|» House Of Metal 2011||
And so it was time again for House Of Metal, the annual indoor festival in Northern Sweden, more specifically in the city of Umeå. This was the 5-year anniversary of the festival, something to celebrate of course. Unfortunately, the organisers had to experience a drop in visitor numbers. It was the second day especially that in some cases had concerts with rather half-full halls; the first day had U.D.O. as the headliner, which attracted masses of headbangers, not least older ones. On the second day Samael were headlining - a great, classic band, but not one that is as well-known as U.D.O.
In a relatively small city such as Umeå, it is difficult to attract a major number of people to a music event unless there are a couple of acts on the bill that the broader mass of the population recognise. While the House Of Metal concept is largely based on harder, less 'commercial' metal, it is probably necessary to try and include a band or two that appeals to a wider audience. It also seemed there were less young people in the audience this year, which may mean they didn't find their favourites in the line-up.
In any case, it surely is not easy to assemble
a line-up that appeals to everyone. It might just not be possible to book
certain bands, as they may have other things scheduled. Also, the financial
aspect undoubtedly is a significant factor. Either way, this year's drop
in visitors is not something that will jeopardise future editions of House
Of Metal. Next year's festival is no doubt being planned already. And
once again, it should be said that in terms of organisation, House Of
Metal is a very professional event that always runs smoothly. There is
a splendid atmosphere among the audience and the bands that play the festival
are reported to be happy as well. See you next year, horns aloft!
Friday - March 04
Bullet is the first band on the schedule for Metal Covenant and many other festival visitors. Frankly, there could not really be a more fitting band to kick off a weekend of festivities than this bunch. Opening with the title track from latest opus Highway Pirates, the Swedes push the pedal to the metal. Because of the relatively early hour, the atmosphere among the crowd is not really of the more lively and rowdy kind. Bullet's musical recipe - traditional, uncomplicated hard rock/heavy metal that promotes partying and having a good time - is often the most successful when a substantial alcohol level among the crowd gets them to let loose and raise hell, and this is a bit early for such antics.
That is not to say the audience is not having fun though, as there is much singing, pumping of fists and headbanging going on. Just as obvious is the genuine excitement among the band themselves, which is a treat to watch. Attired in their usual leather, studs and denim, the band put on an entertaining stage show, with continuous guitar poses, stage moves and calls to the audience to join the celebration of heavy metal. These guys really love what they do, that is apparent. As regards to the class of their material, it is a bit up and down, however. Some songs, albeit still good, isn't as memorable as the band's best compositions. Still, Bullet prove yet again that they are a most reliable live band, always putting on a pleasurable show, and they definitely set the mood nicely for the rest of the festival.
7 chalices of 10
Trident consists of some well-known figures from the death metal/black
metal scene, most notably Johan Norman, guitarist of the legendary Dissection,
but also Alexander Friberg and Tobias Sidegård from Necrophobic,
who played at the festival last year. The group's debut album, World Destruction,
was well received, but I have to admit I have not heard the album enough
to be that familiar with the songs. That said, numbers such as Luciferian
Call and Stockholm Bloodbath are definitely energizing. The musicianship
is certainly of a high calibre, excelling with relentless speed as well
as nice melody work. There is certainly no faulting the group's effort
either, as the onslaught is delivered with utmost fire and dedication,
not least from frontman Sidegård. Unfortunately, the sound is not
the best, being quite thin, which ruins a bit of the impact.
6 chalices of 10
(sorry, no setlist)
Band: Dark Tranquillity
As Dark Tranquillity's set kicks off with At The Point Of Ignition, there is something noticeably missing: the keyboard is virtually inaudible, obviously taking away a vital ingredient of the DT sound. Despite help from a roadie, keysman Martin Brändström keeps having clear problems getting his preferred sound, and it is not really until Wonders Of Your Feet, almost halfway through the set, that things are improved. Still, the audience is treated to solid versions of favourites like Damage Done and Monochromatic Stains, with the band giving their all onstage, intent on giving an entertaining show as always.
Tonight's concert also offers a unique feature: a female by the name of Camilla Lundberg ,trained in sign language, is standing on the side of the stage interpreting singer Mikael Stanne's lyrics as he belts them out. Impressive indeed, and a very cool idea. Credit to Dark Tranquillity for embracing the concept, and Stanne, as always the dynamic and engaging frontman, is seen side by side with Lundberg a number of times.
