• daiwel

Bang Your Head Festival at the Kulturfabrik in Esch/Alzette (27th November 2016)

The tenth edition of the Bang Your Head Festival in Luxemburg unfortunately is also the final edition of this festival. The first two editions were still held in a smaller pub (remember the 911 in Belvaux) before switching over to the bigger venue of the Kulturfabrik. Although the change of location implicated the booking of bigger acts like Neaera, Hatesphere, Heaven Shall Burn and many more, I never visited this festival which for my taste went too much into metalcore and deathcore. But when I heard which bands were booked to headline the final edition, it was obvious to buy my tickets early in advance.

Although Exodus and Prong are thrash acts from my youth, the youth of today doesn’t seem to care too much about thrash metal. This explains why there weren’t more than maximal 300 spectators at a well organised festival. As the acts were playing on two different stages, there were no breaks between two live sets. Furthermore the organizers cared to be punctual which is necessary when you have booked ten bands that are supposed to play from 5 pm to 1 am.

The festival got opened by INHUMAN RAMPAGE, a new and promising metalcore act from Luxemburg. I am familiar with the material from the first album and think that there is enough potential behind this band. But as I am meanwhile 46, I think that 10 bands a day is just a bit too much for me.

So I only arrived at the Kulturfabrik when KITSHICKERS started to play. The band has been active for about 20 years and has meanwhile achieved its third period. A big change compared to the two previous ones is that founding member Gilles now only plays guitars and the vocals are done by An Apple A Day frontman Yann who shows that he’s able to do more than just growling into the microphone. This change was the right choice done by the band. First of all, the sound done by the Kulturfabrik technicians was overwhelming. Each instrument could be distinguished thanks to a clear sound and it’s nothing new when I tell you that the band has for great instrumentalists. This monumental rock music fascinated me from the first to the last note. Pascal and I found it quite amusing that Gilles wore a white and green striped shirt which made him look like Waldo from the famous children’s books.

FRACTAL UNIVERSE from Nancy was another early highlight of this year’s BYH edition. The band is playing an extreme mixture of prog metal and death metal. I was surprised that the band is able to play its long and complex tracks on stage on the same high level than in the studio. Furthermore, Fractal Universe was the only band with a good sound in the small venue. From a technical point of view, Franctal Universe surely was the most impressing act of the evening.

DELUGE from Metz were a bit disappointing. On CD, the post metal played by the four French musicians works quite good. The combination of early 90ies black metal with ambient passages and lots of rain samples is quite entertaining, but tonight, the strident sound and a bad acoustic were a bit too much for my ears. Furthermore Pascal and I started getting hungry. We didn’t have too much confidence into the African food truck that didn’t give too much information about its menus. So we decided to go over to the pizzeria at the other side of the road where we got tasty food. We missed the rest of the Déluge set and the local matadors MILES TO PERDITION, a best known Luxemburgish band that is especially known for its talents on stage.

Quite amusing was our return to the Kulturfabrik as we witnessed Australia’s strangest weirdos KING PARROT. These gentlemen play no music which is easy to digest. I’ve been listening to some songs in my car and decided that this surely isn’t the right soundtrack for driving. But this was a real positive surprise on stage. Germany’s punk legend Die Kassierer probably is the only more asocial band that I’ve ever seen live on stage. Some musicians were topless and showing their big bellies. Furthermore they were yelling at the audience and splashing water to the fans in the first rows. The music was not to complicated and may be described as a mixture of hardcore, punk and sludge metal. This was surely entertaining when you had a secure distance to the band.

Pascal and I have meanwhile 90 years when we add our ages. We aren’t fit anymore to stand during a show during hours and hours. So we decided to go over to the Ratelach, a nice café that is part of the Kulturfabrik. Although this place is quite comfortable, there weren’t too many people present so that we got two chairs and a table. We drank a beer in quite a relax way and Pascal always thought too add each drink to his recently downloaded beer counter app. The only disadvantage of our disgression to the Ratelach was that we missed BENIGHTED, a brutal death metal band from France.

My intention was of course to take a break to come back to forces before PRONG, one of my all-time favourite metal bands, started to play. ‘Third From The Sun’, although it is no Prong original, but a cover version by a band called Chrome, still is one of my favourite tracks after so many years.  The band only had 40 minutes to play and there wasn’t unfortunately time to play this killer track. But Prong still showed how to play groove metal as its best and presented some more recent material, but also some classics like ‘Beg To Differ’ and ‘Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck’. The only remaining founding member is singer and guitar player Tommy Victor who is already 50 and still in great shape. After the end of the set, I’d really have loved to hear some more Prong songs. I hope that this band will one day come back to Luxemburg as a headliner.

