Lir
The Moor
Legendary Forest

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SYLVER MYST was the headliner of this evening of Female-Fronted Metal, but by the time they got on stage, which was around 23h00, the number of people in the room had decreased, and it got worse once the band's set really took off. The people that did stay - like the members from GWYLLION - were right to do so. SYLVER MYST showed lots of energy, passion and the will to make this an unforgettable evening. Being a fan I cannot suppress any subjectivity, but since this was my second SYMY gig, I can honestly say it was totally different and more mature since so many years ago. Marjolein chose many time for a more operatic approach, which was mindblowing. It seems she has been working on this since the release of "Emotions Revealed".

This gig was also the first opportunity for me to meet bassist Marco Brugmans, who had to skip the other gigs due to whatever reason. But we had some great talks about the band, about the deal with Sirenette Music Industries - the band's American label home - and smaller stuff. I also learned that drummer Marc Jaspers would leave the band after Rock Mandeldaele. I had come especially for SYMY, but I never expected this to happen. But that's how things go and even this band isn't free from such changes. Marc will focus on his own business, Dark Shop (website), regarding band merchandise like t-shirts, longsleeves, and much more. No news about his replacement yet, though.

SYLVER MYST started late, but also ended late, playing 01h30 or something, older and even new material (see *). The new songs, with especially "Entangled By Lies" being a great one, head more in a Progressive Direction, but not forgetting what the band played before. Although I'm bad at learning lyrics - especially when you get to listen to many CDs - I did manage to sing along a bit with the ones off the "Depths Of Illusions" MCD (and also the "Emotions Revealed" album), mainly "Lovtred", "Escape From Reality" and "Waiting For A New Day". It brought back a lot of good memories.

To make the gig and rest of the evening even more interesting and pleasant, guitarist Rob joked around, stood in the audience (what was left of it) like any other Metalhead - during "My Valentine", which left Didier as sole guitarist - and when heaviness was required again, he jumped in front of the stage and gave his all. Now, if you don't him, you probably wouldn't care that much, but it made me laugh. And that's one of the things you don't see at bigger concerts... I think. After the very heavy "My Third Eye" the band added a bonus - "Devoted Yet Unable" - which was very well digested by the people that stayed until the last moment.

The fact remains that SYLVER MYST really needs and deserves someone (manager, label, ...) who can give their career a serious boost with more gigs, better promotion and anything else that is needed to progress. The new material sounded very promising and I can't wait to hear the final product, for it will be even better than the very nice "Emotions Revealed"... I think and hope. :-)


Enemy Forever *
Depth Of Illusion
Thrown Away + ABBA *
Strains Of Souls
Entangled By Lies *
My Valentine
A Life's Tale
Escape From Reality
Deep Within "Temptation" *
Waiting For A New Day
As Heaven Blessed A Dying Rose
My Third Eye *
Devoted Yet Unable (bonus)

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Conclusion: Eternal hails to Guy and Hilde for organizing a monthly Rock/Metal event under the banner Rock Mandeldaele and thus providing the West-Flemish Metalheads with a entertaining evening of quality music. I had a great time and I will come back for another episode of this event. About the bands: EVERGLOW was very new to me, but could only convince me to a certain extent. Musically it's all quite alright with the drums being the most interesting instrument - considering how much input they have - and the vocals (nothing personal, though) lacking a bit of diversity, if you ask me. Still, I have the impression they won't become a well-known band, except perhaps in Belgium. That is, if they're not aiming for the sky. GWYLLION needs no extra comment, since they offer nothing but quality and consists of excellent musicians. They can get bigger and their forthcoming album - to be mixed and mastered by Jens Bogren - should, no, will be a great tool for that. ANGELI DI PIETRA was - like I said above - the surprise of the evening. They too can get far, in Belgium and abroad. They too have an album coming out this year. SYLVER MYST is one of my favourites and it was absolutely great to see them again, albeit for the second time. They've grown a lot and their stage presence and composition skills are a clear proof of that. While EPICA, AFTER FOREVER, NEMESEA, AUTUMN and so many other Gothic or Gothic-styled bands made a name out there, SYLVER MYST (SYMY for the fans) also deserves this, but it takes time and connections.

More pictures can viewed at this location.

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02/02/2008 – MIDWINTER FESTIVAL (Kuurne, Belgium)

Small apologies for the delay of this report, coming online two weeks after the event. Anyhow, many weeks before the event I had marked the day in my agenda: Midwinter Festival in Kuurne - organzied by Sandtorm vzw (website) -, AMON AMARTH as headliner. The ad in Aardschok (a big Dutch Rock/Metal magazine) was a first eyecatcher. No matter which other bands came - I didn't really pay attention to it - AMON AMRTH in your backyard is something you cannot afford to miss. Seeing Death Metal veterans GRAVE also came, was another reason to go, as it was an excellent opportunity to see what they're all about, although I had heard their last album, "As Rapture Comes", in the store when it came out. I wasn't that convinced, though, yet I thought there were some very decent songs on it. The rest of the line-up was mainly Belgian, except for the Dutch Death Metallers ASPHYX and German Black Metallers ENDSTILLE.

