Dutch Doom Days XX
|Written by:||X-Ray Rod|
So, how do I know about Dutch Doom Days? Well, the same way our Metalstormers with more trajectory know about doom metal in general: through our dear friend Marcel Hubregtse. The articles he, along with other staff members, wrote about the festival date back to the 2008 edition of the festival. Back in my diaper years, when I was just 16 years old and it had been less than a year since I registered to Metalstorm, concerts started to appeal to me and I dreamed of going to such festivals for a long time. It took me a few more years before I attended my very first festival, Roadburn, in 2011. It has been a long tradition from then on. But Dutch Doom Days was always lurking in the back of my mind. The festival that got away. But now, the year 2022, many things clicked at the same time; I attended Roadburn ten times in a row, festivals and concerts were finally coming back in full force since the Covid-19 pandemic, and Dutch Doom Days was going to celebrate its 20th anniversary. The line-up looked absolutely sick, consisting of bands I've wanted to see for the longest time. Many friends of mine were also going to attend, either as performers or regular attendees. I simply couldn't ask for more! So, after discussing it with my sister, flights and hotel rooms were booked. I was excited but I couldn't shake off the melancholy around my late friend Marcel. I would finally attend one of his favorite festivals. As I was riding the train from the airport to Rotterdam, it almost felt like I was going to see him. Instead I got to see many other lovely people though. I was welcomed by my friends of old and new in this small but very charismatic venue.
The entrance to the Baroeg venue
There was some confusion from my side regarding when Mourners Lament was playing. Turns out they finished setting everything up earlier than expected and started right away, which allowed them a longer set than planned. Sadly for me it meant that the first two songs were enjoyed while I was waiting in line to get my wristband and my first beer. I was very excited to see them as they are Chilean and their newest EP is a powerhouse of old-school death/doom metal that is heavy on both the melody and the feels. Some sections from their latest EP even reminded me of the old and great Forest Of Shadows in terms of emotional weight as well as the imposing vocals of Alfredo Pérez. I recall the powerful breakdown riff on "Changes" leaving a long lasting impression on me throughout the day. Heavy stuff for sure and it was a great way to open up the festival and to present the Chilean doom metal scene to newcomers!
I usually think of goregrind bands when it comes to Mexico. But Majestic Downfall arrived to prove me wrong as the feeling of impending doom can come from anywhere on the planet. They carried a very thick and harsh sound that did seem to be more at home in an old-school death metal outfit. The bleeding melodies screamed old Anathema though and they are well balanced with the added brutality that vocalist Jacobo Córdova brings. This man was in a concert of his own as his anguished screams and intense stage presence gathered all the attention the band truly deserves. The clean melody of their closer, "Roberta", was mind blowing as it referenced the rich musical heritage of their country. Everyone was entranced by this performance. The discovery of the day for me (which doesn't say much because I knew all the other bands from the first day, oh well).
This was one of the bands I was looking forward to the most for several reasons. When I started diving into metal in my pre-adolescent years I was very curious about metal bands from my own country. I was a n00b on the internet so it took me a while to discover that Poema Arcanus existed. Not only that they had existed since the 90s but that they were well respected in South America. It was one of the few times I felt proud of my Chilean background and I vividly remember buying Timeline Symmetry when I visited Chile in 2010. Many years later and I've become good friends with guitarist Igor Leiva through my late friend and metalstorm legend Marcel (small world, eh?). Not only attending a festival highly praised by my friend, but also seeing a band that meant a lot to my younger self and in which a friend performed in... It was just a trifecta of emotions! Their take on doom really sets itself apart from the rest of the bands that performed. Highly progressive, ambitious, intricate take on the death/doom formula. Heavy and intricate death/doom with progressive leanings. The vocals of Claudio Carrasco are godlike. They are thick, robust and with a very low tone that packs plenty of energy and passion. The audience was clearly taken aback at how impeccable the performance was and how unique their take on doom ends up being. To my joy they played songs from most of their full-lengths which pumped the notalgia factor even further.
