Metal Female Voices Festival VII - Wieze, Belgium, October.18.2009
|Event:||Metal Female Voices Fest VII|
|Written by:||Jason W.|
Metal Female Voices Festival VII - Wieze, Belgium (Day 2) by Jason W. (30)
Metal Female Voices Festival VII - Wieze, Belgium (Day 1) by Jason W. (43)
One thing to note about MFVF ticket holders, we are much more energetic in the morning than some of the usual metal fans. It was a good fifteen minutes before the bus shuttle (which was kindly arranged by the festival's organizers), and our small group was already noticing the time and waiting. It was about then I was introduced to a Japanese attendee, who also was really enthusiastic for the upcoming Darzamat set later that day. I'd say more of the attendees this year were there for the lighter side of the female fronted scene, so running into someone who prefers the darker, or more extreme sides (who was wearing a Mayhem shirt of all things) as well was the kind of connection I really looked forward to making during my trip to Wieze. We all arrived at the Oktoberhallen (even though our driver got a bit lost!), and true to form it seems, hundreds were lined up before it was open, and first up was To-Mera.
Easily making it to my more anticipated bands of the weekend, they were about to officially release their new EP within a few days, so lots of intrigue had taken hold as they were testing out their sound. After confessing that waking up early was a bit difficult for at least one of the members, they started off with a new song first thing, and already I could hear the difference in the band's evolution. Their songs are a bit too complex to absorb on one listen alone, so already I was planning on listening to the EP (which they had some copies of there) after my return to the US later in the month.
They went into ‟Glory Of A New Day" next, and vocalist Julie Kiss was just the same live as her atypical and absorbing style on the studio tracks. To-Mera may play with a subdued style more removed from many of the other bands of the weekend, but without any distractions in a way it can make for a clearer listening experience. Tom MacLean slowly developed more expressive and pensive playing as the set went along, and I found him a pleasure to simply watch during all the changes that run through the songs. ‟Another World," the second of two new tracks that day appeared next, and perhaps because it imprinted itself in my listening conscience in the morning hours, I find myself starting off my days lately with this song swirling in my head the same way it did this Sunday. The final songs were the expected playing of the video track ‟Blood" and ending with one of my personal choices, ‟Inside The Hourglass." Their set proved to be an intellectually demanding one for me, leaving me with a glaze of inspiration and thoughts that lasted well into the evening.
I own both the albums by Coronatus and had good hopes for them live, but up until this point they hadn't affected me the way I've always wanted them to. So obviously I was floored by passionate and addicting performance that they pulled off, and so was the crowd. This was the debut of new singer Lisa Lasch, and while sonically she was a bit off at first, by the end all I could wonder was how long it would before I can hear her on their upcoming release. With a perfectly choreographed display by Lisa and classical vocalist Carmen Lorch, and one of the most entertaining bassists around in new member Todd Goldfinger, I've found my interest and understanding of the band much different than it was before the festival. It again reminded me of how important it is to make an effort to see a band live once in your life, as music really is meant to be heard in person, with the musicians before you, not just in stereo four thousand miles from where the band lives. Some of the tracks I recall clearly were ‟Hot & Cold," as well as ‟Exitus" and my favorite, ‟Scream Of The Butterfly." I'm sure they could've gone on for another half hour and exhausted the songs they could play live, as the cries from the audience were long and demanding for more. And did I mention it had barely passed noon?
Lahannya play what I'd describe as an industrial gothic rock style that hovers around the club scene, but are heavy enough to be appreciated by metal fans alike. I'd heard a few songs but had yet to hear the album, so I was not fully sure what I was in for. But with a lead vocalist like Lahannya herself with her blue-tinged hair and those ever-present boots, she grabbed my attention and held it for mostly the entire set. I ended up getting the album after I returned home, but it just doesn't hold the same cohesive energy and production that the live performance had. I'd say this is another testimony to how well the Metal Female Voices staff did in bringing out all the best attributes of a band, and with Lahannya, I'd say making it sound the way I wish it did on the studio tracks. Hopefully she'll make her way over to the U.S. someday, as she'd be an ideal performer at the local gothic club I head over to several times a year.