Before I talk about the bands, I'd like to thank Sandstorm vzw and JH Tap for organizing this festival, but foremost for choosing Kuurne (or something nearby) as location. There aren't enough Metal gigs/festivals in West-Vlaanderen (West of Flanders) - also due to suitable venues -, so such an event is always welcome. It doesn't have to be Antwerp every time, right? ;-)


I was meant to arrive in time, when the festival kicked off at 12h00, but due to a small transport problem - not finding my keys *cough* - I arrived about 25-30 minutes later. The Midwinter Festival was all about Death Metal, be it pure and raw or more melodic. The Black Metallers from ENDSTILLE were the only non-Death Metal act, even though both genres are related to each other. DAYS OF DEMISE was to kick off the afternoon and when I arrived FATAL RECOIL was already playing, which means DAYS OF DEMISE played... 15 minutes or so.

FATAL RECOIL is a very young Death Metal band, thriving on brutal riffing and growling vocals and mixing it with Hardcore... resulting in a DeathCore band, yes. The band was formed in 2003 and already faced the classical line-up changes: from two singers to one, getting another singer, etc... Musically they recorded a first demo in 2005, which was apparently sold out very quickly. One year alter a promo CD was made and in the fall of 2006 the recordings for the debut EP, "Malicious", were done and everything was released via Rotten To The Core in January 2007. The band's performance in Kuurne was also the first with a new vocalist and I don't know if it were the nerves or if he trained for it, but Michael Klaus sure walks around a lot on stage. He's FATAL RECOIL's new growler, replacing Jasper, who wanted to pursue other endeavours. So, Deathcore it is and what is to be said about it? Michael doesn't hide himself away, gives his all (I hope he's taking lessons from a vocal coach so he doesn't wreck his vocal chords too soon), and the other musicians do a pretty good job on their respective instruments, but they still have a long way to go to perfect their skills. Drumwise you get of course lots of thundering and skull-crushing playing, with on many occasions the typical blastbleats. All things considered, I'd say they did well. The sound wasn't perfect, though, as the heavy riffing was very dominant. With enough practise and dedication, they can go on for a long time. It also depends what one considers as 'long', but still...


TT Hof
Anger Point
Anguish Of The Weak
Human Downfall

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Next brutal act was BATTALION, hailing from the Antwerp region and born in 2001. BATTALION is all about old school Death Metal. Lyrically it's all war-themed, and in a way you could consider them as Belgium's BOLT THROWER, only BATTALION plays more fast(er) songs. I quickly looked up the name before going to Kuurne, but didn't keep anything in mind, and just let them surprise me. And Death Metal it was, with Ruben growling until he was hoarse - which he never was, really. He did a very fine job and musically the pounding Metal instantly made you tap your foot along, or bang your head. Brutal Metal with a good dose of catchiness. Although not everything was uptempo, the overall setlist was quite diverse or at least interesting enough to keep the full attention during the entire performance. Mainly those uptempo songs stood out, if you ask me. But don't ask which songs specifically, since - like I said - I let BATTALION surprise me, especially when I don't know anything about them. As a closing treat they played a medley of "Arise", "Ghosts Of War" and "Seek And Destroy", but without the really melodic parts (incl. solos). It then also was clear to me that Pieter's guitarskills need some tweaking on that: solos. Sure, not every song needs a solo, but to me it does make a song more complete. to each his own, I guess. Now, it could be that he can play solos, but I didn't have that impression at that moment. Two demos and a re-released album, "Winter Campaign", BATTALION have shown they have potential to last for a (long?) while and gigs will help them gain experience and sharpen their skills for the process of creating new songs, resulting in new albums.


Arise (SEPULTURA)/Ghosts Of War (SLAYER)/Seek And Destroy (METALLICA)

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IMMACULATE showed they weren't that much about hardboned, brutal Metal, as the guitarwork was much more melodic. This was another band I knew little of (and somehow still do), but the name seemed quite promising. IMMACULATE is a three-man band, with the guitar suffering from a major sound problem during the sound check. No sound came out of the amp or at least, not the right kind of sound. People running back and forth, thinking of ways to solve the problem of silence, getting new cables, making sure all was well connected, that the settings were right, and more. It took at least 15 minutes before sign of improvement started showing up. Little after 14h00 they could finally commence their set.

Musically it was something completely different after the tight BATTALION, which is a good thing, as having another direct assault would have made it harder to stay focused all the time. More melody and lots of attention for instrumental parts (incl. solos) are key aspects of what IMMACULATE think Metal should sound like. The band was brought to life in 2005 and has since then released one CDemo, "Pure Evil". Whether or not they were inspired by ICED EARTH, is unknown to me. The songs were quite diverse in melody, tempos, rhythms. Still, there wasn't one song that kept playing inside my head. Catchiness is very much absent here - or is it because I've heard too much Metal already? - and the harsh vocals became annoying after a while. But like I said, the band solves this by creating enough room for the instruments to do the talking, although even there I, for one, was wondering where the song(s) were going. They kept on playing and playing, soloing and so on, yet it was hard to follow and the end was far to seek. So, all in all, I wasn't really convinced. In my opinion, they still have a lot of work to write better songs, keeping it well structured and tweak their instrumental skills. The three (four if you look on the band's website - are still young, thus lots of time to solve these 'issues'. One final note: T-Warrior (vocals/guitar) had something Mustaine-ish, the way he stood on stage with his guitar. Not that it had an influence on the songs, but it was an interesting view. :-)


Love vs Hate
Keepers Of The Underworld
Mystica (instrumental)
Evil Killer
As You Die
Judge Yourself

