Royal Metal Fest 2011

author MST date 14/04/11

Royal Metal Fest is an indoor festival which has taken place annually since 2008. In 2010 it was a 3-day festival sporting names such as Entombed, Sepultura, Sodom and Decapitated. This year it has been downsized to a 2-day festival and the price for both days has been lowered as well. The downsizing is not evident in the lineup, however, as headliners Onslaught, Malevolent Creation, Hail of Bullets and Obituary aren't the type of bands that play in front of 10 people nodding along. The festival is located in Århus, Denmark, at what I think is the best medium sized venue in the country: Voxhall. Nothing bad can ever be said about this venue, as the entrance is super, the bar (there is actually another bar upstairs) has plenty of employees and sells reasonably priced drinks and the sound is almost always top notch. This all accounts for this festival as well.

But moving on to the actual festival, there really isn't much to say, because apart from it being a 2-day event it feels like your regular gig at Voxhall. Compared to festivals like Aalborg Metal Festival in Aalborg and Metal Magic Festival in Frederecia, there really isn't anything "festival" about it. At Aalborg Metal Festival, there is a metal market with a wide variety of CD's, patches and merchandise that doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the bands playing, and there's a karaoke-Jägermeister bar upstairs. At Metal Magic Festival there's a camping area, a big outdoor drinking area and a (smaller) metal market. The only difference between a regular Voxhall gig and Royal Metal Festival is that visitors have the chance to buy hot dogs and drinks right outside the entrance, and a Tuborg booth has been set up next to the merchandise booths, both differences introduced this year because last year's visitors requested it.

When PP sorted the press passes with Metal Royale, the organisation behind Royal Metal Fest, it was made clear that "under no circumstances are they allowed to take pictures at Voxhall". When we arrived the first day, there were photographers everywhere and we were told to speak to the very same man who had told PP that taking pictures was prohibited, but we hadn't brought the camera, so any pictures presented in this article were taken by Voxhall's own photographers.

Line-up:

  • Malevolent Creation
  • Onslaught
  • The Burning
  • The Cleansing
  • SuidAkra
  • Final Depravity
  • The Interbeing
  • Obituary
  • Hail of Bullets
  • Artillery
  • Grave
  • Panzerchrist
  • Exmortem
  • Pathology
  • Altar of Oblivion
  • Strychnos
  • Aphyxion

Friday

We arrived at the venue just after The Interbeing had started, and decided to go stuff ourselves with food to prepare for the rest of the evening. The excellent fast food restaurant Byens Burger which is located 20 seconds of walking from Voxhall succeeded in getting our stomachs filled, and so we headed back slightly too late to see the entire Final Depravity show.

Final Depravity

This german modern thrash/death metal outfit was brought in after the german death metal band Debauchery cancelled their tour. Final Depravity looked like a very young band, when it comes to playing live anyway. Their lead singer seemed nervous as he often couldn't find the words to say to the relatively small crowd between songs. Their performance was relatively solid though. The frontman and the second guitarist had plenty of energy, but the bassist stood almost completely still staring at his instrument. Regardless of the quality of the show, we missed the first couple of songs so grading the whole show wouldn't be fair, but what we saw was definitely not bad.

SuidAkra

SuidAkra's energetic celtic pagan metal would be an idea foundation for a great live performance. Both the music and the band setup is reminiscent of Ensiferum, a band who know how to put on a great show. Initially, SuidAkra had plentyful energy. The frontman thanked the audience for attending and so on. Sadly the band reacted way too much to the crowd's reaction. During the first half of the show, the band were constantly trying to get the audience going, but to no effect. The band responded to that by losing almost all energy during the second half of the show. My idea of a good performance is when you can see that a band really enjoys playing their music, instead of focusing everything on entertaining the crowd. The crowd is sure to be entertained anyway if the band's passion for their music shines through. In conclusion, the first part of the show was good, but the last part was forgettable at best. [6½]

The Cleansing

Now it was time for some danish metal. The Cleansing are a "young" danish death metal band about to release their second record. I say "young" because although the band was formed only a few years ago, each band member has been active in the danish death metal scene for years. Singer Toke Eld and guitarists Jeppe Hasseriis and Andreas Lynge were part of the danish death metal band Usipian until they split up in 2007, bassist Martin Rosendahl is the lead singer and bassist of danish brutal death metal band Corpus Mortale and stand-in drummer Mads Lauridsen (standing in for Morten Løwe who is currently on tour with his most active band, Mercenary) is the drummer of danish death metal band Konkhra. For those not familiar with the danish death metal scene, those bands have been around for a long time.

