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~ Reviews by Mozzy

The booking of none other than Anthrax to House Of Metal created a big buzz early on, and the line-up was then completed with a string of other quality bands. As is sometimes the case at the festival, there were some annoying clashes. This meant that some acts were seen just in bits and cannot be reviewed fairly. These acts included Asphyx and Vintersorg, among others. However, the fact that there were bands one wanted to see more of, or see at all, is further evidence that this year boasted a very strong bill.

The first day, with Anthrax headlining, ended up being sold-out and that this was the case was apparent when seeing people everywhere in the venue. Also, the number of fans hailing from abroad must have been a record as there were reportedly no less than 25 nationalities represented, including from far, far away like South America and Asia.

Perhaps one really big band if essential in order to attract such a large attendance and thus generating a sound financial result instead of a negative one. In the case of Anthrax, it was clear that masses would show up and we salute the organisers for this historic concert in Northern Sweden. At the same time, such a big name is expensive so the organisers have to be careful and it is surely a difficult balance.

Either way, the fact that House Of Metal returns year after year, this being the 11th edition, is truly proof that the staff has the expertise to plan and arrange a big event. Furthermore, and this is undoubtedly a key factor, it is so obvious that the staff are passionate about metal and are huge fans themselves, which help them to go the extra mile, and to do things for the right reason.

Finally, a comment from Peter Tägtgren during Pain's appearance: "Hello Umeå! It's wonderful to be back at the world's best festival. If only other festivals would be as well organised as this one; how fun it would be". And this came from a very experienced musician who has played at major festivals all over the globe. Gratifying indeed for the House Of Metal crew, and rightly so. See you in Umeå next year, fellow metalheads!
~ Mozzy

Friday - March 3

Band: Scar Symmetry
Time: 19:30
Stage: Idun

First band on my festival agenda is Scar Symmetry, a tempting start as it was quite a few years since I saw the Swedes. Compared to last time, there are two new members present: guitarist Benjamin Ellis and bassist Andreas Holma, who both fit in well. Regarding the bass position, Kenneth Seil was an entertaining character, but the acquisition of Holma, known from his spell as guitarist in Hypocrisy, is a tremendous replacement. Equally skilful on this instrument, he contributes terrifically to the sound, and is very comfortable onstage.

Treating a good-sized crowd to a solid set of newer and older material, the band sound excellent, also with Robert Karlsson and Lars Palmqvist supplying effective vocals in growl and clean style. Not even some frustrating minutes of interruption because of technical problems affects the upbeat mood, which is enhanced when birthday boy Per Nilsson is saluted with singing by the crowd.

Guitarist Nilsson, one of two remaining founding members together with drummer Henrik Ohlsson, really impresses with his guitar skills and musicality and is no doubt the motor of Scar Symmetry. The last part of the set treats us to old favourites in the form of The Illusionist, The Iconoclast and Morphogenesis which bring an excited reaction. A convincing display by Scar Symmetry, and it was pleasing to see them again.

Performance: 7 chalices of 10
Stage sound
: 8 chalices of 10
: Morphogenesis
: The technical problem halting the show

(sorry, no setlist)

Band: Pain
Time: 21:30
Stage: Idun

Pain played at the first edition of House Of Metal in 2008, and after two appearances here with Hypocrisy, Peter Tägtgren is back at the festival with his other main band. Opening number is End Of The Line which is very cool since it was the breakthrough single of the first Pain album. Accompanied by a cool light show and smoke, the set continues with Monkey Business, but it is soon apparent that Tägtgren's voice is not its normal impressive self.

Nevertheless, a packed crowd shows its approval throughout the set which is full of Pain gems. Tägtgren and his bandmates deliver a fat sound, and during Call Me from the latest album there is a guest appearance. The music stops and a doll of Sabaton singer Joacim Brodén appears, then strutting about to Brodéns vocal parts in the song. Classic stuff.

Towards the end, Tägtgren apologizes for his vocal performance, revealing that he has a fever which is not ideal when performing. All in all, however, Pain manages to put on an energizing gig with catchy tunes, and Tägtgren is a showman who is always fun to watch and hear. Speaking of entertainment, at the end bassist André Skaug does his usual stagedive into the crowd from atop a speaker - crazy but fitting for this Swedish band that always gives you a good time.

