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~ Reviewed by Mozzy

The interest for the next edition of House Of Metal was at an early stage this time around. Already in August last year, none other than At The Gates were announced as the first band. It was amazing news for metalheads regularly visiting the festival in Umeå, Sweden and it certainly sparked interest for other potential visitors. A smart and impressive move by the organisers, then, and it created healthy tickets sales long before 2014 had ended.

Many other interesting names including the very popular likes of Watain, Candlemass and Hardcore Superstar were added to form a strong line-up, and the consequence was a high attendance number. The line-up did not feature any bigger acts from abroad this time, but that was not anything that was remarked upon from what I heard.

The top-notch quality of Swedish bands was more than enough this time, and it probably benefitted the financial side as well. As regards to the arrangement of the festival, everything worked smoothly as usual and a splendid time was had during the two days. By now, this is something a House Of Metal visitor has come to expect, which is proof that the organisation of the event is of a high standard.
~ Mozzy

Friday - February 28

Band: Vampire
Time: 21:00
Stage: Studion

Walking a floor down to the Studion stage, it's time to see our first performance of this year's festival. Releasing a demo in 2012, old-school death metallers Vampire created a buzz in the underground scene and then signed to Century Media, debuting with their full-length last year. Live activities have followed, and as someone who has not seen them in action before, it's still apparent straight away that Vampire have gained some valuable experience.

After the intro during which the members stand with their backs to the crowd, it all kicks off with the furious At Midnight I'll Possess Your Corpse before it's straight into the tremendous Howls From The Coffin. It's an excellent opening, and the quintet do their best to keep up the energy, with vocalist Hand Of Doom (real name: Lars Martinsson) putting in a dynamic effort onstage.

His bandmates are not as exciting, however, and with the stage bathing in red light throughout the gig there is not really any connection created with those behind the front rows. Musically, though, Vampire definitely makes an impact and the relentless attack is combined with some fine melodies. The guitars are a bit low in the mix, however. After 30 minutes, the outro music appears, leaving a contented crowd.

Performance: 6,5 chalices of 10
Stage sound
: 6chalices of 10
: Howls From The Coffin
: The stage lights

(sorry, no setlist)

Band: Candlemass
Time: 21:45
Stage: Idun

When interviewing Mats ´Mappe´ Björkman and Mats Levén before the gig (see the interview section), they said the focus tonight would be on the early material. The opening two numbers, Mirror Mirror and Bewitched, certainly get the big crowd´s approval, and the more up-tempo Black Dwarf maintains the elated atmosphere. The latter song is followed by a fine version of Prophet, and these two numbers are the only ones in the set originating from records after the 1980´s. Two tracks off Ancient Dreams - Cry From The Crypt and The Bells From Acheron - then fit in great.

There is however something significantly different to this Candlemass concert. The bass guitar is not handled by ever-present band motor Leif Edling, who is still resting in order to regain his health. Standing in this time is Jörgen Sandström from Torture Division (and ex-Entombed, among others), and he does a solid job. One can also see that he really enjoys playing these Candlemass tunes. The crowd is having a wonderful time as well, loving the superb tunes and riffs, and classics such as Under The Oak and At Sorcerer's Pledge are epic tonight, creating a magnificent ambience.

Mats Levén impresses again, singing the material in his own style and great voice. Björkman reveals to the audicence that he received a text message from Edling prior to the gig, wishing his best, and although he is missed, Candlemass again deliver a very strong set, one of the best this weekend.

Performance: 8 chalices of 10
Stage sound
: 8 chalices of 10
: The setlist with all the old gems
: ---

See also: interview with Mats/Mappe the same night

(sorry, no setlist)

Band: Grand Magus
Time: 00.15
Stage: Studion

A very unfortunate clash was the one between Watain and Grand Magus, both performing as the last acts on different stages, at almost the same time. After seeing the first couple of songs of Watain I had to make a choice and duly went to see Grand Magus, who I hadn't seen in quite some time. When arriving at the Studion stage, the Swedish three-piece have started and it feels familiar and inviting straight away, like a trusted old friend.

Singer/guitarist Janne 'JB' Christoffersson, bassist Fox Skinner and drummer Ludwig Witt give the audience a dose of traditional, unfussy heavy metal which gets a warm appreciation. The selections from last year's Hammer Of The North fits in splendidly with the older fine tunes. JB, now sporting a bald hairstyle again, sings well and the effort from the band has heart and soul in it. Although the performance does not reach any extraordinary heights, there is still no doubt that Grand Magus is a most reliable distributor of good ol´ heavy metal and they deliver the goods in Umeå as well.

Performance: 7 chalices of 10
Stage sound
: 7 chalices of 10
: ---
: ---

(sorry, no setlist)

Saturday - March 01

Band: The Haunted
Time: 19.45
Stage: Idun

Seeing The Haunted at Getaway Rock last summer was nice, despite of the rain. Still, their appearance at the indoor festival House Of Metal felt more inviting. This time, more songs from comeback album Exit Wounds are in the setlist, such as vicious opener Cutting Teeth. It is followed by fan favourites 99 and Trespass which incites the first moshpit. The sound is terrific, making the massive riffs and rhythms to really cut through. A top number on the new album, Trendkiller proves a highlight in a live setting as well.

