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Metal Female Voices Festival @ Wieze, BE

Posted in Festival, Live with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 22nd October 2013 by vitriolicvanity

Tarja, Lacuna Coil, ReVamp, Delain, Leaves’ Eyes
Oktoberhallen, Wieze
18th-20th October

In Belgium, October stands for falling leaves, rain and a ton of female fronted metal. For the eleventh time the Oktoberhallen in Wieze flooded with fans of this genre to attend the Metal Female Voices Fest or MFVF. This festival has a very loyal fanbase, some of them even travelled a good part of the globe to get there! I had the pleasure to meet some dedicated metalheads from Israel and Argentina, and it’s safe to say that they weren’t the only international visitors.

On Friday, the first day of the festival, the doors opened at 19h00 as there were only two acts. I have no idea if that was also the reason behind the smaller crowd, but it was noticable that there were a lot more attendees on Saturday and Sunday. But that didn’t stop Liv Kristine from giving it her all with her solo project! Liv Kristine by herself, accompanied by a band of course, is a little more indie/rock than Leaves’ Eyes, but that doesn’t take away of the fact that she has an amazing voice. Fans of Leaves’ Eyes were lucky this weekend, because the band attended the festival on Saturday. But for now, back to Liv Kristine. As the crowd continued to grow, she enchanted us with her adorable smile and charisma. Paris Paris and Skintight opened the set, followed by a fragile Fake a Smile. Trapped in Your Labyrinth was definitely one of the highlights of the show, together with ‘Libertine’. With these songs Liv Kristine showcased that a delicate voice can rock just as much as a more solid voice. As a nice surprise, a few Theatre of Tragedy songs made it into the set: Venus and Image. Overall, this was a perfect fresh and joyous opener for what turned out to be an outstanding edition of MFVF. [3.5/5]

After Liv Kristine, the stage was invaded by Eve’s Apple. And I mean invaded! Eve’s Apple isn’t a normal band with about 5 or 6 members, it’s a collective of female singers. Some of the ladies who sung some beautiful covers were: Lisa Middelhauve (ex-Xandria), Charlotte Wessels (Delain), Iliana Tsakiraki, Kassandra Gruszkowki, Annamaria Cozza, Zuberoa Aznarez, Aiylin Gimenez (Sirenia), Grace Meridan, Heidi Parviainen, Mary Zimmer, Marcela Bovio (Stream Of Passion), Clémentine Delauney (Serenity), Karolina Pacan (Skeptical Minds), Sabrina Valentine, Laura Vargas, Mariangela Themurtas (Tristania), Lindsay Schoolcraft (Cradle of Filth), Sanna Salou, Angel Wolfblack, VK Lynne and Maxi Nil (Visions Of Atlantis). Some of the biggest hits in rock were brought out for this special occasion, so we had the opportunity to listen to adaptations of Stargazer (Marcela Bovio and Kassandra Novell) and Poison (Clémentine Delauney and VK Lynne). Every now and then the fire underneath the songs died out a bit and made way for a softly glowing ember like Behind Blue Eyes(Mariangela Themurtas, Maxi Nil and Charlotte Wessels). Personally, Show Must Go On (Karolina Pacan and Angel Wolfblack) would have been in the list of amazing duets as well, but technical issues caused some trouble. The vocals drowned in a wall of sound and that’s too bad, because it had a lot of potential. Towards the end all the ladies got together on stage to thank Maxi Nil, and to sing a few songs of course! The two final songs of the evening were quite appropriate: All we Are and Stars. [3/5]

As the final notes of the evening died out the crowd turned to their tent, car or bus, only to return in a few very short hours!

