|» House Of Metal 2010||
Having attended the first edition of the House of Metal festival, in 2007, I unfortunately missed out the following two years due to living abroad. This was something I lamented, as my experiences from 2007 were very enjoyable. Thus, I was excited to return to Umeå, in Northern Sweden, this time around. This year's festival - taking place indoors for those who may be wondering how a festival is possible during the harsh Swedish winter - also boasted some mouth-watering names; such as Lamb of God, Hypocrisy and Behemoth.
Said bands certainly fulfilled expectations, as did many others. Unfortunately, there were some clashes which meant that it was impossible to see everything. For example, I had wanted to watch Scar Symmetry, Fatal Smile and Job For A Cowboy, but simply was unable to as I was watching another band when they played. This is to be expected at most festivals, though, and is hard if not impossible to get around. Also, it has to be said that Lamb of God's tour schedule prompted their earlier slot on the second night. Under all circumstances, one could not fail to be served quality metal at a constant basis during the weekend - after and before quick refreshments in the cosy VIP bar of course. Below you can find reviews of the bands whose performances I saw - in most cases - in their entirety. See also the interview section for a chat with Hypocrisy's Peter Tägtgren.
To conclude, it was a privilege to be present at House of Metal and Umeå again. For those metalheads living in this part of Sweden, especially, this event is a godsend - something to look forward to during the cold, dark winter. The festival is well-organised, and the venue itself is very suitable, based in the centre of the city and consisting of four different stages in as many rooms. Sure, there were a couple of minor predicaments, such as queues, but that is quite natural when so many fans gather at the same location.
There is no way I'm missing out on this event again,
that is for sure. It will now be very interesting to see which bands end
up on next year's bill. The concept with largely Swedish bands - of whom
there are plenty of brilliant ones as we all know - topped with attractive
names from abroad is a great one indeed.
Friday - March 05
One month after finishing their European tour, black metal stalwarts Marduk take to the stage at House of Metal. It's obvious that these are well-seasoned musicians, and the performance is solid from start to finish. It is aggressive, bone-hard and heavy, and skilfully executed. The atmosphere is dark and menacing, enhanced by epic song intros and a light show bathed in purple and green. Singer Mortuus does his best to stir up some chaos, with a spirited stage presence, and monstrous pieces such as Panzer Division Marduk and Throne Of Rats go down well with those who have gathered, although the reception is not that euphoric. The sound is not the best though, with Mortuus vocals quite drowned in the mix. In truth, Marduk do not reach any extraordinary heights, but they definitely deliver a good start to the festivities at the biggest stage.
6,5 chalices of 10
(sorry, no setlist)
Guitarist Sebastian Ramstedt has labelled Necrophobic "a genuine
metal group", something which is evident tonight. Apart from their
music - quality death metal with touches of black metal - the band, adorned
in studs and leather, showcase a passion for their craft, with an intense,
evil delivery, constant headbanging, joy of playing and a determination
to give the audience a great show. The Swedes' last album, Death To All,
was well-received, and the turn-up for their performance is quite impressive,
with the by now beer-filled metalheads roaring and exercising their necks
in appreciation. As singer Tobias Sidegård instructs the crowd to
chant "Death To All", during the title number from said album,
they reply loudly. This is a most enjoyable display, and indeed one that
is most genuinely metal.
8 chalices of 10
(sorry, no setlist)
Prior to embarking on the tour supporting their latest CD, A Taste Of Extreme Divinity, Hypocrisy had a poll where fans could vote for which songs they wanted in the setlist. In addition, a few tracks from their new opus was to be included, and it is two of those that open proceedings; Valley Of The Damned and Hang Him High proving as neck-wrecking live as on record.