Tonight I was in the mood for metal heroes of my past. DER WEG EINER FREIHEIT was playing something completely different and this extreme and fast kind of black metal didn’t go into my mind today. ‘Unstille’ and ‘Stellar’ are two albums by the band I really appreciate, but today was the wrong place and wrong time for DWEF. Furthermore I had the impression that the sound contained too many high notes. And even if there are only 250 spectators occupying and small venue of the Kulturfabrik, this place gets too crowdie and sweaty for my taste. So I preferred having another beer at the Ratelach.

EXODUS was announced as tonight’s headliner and these thrash metal veterans accomplished their mission without the slightest problems. I already saw Exodus live two years ago when they were opening for Testament at the Atelier. At this time, the singer was Rob Dukes and that didn’t interest me too much. This time the long-time singer Steve Souza was on stage and this man, meanwhile aged 52, could impress the crowd that immediately formed a mosh pit when the first notes started. I preferred being some meters away from that vicious circle and enjoyed a kind of voyage into the past as Mr Souza still has the same voice and the same energy as nearly 30 years ago. Pascal thought that Sublind’s singer Luca could look like him in 25 years and I must admit that there is a certain resemblance. The band presented of course some newer songs and was even talking about a forthcoming album release in 2017, but even if this material was more than decent, everyone liked to listen to classics like ‘And Then There Were None’, ‘A Lesson In Violence’ and ‘Bonded By Blood’ just to name a few.  After this gig, I was totally tired and it was time to get home and have some hours of sleep before my daughter could wake me up.

I’m pretty sure that the organizers The Schalltot Collective have hoped to attract more spectators with such an awesome (and surely not cheap) package. I hope that this last BYH edition hasn’t become a financial disaster. As this kind of music didn’t fill the hall today and also in the past, I understand that the Schalltot crew doesn’t want to organize any more BYH festivals. Maybe someone else will take care of the organisation. A perfect timing, a well behaving audience and great bands are only some reasons to do it again. My only two negative points come from my belly. First there could be a more various food program and secondly, the beer served in the big venue was quite warm. 
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Wacken Open Air Metal Battle at the Kulturfabrik in Esch-sur-Alzette (19th March 2016)

The Metal Battle is one of the events I try never to miss. I don’t really care about the competitive nature of such contests, but it is a perfect opportunity to see (often young) bands play under professional circumstances concise 20 minute gigs.
Tonight I arrived at 8pm and was surprised by the long queue in front of the Kulturfabrik. There had been no presale, and because of this strange Buddy List thing where you get in 2 euros cheaper when you’re on the list of one of the bands, the entrance process was really slowed down. This absolutely should be changed in the future, like for instance doing a presale and then let people decide on the inside whom they want to root for. Like one vote per ticket, for instance.
I tried my hardest to follow the shows of most bands, but some kept me more interested than others. So I allow myself to just briefly give a few short impressions, in chronological order.

  1. Heaven’s Scum
    I saw them a few weeks ago opening for Sleepers’ Guilt, and got the impression that tonight’s show was better. Their death thrash metal is mostly dwelling in mid-tempo territory, and that works ok for twenty minutes, but frankly I would like a wider dynamic range in their sound. The guitarists did good work though, and Ben is a truly impressive frontman with his 2m height.

  2. Elysian Gates
    I was really looking forward to seeing them play live, as I had always missed their shows before. Their music works really well on CD, but their live performance needs working on. The band started with their new single “Crossroads”, and the first minute or so you didn’t hear any vocals at all. This improved over the course of the song, but the sound was not optimal. The bass guitarist played some really great notes but was for instance too loud in the mix. Elysian Gates ended their set with the quarter hour long Northern Winds, possibly not the wisest choice under the circumstances. Four shorter tracks would have given the jury a better impression of the band.
    Elysian Gates were also the only band tonight that played a mellower kind of metal, and if you like progressive symphonic metal, they are just what you are looking for. Furthermore they were the only one with female members. New vocalist Noémie was quite the eyecatcher in her sexy evening gown, and guitarist Sue is probably one of the very few metal guitarists / songwriters in Luxembourg.

  3. Feradur
    They are one of the less visible bands in Luxembourg so far, which is why I was really grateful to see them play live tonight. Feradur play melodic death metal which is also open for other influences. One song for instance was incredibly groovy, but in a good way and not that tough motherfucker kind of attitude. Their German vocalist was your archetypical hipster, complete with lumberjack shirt and moustache. You had to see it to believe it. So this was no perfect set, but was intriguing enough to make them one of the best performances of the evening.