I didn't get a chance to see much of their set, as I was socializing in the VIP area and taking advantage of the photo contest I'd won with Darzamat, but the two songs I saw were exactly what I'd expect from them. They play to a different sort of scene than many of the other bands present, with an almost methodical pace musically, and were loaded with energy even at the end of their performance. As someone who doesn't consider himself a fan really, I found myself wishing I'd watched a bit more of their set, particularly considering it would have been nice to taken in some of their energy, as I was going to need it later on in the day.
Stream Of Passion:
Stream Of Passion's arrival to the stage was greeted with excitement, moreso than I expected, but I guess that's mainly due to my relationship with the band's music. And live, it was identical to my positive, yet soft feelings toward both full-lengths from them. I'm in love with two songs, "Deceiver" and "Passion," of which they played "Passion" much to my interest. However, despite Marcela Bovio's beautiful voice and the band's overall warm presence, my hopes that the live set would invigorate my interest in the band more really didn't happen. Perhaps I'm an oddity here, because the crowd seemed fully engaged and pleased by the set's end, and in a way, I'm still a bit disappointed in myself it didn't reach me more than just a relaxing breeze does.
Or maybe, just maybe, my mind was in the mood for something more aggressive. Up next was Darzamat, a favorite of mine for a few years going now, with their unique blend of gothic and symphonic black metal. Their latest release, "Solfernus' Path" lived up to all my expectations, and now it was time for my first live experience, and what was one of the festival's most extreme bands. The band arrived on stage drenched all in black attire, and showing off just how deep their new disc is, they opened with the 13th track, "Chimera." Male vocalist Flauros took on a menacing stance that he kept nearly the entire set, with his singing style being refined and matching the studio versions flawlessly, wrought with abrasiveness and conviction.
Darzamat is, of course, fronted by Nera as well, who splits the vocal duties about equally with Flauros. Standing behind one of the usual Darzamat-symboled microphone stands, she routinely pulled forth some eerie, yet melodic and dark singing that surely helped push the listening tastes of many in the audience. From my observations, there was a strong but smaller set of attendees that knew and liked the music, as those who came for the band were a strong legion up front. A good amount of active musicianship from the guitarist and bassist, and one of the two bands of the weekend that brought out some moderate metal moments from myself put a lasting impression on me. I won't put it past myself to plan another trip in the future involving a Darzamat gig.
It was a bit of a transition at this time in the festival I thought with the running order, going from Darzamat, to Van Canto, to Trail Of Tears, and then to an acoustic set of Leaves' Eyes. But that shows the diversity that Metal Female Voices Festival is striving for, something that I think is a smart move, and makes the weekend a stronger one. So up next is the a cappella/power metal group Van Canto, which did some covers like "The Trooper" and "Wishmaster." Lots of running on stage, particularly by Sly, the male vocalist, made for an interesting watch I'm sure for those who "get" this type of music. However, I'm not really into cover bands or music in general like this, no matter how much sweat they pour on stage, so I only bothered with half the set and geared up energy for the next band.
Trail Of Tears:
Long time favorites of mine, Trail Of Tears arrived next, bringing forth a more aggressive edge than ever. It'd been nearly two years since I saw them on their first tour of the U.S. after they'd recently reunited with female vocalist Cathrine Paulsen and a nearly full new lineup, much to the pleasure of fans. Now with a studio release as well under their belt in that of "Bloodstained Endurance," Trail Of Tears was thoroughly more connected, and most of all: aggressive. Without any doubt, Ronny Thorsen was fully charged, starting the set off by jogging up to the mic as the band went into "Once Kissed By The Serpent (Twice Bitten By Truth)." With guitarist Bjørn Erik Næss and bassist Endre Moe already all-out headbanging to the music, this was going to be a set that was demanding to the listener, without a chance to catch your breath.
