In the current Covid times, everyone is fighting to keep their heads above water and the entertainment industry is one of the worst hit, especially festivals and all those involved in them. In response, 13 European metal festivals banded together to bring fans a festival of sorts while raising money to help ensure these festivals would be able to continue in 2021, hopefully.
The festivals involved were: Alcatraz (Belgium), Art Mania (Romania), Bloodstock (England), Brutal Assault (Czech Republic), Dynamo Metalfest (The Netherlands), Into The Grave (The Netherlands), Leyendas DEL Rock (Spain), Metal Days (Slovenia), Midgardsblot (Norway), Motocultor (France), Party San (Germany), Resurrection (Spain), and Summer Breeze (Germany). The festival took place online, August 7-9 2020.
With an excellent selection of interviews from bands performing and bands who have played the festivals in past years along with bonus shows and chat sessions during each band’s streamed set there was plenty to do aside from watching the previously recorded performances. The one thing I appreciated most was displaying the song titles during the streams.
Most of the participating bands recorded something original for the purpose of the event, and as awkward as it must have been to scream at a camera to yell louder, the bands performed with heart and energy. Here’s my run down of the gigs.
One of the best displays was Cult of Fire (Czechia). Known for surrounding themselves with dark Vedic imagery, the stage is decked out in Hindu and Occult symbols setting the scene for haunting black metal pierced with organ melodies. Many bands coin their shows ‘rituals’ and this is one of the few times where it is actually appropriate, and artsy and not at all cringey.
Evil Invaders (Belgium) play fast but thrash really isn’t my thing. They did go balls to the wall with the performance including the smoke and lighting. They were followed by Romanian hardcore Dirty Shirt who were all over the place in style and also not for me. Death metallers Venom Prison (Wales) broke the mediocrity; nothing short of chaotic and punishing, It was just the right amount of melody, brutality and speed and solos. It was great.
Norweigian Kampfar retained their typical stage setup, fire accentuated the black metal, and it was definitely a head banging good time. It was just like seeing them live. Alien Weaponry (New Zealand) included a haka at the beginning of their clip and they kept up this cultural homage by singing about the country’s history in the Māori language ‘te reo’. The music was largely generic and underwhelming though.
Canadian favourites Unleash the Archers belted out their signature brand of power metal from their jam space, in usual consistency. Another highlight for me in terms of performance was Amenra (Belgium). Filmed in the night, the band performed around a flaming circle while white spotlights pierced the darkness and drones filmed from multiple angles. The music was really nice but the screaming was altogether too jarring for my taste.
Parasite Inc (Germany) was a great discovery, they sound like early Children of Bodom with ten times the energy CoB has shown in recent years. This is the band that made me really miss being able to stand at the edge of a mosh pit and ‘woahohoh’ along with the crowd.
Butcher Babies (USA) signalled an out-of-hearing-range food break, so I retreated to the kitchen to make cookies. With the smell of cookies in the air it was time to get ready for my favourite band on the roster, Rotting Christ (Greece). It’s a bit different to see these guys play without lights piercing through a haze that sits above a raging moshpit like every other time I’ve seen them, but in lieu of the regular atmosphere, it can be synthesized at home by taking over the big screen, lighting an entire pack of incense and short circuiting your electricity to create a strobe effect.
The day started with some bands that provided good background music to the other things I was doing, ultimately nothing really to write home about. White Walls (Romania) – entry level modern metal; Nytt Land (Russia) – acoustic folk rock; Deserted Fear (Germany) – death metal. Energy levels increased immensely with Lepoka from Spain. Super fun folk metal from monks in Spanish. Throw in some bagpipes and flutes along with those riffs and you’ve got a party!
That party vibe was crushed quickly with the arrival of German Der Weg einer Freiheit, don’t get me wrong I was looking forward to them and they did not disappoint with heavy strobes, and anguished vocals. Following them was Gutalax (Czechia). What is a grindcore band to do when they have an hour time slot? Show footage of their poop related competitions from years past. That’s, uh. neat.
Super lively death metal came from Legion of the Damned (Nederlands) who would be the last band I actively watched on Saturday. They were followed by Venom Inc. (UK); Angelus Apatrida (Spain) and Heidevolk (Nederlands). Heidevolk I have loved for years, but wasn’t very engrossed in the stream. Definitely a live only band.
Sweden’s Avatar was the headliner and considering their position on the bill, you would expect them to do something original, not use footage from last year’s performance at Alcatraz; but maybe they couldn’t find any stage hands to build their usual elaborate set and took Manowar’s stance on performing ‘stripped down’.
Sunday was a sleep in day, most of the bands weren’t worth getting out of bed for. Luckily the format of this festival meant I didn’t have to. Dead Lord (Sweden); Skyeye (Slovenia); and Roadkill Soda (Romania) I missed entirely and nothing of value was lost.
Svart Crown (France) and Spoil Engine (Belgium) were both lackluster, but made for relatively okay cleaning music. Kissin’ Dynamite (Germany) sounds exactly like you’d expect them to with that name, but 80s dad rock ain’t my jam. Sweden’s Evergrey, even seeing them for the umpteenth time, was an enjoyable break, something familiar and better than what came before it and the encouragement I needed to keep watching.
Originally I was super stoked on the music of Mass Hysteria (France) but then it devolved into rap metal which totally caught me off guard. The absolute highlight of the day was Primordial (Ireland). Finally something good. I can even excuse them for using another year’s footage because it was the first thing I enjoyed all day. They were followed by Orange Goblin (England), it was a nice rock n’ roll break in which I managed to get a lot of work done with the set happening in the background.
Ending the day and the festival was Sabaton (Sweden) and apparently taking the same out as Avatar, they used another year’s footage. Maybe my expectations are too high, but for a band that sells shirts for $85 and is likely having the slowest summer in their career, you’d think they would be able to do something, anything, original for this (hopefully) one of a kind festival. All in all, the festival was pretty entertaining, especially with the ability to do regular life things when things got less than exciting. It doesn’t make up for days spent in the sun, partying with new friends and old and eating expensive street food, but it’s what we have right now.
Written for Blessed Altar Zine