There are some slight sound issues from time to time, but overall it sounds mighty, in true Hypocrisy fashion. Horgh is - in more ways than one - a colossal presence behind the drums, and Tomas Elofsson fits like a glove as newly-recruited live guitarist, visually and musically. Speaking of visually, the stage set up is impressive: a huge backdrop with the cover from the latest album is flanked by two stage props in the shape of the Hypocrisy-style inverted cross. Leading the attack is of course mastermind Peter Tägtgren. Excelling with his ability to switch between deep growls and his trademark shrieks, he is a frontman who is very confident and entertaining to watch. Seemingly in good, refreshed spirits, tonight he regularly adopts lines from late Swedish cult artist Eddie Meduza, to the amusement of the audience.
But back to the subject of songs; what is perhaps most striking about
the concert is the great song material Hypocrisy have in their catalogue;
the setlist poll certainly is a move which can't go wrong. Adjusting The
Sun is something of a forgotten gem; a simply magnificent tune, just like
standard numbers such as Fire In The Sky and Roswell 47, among others.
Few groups are as capable as Hypocrisy when it comes to combining brutality
and heaviness with melodies and hooks. Obviously, it would take a lot
more than some minor sound issues to prevent such a quality outfit as
Hypocrisy from being a most reliable live act. Altogether, with all the
ingredients accounted for above at their disposal, the group deliver yet
another appetising meal of death metal tonight.
8 chalices of 10
As a large crowd patiently awaits the performance of death metallers Behemoth, it is apparent that they are one of the most - if not THE most - anticipated acts of the weekend. No wonder, since the Poles are not only of the biggest death metal bands of today, but released one of last year's best albums and have a reputation as a fearsome live band. What follows is a performance that fulfils all expectations. The opening is epic: during an ominous-sounding intro, singer/guitarist Nergal, guitarist Seth and basist Orion stand completely motionless in an almost disturbing manner, as if being warriors preparing for a deciding, ruthless battle. From here on, it is very obvious that these are pure professionals - well-drilled, hardened and experienced from countless treks on the global live circuit.
Ov Fire And The Woid is the first number which sets off an unstoppable surge of brutality. Whether the numbers are characterised by pulverising speed or colossal heaviness, it is an impressive, relentless assault, with Shemaforash, Conquer All and Slaves Shall Serve a couple of the highlights. Drummer Inferno truly deserves a special mention, making a contribution resembling machine-guns, canons and thunder to the war-like performance. The musical execution is indeed first-rate; performing this kind of music this tight is quite astounding, underlining just how skilled and well-oiled these gentlemen are as a unit. Fact is, even the actual stage show is delivered with outthought precision and arrangement, with synchronised, neck-testing headbanging and wielding of the instruments as if they were deadly weapons. The result is a mighty demonstration, one that makes a lasting impression on those gathered.
The man with the vision is the natural centre of attention; to Nergal a commanding frontman is an understatement. The man comes across as being on a mission to conquer the world with his death metal squad; with eyes blazing, and a firm, forceful facial expression, he has an onstage persona which glows with unwavering dedication. Every song lyric is delivered with burning passion and conviction. That said, between songs Nergal is more laidback, thanking the crowd for supporting Behemoth as well as the metal cause. Surely, when it comes to commitment there are few who display it the way Behemoth do. Combined with outstanding musical ability, it makes them an awesome band to see live.
9 chalices of 10
Setlist: (might be slightly incorrect)
Saturday - March 06
Band: August Burns Red
I must confess that metalcore - a style which has spread like wildfire during recent years - is not my favourite. Apart from it just not being that appealing to me, the fact it has been embraced by so many groups means that the genre has been rather watered-down. Irrespective of what I think, there are evidently many who cherish their metalcore. Arriving at the concert hall where August Burns Red are set to play, I barely squeeze my way in through the assembled mass, and initially have to make do with a position virtually at the side of the stage. From here it is possible to witness youngsters going mental at the barricades, working up a sweat and seemingly being close to fainting; duly, the security guys have their hands full.