  4. Another From Above
    Everyone agreed that they had really great stage presence, but is this still metal? There was a lot of jumping around on stage, but I really felt thirty years too old for this really young band. Their fans probably averaged seventeen years, and were really into it, and I am happy for them, but they made me think if maybe we need two Metal Battles. One for old school metal and one for the metalcore kids?

  5. Soulhenge
    And what happened next was quite unbelievable. Soulhenge’s first EP a few years ago was already quite promising, and it was clear that these guys would improve, but tonight’s show really saw a strongly improved band. The two guitarists outdid themselves with their weird guitars. One played an eight string instrument with a really broad neck, while the other had one with strangely diagonal frets. Never knew something like this existed. So these djentlemen played an incredibly progressive take on metalcore, and at times they felt like the songs of early Eighties King Crimson digging into metal. Frankly no band tonight could outdo what Soulhenge did.

  6. Miles To Perdition
    And yet, sometimes fate is in favour of the more experienced bands, like Miles To Perdition, who played their third time on a Metal Battle, and tonight finally won. Deserved? Well, they are an incredibly tight playing band, and their melodic death metal is total destruction, but considering how often they participated already, I really would have liked one of the younger bands to win.

Cosmogon played as special guest before the result was announced, and I apologise to the band for missing them.
Maybe the Kulturfabrik should use both its stages for the Metal Battle, thus minimising the breaks between bands. Usually they were alright, but sometimes longer than the actual sets. Yet all in all, this was one of the better Metal Battle events in Luxembourg.
Looking forward to the next one already.
  • daiwel

Coal Chamber, Soil, Blood Runs Deep, Diablo Blvd at Kulturfabrik (Esch/Alzette) (2nd June 2015)

Tuesday night and so far the warmest day of the year! Probably not the best conditions to go to a show in a maybe hot and sticky venue. So there were maybe 200 spectators that decided to go nevertheless to the Kulturfabrik to see the comeback of the metal band Coal Chamber that definitely had its best time in the late 90ies.
American Head Charge, an American groove metal band who – just like Coal Chamber - did a comeback on Napalm Records, were announced as co-headliners, but had to cancel the show. They got replaced by two smaller bands. The show started already at 7 pm and BLOOD RUNS DEEP from Switzerland had to play the opener. As I arrived only at 7:45, I missed this gig entirely and can’t write anything about it. The second band of this evening were DIABLO BLVD from Belgium. This band played a well done mixture of hard rock and heavy metal, but somehow they didn’t bring the audience to catch fire. Obi thought that the musicians looked like the Luxemburgish band The Barcodes. Anyway they had quite a rocker image and I thought that this was like a heavier version of Volbeat. At the end of the show, the singer said that this surely was the worst audience of his career, but that he enjoyed the show nevertheless.
The situation wasn’t easy for the opening acts. First of all, the audience came to see Coal Chamber and no one else. Secondly, lots of people preferred to enjoy the last sunrays of the still warm evening. That wasn’t too good for the American hard rock band SOIL. The interest wasn’t too big and only half of the spectators were inside. The band gave its best to excite the audience, but all efforts were in vain. After each song, there was a decent applause, but nothing more. Only the last track, a cover version of Ram Jam’s ‘Black Betty’, got a better response. It’s a pity that the cover version is more popular than the band’s own music.
Finally the situation completely changed when COAL CHAMBER started to play at 9:45 pm. OK, it started to get darker and chillier outside, but that wasn’t all. Coal Chamber are still playing groove metal as they did at the turn of the millennium. Surely this sound (especially the monotonous guitar riffs) hasn’t passed the test of time, but it was entertaining nevertheless. Not only because Nadja Peulen is the world second prettiest bass player (there is still Nathalie Haas from Lost In Pain), but the band was acting in an absolute professional way on stage. The band has a huge song repertoire and the audience (a big amount them looked as if they could act in a Mad Max or the Lost Boys movie) was extremely familiar with the material. The band presented a balanced choice of old and new material, but songs from the first self-titled album (1997) were the audience’s favourite ones. I really was surprised by myself that I amused this oldies party so much.
June is a good and exciting month for Luxemburg’s metal community. There are still great bands this month like Testament, Exodus, Mastodon, Judas Priest, Motörhead,… that will visit us. But yesterday again, you heard more people speak French than Luxemburgish. On shows, I have often the impression that there are more spectators from France and Belgium than from Luxemburg. Our neighbours are of course welcome, but it’s a pity that the national music fans don’t show too much interest in the shows. Luxemburg has namely nowadays a really hot concert scene and the offer is not only bigger, but much more various than a quarter of a century ago.  
  • daiwel2