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Due to the sound problems of IMMACULATE, DEDICTED's performance was postponed until +/- 15h15, some 20 minutes later. This band from Ostend has been making extreme Metal since a couple of years. I first saw them at the 2005 edition of Velorock, an annual rock/metal festival in Ostend, Belgium. They had one demo at that time. I didn't buy it, since I wasn't fully convinced yet and thought the band still had a very large progression margin. Like I said in the review of Velorock, the connections with IN FLAMES were quite clear, although DEDICTED was still a tad different from the Melodic Death that the Swedes played years ago. One year later, 2006, I received a copy of the new demo, "The Judas Window", for a review. Released in May of that year, this disc contained 3 songs and showed a different DEDICTED, one that had evolved a lot and had chosen a specific direction: Thrash, but with lots of Groove and Progressiveness. Either I didn't pay enough attention in 2005 or even when reviewing the demo, but it only occured to me in Kuurne that the clean vocals are/were done by Jason (drums). Now, it wasn't so obvious to detect it, although Mehdi's voice doesn't exactly have such a light sound, with all the screaming. ;-) Catchiness is something the Ostenders do know how to implement, proof of which was delivered in "The Parade Of The Depraved" and "As Usual".

At the end of the demo review I said "Support talent and give these guys a contract so they can put out a couple of kick-ass albums.". Shiver Records must have read it, since they offered DEDICTED that contract. The first album will be "Argonauts", scheduled for release in March. But before this happens, the band has to gig to get the name and news spread. One of the few gigs anno 2008 is thus the one at the Midwinter Festival. The setlist consisted of new songs only, starting with the ferocious and venomous "The Revenant". Brutal riffing from start to finish, dual vocals (Mehdi growling in the verses, Jason doing a clean version in the chorus), and the China cymbal dominating throughout the entire song, as if Jason sees it as the new hi-hat or riding cymbal, hahaha. After the show he told me it's a habit, also to add more power to the songs. It's very rare that he'll use the hi-hat, except in e.g. the chorus. The rest of the material was in roughly the same vein, although it's hard to remember it all after this first acquaintance with the new material. "Hostage" was another brutal song, where the tempo was upped a couple of levels. This one grabs you instantly by the throat and I already know that this is one of my favourites. Regarding the other songs and forming an opinion: so far, so good, but I'll wait to comment properly until I can do a review.

The fact remains that DEDICTED is a hardworking band, wanting to gig, to share the passion for Metal and the signing to Shiver Records and Sandstorm vzw (promotions and bookings) should give their career a boost. Musically it's still Progressive and not that Thrashy anymore. At least not pure Thrash. To me they're now quite close to Thrashcore and they do a very good job at it. Oh yes, before I forget: they added solos, which was not the case on "The Judas Window". Well, it's not that every song has intricate soloing, but here and there you'll find one, even though I still think they need to add a few more. ;-)


The Revenant
A Darker Shade

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Around 16h17 it was time for one of the biggest bands in Belgium: AXAMENTA. Formed in 1993, this band is active in the Black Metal subgenre and has so far released three albums, of which their latest ("Ever-Arch-I-Tech-Ture", 2006) reaped a lot of success. On "Codex Barathri" it was still Symphonic Black Metal, but on the follow-up this band from Antwerp went for Progressive Death/Black, without forgetting the symphonic elements. The production was dealt with by Jacob Hansen, who has been one of the most asked producers of the last couple of years (AXAMENTA, TÝR, SVARTSOT, DESTRUCTION, PARADOX, ANUBIS GATE, ...), while the mixing and mastering was done at respectively Studio Fredman and The Mastering Room. "Ever-Arch-I-Tech-Ture" was my no. 1 album of 2006 and although the band has played many gigs since then, I was very pleased to see they came to Kuurne, since that meant a perfect chance for me to experience the material in a live setting.

And it was great, despite the sound in the hall not being perfect. Yet, the atmosphere and melodies (backing tapes) cmae out good enough and everyone was doing a good job on their respective instruments. Vocalist Peter anounced his departure from the band, as his voice has suffered from the screaming and growling over the past many years. Doctor's orders, as they say. But for his pre-last gig he did a very good job and screams as good as on the album. Well, it sounds more controlled on the album, but still, Peter did well and I hope he didn't hurt his vocal chords too much, compared to what the state of them is already. The songs were few in number, but since they're all quite long, it was easy to fill those 30-40 minutes. The band didn't have a setlist on stage, so I had to listen carefully to remember certain melodies to connect them with the songs. They played at least 5 songs of which I'm sure, but I don't know if they also played "Ashes To Flesh", as the piano melody sounded familiar. Overall, it was flawless from start to finish, offering a good view of what to expect from "Ever-Arch-I-Tech-Ture": uptempo, slower moments, ... The starting "Icognation" was pretty obvious, but well chosen, bursting loose like a nuclear bomb. Excellent stuff. And so it went on until another great song was played: "Ravager", with Peter at a certain point indicating the speed increase - "Go!" - after which the drums were put into a higher gear. But as much as I like this song (I really do!), I did find the "Go!" coming in too soon, while the break is a little (be it 1 second or severall milliseconds) longer on the album, and the transition is better. That's the only remark I can think of. Other than that I can highly recommend the album and seeing the band live. At least, with Peter on vocals. I am curious to see who will replace him and how the new guy will process the older songs.