We had not one, two, nor three but FOUR hispanic doom metal bands in a row! Yes, as you can probably guess I was speaking more Spanish than English on my first day of the festival. Helevorn’s doom metal relies heavily on gothic aesthetics and a lot of passionate melody through both guitars and keyboards. Definitely one of the more catchy acts of the festival and perhaps one of the least extreme sounding. Singer Josep Brunet excused himself from a cold he was getting rid off but I personally felt he sounded more than fine if only a bit disengaged with the audience which is understandable given his health. I became quite tired at this point though. Partly because I woke up too early on Saturday to fly to The Netherlands and get to the festival in time. Plus I drank quite a bit and with no scheduled time for food in between all the bands. Perhaps this is why their set didn’t stick with me as much as the previous ones but the audience was certainly engaged as it was the band that gathered the biggest crowd so far!
AAAAAAAAAAAAH!!! YES! YES!
This was it, folks. Sure, yours truly was already impressed with this edition's line up as I would get the chance to see many hispanic doom metal acts and talk to plenty of old-time friends but Esoteric were of course THE band to see on Saturday for me. They have been blowing my mind ever since the release of the legendary The Maniacal Vale. I can’t stress enough how excited I was for their set. I had the chance to talk to Greg Chandler before the set and unfortunately it did not calm me one bit. Quite the opposite. I unfortunately turned into such a crying fanboy that I couldn’t hold a coherent conversation but he was a gentleman about it (sorry Greg!). I always dreamed of seeing them perform as I always wondered how their music can be translated in a live setting. There is something truly enigmatic about the psychedelic, mind-altering aura of their music that no band in doom metal, or metal in general, comes anywhere close to achieving. Their set was LOUD but crystal clear. My body was possessed by the music. For me it was a mix of headbanging and nearly dancing in trance as the powerful leads washed me over like a flood of lava. Another fascinating aspect that has always intrigued me is Greg's choice of mic-equipment. The head-piece that he uses grants him an echoing effect that makes his growls and screams terrifyingly otherworldly. This was without a doubt the best band of the entire festival for me and a memory I will hold dear for quite some time.
A have a long but at the same time very recent history with this band. I recall searching for their albums in old Chilean metal forum (back when I didn't know enough English to dive into Metaltorm waters that is). A good friend of mine handed me their debut, Paradise Belongs To You, but it must have gathered digital dust for a long time because I can’t say I remember listening to it until just a couple of years ago. My discovery of Saturnus truly began in 2020 when I found Veronika Decides To Die in a record store while I was vacationing in Copenhagen. It became a truly emotional album for me for deep, personal reasons as it reminded me of someone I held very close to my heart at the time. I remember our fellow staffer Starvynth mentioning how “Esoteric makes incredible albums. Saturnus makes incredible songs”. I didn't quite understand what he meant at the time but it all became clear as soon as they started playing. The Danish doomsters delivered marvelous hymns to heartache after the other. The lead guitars and keyboards soared loud and proud with their gorgeous melodies. The performance of the singer was authentic, charismatic and pure. Tears were most definitely shed when the band performed such heart-wrenching tracks like "I Long", "Pretend" and "Christ Goodbye". This was a concert that truly delivered the promise of doom as I felt how their music pulled me back to Earth and long for the deep desires of the flesh.
After Saturnus set I was emotionally drained and seeked human contact with my friends. I wanted to stay longer but the collective energy of my group was too low so we said goodbye to many of our friends who wouldn't attend the next day and then called for a taxi to takes us to the hotel. It was the better choice though as my body desperately needed a good night's sleep and I passed out almost instantly. Another day of doom was waiting for us, after all. And sadly, the aesthetic of the doom metal genre let itself be known in the worst way possible. I woke up well rested and very hungry. After an excellent breakfast I began with the usual morning routine of checking out news and the regular social media outlets. That’s when I saw the news that Faal (one of the acts I was looking forward the most to see on sunday) were not going to perform. Pascal Vervest, guitarist and founding member of the band, was in the hospital in critical condition after a severe accident. At this point not many people knew what was really going on. Uncertainty was felt all around us. I talked to both friends and acquaintances but not much information was known besides the fact that it looked pretty bad. With that hanging over our heads, the show had to go on.
The first sludge act of the festival is also the first Dutch act! Weird, eh? I wonder if this is the most international edition of Dutch Doom Days. Ache came up to the stage with an intriguing proposal as they were just a duo consisting of a guitarist and a drummer/singer. The fewer the ingredients the more important it is to make every single sound count. Ache managed to get so much done with so little. It was filthy music that moved in glacial speeds but with the short bursts of violent aggression characteristic of the genre. The ear-piercing vocal performance of the drummer was very intense and together with the distorted samples in between songs the atmosphere was corrosive and lethal. A truly crushing performance that left the audience hungry for more.