The crowd is served a very well-balanced set consisting of new and old
material, with the reaction being ecstatic to numbers such as Misery's
Crown, Focus Shift and Punish My Heaven. During the latter, Stanne greets
the fans down by the railing. Otherwise, Iridium is a highlight, providing
a slower, sombre contrast. While this is quite a bit from the marvellous
standard a Dark Tranquillity live show can offer, it is nonetheless an
enjoyable performance. It takes much more than some sound issues to really
ruin the impact of this band; a most experienced and proficient group
7 chalices of 10
Rarely in recent years has a band created such hype in Sweden than Ghost. Their debut album Opus Eponymous was greeted with rave reviews and was named on many polls for last year's top albums. What has also made this quintet even more interesting, in the media and among listeners alike, is the fact that the identities of the band members are unknown (although there of course are those who know who they are). Thus, there has been much speculation concerning who are in the band, something which surely has helped from a promotional point of view.
The mystique is reflected onstage too. A drawn-out, dark intro that is rather tiresome precedes the entrance of the band, save for its singer, standing motionless in their capes. When the vocalist makes his dramatic entrance, the set kicks off with Con Clavi Con Dio. The opening number does not make much impact, and in that moment one cannot help wondering whether this band, with all its weird imagery, actually isn't just a overestimated hype after all. Those thought are soon washed away though. Second number Elizabeth is a brilliant tune which raises the heat. Ritual is an even more awesome song which has those irresistible melodies and hooks, and the other tracks from the album sound great too. Accompanied with memorable, at times spell-binding music, the band's image and approach starts to make sense, making for a good fit. There is a thrilled atmosphere during the concert, with the crowd giving a warm reception to Ghost.
As for the vocals, they are splendidly balanced; sounding very similar
to the record, although there surely are some backtracks used. In his
mask and costume, not uttering a single word between songs, the frontman
sure is an interesting stage presence. Still, what is most important about
this band is without question the music, which offers a very appealing
mix of pop, hard rock and metal. And live, it is a bit heavier as well.
Regardless of the identities of the band members, there is no doubt that
they are musicians who certainly know their stuff, splendidly presenting
the moods, changes and nuances of the songs. Afterwards, this concert
was frequently praised and talked about. A performance that was for the
most part excellent, it will undoubtedly be regarded as one of the more
special in the House Of Metal history books.
8 chalices of 10
Because of witnessing Ghost's concert in another part of the venue, I missed the first half or so of U.D.O., the headliners tonight. Since this long-established heavy metal act, which of course has former Accept legends Udo Dirkschneider and Stefan Kaufmann in the ranks, has been a busy live band over the years, it didn't feel too upsetting to miss some of their set. When I arrive, guitarist Igor Gianola is performing a guitar solo. Those are often quite tedious, but Gianola adds some great amusement when he suddenly leaves the stage, only to be seen wandering out into the audience in front of the stage, still playing. He does not stop there either, as he then jogs up to the middle row of the seating area and into the centre, soloing next to jubilant fans. Indeed an entertaining and funny spectacle. Back onstage, the mad axeman joins his band members in an absolute jewel from the Accept catalogue: Midnight Mover. This is followed by the catchy U.D.O. number Man And Machine.
The remainder of the show is based mainly on classic Accept material, and when you hear songs like Metal Heart and Balls To The Wall, there is no way to prevent the excitement creeping up in me and the other spectators. These songs are simply so good, and the stage show is entertaining as well. The band seem genuinely happy to be onstage playing these classics, which is actually rather remarkable given how many times they have played them, but it is obvious that they simply enjoy performing together.
Thus, it is indeed understandable that Udo Dirkschneider passed on the
opportunity to rejoin Accept for their comeback, stating his own band's
status and prominence as the main reason. U.D.O. is simply a great band
in its own right, a unit that is obviously tight both musically and personnel-wise.
Sure enough, they do not present anything new or groundbreaking, but if
you are a fan of proficiently played heavy metal and memorable heavy metal
tunes, including some that are as classic as they can get, it is virtually
impossible not to have to have an pleasant time when U.D.O. give a concert,
even though you might have seen the band many times before.
7 chalices of 10
(sorry, no setlist)
Saturday - March 05
With the House Of Metal concept being largely based on harder metal, the addition of the sporadic melodic hard rock band is surely a good idea in order to attract different people. The booking of one of Norway's best hard rock bands of all time, TNT, no doubt was very nice news, not least for me, who actually never have seen the band. Since their most successful era in the 80´s, TNT have continued to release good records. Their latest opus, A Farewell To Arms, is represented early on in the set with Harley Davidson and Refugee, two fine tunes that go down well with those gathered. The band also benefits from an excellent, crisp sound, which also provides renowned guitarist Ronnie Le Tekro with a perfect platform on which to display his considerable talent and solo skills.