The experience was clearly visible in the band's appearance on stage. The guitarists were constantly moving and appealing to the audience, bassist Rosendahl moved around the stage as he saw fit, and singer Eld had a confidence on stage that can only be obtained through playing lots of shows. He utilized his mighty growl to excellence and never looked anything less than mighty as he stood on stage and looked down upon the crowd. Towards the end of the show he brought in the lead singer from danish black metal band Strychnos who were to play the following day. The Cleansing played a very solid show with infinite amounts of confidence, plentiful energy and a clear joy of playing metal. [7½]

The Burning

I've never actually gotten around to listening to The Burning, so I didn't know what to expect. As it turns out they sound like some sort of melodic hardcore mixed with the almost genre-worthy label; danish metal. Leadsinger Johnny Haven said he had unfortunately been struck by illness, and I'm glad he told us, because it was in no way evident in his live performance. His vocals came through convincingly throughout the whole show, and he was all over the place with an immense amount of energy. He also had energy enough to play comedian inbetween songs, ensuring that no one were ever bored during the show. Guitarist Alexander Kjeldsen (Ex-Dawn of Demise, Blood Label) did a decent job getting people going at his side of the stage, but bassist Kasper Kirkegaard whom the band had borrowed from The Arcane Order did little to nothing next to playing his bass and standing still. Bjørn and Scott Jensen from Dawn of Demise were brought on stage for a triple vocalist song and plenty of entertaining chatter between them. Haven looked a little tired towards the end of the show, but he had energy enough to play some extras that concluded a very entertaining show, and showed that with the right amount of will, illness doesn't have to get in the way of playing metal. Johnny Haven was clearly born to be the lead singer of his own band.[7½]

Onslaught

UK thrashers Onslaught were up next. The band were supposed to play last year's Royal Metal Fest, but they cancelled, so one can imagine that a lot of people had been waiting a year to get the chance to see them. As it turned out, they were definitely worth waiting for. The crowd helped them get an excellent welcoming by shouting "Onslaught" in choir. When the band got on stage and started playing, it was evident that they loved playing music. The band was constantly smiling, especially the singer. He wandered around the stage singing, and it was amazing how it seemlingly never required the slighest effort to reach the notes. Most of the band wandered around the stage so as to get to interact with a bigger part of the audience. We were treated to some great energetic thrash metal that entertained even those of us who aren't familiar with the band's discography. Even though the band lost a bit of their energy towards the end of the show, Onslaught played an excellent show that definitely satisfied their fans and also most definitely made them some new fans. [8½]

Malevolent Creation

Malevolent Creation were one of the bands I was looking forward to seeing. With a vast discography that started 20 years ago and an album released last year, there were plenty of songs that different people wanted to hear. Some songs were played, some songs weren't and those that wanted the songs that weren't played were obviously somewhat dissapointed that they didn't hear that special song they wanted. But when it comes to the show, there was nothing more to wish for. The band didn't waste any time standing still on stage and lead singer Brett Hoffmann looked like a raving lunatic and the only thing he seemed to want to do more than shouting at us was to jump headfirst into the crowd and slit the throats of every single one of us.

Apart from the old songs that people wanted to hear, the band naturally played some songs off their latest album "Invidious Dominion" that EW reviewed last year. The first new song to be played was "Slaughterhouse", the track from the new album for which a video has been released, and later on "Target Rich Environment" and the fantastic "United Hate" got the crowd cheering. In between songs Hoffmann only had time to tell us all to go apeshit - or rather, order us to. "You better be getting fucked up down there!" is the sentence that clings to my mind and reminds me of a ridiculously energetic show and one of the best death metal frontmen that I've seen. [9]

Saturday

Altar of Oblivion

A few delays at home ruined our plans of seeing Strychnos as the first band, and when we finally arrived we discovered that Altar of Oblivion were already playing, so we missed at least one song by the danish doom metal band. What we saw was good though. Altar of Oblivion play doom metal with heavy riffs and vocals that aren't rarely found in power metal. The singer was constantly moving, whether he was wandering about on stage while singing or raising the microphone above his head in a dramatic pose. Because of the small amount of people that had ventured to Voxhall this early to see Altar of Oblivion, it was a relatively intimate show, and the band seemed to feel very much at home in the intimate environment. The microphone was handed to those that sang along the most and the singer often stood beyond the monitors looking at individuals one by one, which I'm sure must've made the intimate concert a great one especially for those standing in the middle. Altar of Oblivion played a very good show that sadly cannot be graded because we didn't see the whole thing.

After Altar of Oblivion we went out to get some food to prepare for the rest of the day. The band we missed was Pathology, a Slam-death metal band with completely indecipherable guttural dirrhea outbursts. I simply cannot stand that genre, so reviewing their performance would've been somewhat negatively biased.

