At the end of a week when Home to Vote had been on everybody’s lips, I flew in a day later than most on my own personal mission: I was Home to Metal.
I managed to make it to the Tivoli shortly before Death the Leveller opened proceedings.
While I had only heard one of their tracks beforehand, it had piqued my interest so I was glad to arrive on time to hear more.
While the 1.45 p.m. slot in a day full of bands is not one to be envied, there were luckily already a decent number of people watching when the band began.
Death The Leveller
Death the Leveller play doom metal, heavy and almost always slow, although with quite a few riff changes in each song rather than the repetition often common in the genre, and rousing clean vocals.
The singer held the stage well despite the early hour and band looked to be enjoying themselves and got a good reception from those present.
My highlight of the set was “Gone Forever”. As soon as the band left the stage I went and bought their CD, so they won at least one new listener and hopefully more.
Next up were Vircolac, a band I was far more familiar with.
Opening with “The Cursed Travails of the Demeter”, their set was largely drawn from the mini-album of the same name.
The band’s death metal was dark and labyrinthine, but importantly also laden with real riffs. It had a number of early afternoon heads banging, and the band appeared to be really getting lost in the music.
Driven by powerful drumming and memorable guitar work, their set was very strong and enjoyable.
As well as three tracks from the mini-album, they also debuted a new track “The Long Trail” about Irish regiments in World War 1.
This song sounded very good and bodes well for the debut full-length to be recorded in October.
There followed the first foreign act of the day, Greek/German heavy metallers Battleroar.
This was another band I wasn’t hugely familiar with, having just listened to a couple of their albums online in the run up to the show.
They played set of mainly mid-paced, epic heavy metal, sounding primarily influenced by 1980s US epic/power metal with a little German heavy metal thrown in, topped off by the unique and idiosyncratic vocals of Gerrit Mutz.
I’ve long been a fan of his work with Dawn of Winter, so it was nice to see him perform live, albeit with a different band. As I said, the songs were largely unfamiliar to me, but despite this I’d have happily watched them for a good while longer than their 30-minute set.
And judging by the reception by the growing crowd I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. The standout tracks were “Siegecraft” and the triumphant “Valkyries Above Us”.
A 10-hour day of bands and beers necessarily means that some time has to be set aside eating junk food and yapping away in the beer garden.
Unfortunately, as they were the band I had least interest in, I chose Winterfylleth’s set to be my afternoon break.
I thus have nothing to report on their set of atmospheric black metal except to say that during my brief forays inside the band had a really good sound and the audience certainly seemed to appreciate them.
I certainly wasn’t going to miss the next band, doom/death legends Mourning Beloveth. They’re a band I’ve seen many times before, but I was racking my brain trying to recall when the last time was.
I ended up concluding that it had been a good ten years and I suddenly felt quite old. Luckily not a lot has changed in the meantime – apart from a ‘new’ guitarist and a few albums that is!
What I mean is that the band are as pummelingly heavy as they ever were, and still manage to combine melancholy and genuine metalness in a way that few if any doom/death metal bands can.
And, as was always the case, both Darren and Frank’s contrasting vocals were real highlights. With their trademark long songs, the hour-long set featured only four numbers.
“The Mantle Tomb” was an early highlight but the real triumph was the closer “Nothing Has a Centre”, which was truly excellent and elicited a reaction I had simply never seen before at a doom gig: a sizeable portion of the crowd singing the tune of the final riff for the last few minutes of the gig.
The band looked very happy when they left the stage, and they had every right to be: it had been a great performance with a deservedly good reception.
On a personal note, I’d have loved to hear something from debut album “Dust” but I know that that was a somewhat unreasonable hope given that the band has six albums and only had space in their set for four tunes!
A completely different type of metal was up next and also one of my most anticipated bands of the day: Swedish heavy metal tyrants RAM.
I’ve been a fan of their fast, heavy, Judas Priest-inspired metal for a decade now but for whatever reason had never caught them live, so it was high time to remedy that. And I was not disappointed in the least.
On the contrary, from the first note onwards head- and fistbanging were almost compulsory. The band went at high speed through a set of songs from most if not all their albums, with powerful high-pitched vocals, twin lead guitar attacks, a powerful rhythm section and five musicians who really owned the stage.
Some of my favourite tracks were “Awakening the Chimera”, “Declaration of Independence” and “Under the Scythe”, but the absolute highlight was the band’s anthem “Sudden Impact” which was so good I could happily have watched them perform it three times back to back.
After an hour of metal and a very good crowd reaction they left to stage and I certainly want to see them again sooner rather than later.
I’ll admit to being a bit ambivalent about an Asphyx line-up that doesn’t feature Bob Bagchus, Eric Daniels or even Wannes Gubbels and to being one of those annoying people who say “the first albums were better”.
So perhaps I wasn’t looking forward to their set as much as many of the audience. That said, when they opened with old classic “Vermin”, with the band headbanging wildly and much of the crowd dissolving into a huge pit, my opinion was already beginning to change.
As the set progressed, with a crushingly heavy sound, great vocals from Martin Van Drunen, and a very enthusiastic stage presence, there could really be little arguing with the death metal on display.
It was great to hear old numbers like “Wasteland of Terror” and “Last One on Earth”, and while it’s true my own personal preference would have been for a higher proportion of older tracks, there was no arguing with newer ones like “Death the Brutal Way” or “Incoming Death” either.
The crowd reaction was very positive throughout and the band really seemed to be enjoying themselves, and by long before the end of the set my own initial skepticism had been forgotten.
And then, after hours of music and some top performances, it was time for the headliners Primordial.
While the new album seems to have divided opinion among Irish fans, I think it’s their best since “The Gathering Wilderness” so I was very much looking forward to the show.
Unfortunately, though, things seemed to get off to a somewhat slow start.
It may just have been my vantage point, but the guitars sounded quite muddy and many of the nuances were drowned out a bit by the drums and bass.
However, after a few tracks I’d found myself a better place in the tightly packed crowd and – perhaps – the band had got more into their stride.
From here on the set really began to take off, with a run of storming tracks starting from a rousing “As Rome Burns”.
While it was nice to hear old favourites like “Gods to Godless” and “Journey’s End” towards the start of the set, it was actually the newer tracks that sounded stronger.
Seven of the eight tracks from “Exile Amongst the Ruins” were aired, with particular highlights being “To Hell or the Hangman”, which went down really well, and “Upon Our Spiritual Deathbed”, one of my own favourites on the album.
The second half of the set was also marked by a number of the band’s really anthemic tracks: “Traitor’s Gate”, “Sons of the Morrigan” (one of the absolute crowd favourites of the night), the always brilliant “Coffin Ships”, and closing track “Empire Falls”, by which time the slightly ropey start had been long forgotten and the crowd were totally in Nemtheanga’s hands, singing along with the classic “Where is the fighting man?” chorus.
And then, after over two hours performing – and disappointingly without an encore of an obscure song from “Imrama”! – Primordial exited the stage after a very enjoyable set.
At this stage I was pretty much burned and died after the long day, so I made a quick getaway and can’t report on any shenanigans that may or may not have occurred during DJ Scobes’ set.
All in all an excellent day of metal.
– Padre Pio ::: 01/06/18
– Photos by Simon Ward