Singer Tony Mills, who replaced the original frontman Tony Harnell in
2006, proves that he is an adequate replacement. Some remarks can however
be made concerning his stage demeanour, as he sometimes makes a rather
jaded impression, especially when it comes to connecting with the crowd.
However, it has to be remembered that the Englishman suffered a heart
attack last year, and it is of course nice just to see him back in action.
Under all circumstances, the band are clearly having fun onstage which
transcends to the audience, who gives TNT a affectionate reception. This
is certainly the case when such splendid songs such as 10000 Lovers, Intuition
and Everyone's A Star are played.
7,5 chalices of 10
(sorry, no setlist)
Band: Impaled Nazarene
Finland's Impaled Nazarene have existed for 20 years and have released 10 studio albums at regular intervals. If commitment marks the band's career, the same can be said about their effort onstage. From the first song to the last, the four-piece unleash a furious attack with their punk-flavoured death/black metal. The Finns cram in a large number of songs, picked from most of their catalogue, which go down well with the crowd.
Singer Mika Luttinen has an expression that is a mix of mania and exhaustion
as he spits out his characteristic, vicious-sounding vocals with genuine
passion. His talk between songs is understandably sparse, having to catch
his breath. Indeed, it is hard to keep your eye off the frontman as he,
without moving around that much, displays much authority and devotion.
This is true of his bandmates as well. To be honest, it gets almost too
intense in the long run, with most songs very similar in their hyper-charged
arrangement. Overall, though, this is an impressive and energizing, almost
7 chalices of 10
(sorry, no setlist)
On the band's last visit to Sweden, at Getaway Rock Festival last summer, Triptykon were slotted in during the afternoon, which meant they were playing in bright sunshine. Although Tom G. Warrior and his cohorts put on a very good display, their dark and sinister music felt quite out of place that day. At House Of Metal, there is no need to worry about such factors, and their appearance was indeed something to look forward to. The band certainly kick off the show in an impressive manner. Celtic Frost classic Procreation Of The Wicked is the opener; that is followed by the mighty Goetia, which in turn is followed by the biggest Celtic Frost classic of them all, Circle Of The Tyrants. Sadly, the turnout for Triptykon is not very large, or frankly quite embarrassing. Warrior sarcastically comments that "it looks like all of Sweden is here". Though Warrior is a legendary figure in heavy metal, and Celtic Frost a legendary band, Triptykon, with just one album released, have not yet become nearly as known a name to metal fans.
The rest of the set includes both Celtic Frost and Triptykon tracks,
all tight and skilfully delivered. Still, some people can be seen leaving
the concert half-way through. To their defense, Triptykon's dark and doomy
music can prove quite a testing dose when they play for as long as they
do tonight. To be honest, it is hard to keep up the spirit at times. On
the other hand, that might be a compliment to the music, which is of course
meant to be just that; dark and doomy - which it most certainly is. And
talk about heavy; at times it feels like the whole room is vibrating.
It is hard not to mention bassist Vanja Slajh, who brutally hammers out
crushing bass lines. Those present during Triptykon's set witness a fine
performance, one that deserved a larger audience.
7 chalices of 10
The booking of Switzerland's Samael probably was the most eye-catching one ahead of the festival. This band does not visit Scandinavia too often, so well done to the organisers. Starting as a black metal outfit, Samael gradually expanded their sound and developed into more or less an industrial metal band in the 90´s, using much electronics in their music. In recent years they have leaned more towards their roots. The setlist tonight consists of songs from different stages in their career. Whatever song being played, the music is characterised by class and talent, and the recognisable Samael brand is ever-present. Highlights of an impressive set include Rain, Baphomet's Throne and Reign Of Light.
The band members put on a dynamic display with an obvious joy of playing. Guitarist Makro, having a wide grin on his face, and bassist Mas are constantly giving it their all while bouncing about on the stage. Behind them, Xy is very busy handling his arsenal of instruments, consisting of synthesisers as well as a small drum kit. One could have issues with all the samples, preferring more live drums to be used, but regardless of how the beats are produced, there is a marvellous groove to the songs. Such groove, in fact, that a few in the crowd can be seen dancing to some songs.
8 chalices of 10