Demons Shelter Within
Of Genesis And Apocalypse
A Nation In Atrophy

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We were nearing 17h20 when it was time for the next 40-minute course: EMETH. This was another unknown bands to me, fully unknown. They hail from Limburg, and have been making brutal Death Metal since 1997, with the first release ("Breathing the Unclean" EP) coming out in 1999. It took them another 5 years to bring out the debut album, "Insidious". Since then they've worked hard to pump out something new asap and anno 2008 album no. 3 is ready: "Telesis". I can be short about this band: they played brutal stuff, indeed. Heavy riffing with both growling and screaming vocals. Although there were some good leads and decent grooves here and there, it never seemed to amaze me, as I had the impression it became too monotonous too soon. The triggered drums were messy, especially the kickdrums. You'd think it won't happen when you use triggers, that both kicks won't intertwine, but they did and that was not supposed to happen. That's my feeling on that one particular song, of which I don't know the title. In general, EMETH isn't the kind of band that will find a place in my collection, even though I like Death Metal from time to time.


Anochi Kofer
- Intro -
Silence Goes Unheard
Folly & Weakness
Will To Power
- Outro -

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KLUDDE is one of those bands whose name pops up a few times here and there. You hear about them as if they have been Metallizing the Belgian community since more than 10 years. Yet it never occurred to me that they would cross my path like it happened in Kuurne. So, in a way, this was another band that would have to surprise me. Having to keep an eye on more international acts, it doesn't help to know what your national scene looks like, although it's primarily about Death and Black Metal. And KLUDDE is one of those extreme bands. I expected them to be Black Metal full-on, but they seem to bring a mix of Black, Melodic Death, Pagan and even some Doom on certain occasions.

With their debut "In Den Vergetelheid" coming out very soon, through Sandstorm, the Midwinter Festival was and excellent opportunity to promote the new material and what KLUDDE is all about. Most material was uptempo (incl. blastbeats), although you had the usual variations. And that was something that stood out: the diverse drumming. The vocals were harsh, growling and more along those lines. Although the sound of the instruments was good (nothing more, though), I found the vocals less good. When listening to the songs on the band's MySpace page, it's clear that there is still a difference between a studio voice and a live voice. Still, the overall performance left a good impression and I might buy "In Den Vergetelheid" when it comes out. KLUDDE showed they have potential, and have a long road ahead of them. On a sidenote: it's a bit strange to hear Black Metal in my native language (Dutch). :-)


Branden in d'Helle
Ignis Fatuus
Heilige Perversitieten
Kludde III
Nachtmaer II
Het Zout der Mistroost

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Speaking of Black Metal, ENDSTILLE was the first international act of the afternoon/evening (it was already past 19h00 when they it the stage). This German raw Black Metal band was formed in 2000, with a first release, "DemoN", in 2001. The debut album, "Operation Wintersturm", came out in 2002. Since then the band has worked hard on follow-up material, delivering their latest album "Endstilles Reich" in 2007.

Their performance was actually very good. Iblis (vox) and Cruor (bass, backing vox) wore corpse-paint, albeit a bit messy, while L. Wachtfels (guitar) and Mayhemic Destructor (drums) were 'clean'. Iblis's shrieks were amazing, at least to me, as if he was possessed by a demon. The way he stood on stage, holding the mic like an extension of his tongue or like the gun on a tank, as depicted on the band's album covers, was impressive and frightening. Yes, you may laugh, but it shows Black Metal is also about putting on a show, a certain setting, creating the right (dark) mood, etc... Those very much into Black Metal might not agree with me on certain aspects, but I have to say that ENDSTILLE brings qualitative extreme Metal. Although the band tried to provide the crowd with a varied dish, I found it a bit boring after a while, although - like I said - the four did well.


Since I'm not familiar with their repertoire and seeing the band had no setlist on stage, I have no song titles to put here. Sorry. ENDSTILLE played for +/- 60 minutes.

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Keeping it international and extreme, the Dutch formation ASPHYX had the stage for itself at around 20h20-30. They're catalogued under Death/Doom, but to me there's wasn't much doom, if any at all. The hoarse vocals of Martin Van Drunen (also in HAIL OF BULLETS) and bassist Wannes Gubbels did me frown a bit, since I was not expecting this. It was as if they were close to ruining their voice and would have to stop eh...singing for the years to come. Anyhow, old school Death Metal it was. ASPHYX was very known and have released six full albums from 1991 to 2000, when their last came out under the title "On The Wings of Inferno". Since then no new albums have been made nor are there plans to do so, yet the gigging continues.

When you'd think the setlist would consist of songs off all albums, or as many as possible, it became very clear (well, after researching the titles) that it was only old material that was played. Martin and co. had opted for the band's first two albums, "The Rack" (1991) and "Last One On Earth" (1992), to pick most songs from. "Abomination Echoes" was the exception ("Asphyx", 1994). There were a lot more people in the hall now - already since ENDSTILLE - knowing the songs by heart and enjoying the travel back in time. For me it was an equally fun time, as I heard some DEATH and OBITUARY in ASPHYX' compositions. One thing I missed were guitarsolos. I've mentioned it earlier: not each song should have one, but solos do make songs more interesting (if well-composed and -played). But I have a better understanding of why ASPHYX was so much appreciated back in the day. When they hit your town or the neighbourhood, do check 'em out, because they deliver!