ELYSIAN GATES at Plectrum Bar (Weiler-La-Tour) (5th December 2014)

Finding the way to the Plectrum Bar wasn’t an easy venture. As I confused Schlammesté with rue Schlammesté, my navigation system first brought me to a typical Luxemburgish ‘Bopebistro’ (pub for old farts) and I knew immediately that something was wrong. Having a closer look at the concert flyer, I saw my mistake, corrected the navi info and found out that I was more or less a mile away from the Plectrum Bar.

This is quite a nice place where I’ve never been before.  The reason which brought me into this kind of no man’s land was the concert by Luxemburgish symphonic metal band Elysian Gates. I have already heard some of their songs and especially the new tracks with the new singer Jelena show that the band is actually making some huge progress. The Plectrum bar isn’t so huge, but I think that the nearly 100 spectators filled more or less two thirds of the space. The most prominent spectator surely was our environment minister Carole Dieschbourg who was hot dressed and her pullover was revealing parts of a big tribal tattoo covering her back. A present friend from Germany thought that his government can’t present a similar good looking minister.  But also members of different Luxemburgish thrash and death metal bands had been present which is quite unusual for a symphonic metal show.

The reason for this show was indeed to promote the new single ‘Northern Winds’ which may be bought on different digital platforms. But this is no ordinary single, but a benefit campaign in favour of Sea Shepherd, a non-profit organization that’s caring about the rights of the whales around the Faeroe Islands. If you buy the song online, a certain amount of the costs will be spent in favour of the organization. Furthermore, the band has shot a video clip with material offered by Sea Shepherd and it may be watched for free on Youtube.  Members of the comity were present too with a rather small merchandise and info table. Before the band was playing ‘Northern Islands’, Sea Shepherd Luxemburg president Yasmine came on stage to thank the band for its support.

The Elysian Gates set itself didn’t begin to well. The keyboards had been too loud and it was difficult to hear properly the vocals. After two songs, the volume of the vocals increased, but the keyboards still remained too hard. But it is obvious that it is harder to get a decent sound in a bar than in a larger club or venue. A thing that I saw for the first time was a Plexiglas palisade standing in front of the drum kit. This should help to decrease the noises made by the cymbals and in fact, the drum sound was ok. Some evil tongues said that this item was meant to protect the drummer from flying vegetables and eggs. After a couple of songs, the nervousness among the musicians seemed to be cast away and the set got better and better. Of course, ‘Northern Winds’ got a big feedback by the audience, but the actual highlight of the set was the first single ‘Seven Angels’ which was played in the longer album version lasting nearly a quarter of an hour. This song doesn’t get out of my mind anymore. It’s a fine example how symphonic metal has to sound. Bands like Edenbridge, Tristania, Leaves Eyes, etc would be proud of such a song among their repertoire. At the end, there was an encore, namely a cover version of the 80ies disco hit ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’ originally performed by Ultravox.

It was good for Elysian Gates to be back on stage. The last gig took place four months ago. This band is ready to be on stage more often. Two critics must be named at the end. First of all, some of the male musicians wore too much make up, especially when you consider that Halloween took place over a month ago. Some musicians could move a bit more, but that’s of course difficult when six musicians are sharing quite a small stage.  But these are only minor critics that the band has to confront. Now I’d like to see Elysian Gates perform in one of Luxemburg’s three big venues.

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Eluveitie, Arkona, Skálmöld at the Kulturfabrik in Esch-sur-Alzette, 3rd December 2014

In Luxemburg, you cannot complain that there aren’t enough metal concerts. Compared to the situation in the early 90ies, there has really been a big improvement. For the beginning of December, the Kulturfabrik has book a real interesting package if you are into folk metal. The three bands come from three countries known for cold winters and I suppose that they must have brought some snow. How else would you explain the first snowflakes of this season?

