Tarja, Lacuna Coil, ReVamp, Delain, Leaves’ Eyes
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?
Photography by Freya Cherlet.
- Interview with Liv Kristine [Leaves’ Eyes] (valkyrianmusic.com)
- Leaves’ Eyes – Symphonies of the Night (valkyrianmusic.com)
- Leaves’ Eyes release official trailer for Symphonies of the Night (valkyrianmusic.com)
- Leaves’ Eyes release new video for Hell to The Heavens, taken from upcoming album (valkyrianmusic.com)
- Leaves’ Eyes announce Symphonies Of The Night World Tour (valkyrianmusic.com)