The Quest for Absurdity (intro)
M.S. Bismarck
The Krusher
The Sickening Dwell
Serenade in Lead
Pages in Blood
Food for the Ignorant
Abomination Echoes
Asphyx (Forgotten War)
Wasteland of Terror
The Rack
Last One on Earth

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Two big Swedish Death Metal bands were to end the festival. GRAVE, veterans in this extreme genre (since 1988), last released an album in 2006, titled "As Rapture Comes". I heard this one in the shop at the time of the release and found it quite good. I was almost going to buy it, but there was something that prevented me from spending money on it or any other GRAVE album. Perhaps the vocals, or the compositions in general, I can't tell. It's been almost two years since I last heard anything GRAVE, but seeing they were coming to Kuurne, I can't say I wasn't satisfied, for such an opportunity doesn't take place everyday.

Guitarist Jonas Torndal sure is one impressive person... on stage, as he stands higher and looks more dangerous than off stage. :-) Ola's growling was good to very good, so was his guitarwork. As can be expected from a band that was celebrating its 20th birthday, they played a tight set, with songs from each album. Now, since it was between 22h00 and 23h20 that GRAVE took the stage, and considering the amount of brutality that had passed since noon, I was starting to become tired and keeping the focus on the band and their playing was getting harder and harder, so in the last 20-30 minutes my interest started to fade. Perhaps that the songs they played at that time also played role. That's one of the downsides of a festival with bands playing in the same league (or close enough): not diverse enough, always extreme Metal, therefore monotony. Add some Progressive or Power Metal or Hard Rock and it will be easier to divide one's energy and focus more easily to still keep enough energy left until the end. Anyhow, seeing this oldie doing well, it did convince me more to go and check out a couple of their albums to see which one deserves a place in my collection. Death Metal is far from dead and veterans like GRAVE can still teach upcoming bands a lesson.


Turning Black
And Here I Die (Satisfied)
Into the Grave

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AMON AMARTH was the other Swedish band to really end the festival. It may sound strange, but as I was fighting a battle with sleep in the last minutes of GRAVE, the Vikings with Oden on their side were the reinforcements I had waited for since a long time. I don't know if there was a divine intervention, but I felt immediately re-energized as they hit the stage. My heart started pumping like never before and felt overcome with joy! It was a more than great feeling. An intro first and then "Valhall Awaits Me", the first song off their latest album "With Oden On Our Side", which really catapulted them into stardom, leading them to different shores, European and American, conquering many souls and slaying the unbelievers. Later this year the follow-up should come out.

Singing along and banging your head was something you could not 'not do'. AMON AMARTH is one of my favourite Melodic Death Metal bands and although I'm not the biggest fan, nor do I know all lyrics or songs by heart, I can highly enjoy their music and their live performances even more. As usual, Johan got the crowd on his hand again as he insisted on the "Death in..." ... "Fire!!" cheers from us all. A great moment as heaviness broke loose. Or how about the uptempo and ferocious "Asator", which is one of my favourite songs. The smile on my face couldn't be bigger, I can tell you that. They even played some songs from "The Avenger", their second album. Hell, every album was featured in the setlist, but the focus was of course the latest album. Hits like "Fate Of Norns", "Pursuit Of Vikings" and "Cry Of The Blackbirds" were not forgotten either and got the fans cheering along. Even the short bind texts aka addressing the crowd, were very nice moments. Johan's drinking horn was raised at a given moment, while the others followed his example. The following "Yuuuy!" in a growling way was quite funny, mainly because in West-flemish this is a cheer when something had a positive outcome, when you succeeded in something, when your favourite football team won, etc...

I could go on, but the truth remains that AMON AMARTH has grown a lot the last x years, musically and in terms of popularity, mainly because of the extensive touring. On CD the sound has improved a lot over the years, with "With Oden On Our Side" being their best to date. Live they're among the best bands out there.


- Intro -
Valhall Awaits Me
With Oden On Our Side
Death In Fire
Ancient Sign Of Coming
Hermod's Ride To Hel
- Intro -
Cry Of The Blackbirds
Fate Of Norns
1000 Years Of Oppression
- Hornbreak -
Masters Of War
Bleed For Ancient Gods
Runes To My Memory
Victorious March (encore)
Pursuit Of Vikings (encore)
- Outro -

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A Metal festival in West-Flanders. It has been a long time since that last happened, not counting events like the smaller, annual Metal Night and Frostrock. Getting big bands like GRAVE and AMON AMARTH to our little province is quite hard and one usually has to go to Antwerp for that (Hof Ter Lo, Biebob) or the Graspop Metal Meeting in Dessel. All things considered this is an opportunity not to miss, also because with the hall next to the hippodrome Sandstorm vzw and JH Tap have chosen a good location and one that - with the help of the local government and extra finances - can be used for more gigs in the future. And this will be the case, as JH Tap has already scheduled another festival for May. The majority of the bands on Saturday were Belgian, but everyone of them had to fit the description of Death Metal. Since a few of them are under contract with Sandstorm, their appearance was obvious, but it also showed what the Belgian scene has to offer regarding new bands. Tastes differ and for me there were a few letdowns (EMETH, IMMACULATE), but also some surprises (BATTALION, DEDICTED - I already knew them, though -, AXAMENTA - not yet seen live - and KLUDDE - quite nice all things considered). AMON AMARTH was without question the best and made this a day/afternoon/evening to never forget. I wholeheartedly hope they'll come back once the new album is out.