Among the bands from this year’s line-up, Akelei are one of the bands I knew about for the longest of times but never had the chance to see live. I remember my friend Marcel speaking fondly of them on multiple occasions when their debut came out. Akelei, along with Faal, were the Dutch acts I really wanted to see live. The connection goes even further as Pascal performed on Akelei’s brilliant 2010 debut. Like Helevorn, Akelei were the most melodic and soothing band of the day. Their music resonates a lot with me despite me lacking any knowledge of the Dutch language. Although he was talking to the audience in Dutch, I could pick up that singer Misha Nuis looked distressed when he introduced the band and mentioned the name of Pascal. At this point the outcome of the accident was not clear. It is truly admirable that Misha and the band delivered one of the most heartfelt renditions of doom metal for the audience amidst a cascade of emotions. The bleeding melodies danced in between calming yet truly emotional clean vocals. The band kept the public engaged with intriguing, ever changing passages that were most tender and warm. The inclusion of operatic female vocals added another layer of tragedy to their songs.
This was the third (and sadly, the last) Dutch band of the festival. I felt mellow and quite tired all of a sudden. Perhaps I was still sort of floating amidst the clouds after Akelei’s celestial set. Heavy Lord to the rescue! Boy did I need that injection of adrenaline and groove. You really need to back up your project with great music if you are going to use such a cliche band name but these guys got away with it. Their catchier-than-rabies style of sludge/stoner doom was of the no-bullshit variety. Loud as fuck and with a powerful energy dripping from all members. The drummer was particularly intense as he looked menacing despite sitting with a small drum kit that made him look like a giant. Naturally, after this incredible taste of good old groovy doom, I got the munchies. So my friends and I headed out to a pizzeria.
Just look at that fucking sword swimming in smoke!
Really. I could leave that fucking photo here and no review would be necessary. You think the band sounds excessively massive and epic on record? Well, guess what fuckers! Eremit fucking destroys in a live setting and everything is turned all the way up. The massive waves of drone and slow stoner/sludge riffs engulfed the stage and did a funny massage to my bowels. It is as brilliant as it is hilarious how they can get away with just a couple of riffs per song and still manage to blow away the minds of the audience. The clouds of smoke were so intense that the drummer was nowhere to be found. Even the singer/guitarist and the sword itself disappeared from time to time despite me standing 3 meters from the stage. The shrieks and growls were vicious and added that extra feeling of grimness. I felt like going all Conan the Barbarian up in this bitch. [Insert random Schwarzenegger noises here]
All good things must come to an end. Dutch Doom Days’ final act was Monolithe which closed down the festival in a most appropriate way. For the past few months I started playing the first half of their discography (in particular the first 4 full lengths and 2 EPs which are part of The Great Clockmaker boxset) so I was very pumped to watch them play. Granted, they have released a good number of albums since the release of Monolithe IV and this set definitely left me eager to dive even deeper into their more current works. The use of three guitars is completely justifiable as it added many layers of cosmic melodies that paralyzed me with their captivating psychedelia, much like Esoteric did the day before. I thought the keyboards were quite buried under the weight of the guitars and drums but they played their role well during the intermissions. Even the haunting voice of HAL 9000 made itself known and it was a nice touch in the middle of the set. To my surprise they played excerpts from their first three albums along with more modern tracks plus one from the upcoming album, truly flexing all their well-regarded material.
While picking up some last-minute merch and saying goodbye to all our friends, I noticed a small poster I did not notice before. The ever-lasting presence of my friend Marcel was still walking around the Baroeg venue. Once again, it is clear he made an impact on many, many people and I feel privileged to have been a part of his life. The man who recommended me this festival even before mentioning Roadburn. Things come full circle. Sister and I picked up a cab and headed to the hotel. Our mission was completed as we left The Netherlands with the beautiful memory of fantastic concerts as well as the company of both old and new friends. A small but very genuine festival which should be mandatory to all members of the doom metal cult.
Rod dedicates this piece to the memory of Pascal Vervest.
May you rest in peace. Send my regards to Marcel.
||Written on 23.11.2022 by A lazy reviewer but he is so cute you'd forgive him for it.|
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