Performance: 7 chalices of 10
Stage sound
: 7 chalices of 10
: Suicide Machine
: Coming Home brings the momentum down a bit

End Of The Line
Monkey Business
A Wannabe
Zombie Slam
Call Me
The Great Pretender
Suicide Machine
It's Only Them
Coming Home
Pain In The Ass
Same Old Song
Dirty Woman
Shut Your Mouth

Band: Anthrax
Time: 23:45
Stage: Idun

When it was announced in November that Anthrax were going to play at House Of Metal, it was a surprise that was of course met with much exhilaration among metal fans up in Northern Sweden, not least because the fact that Among The Living, celebrating its 30th anniversary, was going to be played in full. Now that the happening is imminent, the Idun hall is completely packed, and the intro tape with Sabbath's Mob Rules increases the mood further. After the jolly Blues Brothers tune the familiar intro to Among The Living starts, the riff starts chugging and Umeå is sent into thrash metal euphoria. Caught In A Mosh is the next classic creating similar frenzy. The songs on the seminal album are not played in the original order which does not really matter though.

The sound is very good despite also being very loud, and awesome heaviness is delivered via guitar duo Scott Ian and Jonathan Donais plus rhythm section Frank Bello and Jon Dette. The latter is sitting in for Charlie Benante as he has done before on occasion. The whole band are energetic and show much enthusiasm, but none more so than Joey Belladonna. Apart from the fact that his vocal abilities seem as good as ever, the frontman has a formidable bond with the audience, seeking eye contact with those at the front and seemingly having a blast onstage which is nice to witness.

Apart from the well-known tracks from the album always played live, it is of course a real treat to hear the other ones, rarely played if ever. Scott Ian reveals before A Skeleton In The Closet that it was and still is his favourite track, and it is one of the highlights tonight, with lethal riffing from Ian and Donais. Similarly, it is a treat to hear tracks like One World, A.D.I/Horror Of It All and Imitation Of Life. The latter is introduced by Scott Ian commenting that when the track was written, "we had an actor as president" and that "now it is 2017 and 1986 is looking like the good old days". Loud cheers are heard, for obvious reasons.

After the Among The Living set, the band leaves the stage to return two minutes later with Fight Ém Til You Can´t. After another newer song, Breathing Lightning, the show is rounded off with two Anthrax live staples, Madhouse and Antisocial, and the crowd musters its last energy and singing. As witnessed in recent years, Anthrax are a live act in great form. Coupled with the extravagance of getting Among The Living in full, this is a display of metal that will be remembered.

Performance: 8 chalices of 10
Stage sound
: 8 chalices of 10
: A Skeleton In The Closet
: Breathing Lightning is good but could well be swapped for another classic as encore instead

Among The Living
Caught In A Mosh
One World
I Am The Law
A Skeleton In The Closet
Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.)
Guitar solo (Jonathan Donais)
A.D.I./Horror Of It All
Imitation Of Life
Fight 'Em 'Til You Can't
Breathing Lightning

Saturday - March 4

Band: Gloryhammer
Time: 19.45
Stage: Idun

Kicking off the second festival night in the company of power metallers Gloryhammer seemed like an appealing prospect beforehand. Sure enough it is instantly clear that this will not be an ordinary gig at House Of Metal. Clad in their medieval/space costumes the quintet gets the party started with their symphonic power metal with tales of epic heroics. Having released two fine albums, we get catchy tunes with great energy that carries you along and the band's delivery is excellent.

Leading the battle is singer Thomas Winkler who puts in an ambitious and busy effort sprinting the stage, constantly fooling around and wielding his plastic hammer, delivering hilarious banter, and conducting the crowd in various tricks and singalongs. All this while he demonstrates strong vocals with a wide range, hitting high notes, although he is slightly strained at times.