Like I 'discovered' at Frostrock, the Belgian scene has upcoming quality in the Extreme Metal genre. Although this 12-course meal was heavy to digest, it passed remarkably well, although I hope the organization will try to make a more diverse list of styles to attract more Metalheads, who prefer the more Melodic or Epic kind of bands. Still, for a first time the whole event was well organized, well put together and that deserves a lot of kudos. See you on a next occasion!

More pictures can viewed at this location.

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05/01/2008 – FROSTROCK (Staden, Belgium)

It was only in the week of the 1st of January that I decided to go to Frostrock (website) - or better said, remembered to go. Last year I had it all planned weeks in advance, but couldn't make it due to falling ill two days before the festival. So I decided to not let it happen again. The ticket got reserved on the 4th of January and the 5th I was ready to go.

On the bill there were some fine bands (see below) I already knew, either from having one or more releases or just the name. BULLET RIDER was the only new one for me. Finding the venue, Zaal Blommenhof, wasn't too easy, also because Staden isn't exactly a big city. Luckily the church was a fine beakon. ;-) The weather forecast of the past few days indicated it would rain, which isn't always a pleasant happening. But all was still fine upon arriving and there weren't too many people yet, some 10-15 minutes before opening of the doors (15h00).


BULLET RIDER kicked off the afternoon. They hail from Lichtervelde, not that far from Roeselare and Staden and have been founded since 1 ½ years. I had a small talk with Sammy, the vocalist. Apparently he didn't feel 100%, but his performance was pretty good, to be honest. BULLET RIDER plays a mix of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, NWOBHM style. Last Saturday they played for 30 minutes and filled those with some fun talking and 6 songs. Energetic NWOBHM stuff, ACCEPT and JUDAS PRIEST inspired songs (e.g. "Creatures Of Sin") with Sammy doing some Halford screams in a couple of songs. To keep it varied, the band mixed calmer parts with heavier ones, mainly in the songs themselves (e.g. "Addicted"). Their performance at Frostrock was more a promotional gig, to show what they're about, than to give an example of their back catalogue - they haven't got a demo yet, so having a back catalogue would be a strange situation, right? With "Riding The Bullet" a totally different wind blew on stage: BULLET RIDER goes Thrash, without forgetting their Heavy Metal basis. That came off as a complete surprise, but what a surprise! A more than excellent song, during which the band pushed the pedal more down than it had already done. Beer was needed in some cases to kill the nerves and keep on going, even though alcohol doesn't really have such a purpose.

The five guys only practise once a week, so that is a limit to grow faster. Still, if they carry on like this and sharpen their instrumental and compositional skills, then they can go far. But it will take time and energy, even though the will and enthusiasm to go on is certainly there.


Yes, There Will Be Blood
Highway To Nowhere
Creatures Of Sin
Riding The Bullet
Doctor, Doctor

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Heavy Metal to start with, ProgPower as second course. ARTRACH have been building on their career for at least 5 years now, with their first CDemo coming out in 2002: "Through Archways Of Dark". The band was formed by ANESTHESY (Death Metal) members Guy (guitars) and Diego (drums). Since the first release, the band has been popping out two more CDemos, with a gap of two years between each one. The first time I saw ARTRACH live was in November 2006, on the Metalnight in Heule, Belgium - SAVAGE CIRCUS and EVERGREY were the other bands. They had just released their third demo, "...And In Fate We Rest..." and were there to present some new songs. I wasn't blown away, but they did pleasantly surprise me and so I bought the three demos after their performance. The reviews can be found on the respective pages here. 2007 was a year in which they played as many gigs as possible, although that's not always easy if you have other occupations. But it's certain that the name ARTRACH is more known so far. Seeing they were coming to Staden, this was another reason why I wanted to come over. And it has to be said that, despite some sound problems at first (monitors without guitarsound, vocals too strong, ...), they did another very good job. Everything came out strong: the riffs, the solos, the melodies, Diego's ferocious drumming... and Piet's voice as intact as ever and doing a very good job regarding the older songs, which were at that time sung by Glenn Devos.

Since their playtime wasn't too long, they did manage to present songs from each demo AND even added two new ones - inline with the most recent material: heavier, but still Progressive. Piet even added high-pitched screams in "Erase The Line". - and a cover of NEVERMORE's "The Heart Collector". Although I'm not familiar with the original, I thought ARTRACH's version was good.

Personally, I find it really strange that a band like ARTRACH has to do it all themselves - recordings, promotion, management, ... - and that even the most basic, starting garage band can get a label deal. It's a strange world we live in. On the other hand, it's still a hobby for Guy and co. - practising once a week - so a deal might disturb the fun of it, adding more pressure and what not. But that remains to be seen, of course. Fact is, ARTRACH is very much worth checking out, live and on CD, and deserve more than staying local.


The Path Towards Revenge
Dawn Of Terror
And In Fate We Rest
Admiring The Serial Killer
One Bullet Left (new)
Erase The Line (new)
The Heart Collector (NEVERMORE cover)

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Around 17h40-50 it was time for GWYLLION to conquer the stage. I've seen quite some dates when this band was booked in 2006 and 2007. Some comments on a couple of forums very much praised the band's efforts. And so the name kept sticking, but I never...well, the intention to really check the band's songs was postponed continuously for reasons even unknown to me. Still, they were also coming to Staden, so this was an excellent opportunity to hear and see what they had in stall. Six young people, five guys and one girl, who does the lead vocals. I have to say I was very sceptic, but this was soon wiped away for the biggest part when the first songs were played. Honesty obliges me to say that Annelore can indeed sing, and doesn't stick to the same kind of singing, as she even tries for a very light form of (mezzo?)soprano at specific moments. Martijn (guitar) does the backings and during the band's performance I think he does well on backing vocals, but wouldn't do so well when doing leads. Plus, it gives the songs something extra when sung by a female voice.