The band is working hard onstage to perform the aggressive music but there is one who definitely gives it all he's got: singer Marco Aro who is suffering from a cold and fever. "I'm gonna loose my voice but I don't care" expresses Aro and gets some endearing chants of his name from the crowd during the set. Although he struggles with some vocals and looks quite shattered, the vocalist soldiers on remarkably and expresses his love for the warm response he and the band get.

It is indeed a convincing thrash metal display by The Haunted, although it can of course be even better with a virus-free vocalist. Under all cicumstances, concluding numbers like Bury Your Dead and Hate Song make us in the crowd bang our heads and praise once more the return of The Haunted.

Performance: 7,5 chalices of 10
Stage sound
: 8 chalices of 10
: Trendkiller
: The virus making it tough for Aro

(sorry, no setlist)

Band: Hardcore Superstar
Time: 21.45
Stage: Idun

Hardcore Superstar is one of the most consistent live acts you can find, and there is expectation in the air before their appearance at House Of Metal. Following the cool intro This Worm's For Ennio, the band kick off the party with Moonshine and the fans are thrilled. The band's mix of sleaze rock and heavy metal complemented by catchy, energetic tunes is indeed a recipe that is difficult to resist.

These Swedes are always lively and cheerful onstage, smiling and having a genuine joy of rocking out. It is infectious and rubs off on the crowd, and all four also have an exemplary way of interacting with the spectators, creating a formidable bond and atmosphere. Jocke Berg is a superb frontman as usual, having the crowd in his palm while singing with power and proficiency.

Mid-set, we get a two numbers from the debut album. Before Someone Special, Berg quips "this will fit perfectly at House Of Metal, don't you think?" While that and the other of the two, Liberation, are good tunes there is no doubt that the heavier material from the last decade is what people now expect and appreciate more. The momentum is regained soon, though, building up to a finish on a high, with two real party anthems.

During Last Call For Alcohol, we get the customary invite to the stage of some fans who get to sing and bounce about, and then We Don't Celebrate Sundays brings a brilliant party atmosphere. I have witnessed more memorable gigs by this great live band, but there is no doubt that once again, band and audience have enjoyed a good time at a Hardcore Superstar show.

Performance: 7,5 chalices of 10
Stage sound
: 8 chalices of 10
: We Don't Celebrate Sundays
: The setlist could be improved

This Worm's For Ennio
Kick On The Upperclass
My Good Reputation
She's Offbeat
Wild Boys
Someone Special
Above The Law
Run To Your Mama
Last Call For Alcohol
We Don't Celebrate Sundays

Band: At The Gates
Time: 23.45
Stage: Idun

The first band booked for this year's House Of Metal was certainly not just any band: At The Gates, one of the premier metal bands to emerge from Sweden, also with a long-awaited new album, At War Of Reality, about to be released. Apart from the large tickets sales the booking generated, it had metalheads eagerly counting the days until the groundbreaking death metal crew took to the Idun stage.

When entering the hall, the standing area is jam-packed with fans and one has to squeeze through to get to a more central position. Predictably, the intro and first track off the latest album begins the concert, and the response is excited from the start. When two jewels from the Slaughter Of The Soul follow - the title track plus Cold - it is pure euphoria among the crowd, and a passionate moshpit is soon formed.

No less than eight tracks from At War With Reality are performed. It is a move which cannot be disputed considering the high quality of the new material, and the response is excellent. Simply put, the new songs work great and sound great live. That said, it is the tunes from the revered Slaughter Of The Soul that make the crowd go wild.

The composition of the setlist, also consisting appreciated gems from the first records, is clever: apart from the two in the beginning of the set, the tunes from SOTS appear one by one in between other material, thus taking the crowd by the throat every time they are unleashed.

The quintet from Gothenburg perform with spirit and one can sense they relish now getting to play newly written music as well. Tompa Lindberg leads the troops with assurance, spurring on the audience with a grin, and his voice is strong. It is a dynamic, vital and superb set without any flaws which At The Gates treat House Of Metal to.

The stage show is comprised by a cool light show and a large album backdrop, but it is of course the music that is central. The band's characteristic blend of aggression, magnificent melodies and cool intricate parts sounds awesome and goes down a storm. The Night Eternal is a moody, almost sad, but classy ending to a fabulous and memorable performance.

Performance: 9 chalices of 10
Stage sound
: 8 chalices of 10
: To get the chance to hear the new material
: ---

See also: interview with Tompa Lindberg the same night

Intro: El Altar del Dios Desconocido
Death And The Labyrinth
Slaughter Of The Soul
At War With Reality
Terminal Spirit Disease
Raped By The Light of Christ
Eater Of Gods
Under A Serpent Sun
City Of Mirrors
Suicide Nation
Heroes And Tombs
The Circular Ruins
World Of Lies
The Burning Darkness
The Book Of Sand (The Abomination)
Blinded By Fear
Kingdom Gone
The Night Eternal

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