A few minutes after 8 pm, Skálmöld from Iceland (even if they were announced as a Swedish band on the ticket) entered the stage. The six men (with three guitars and keyboards) were playing songs from their three CDs, although most of them came understandably from the actual release ‘Med Vaettum’. I was surprised that the venue was already quite crowded at this early moment. People seemed to be familiar with the sound of Skálmöld as the band got a positive response from the beginning to the end. The lyrics in Iclandic language created already a slightly exotic sound, but Skalmöld had far more to offer than just this gimmick. The volume inside the Kulturfabrik was quite loud and the decibel display didn’t work. The music was quite brutal, but the musicians always found some time for more melodic and folky moments. Most of the vocals done by Björgvin Sigurdsson are growls that are fitting to the heavy sound. But sometimes two other members are also contributing some shrieks and cleaner vocals. The stage presence was well studied and the musicians had always been trying successfully to communicate with the audience. By the way, Luxemburg’s most popular Icelander Thorunn Egilsdottir wasn’t among the audience

The Skalmöld performance had been great, but I was still looking more forward to Arkona from Russia, surely one of my favourite folk metal bands.  Contrary to Skalmöld, Arkona were not dressed in black, but opted for medieval dresses that were fitting to the music. Another difference was the use of traditional instruments like flutes, bagpipes, zhaleikas, balalaikas and some more. The centre of attraction surely was singer Maria Archipowa, a metal pendant to Maria Sharapowa. Especially the wolf skin about her body was looking tremendous. I wouldn’t be surprised if she had killed the beast with her own teeth and hands. If you are familiar with The Songs Of Fire And Ice, be sure that the Kingslayer would have called her a wench. Not only her look was impressing, her voice had so many facets (growls, shouts, harsh voice, clear voice,…) that Angela Gossow could have become jealous. But her musicians supported her well with cleverly arranged song structures.  The balance between metal riffs and pagan moments was an optimal choice. Most folk elements came from the Balkan, but there had also been some more Celtic sounding tunes. Again the sound was a bit too loud so that I preferred to watch the whole spectacle further away from the stage.  

Eluveitie from Switzerland had been this evening’s headliners and now nearly everyone of the more or less 700 spectators was inside the main venue. But I had to admit that it wasn’t Eluveitie that made me move to the Kulturfabrik. Skálmöld had been great and Arkona even far better (surely one of the most exciting acts I ever witnessed at the Kulturfabrik), but I had some trouble to get into the sound of the eight Swiss. The band follows two rather different directions that are only difficult to match. The songs with Christian Glanzmann on vocals are strongly death metal influenced while the songs with Anna Murphy on vocals rather go into a Celtic direction. The instrumentation wasn’t bad at all and the use of traditional instruments like hurdy gurdy, violins, pipes, harps and many more gave the music an interesting touch. But there were three points that were strongly disturbing to me: 1) I just prefer the songs by Skálmöld and Arkona. 2) The volume inside the venue had even become louder. 3) The incoherence between the two Eluveitie styles. Most people were nevertheless enjoying the show that was surely a success for Eluveitie. Nevertheless, I preferred having some beers with two Skalmöld musicians close to the bar. The show was supposed to end at 23:45, but I decided to go home half an hour earlier as I had to do my day job the day after. Congratulations to the KuFa team for this great show. I’d like to see some more mature metal events (not only kiddie metalcore) in the future!
  • daiwel

Bob Mould at the Rockhal in Esch-sur-Alzette (11th November 2014)

While our French speaking neighbours were celebrating Armistice Day, and the Germans to the East the beginning of their Carnival season, Luxembourg was happy to welcome Bob Mould, one of the most important figures in American punk history. Starting in the late Seventies with Hüsker Dü, originally a hardcore punk band before turning more melodic, he also had a successful indie career in the early Nineties with Sugar, and of course also a very active solo career covering everything from singer/songwriter over electro to punk rock.

Tonight he came with two musicians on a punk rock mission, but first we had to suffer through a gig from British post punk trio Young Knives. These guys may have more than a decade’s worth of album releases, but they were totally unfitting to open for Bob Mould. Their sound had this modern thing where the guitarist either plays single notes, or when he plays chords, he doesn’t play them well or interestingly. This was the kind of music the kids listen to at local festivals like Rock-A-Field or Sonic Visions, but it was at the wrong place with the more mature audience tonight. Was this some pay-to-play thing? Fortunately the schedule was rigid, and the band had to open at half past eight, even though there weren’t many people yet.

At half past nine, it was time for Bob Mould who also had to play in front of only 100 to 200 people. One might think that such a legendary figure should have been able to attract at least twice the amount of fans, but it was the middle of the working week, not the most ideal slot for such a show. Bob Mould may look very unprepossessing, with his bald head, grey beard and glasses, but give him a guitar and 100+ dB, and he will blow your mind. He started the evening with two classics from Hüsker Dü (Flip Your Wig, Hate Paper Doll), before turning to his solo material. What was the most incredible thing was how dynamic his performance was. The sound may not have been optimal, but Bob Mould had such a charisma and gravitas that the audience couldn’t help being mesmerised, even if it meant being half deaf the following day. He played for well over an hour, surprised towards the end with another Hüsker Dü classic (I Apologise), and not only I would have wanted one or two more encores.