Musically they can be catalogued under Symphonic Metal, as the keyboards often determine the melody and fluently add atmospheric backing when needed. Still, due to the variety of the material one might as well say they're Progressive Power Metal...with a light Gothic touch...and a few tinges of Folk. After relistening to "Awakening The Dream", I have to add that at least one comparable band: AFTER FOREVER, especially their self-titled album (2007).

Their performance was quite powerful - although the guitars weren't always sounding that well, lacking a bit of strength - and especially drummer Wouter Debonnet really amazed me. When his kit was being installed on stage, that was only one step. His playing was the second. Calm pieces, uptempo stuff... he can play it all and is very much qualified to play in a Thrash/Death/Black Metal band. His skills also make the songs more powerful, as he really gives his all, not sticking to a fixed pattern, but adding spicey fills via the cymbals and toms - even when you wouldn't expect it. With certain songs from other bands there are times when I feel the drumming could use some change here and there. When those musicians haven't done it themselves, I might do it in their stead... mentally. :-) But Wouter really surprised me. Annelore's versatile voice is one of the characteristics of the band and their music: she can sing gently, but also more fiercely when the music requires it.

Off their first album they played six of the eight songs. Two new songs, "Entwined" and "Void", completed the setlist. After the show I bought the album and had a small talk with Martijn. He informed me that they'll go into the studio sometime in the summer, if I understood well, to record the follow-up of "Awakening The Dream".

Hearing the album the day after the gig, I can only say I'm glad I saw the band live AND have at least one release of them in my collection. I'm planning to see them again in March, in Izegem, even though it's more for SYLVER MYST that I'm going. I saw it on one of the flyers at Frostrock itself that GWYLLION would also play that day. Anyhow, to cut things short: GWYLLION is a must to see and hear and have great potential to become bigger. And so does ARTRACH. :-)


Curse Of The Wise
Running Together
Once Upon A Lifetime
Lost In A Dream

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Alrighty then. The afternoon started off good, reached a peak with ARTRACH and another, yet a liiiiitle bit lower, with GWYLLION. It was my first acquaintance with this band, after all. Next up was SPOIL ENGINE, hailed and hyped as the new Thrash masters that Belgium has to offer. How they landed a deal with Shiver Records is beyond me, after seeing their performance. Especially if the previous bands still have to it all themselves. SPOIL ENGINE is a very young band, consisting of very young members. Thrash they play...not. Or not as DESTRUCTION, KREATOR, EXODUS, HEATHEN, MEGADETH, etc... They do implement Hardcore elements in practically each song, but overall I can only come to one conclusion: SPOIL ENGINE = SLIPKNOT meets Hardcore. The vocalist does like Corey Taylor: screaming and 'singing'/talking in turns. There's absolutely no singing (and I do mean real singing) involved.

From start to finish, one big wall of sound, of guitar violence and screaming/yelling. The kids liked it a lot and even moshed to it. Personally speaking, I wasn't impressed at all. So you can make a lot of noise. Good for you. Variety anyone? Yes, there was some and adding the Hardcore-styled drumming was the only aspect I liked. It made me think of bands like HATEBREED and ANGEL CREW, whom I saw at Rock Ternat in 2005. But other than this small reference, it was all about heaviness, breakdowns, screaming... pretty SLIPKNOT-ish. My taste also has something to do with it and maybe I expect other things than just a band that makes

Playlist: Hm... I didn't pay much attention to that, (un)fortunately, although the band certainly played "Nihil" and "Amplifiers Of Escape".

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The situation improved enormously when THURISAZ (not to confound with the Finnish TURISAS) hit the stage. Last year they released "Circadian Rhythm", an album that received much positive praise from press and fans. I too found it quite a good album and was looking forward to see how they would pull it off live. THURISAZ has been metalling since a couple of year and made more songs that those on their last album. The crowd certainly knew all about it, as they sang along and screamed titles I had never heard of. Musically the band plays a mix of Black/Death with a good dose of melody and symphonic elements. Let's keep it simple: Progressive Death/Black.

What I should have known, if I studied at least the booklet a bit better, is that the band has not only 2 guitarists - who are brothers -, but each also has a vocal role: one (Peter) for the grunting/growling and clean singing, the other (Mattias) for the shrieks. So there they are, two mean guitarists, both with a throat that makes you say "Amen". Keyboardist Kobe also has a clean singing role, although his input is a bit less on that level.

With only seven songs, you might think it was a short set. None is less true, since the band's material has an average playtime of 5-7 minutes. It was short if you think of it as only 40-45 minutes, but you did get a lot of music in that time span. The intro they used was not "Symbols" from the "Circadian Rhythm" album, it was something new and atmospheric. Soon enough all hell broke loose with "Point Of No Return". And so it went on, mixing songs from their first two releases, and the public going exstatic about it. The sound was very good here as well and one can safely say that THURISAZ live or on CD, they deliver each time. The music came pounding out of the speakers, making the venue shake on its foundations. One of the songs that was very well composed for that was "...Betrayal" ("Impending..." is the intro to that song), with its typical pounding riffing. I would have enjoyed the show even more if people wouldn't press so much against each other to see the stage, because if everyone spread out a little more, it would have been better to see and hear it all. But that has nothing to do with THURISAZ's performance.