Exmortem

Exmortem are veterans in the danish death metal scene. They officially ended the band last year after 20 years, but they were convinced to get back together for a final farewell gig at Royal Metal Fest. And it showed. Last time I saw Exmortem was at Metal Magic Festival in Frederecia in 2009. Back then, they wore costumes to underline the dark nature of their brand of death metal; the whole band wore black hooded capes and the singer wore one of those old plague masks that look like beaks, with a microphone inside it so that he could walk around the stage without having to hold the microphone. Later on he switched to a military officer costume and a gas mask, and he brought a megaphone to which a microphone could be attached.

This time there were no costumes, but the megaphone was brought in again twice. The second it had been set to play "olé olé" by mistake and that acted as unappreciated comic relief. The band didn't need any costumes to underline their music, because even if their music hadn't spoken for itself the band clearly took it very seriously. During solos, the guitarists looked upon their guitars as if they were insane surgents performing brain surgery. The bassist was often down on one knee, his bass almost touching the stage floor. The singer constantly had a look of malevolence in his expression. The band were generally thoroughly convincing in expressing their music through their appearances on stage. They played their brand of death metal that goes from blasting to slow, and at times almost even droning to excellency. Having performed a farewell-show to be remembered, Exmortem have made sure that they have an audience if they should ever decide to reform. [8½]

Panzerchrist

Panzerchrist were the band that I was looking forward to seeing the most. With their previous blackened death metal records "Roomservice" and "Battalion Beast" and a new record that was to be released a few weeks after the festival (reviewed by me here) Panzerchrist's show was definitely going to be a blastfest. But this was to be Panzerchrist's first live show in 11 years so I didn't really know what to expect.

Behind the curtain the band stood wearing camoflage outfits, bassist and band general Michael Enevoldsen wearing a gas mask, the drumkit covered in green camo netting and new singer Magnus Jørgensen (Crocell) wearing a leather jacket. The show was kicked in by "King Tiger" from the new album, a behemoth of a blasting blackened death metal track. But the band looked awkward on stage. Bassist and guitarist on the right side stood completely still in the back, almost pushed against the amps, and the guitarist on the left moved only slightly. Jørgensen had almost the whole stage for himself, so he wandered about the stage trying to be as terrifying as Exmortem and The Cleansing had been earlier, but he simply couldn't pull it off. Apart from a few failed double-pedal blasts, there was nothing wrong with the music though, and Jørgensen was able to pull off the old songs with Bo Summer on vocals wonderfully. Their live performance was just completely uninteresting to say it lightly. But this was their first show, so hopefully they're going to get some better dynamics as a band after a few more shows. [5]

Grave

As far as I can remember, this was the first time I've experienced a concert ruined by the sound at Voxhall. For some reason the bass drums were ridiculously loud, literally blasting everything else the hell out of there. I was wearing earplugs, so I could hear a bit more than those who weren't, but it still completely ruined the musical experience. [?]

Artillery

I've seen Artillery live 5-6 times by now, the first being at Metal Magic Festival in 2009. Most of them have been small headlining shows before their new album though, so I've been used to them playing lots of their old songs. This time they had very limited time on stage, and with a new album to promote there was almost no time to play the old classics. Thus the set was focused on the new album and their 2009 effort When Death Comes, allowing only two older songs to enter the setlist. Songs like Khomaniac, Out Of The Sky and Terror Squad were clearly missing, but their newer material is still great. The Stützer brothers were awesome as always and this show was the first in my memory in which the guitar brothers helped out with gang choir shouts, but I missed a little more energy from singer Søren Adamsen who usually connects with everyone standing at the front. This time he stayed at the central monitor a little too often and didn't seem as enthusiastic as he usually does. Rants aside it is evident however that Artillery are more or less unable to play a bad show, even if this was definitely my least favorite Artillery concert. [7]

Hail of Bullets

The dutch death metal war brigade Hail of Bullets were the last to play before Obituary would finish the festival off. And they did so with style. Frontman Martin van Drunen is a natural showman. Between having performed each song with passion and energy, he had plenty of time and energy to thank the audience and the festival organisers, and to give praise to bands like Artillery and Obituary for being such old bands (probably not knowing that Artillery have been on break for most of their career). For a band with only two records behind them, they have gathered an enormous following, and the audience's reaction upon hearing the names of Hail of Bullets' 2008 and 2010 "classics" were reminiscent of Malevolent Creation playing one of their 1991 classics the day before. The audience went berzerk, the band loved it and everything was generally just pure awesomeness. [8½]

Obituary

There is no Obituary. After getting drunk early and falling asleep several times, MH felt ill and we decided to head home. Neither of us likes Obituary's music in the first place anyway. We apologise to the readers for not reviewing the main headliners, but it was a long two days.

But even without having watched the last band play, we left the festival after an awesome weekend. The sound at Voxhall was good during almost all the bands, and the bands we saw were excellent. See you next year at another Royal Metal Fest!

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