Regarding connection with the crowd, Winkler is a star. The response the band get, despite all the juvenile goofing around, not just from Winkler, is impressive. Clearly, the glint in the eye of the band members cannot be mistaken and the combination of quality power metal and a fun live show goes down very well. Overall, Gloryhammer is a refreshing element among the far more serious and bleak music at metal-oriented events, and if not the best, their appearance is one that stands out this weekend.

Performance: 7 chalices of 10
Stage sound
: 8 chalices of 10
: Winkler´s frontmanship
: It does however get a bit exaggerated sometimes

Infernus Ad Astra
Rise Of The Chaos Wizards
Legend Of The Astral Hammer
Hail to Crail
Questlords Of Inverness, Ride To The Galactic Fortress!
Magic Dragon
Goblin King Of The Darkstorm Galaxy
Apocalypse 1992
Amulet Of Justice
The Hollywood Hootsman
Angus McFife
Universe On Fire
The Unicorn Invasion Of Dundee
The National Anthem Of Unst

Band: Wolf
Time: 22.45
Stage: Studion

According to singer/guitarist Niklas Stålvind, it has been 17 years since Wolf last played in Umeå. Since then, the Swedes have released a string of excellent albums and built a reputation as an equally excellent live band. It is evident when they take the stage that the quartet, also consisting of guitarist Simon Johansson, bassist Anders Modd and drummer Richard Holmgren are up for it. While delivering a tight performance, they have an enthusiasm and joy for playing which is infectious.

Traditional heavy metal is what is being offered, and it is of a qualitative kind, exemplified by great tunes like I Will Kill Again and Voodoo, where the approving spectators help out with some singing. Speaking of singing, Stålvind sure has a distinctive voice that fits in well. Although Wolf definitely let their music do the talking, some cool tricks are used such as the light bulbs with the band name. And at the end of the show the constantly grinning Modd wanders down into the audience to play alongside amused fans. Seeing Wolf is always a guarantee for having a good time and enjoying good ol´ heavy metal.

Performance: 7,5 chalices of 10
Stage sound
: 7 chalices of 10
: I Will Kill Again
: ---

Overture In C Shark
Shark Attack
The Bite
My Demon
Hail Caesar
I Will Kill Again
Evil Star
In The Shadow Of Steel
Skull Crusher
Speed On


Band: Dark Tranquillity
Time: 23.45
Stage: Idun

After being forced to cancel their appearance at House Of Metal last year, Dark Tranquillity are now here, having the honour of closing festivities at the main stage Idun. That the influential Gothenburg group is popular is manifested by the not far from filled hall, and vocalist Mikael Stanne is all smiles from the start, though he virtually always is. Annoyingly, Stanne's vocals are too low in the mix but this is corrected after a while.

Just as in the case of Scar Symmetry, there are a couple of unfamiliar faces in Dark Tranquillity tonight, even though I saw them as recently as last summer. Original guitarist Niklas Sundin is missing because of family duty and in his place this time is Johan Reinholdz, who does a good job and fits in well onstage. The same applies for guitar partner Sebastian Myren.

The band's last album, the praised Atoma, has been out for a couple of months and five tracks are aired. One of them, Forward Momentum, is one of the highlights this evening. The video to the track is shown on the big screen and the gloomy plot, the great song and the expressive manner of Stanne makes for a touching mix. The screen is used throughout the whole concert and together with a classy light show the visual aspect is terrific.

Nevertheless, it is of course the superb music that is central. Performing pearls such as The Wonders At Your Feet, ThereIn and Final Resistance, Dark Tranquility receive a loving response during the whole concert, and the atmosphere is marvellous. The band's compositions generate such a moving feel, via outstanding melodies that hit one's heart and Stanne convey the lyrics with such soul and conviction. Misery's Crown, with an ecstatic response, rounds off a splendid performance by Dark Tranquillity.

Performance: 8,5 chalices of 10
Stage sound
: 8 chalices of 10
: ThereIn
: ---

Force Of Hand
The Lesser Faith
The Treason Wall
The Science Of Noise
Forward Momentum
Terminus (Where Death Is Most Alive)
The Silence In Between
The Pitiless
What Only You Know
Monochromatic Stains
The Wonders At Your Feet
White Noise/Black Silence
Final Resistance
State Of Trust
Misery's Crown

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