On Saturday the doors opened at 10h00. And even though it was still early, there was a relatively long queue in front of said doors. And what a nice wake-up call we got once we got inside! Our neighbours from the North sent Magion to MFVF, and they were an astonishing discovery! Myrthe van Beest has an enchanting voice, which is a perfect match for compelling songs like Neverending Winter and Shallow Grounds. During Greed the horns went up, and the crowd slowly started shaking off the mists of morning. [4/5]

Azylya should definitely get the award for creepiest intro at MFVF. The Belgian band played a home game and brought two masked dancers and a creepy little girl with them. She fit right in with the eerie music and lighting. The venue was starting to shed a bit of the initial chill, but things definitely got hotter when Jamie-Lee Smit brought out some fire during Darkness Ascending. Electroconvulsive was a vocal mix between a kick in the teeth and a gentle embrace. Overall, Azylya told an enchanting story with a lot of power. The mix of classical elements with metal, and the two contrasting voices were a true delight! [4/5]

Victorians – Aristocrats’ Symphony brought a touch of the past to MFVF, with stunning costumes (I still want to steal the jacket that Utis wore). Songs like Descent of Your Destiny and Prince of Night paint a picture of times long gone, but with a modern twist. After the show they told us they were a bit worried about the quality of the sound, but I don’t think they had anything to worry about. [3.5/5]

Serenity came to MFVF to promote their new album War of Ages. Singers Clémentine Delauney and Georg Neuhauser sound very well-balanced and they compliment each other. Georg ran and jumped around every inch of the stage, never standing in one place more than a few seconds, and you could see he was having a good time. But there was also room for a more intimate song: Fairytales was touching and intense. A nice surprise was the guest appearance from Charlotte Wessels during Serenade of Flames. Serenity knows how to entertain and satisfy an audience. [3.5/5]

Canadian band Kobra and the Lotus brought heavy metal to Wieze, and how! Nayana struck like a poisonous snake and this feisty animal did not lose it’s grip. Kobra Paige has a hypnotic and overwhelming voice and she took the stage with confidence and spirit. And it gets better! She is backed up by an impressive wall of sound consisting of fierce guitars and raging drums. Songs like 50 Shades of Evil or Forever One have potential to become true metal anthems. Dark Passenger was preceded by a drum solo that showcased the sills of the drummer and My Life stood out to me due to its unique guitar riff. Afterwards Kobra Paige shared some words of wisdom with me: love and metal, that’s what it’s all about. I couldn’t agree more. [5/5]

I admit it, at first, I was a bit sceptical about Kontrust. I saw a few of their videos on YouTube and felt like I had no idea what to expect. The intro made me feel like I was at Octoberfest rather than Metal Female Voices Fest so I had the urge to roll my eyes, but I stand corrected! Kontrust knows how to get a party started. They were a lot of fun and the crowd clearly enjoyed their lighthearted songs like Hey DJ, U Say What and Bomba. Sock and Doll was another example of what makes Kontrust unique: I’ve never seen a band use sock puppets before… But it worked! The horns went up and I saw a lot of smiles around me. [4/5]

After Kontrust it was time for the headlining acts of the day: Leaves’ Eyes, Delain and Lacuna Coil.

Liv Kristine took the stage once more this weekend, this time as part of Leaves’ Eyes. Since Leaves’ Eyes is practically a synonym for symphonic metal, that’s exactly what we got: riveting melodies and an angelic voice with a heavier counterpartner. Their new album Symphonies of the Night will be released in November so at MFVF we had the privilege to hear a few new songs such as Galswintha, Fading Earth, Symphonies of the Night, Maid of Lorraine and Hell to the Heavens. And I can tell you, these songs are something to look forward to! The crowd clearly enjoyed the new material, but most hands, horns and fists were raised during songs as My Destiny, Elegy and Take the Devil in Me. (And Alexander Krull still has the most awesome hair!) [4/5]

Delain opened their set with Mother Machine, a song taken from their album We are the Others. Charlotte Wessels appeared on stage dressed in white and she swept the crowd right off their feet. The entire show she continued to encourage the audience to sing, scream or clap along. Go Away and Virtue and Vice from the album April Rain were played next, accompanied by sparks and an audience on fire. Charlotte reached the higher notes with ease and before we knew it they were halfway through the set. We were in for another great surprise though, because during No Compliance, Charlotte was joined by none other than Sharon den Adel (Within Temptation) for a special duet. Sharon didn’t leave after one song though, much to the delight of the audience. She sang Restless, a song by her own band Within Temptation, accompanied by Martijn Westerholt (former keyboardist of Within Temptation) on the piano. Sharon wasn’t the only guest appearance of the set though. Georg Neuhauser of Serenity joined Charlotte on stage for Control the Storm. They clearly enjoyed this duet, which was another cherry on this scrumptious Delain-cake. During the encore Charlotte had the crowd jumping once again with The Gathering. Delain said their goodbyes with We are the Others, together with the crowd who was singing along with an amazing amount of spirit after an already long day. [4.5/5]