I won’t go deeper into the show, because frankly I am only truly familiar with his early days, but he showed tonight, with his really able backing band, that his solo material also still has a lot of punch. If only he showed better taste when it comes to opening acts!
  • daiwel

Miles To Perdition, Cosmogon, Kill The Innocent at the Kulturfabrik in Esch/Alzette, 7 November 2014

For once, local bands were playing at the Kulturfabrik for a different reason than another album release party. Titled “Do You Even Metal”, this evening was meant to be filmed by half a dozen cameras, to be later released as a budget priced DVD. A valid question is of course why still release DVDs in a time where most people prefer to watch their music on YouTube and the likes, but one can guess that, as the whole endeavour isn’t a commercial one, the video will also soon find its way to the Internet.

Miles To Perdition insisted on using the small venue of the Kulturfabrik, which turned out to be a smart move. This was a free show, so it was a little surprising that there were only about 200 people, many of whom constantly smoking outside, so that the venue was nicely filled but not necessarily crowded. Which was ok for the older generations who apparently need more space to feel comfortable, and also for the young, energetic kids who did their weird 21st century styled moshpits that are so different from the ones we knew back in the Nineties.

First band of the evening were Kill The Innocent, a young metalcore band that has been around for a couple of years now, and it shows. The band was playing very tight, and the two guitarists shared the work nicely between themselves. One played mostly the rhythms which has sometimes a certain hardcore quality, while the other one was in charge of the solos which occasionally came across rather progressive. The band was unlucky to have a really bad sound at first, like all of a sudden there was way too much bass guitar in the mix, giving me the impression that they guy behind the mixing board had bouts of deafness. Later this improved though, although it was never quite optimal. Kill The Innocent’s metalcore is modern, performed at a professional level, combining aggressive modern metal music with lots of gymnastics on and in front of the stage.

Next up were Cosmogon, whose groovy death metal has much more of an old school flair than the two other bands of the evening. The band didn’t have their best day and again this might have been partly to blame on the sound which in this case was unforgivably muddy. With only one guitar, one bass, one drummer and a vocalist, something clearer should have been possible. It still was good fun though, as the vocalist and the guitarists are really furious on stage, looking like regular wild men, while the drummer is providing them with a clockwork precision rhythmic backbone. With a grittiness not unlike Motörhead, Cosmogon are always able to entertain their audiences.

Miles To Perdition ended the evening with a more modern touch. Coming from a metalcore/deathcore background, the quintet has gradually evolved into a finely tuned melodic death metal band. There are no doubts anymore about their skills and talents, and lately they have started to come up with uniforms and a stage design to emphasise the atmosphere of their music. It might feel a little overdone if done half-heartedly, but in the case of Miles To Perdition, it is obvious that they are willing to go all the way. Everything worked in their favour tonight. The song material is tight and perfect, the musicians played flawlessly despite some or many rum shots earlier in the evening, yet what impressed me the most is the way they handled their audience. Where Kill The Innocent earlier seemed a little pouty when people didn’t move that much, Miles To Perdition had a more positive take on such a situation, and it worked.

Nice evening, and even the half dozen cameramen were not obnoxiously hindering the band or the audience. Free entry was nice too, but I guess a small fee of let’s say 5 euros wouldn’t have deterred people to come. Now we only need to wait and see how the video will turn out.
  • daiwel

Retrace My Fragments CD release show at the Rockhal in Esch-sur-Alzette (22nd March 2014)

Those among you who read my recent review of Retrace My Fragment’s first longplayer will certainly understand that there was no way for me not to be at the band’s release show at the Rockhal. The quintet has been around for eight years now, but most of the musicians’ pasts go back to the mid-Nineties.

The conditions were actually ideal. There were not that many competing events going on this evening, and the free entrance should also have encouraged people to come. But when Lorraine based chaos core band Hungry For The Truth entered the stage shortly after 8pm, the Rockhal Club was still very empty. The band’s sound was intriguing, the musicians were really awesome. I especially admired the crazy antics of the guitarist on the right side of the stage. Things were a little more awkward with singer Emilie whose sparse attire certainly caught the attention of the male part of the audience, but her vocals didn’t really strike a chord with me. Her growls and screams were ok, but her melodic parts somehow drowned in the sound. Still, it was a fun half hour set full of musical surprises. The band has been compared to Converge, but I also discerned a late Eighties, early Nineties noise rock component reminiscent of certain AmRep band, and that’s what made the band finally a winner for me.