Nieven intro
Point Of No Return
When Images Are Fading
Circadian Rhythm
A Timeless Flame
Scent Of A Dream
Impending Betrayal

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KILLER is one of the oldest Heavy Metal bands in Belgium and have been active for a good 25-30 years. Considering their status, it's only normal they got to play more than one hour, offering songs from almost everywhere in their back catalogue. Anno 2008 there will be a Best Of and later this year a new album.

When the band was setting up their gear, I thought vocalist/guitarist Shorty (Paul Van Camp) was one of the crew members. Yes, I know, my mistake. I should have checked the band's website more carefully, but since I've come accross so many bands the last years, I can't keep up with everything or know everything from every band. Still, the name KILLER wasn't strange to me and back in 2005 I pre-listened the band's last album, "Immortal", at the shop. But as good as that album is, it didn't convince me to buy it, mainly because there are other Heavy Metal bands that carry my interest more. But seeing they were going to perform at Frostrock, I thought it would be a good opportunity to see how KILLER sounds live, and hear older stuff without having to seek everywhere for an older album to listen to. And old stuff was on the setlist. Shorty and co. picked songs from "Wall of Sound" (1981) and "Shock Waves" (1984), but also from their last two albums, "Broken Silence" (2003) and the afore-mentioned "Immortal" (2005).

Of course the songs were chosen to with variety in mind: straight-forward songs, slower stuff, and pure Heavy Metal (NWOBHM style) craftsmanship. And that's what I liked best: the uptempo, NWOBHM, SAXON-ish songs. There were a few slower, also Glam-like compositions, but my attention faded during those moments. Going for a drink was a welcome break. Like SPOIL ENGINE and THURISAZ, the KILLers got lots of positive response from the crowd. Minutes before they commenced their set, you could see lots of younger Metalheads leave for a drink, maybe also because KILLER wasn't extreme enough, hehehe. :-)

Shorty's singing is still fit for this kind of Metal, even though he's not 20 anymore, and the band still knows their Metal. Being active since 1980, or almost 28 years, is something they really deserve credit for. They keep the pureness of Heavy Metal alive, hopefully inspiring younger bands invest the same amount of time and passion, for KILLER will have to call it a day some time.

All I can add is that KILLER is a band one must have seen once in his/her life, to know what true Metal was in Belgium, without thinking of the extremer bands that go for Thrash, Death and Black. KILLER will never be among my favourites and there might be one of their albums in my collection at a given moment, but I do respect them for what they've done for Metal on Belgian soil. The strangest thing is perhaps they've only released 6 studio albums in that big time span.


A Matter Of Time
Frozen Fire, Burning Ice
Time Machine
In The Land Of The Pharaoh
guitar/bass duel
Shock Waves
Touch Of Evil
Bodies And Bones
No Future
Walls Of Hell
Immortal/Broken Silence/Queen Of The Future (bonus)

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The Black Metal band ANCIENT RITES was to close the evening, starting at 23h30. Minutes before the start I had to leave the venue, due to logistical reasons. My first time of live ANCIENT RITES has been postponed that way. But I must say they did take their time to soundcheck. It was clear from the early afternoon, and certainly later that many had come for ANCIENT RITES, as several people wore one of their t-shirts.

My first Frostrock (I had to cancel the 2007 edition because of being sick) and one I can look back at pretty satisfied. Personally speaking, three bands stood out: ARTRACH, GWYLLION and THURISAZ. ARTRACH only confirmed what I already knew since their gig in Heule in 2006. GWYLLION was a name I had known for years, but never managed to check 'em out properly. I therefore want to thank the organisation for booking this band, for I have really enjoyed their show. Buying the demo/album afterwards was a somewhat risky undertaking, since I didn't know if they'd sound as powerful on CD. They are, I can now safely say. And I've got another 'favourite' Belgian band for my list. They can get big and they truly deserve it. THURISAZ was also absolutely stunning and perhaps even better than on CD, hahaha. Vocals, instrumentation, everything came out very well and more powerful than expected, even though their music isn't simple. SPOIL ENGINE didn't do me much. Too Metalcore-ish, too many reminders of SLIPKNOT, too much of the same. KILLER...nothing but respect and thumbs up for adding a good dose of entertaining material. To be honest, the biggest surprise was BULLET RIDER, even though this is still a beginning band and they still have a long way to go. But you can see that, mainly via vocalist Sammy, the guys possess an enormous amount of passion and pleasure ("een applausje vo min tante en min nonkel" - hilarious stuff during the soundcheck) and take their time to fully develop.

Belgium has a lot to offer regarding Metal, that is the grand conclusion of this years festival. See you again next year?

More pictures can viewed at this location. My apologies for some not-so-good photos, as my device has a hard time when it comes to dark interior photography. Or I have to play some more with the settings.

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Festivals 2008

On this page
Alcatraz Metal
Festival -
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Frostrock -
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Midwinter Festival -
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Paganfest -
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Rock Mandeldaele:
Female Voices -
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