Cathrine's singing, as noted on the new release, is more hard rock oriented and less operatic, which after watching this performance, ideally fits the new band's style. She's not your often-times elusive female metal singer, but one who displays her emotions outwardly, from confidence to thoughtfulness to introspection, all with an abundance of facial expressions. Split this with Ronny's traditional stance with arm pointed outward to the crowd and one foot propped up on the monitor, and it's a vocal show that's unlike any of the weekend. Trail Of Tears alternated between the new album, "Existentia," and "A New Dimension Of Might" (which also had Cathrine on vocals), playing choice cuts like "Decadence Becomes Me," "In The Valley Of Ashes" (damn, I love that song) and "Crashing Down" to close it out. Honestly, I'm going to say I don't know what the rest of the crowd was doing, as I was near the front, fully into it, and believe me, I was exhausted after this one.
Full set list: Once Kissed By The Serpent (Twice Bitten By Truth), Bloodstained Endurance, Deceptive Mirrors, Decadence Becomes Me, Splendid Coma Visions, Ecstatic, In The Valley Of Ashes, Take Aim, Reclaim, Prevail, My Comfort, The Feverish Alliance, Crashing Down
With a 4 song acoustic show planned, this was an ideal time to cool off and take it in from a distance, and see what was left over at the merch stand as I was waiting for Liv and Alex and company to take their places, sitting in a sort of half-moon shape at the front-center of the stage. After picking up a final longsleeve for the festival and some more beers, the band went into "Irish Rain," which coincidentally is my choice from their latest release, "Njord." The band played with an atmosphere more akin to an exclusive, 50 person audience where we all knew everyone by name and had recently enjoyed a home cooked meal at an expansive indoor table. The next two songs, their cover of "Scarborough Fair" and then the romantic "Leaves Eyes" were excellent, but closer "Legend Land" just didn't sound right to me in acoustic form. Three out of four was fine by me, and I'm glad they were added for this special appearance in Wieze.
Wow, could it be true that I'd never seen who could be the most successful female metal singer over the past generation live? As one of the numerous awards presented at this year's Metal Female Voices, Doro Pesch was given the "Best Career" award, and I can't think of anyone else who has been so consistent since I was a kid getting into metal. There were legions of fans ready for her, as I noticed dozens of Doro shirts that night alone, and had the chance to share a beer with a diehard fan back in the VIP area before the performance. She's a pleasure to watch, and her voice is raspy and powerful, able to pull of anything she's recorded over her career. I was mostly enthused to hear her Warlock songs, and I was not disappointed: "I Rule The Ruins" and "All We Are" were some of the best of the bunch, and songs that make me miss the days when I could hear some real female vocalists on the radio who are all metal, first and foremost. Also, a treat for the audience, Doro brought Tarja on stage to do a duet of "Walking With The Angels," which garnered a great response.
The end of the festival had unfortunately come upon us all, and it was one of the most infamous female vocalists who had the honor of closing it out. I adore Tarja's time with Nightwish, but have yet to be much entranced by her solo material, even if I could enjoy her voice for hours. Much to my pleasure, Tarja's set included plenty of special performances, including Doro now joining her for "The Seer," as well as the best drum kit of the festival on stage, atypically placed in front of the stage. She also did some excellent Nightwish covers, such as "She Is My Sin" and "Nemo," but then again I had to endure her cover of Alice Cooper's "Poison," so I'd say it was hit or miss in that department. Tarja was ever-appreciative of the audience, and that in itself is hard for even an exhausted, melancholic soul like myself to resist, so the festival ended on a pleasantly warm note for me.
It's quite an experience to travel a few thousand miles to a place fully new to myself and do it all alone, but the Metal Female Voices Festival is a weekend of high quality, with a dedicated staff, and an ideal venue for such expansive soundscapes. With attentive and social bartenders (who were impressed by my "lack of any accent" of all things!), and hopefully a DVD that will make its way into my hands next year that was being filmed, this was the first of two unforgettable metal weekends for me this past October. My thanks also go out to the organizers, who were always helpful online (Val and Phil), as well as the several potentially long term connections I made while there. I can only hope the next addition will have such an impressive lineup - and I'll be able to return.
||Written on 01.12.2009 by Music and the written word are two of my passions in life, so I figured, why not combine the two?|
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| Jason W.
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