Day two wasn’t over yet though! Lacuna Coil was the final act of the day, and they had something special planned for MFVF. They played the entire Karmacode album. It truly was a trip to the past since Karmacode came out in 2006. The band took place on stage wearing the masks they used during the Karmacode tour, but unfortunately we could only see Cristina Scabbia and Andrea Ferro. The lighting was horrible! It was really difficult to see any of the musicians during the entire set, which was disappointing. But back to the music! Karmacode is an album filled with hits like Fragile, Enjoy the Silence and Our Truth. Lacuna Coil definitely took a risk here, because not every song on the album is a hit. Because of that, at times it felt like an unusual show. The entire show was very interesting and I hope that this concept will inspire other bands to do the same. After a short intermezzo Cristina and Andrea returned in a their latest uniforms to end things with a bang! They gave the crowd a small but oh so sweet taste of absolute hits such as Heaven’s A Lie and Spellbound. To top it of they sang two songs of their latest album Dark Adrenaline: the haunting Trip the Darkness and a very energetic Kill the Light. [4/5]

So far, MFVF XI was a great success, but the third day was filled with bands who were ready to blast day 1 and 2 out of the water.

On Sunday the doors opened an hour later, which was a blessing after two long days. At noon, Hell City was present to defend the Belgian honour. And they did a great job! Hell City was fierce and on fire. Michelle Nivelle gave the crowd no excuse to be sleepy-eyed for another minute. With songs like This Mortal Loss and Demons to Rest we were showered with Grade A metal. The final song of their set was the new single Ice Cold Rage, which can be downloaded on their website. [3.5/5]

After this little Belgian treat it was time for a more exotic band: Hungarian folk metal band Dalriada made it very difficult to stand still, with energetic and up-tempo songs such as Napom, Fényes Napom and A Dudás. Unfortunately, where I stood, the crowd only clapped along (major props to a friend of mine though, who taught us all a lesson in headbanging). Maybe it was still a bit early, or the audience was saving their energy for the headliners of the day. Too bad, because it could’ve been an awesome party. [3.5/5]

After Dalriada I skipped a few bands myself, but I was back just in time to see Crimfall. The members of the band looked like they fought their way over to Wieze (blood, blood everywhere!), but they still had a ton of energy left! Helena Haaparanta and Mikko Häkkinen were accompanied by a group of merry huntsmen, who seemed to be having a lot of fun on stage. Songs like Wildfire Season paint an epic picture in the mind of the listener. Another example of their story-like songs is Silver and Bones about a son repeating his father’s mistakes. Even though Crimfall had a few technical difficulties, it was a truly wonderful journey. [4/5]

A little sidenote: it turned out that MFVF was one of the last shows with Helena: Crimfall is looking for a new singer. I wish them all the best!

Onward to the two big names of MFVF XI! The past year the buzz around Floor Jansen has been immense, so it feels like she doesn’t need an introduction anymore. The new leading lady of Nightwish proved to us all that we shouldn’t fear for the future of ReVamp. On the contrary, their new album Wild Card explores new musical territories, and sounds quite heavy. I must add that I found the new album a bit chaotic at times, but live it clicked together like clockwork. Precise, strong and compelling. The audience started clapping the second the lights went out, and was treated with a part one of The Anatomy of a Nervous Breakdown trilogy from Wild Card: On the Sideline. Part two (The Limbic System) and three (Neurasthenia) were played later on in the set. From the get-go, Floor amazed us all with her impressive voice. She has a range from operatic and angelic all the way to grunts, and she makes it sound so easy. To name just one example seems foolish, but Precibus perfectly highlighted her vocal range. And if that’s not enough, she’s an awe-inspiring presence on stage. Dressed in red, she truly was on fire. She kept on interacting with the crowd, and they responded within a heartbeat. From the first album, Head Up High was the first song to be played, followed later on by both In Sickness ‘Till Death Do Us Part: Disdain and Disgraced. In the end ReVamp said their goodbyes with Wolf and Dog, but according to all the horns, applause and requests for an encore, the crowd would have loved a few extra songs. [4/5]