Next up were An Apple A Day who won last year Luxembourg’s Metal Battle competition. It really showed that the guys acquired a lot of experience in the last year. Their deathcore sound is of course mostly aimed at a younger audience, but the longer they played, the more I made out the subtleties in their sound. Basically their music is really aggressive and straightforward, but the guitarists often come up with incredibly melodic parts that deepen the dynamic impact of the songs. Considering that the band played tonight with a replacement bassist, it has to be said that he did a perfect job too. By this time, there were already more people present, and while that makes me happy for An Apple A Day, it is also somewhat a sad statement that non-local openers too often have a hard time. But maybe it also means that three bands a night would be sufficient. At least it would for me.

Enough about that, and onwards to Heartbeat Parade, a band that most people should also already be familiar with. Formed in 2010 by members of dEFDUMp and Riktus, this trio still plays their mathy post rock core with political voice samples instead of lyrics. Just like that, their performance feels overly didactic to me. And without a text sheet, it is of course sometimes impossible to make out the meaning, as the music is of course loud and drowning out the samples. Most everybody really likes the band, so they must be doing things right. What would make their shows more appealing to me would be, instead of vocal samples, they would work with film projections. Just an idea, guys!

Shorty before 11pm, it was time for the headliner of the evening, and by then I estimate that there were about 200 people inside the Rockhal. Before Retrace My Fragments entered the stage, the audience was treated with an ingenious black and white animation filmed that either was from the Fifties or Sixties, or just a well made retro tribute. Once the quintet was on stage, the projections turned into astronomical science fictional territory, in accordance with the concept of the band’s longplayer “Ethereal Flux” that they were presenting tonight. The question I was asking was if the band were able to reproduce the technical intricacies of their music in a live setting, but it turned out there was no reason to worry. These guys are pure perfectionists, and it was a real pleasure following their music into ever unexpected places. There were two kinds of reactions among the audience. Some were simply amazed at how great these guys have become, while a few others paid them respect but decided that the sound was a little too progressive for them. Which means that Retrace My Fragments have made everything the way it is supposed to be. Comparisons to Between The Buried And Me may be making their rounds, and they do make sense, but RMF are more than that. Let’s hope that they will get all the recognition they deserve with their stellar music.
  • daiwel

Wacken Open Air Metal Battle 2014 at the Kulturfabrik in Esch-sur-Alzette (15th March 2014)

It has become a tradition over the years to check out the bands playing at the Metal Battle. The winner can play another contest during the Wacken Open Air festival, probably the biggest metal festival in the world. I don’t really care who wins, because performances are more important to me than competition, but it has to be said that the winning band, like last year’s An Apple A Day, get a professional live cut that was aired on the German television station NDR and was also streamable on the Internet. What better visiting card can a band have?

The running order is usually kept a secret, so that fans don’t only come to support their band, but this year one band leaked it already to Facebook a couple of hours before the battle started. I doubt though that this made any big impact on when people showed up.

First band of the evening were Kill The Innocent, a young metalcore band that was technically quite adept, with some nice guitar work and occasional arrhythmic fluctuations that left me wondering if this was now a progressive break or some stumble. But let’s leave it in favour of the band. My only problem, and it is a personal one, is that metalcore has outlived its welcome, and if you are not willing to add something new, you might risk sounding like a relic of the early 2000s. In that way, Kill The Innocent still have a long way ahead of them, even if their performance this night was already quite promising and far from amateurish.

Next up were Sleepers’ Guilt, a band whose beginnings were clearly marked by the progressive power metal sound, but with their new singer and guitarist, the quintet has added a groovier thrash sound to the mix. Tonight they were all about experimentation, starting with one of their usual six minute tracks, and then ending their set already with a new song, which made it to nearly twelve minutes. This was of course a rather brash movement, and I dare say it left many people, and probably including the jury, a little baffled. Sleepers’ Guilt are one of the technically most versatile bands in Luxembourg, but I can’t shake the feeling that they are still trying to find their own sound.

The winners of the 2008 edition Everwaiting Serenade decided to give the Metal Battle another try tonight, and of course their performance was tight, well choreographed and brimming with experience. After ten years in the business, you get a self-confidence that most younger bands still lack. But that doesn’t change the fact that even if EWS were today as good as they were six years ago during their most popular time, they may not sound as fresh anymore. Their vocalist has currently a rising career with his rap duo Freshdax, and while I was happy that no rap influences found their way into their set tonight, I left with a been-there-done-that feeling, and that may be time to leave such competitions to newer bands.