As I am able to relocate to get a better view of the performance, I start
to understand the excitement shown not only at the front but further back
as well. August Burns Red deliver an engaging show, with deadly intensity,
flow and energy onstage, not least from charismatic vocalist Jake Luhrs.
The music is played with razor-sharp precision, the melodies are tasty,
and the breakdowns so typical of metalcore are heavy as hell. As a matter
of fact, one can definitely trace a heavier, more of a metal edge, at
times even death metal, to August Burns Red than many of the annoying,
poppy bands in metalcore. While not entirely my thing, this was a pleasant
surprise, one that demonstrates that one should not judge a band but give
them the chance to prove their worth.
7 chalices of 10
(sorry, no setlist)
Band: Lamb Of God
Without doubt, Lamb Of God was House Of Metal's biggest booking yet. The quintet from Virginia, US, has seen their profile rise dramatically in the past few years. With the release of Wrath last year, they cemented their place among the elite in the metal world, embarking on successful headline tours, supporting Metallica, playing at prestigious festivals and being nominated for a Grammy. Therefore, it actually came as a - albeit very pleasant - bit of a shock to learn that they were scheduled for a festival in Northern Sweden. Much credit to the House Of Metal staff!
Like their Polish counterparts in Behemoth, Lamb Of God's extensive touring have turned them into a most accomplished live band, something which have earned them not only rave reviews but also a big reputation. Add to this the impact of Wrath, and it is no surprise to find that when they are about to go on, there is still a long queue of people trying to get inside. To my large annoyance, this means that I end up missing the first couple of songs, as it is simply impossible to pass through. When I finally get in, the place is completely packed, and the atmosphere thick and noisy.
Lamb Of God have been called "Groove Metal", and while this, like all genre titles, does not entirely explain the music, it is nevertheless a good description. Well into their stride, the Americans are providing a formidable groove which is as seriously hard-hitting as it's crushingly heavy - a musical steamroller if you like. It is very tight and powerful, and the foundation comprises of an extraordinary rhythm section: the exceptionally talented sticksman Chris Adler plus the ultra-cool, grinning basist John Campbell. Guitarists Will Adler and Mark Morton are as loose and comfortable onstage as one can possibly be, but deliver sharp riffs with skill and impact. Vocalist Randy Blythe, on the other hand, is the embodiment of a dynamic frontman, constantly bouncing around, his hair wet from sweat, while delivering his harsh, aggressive vocals and commanding the crowd with great authority.
While the actual stage performance reveals experience and talent in abundance,
Lamb Of God has some quality tunes as well. The fiery Contractor and fan
favourite Laid To Rest, dedicated by Blythe to the other festival bands,
are two numbers which really get the crowd going. Overall, the reception
from the audience is tremendous, with singing, roaring and lively movement
on the floor. With thunderous feet-stomping in the room prior to the encores,
the place then goes mental to versions of Redneck and Black Label. Wild
circle pits erupt, and a wall of death during the latter song. Like the
evening before with Behemoth, we get a live display of great proportions,
by true experts in the field, which will be talked about in years to come.
8,5 chalices of 10
(sorry, no setlist)
The honour of closing the festival this time around goes to local heroes
Persuader. Having played at the first House Of Metal three years ago,
their camp has been a fairly quiet one since. Thus it is understandable
that they come across as not rusty but lacking a bit of that immediate
composure onstage. That being said, the guys' brand of heavy/power metal
is recognisable, with catchy hooks, memorable melody work and fierce riffing.
Slaves Of Labour and The Hunter are examples of two great tunes which
are enjoyable to hear, and Jens Carlsson's voice is still appealing. The
band also give the spectators plenty of entertainment in the form of pyrotechnics,
with flames shooting up at regular intervals. Unfortunately, the room
is only half-full at best, which dampens the impact and atmosphere. Nonetheless,
Persuader do their task well tonight, and when they have released their
forthcoming album, expect them to figure more permanently and prolifically
in the metal world again.
6 chalices of 10
(sorry, no setlist)