So far the entire weekend was a weekend for the history books, but MFVF XI presented us with one more name, which made it impossible to forget: Tarja. After a theatrical intro she appeared on stage and launched into In for a Kill. It always stikes me how blissful Tarja looks on stage. She was born to sing, to give her heart and soul to the audience. This positive energy radiated throughout the venue and the crowd was happy to reciprocate with applause, singing, and raised hands. 500 Letters was greeted with cheers as though it was a classic hit, but it is in fact a song from her new album Colours In The Dark. Sing for Me and ‘I Walk Alone’ were the first ballads in the set, and they gave me goose bumps! Tarja proves time and time again that she has an incredible voice. Time to linger on this fact wasn’t part of the deal though. Falling Awake and Anteroom of Death shook us all awake.

People who have seen Tarja live before, know she usually doesn’t stick to one outfit, so Never Enough ended with an formidable band solo by cellist Max Lilja, Christian Kretschmar playing the keyboard, guitarist Alex Scholpp, bassist Anna Portalupi and Mike Terrana behind his impresssive drum kit. And indeed, at the beginning of Mystique Voyage, Tarja appeared in her second outfit of the evening (with matching microphone!) and she picked up the pace! Die Alive and Until my Last Breath had the crowd jumping in no time, as they should! Neverlight and Medusa were the final song before a short intermezzo and the intro for Victim of Ritual by Mike Terrana. He is a true magician with drumsticks! And things got memorable after this song. Tarja sang Wish I Had An Angel with passion and flair, and slowly reminded everyone of the fact that she promised us something a few weeks before MFVF. She didn’t have to ask us twice if we were ready, we were! For the final song of the festival, she invited Floor Jansen on stage for a duet. Together they sang Over the Hills and Far Away. Not only did their voices sound like all kinds of heaven, they were genuinely having a blast. They hugged, were dancing, and shared some words of wisdom with us: we have to keep the love going! [5/5]

After this epic duet, the time had come to say goodbye to MFVF XI. And on the way home I’m sure everybody was looking back on a wonderful edition to bring some warmth into the very cold night. Time to start looking forward to MFVF XII perhaps?

Freya Cherlet

Photography by Freya Cherlet.

 

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Ill Niño w/Ektomorf – Vosselaar, Belgium

Posted in Gig, Live with tags , , , , , on 23rd April 2013 by vitriolicvanity

Ill Niño / Ektomorf
Biebob, Vosselaar, Belgium
30th March 2013

Ill Niño decided to bring their Latin vibe to little Belgium with a stop on their European Epidemic Tour, and they brought the Hungarian band Ektomorf with them to warm up the crowd. Their latest album Epidemia was released in October 2012 so this tour was the perfect opportunity for the band to introduce the new songs.

Even though I said little Belgium, it did take us a while to get to the venue. At some point I thought we wouldn’t make it in time to see Ektomorf, but we were lucky. When we entered the small but cosy venue the band was still setting up their gear. And I was in for a pleasant surprise! Ektomorf, live, is raw, heavy and in your face. Songs like Black Flag and Unscarred are filled with an angry kind of energy and Zoltán Farkas sounds a lot more intense live. Although I did get the feeling that his voice was drowned by the music. The crowd wasn’t really bothered by this and a good part of them decided to give it their all. Still, I’m under the impression that the main part of the audience came to the Biebob to see Ill Niño. [3/5]

After this set it was time for the people to cool down and wait for Ill Niño to light the place on fire once again. And I mean it, by the end of the night the temperature inside of the venue reached tropical heights. Vocalist Cristian Machado must have been sweating like hell in his jacket. That didn’t stop him from pouring his entire being into every single song. Like a ringleader he dragged everyone along, accompanied by charming guitarists and a drummer and percussionist who clearly enjoyed themselves. These two even had a little drum battle going on.

If You Still Hate Me, I Am Loco and When it Cuts made the crowd go wild. These songs build up slowly and make everybody sing along, until the song and the crowd explode into a powerful and musically very clean yet strong madness. And this happened over and over again. Songs from the new album like Eva (for the ladies) and Epidemia were also popular with the crowd, and besides more heavy guitars and drums we also got to enjoy intense, screeching and roaring vocals.

Halfway through the show we had a impromptu break, but it wasn’t the band who decided to take it easy. The Biebob thought that Ill Niño was a bit too heavy, and in the middle of a song the sound went out. The band handled it professionally though and after a few minutes the rowdy crowd could go back to their crowd-surfing, people-pushing and devil-horn-showing behaviour. And this took place almost the entire show. Another example of the fact that the crowd loved the show came along with Te Amo…I Hate You. I spotted many middle fingers and people singing along. And although quite a few photographers clustered together on the front row, they switched up taking pictures with head banging, so it didn’t look like a dead zone out there.

I was happy to spot some of their typical Latin sounds in songs like What Comes Around and Corazon of Mine. The ‘acoustic’ guitars appeared on stage for a moment and took us on a little trip to an exotic destination. That’s also why I was hoping for the Spanish version of How Can I Live, pero me encanta la canción en Inglés también. [4/5]

The next day, after the ringing in my ears subsided, I felt glad I got to enjoy these two bands live. Like I said, I was pleasantly surprised by Ektomorf. I really liked their sound, which sounds deliciously heavy live. I did miss a little bit more action from the crowd.

Ill Niño treated us to a selection of their best songs, and a treat it was! The entire set turned into an intense session filled with energy, passion and amazing music. It’s always great when the audience is having fun, but it seemed like the band was enjoying it as well. The small venue made the show seem a lot more intimate and powerful at the same time, and improved the interaction between the band and the crowd.

Freya Cherlet

 

Interview with Stefan Keller [Neaera]

Posted in Featured, Interview with tags , , , , , , on 25th March 2013 by vitriolicvanity

With the release Ours Is The Storm through Metal Blade earlier this month, which is Teutonic metal outfit Neaera’s sixth studio album, Freya Cherlet grabs hold of the band’s guitarist Stefan for a chat about all things Neaera and more.

Freya: What gave you the inspiration for your new album? Or people who inspire them?

Stefan: I think it is always the same thing that inspires you. To me it really doesn’t matter which record it is, I think the motivation and inspiration is always the same more or less. The question simply is, why are you a musician? I am playing guitar and writing music and lyrics because I use it as an extension of my soul – and that’s pretty much it! There is input and then there is output. We have a strong desire for output and that’s why we are putting out records quite frequently. To me this is the best part about playing in a band. To see it grow and evolve and being put together until finally a little, insignificant piece of art or expression has been put out into the world.

Freya: How does the song writing process go for the band?

Stefan: After the first record we decided to work together in a group of three, that is our drummer Sebastian and the other guitar player Tobias. Tobias and I create riffs and melodies at home, mostly without making songs of it. Then we present our ideas to the other two and write a song together. After we’re done with a few songs, we show them to the others and play them together. The lyrics are mainly written by myself as well as by our bass player Benjamin.

Freya: Are there any bands or artists you’d like to work with or go on tour with?

Stefan: I have been dreaming of a German US tour with Rammstein, Heaven Shall Burn, Caliban and us. I fear that will never happen though…

Freya: How does the rest of 2013 look for you?

Stefan: Well, we have been confirmed for a large number of great festivals, including Summer Breeze and Wacken, two of the most brilliant festivals in Germany. Apart from that we will do something special for our tenth anniversary in summer and will also play a tour again in Autumn. Maybe some songwriting as well.

Freya: Neaera is the name of multiple figures in Greek mythology, including an Oceanid and one of the Niobids. Why did you pick this to be the band’s name?

Stefan: I have never heard any of these names, to be quite frank. We found the name in John Milton’s book Paradise Lost. Neaera has been sexually enslaved and later in life freed herself from this burden by using courage and wit. It is a metaphor for oppression and freedom, which can be found in multiple ways and forms and variations on our planet everyday and everywhere… but often without the happy end.

Freya: Which is your favourite album out of the six albums have released so far?

Stefan: They all have something particular. I like to think back to the recording process of our first new records. Everything was so goddamn exciting and new! Today we have gained some more routine and professionalism – the flipside is that it is not that exciting anymore, I must admit. I pick our latest record because it really is our most focused, mature and most versatile effort.

Freya: Which do you enjoy more: Being in the studio or being on tour?

Stefan: We are not really a studio band. I, for my part, love trying out things and leaving the studio with something unplanned or unexpected, a solo or melody or something. But our singer Benjamin and Tobias don’t like studio work and wanna leave as soon as possible. I think we are more tour band, yeah.

Freya: If you weren’t in Neaera, what do you think you’d be doing instead?

Stefan: I have studied to be an English and Educational Science teacher during the band’s career and I have also just finished a two-year teacher training for high school. This was very time-consuming and led the fact that I had to be replaced by a very nice (though ugly) but unfortunately way better guitar student. So the answer is: I would teach kids. But of course, I will always write and play and listen to metal music.

Freya: What hobbies do have away from music?

Stefan: Well, I have been a hobby photographer since my early youth. I also like to swim and go the gym. I also go to classical symphony concerts and the theatre a lot. Does drinking count as a hobby?

Freya: How would you describe your fans? And what do they mean to you?

Stefan: Our fans are very committed and faithful. On the show in Munich a fan called Jochen brought us a cake which had our new album cover on it. He said it was his 63rd Neaera show. I think this is unbelievably great. We have gathered some very cool fans over the years who seem very interested in what we do and how we do it. That’s just fantastic! We are smart enough to know that it is these people who keep us as a band alive and active.

Freya: Anything you’d like to say to our readers?

Stefan: Finally, I wanna say thanks to everyone at Valkyrian Music who bought (or downloaded) our new record. We really hope we didn’t disappoint your expectations. We have become very god friends with Southampton-based metalcore powerhouse Bury Tomorrow and I hope we’ll tour the UK with them sometime soon.

Ours Is The Storm is now available via Metal Blade Records.

Neaera – Ours is the Storm

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , , on 15th March 2013 by vitriolicvanity

Neaera
Ours is the Storm
Released 5th March 2013
Melodic Death Metal
Released via Metal Blade

After three years of silence Neaera strikes again with Ours is the Storm. The German band has been busy touring throughout 2012, and if this album truly is a hurricane, 2013 won’t be a quiet year either.

After a short intro the album kicks into a higher gear with Ours is the Storm, which is also the title song. With this song the band proves that melodic death metal can be quite catchy. I caught myself humming the tune a few times during the day. After this powerful opener, the album rages on and the band carries on the legacy they established with earlier records: songs filled with raw energy and heartfelt lyrics.

Walk with Fire and Guardian of Ashes are two examples of songs who have a powerful and unique intros. They show of the harmony between guitars and drums and their ability to paint a picture ready to be completed by powerful vocals.  Slaying the Wolf Within turns out to be the eye of the storm thanks to guest vocalist Nathan Gray from Boy Sets Fire. His clear, almost pained voice contrasts against the pounding drums and diverse guitar lines. This song about people on the verge of giving up and slaying their inner wolf is something many people will relate to.

And yet it seems like something is missing. It all sounds like a well-oiled machine, which subdues the elements of surprise, the few treasures buried in this melodic monsoon.

In the end, this album is a worthy successor for Forging the Eclipse, and Benjamin Hilleke proves yet again that he can master his voice like no other. Ours is the Storm is raw and almost hypnotizing with powerful guitar work and crashing drums. The entire time music and vocals clash into each other and it’s difficult to pick a side because the combination of these two elements sounds spot on.

4/5

Freya Cherlet