And one can’t say now that Cosmogon are young people (apart from their bass player who is not yet in this thirties), but the band hasn’t been around for so long. When ExInferis split up in 2011, three members added the bass player from Babyoil to form Cosmogon, whose sound is still some kind of death metal, but also couldn’t be further away from the more cerebral antics of their former band. In fact Cosmogon combine Gothenburg death’n’roll with gritty stoner rock into something which sounds quite original. They are not really a progressive sounding band, but their sound will surprise you again and again, and their fierce performance also proved that we are in the presence of seasoned veterans. Best performance of the night so far.

Another great show was delivered by Sublind, a band I heard much about but which I saw today for the first time. With bands like Evile and Gama Bomb having spearheaded a new retro thrash movement, it was high time for Luxembourg to get their own old school thrash metal band. And Sublind are unafraid of all the clichés that their genre seems to demand. The cover artwork is a primitive cartoon drawing reminding of Eighties albums by German thrash bands, and their music is also deeply rooted in Teutonic metal. Expect no subtleties, and the performance didn’t always seem very tight tonight, but the guys had tremendous fun on stage, and when they ended their set with their Luxembourgish beer hymn “Humpeknupper”, they had won over the already nicely inebriated audience. All of this might be rather folkloristic, but it was good, dirty fun, and there was even some pogo dancing started.

Last band of the night were Miles To Perdition, another metalcore band that has been around for quite some time already. With a slightly different line-up, they started their set with a tight sound, but that was also the moment when my system was turning into overdrive, when your brain decides that it can’t take any more decibels, and your gut agrees for a whole different, organic chemistry related reason.

Even though I had left by then, it should be noted that Disquiet, a melodic thrash metal band from the Netherlands played a guest set while the jury deliberated.

And while at this moment I haven’t read anything official yet, it seems that Cosmogon will be the band to represent Luxembourg at the Wacken Open Air. And frankly they deserved it. As last year a deathcore band (An Apple A Day) won, I had a feeling that the jury would go tihs year with something more traditional, so no chanced there for Kill The Innocent, Everwaiting Serenade and Miles To Perdition. Sleepers’ Guilt were probably overdoing the experimentations tonight, and Sublind, as charming as they sounded, didn’t yet have the full professionalism needed. This left Cosmogon, a maybe elderly bunch of gentlemen, but who blew everyone away with their dynamite performance tonight. So good luck in Wacken, guys!
  • daiwel

Cradle Of Filth and Behemoth at the Atelier in Luxembourg (19th February 2014)

Even though this was billed as a co-headliner show, the three additional international opening acts made this more of something like a little festival, dare I say of world music, considering that all five bands came from different countries.

I arrived to be more or less on time, and normally getting into Luxembourg-City at 6pm would be purest horror, but as this was a period of school holidays, it was an especially calm rush hour, so that I entered the Atelier shortly after 6pm, when the first band must have just started to play. Svarttjern is a quintet from Norway that has been around for ten years and plays a dirty hybrid of blackened death thrash metal. The sound wasn’t really optimal, with the rhythm guitar leaving little space for the lead guitar, but the corpse painted misanthropes still did the best of the situation and consequently managed to get the 200 to 300 early comers’ positive attention. Svarttjern may not really do anything new, but they sure were the ideal opener for the evening.

After a short break, it was time for a true underground band. Inquisition started already back in the late Eighties in Colombia but moved to Seattle in the mid-Nineties. They have been a guitar and drums duo for a long time now, and frankly that made their sound a little thin of my ears. The audience, which gradually grew by numbers, didn’t seem to care though. Maybe it is in the end more about the artistic value of the corpse paint than it is about the music. But to be honest, Dagon was a hell of a guitar player, and Incubus drummed also quite coherently, as long as he didn’t miss his point of entry, as happened two or three times during their half hour set.

The third band of the evening In Solitude was a huge surprise, as they were standing naked on stage. In this case, this doesn’t mean “no clothes”, but rather “no corpse paint”. Also their music wasn’t black metal or death metal, not even thrash metal or power metal, but just plain, old, good heavy metal. Of course that alone wouldn’t do them justice, because the Swedish quintet had more to offer than just plain formalistic genre music. The singer looked like the illegitimate son of the late Joey Ramone, but acted more like a young Ian Astbury (The Cult) with all the glamour and mystery that entails. In Solitude’s music had a very occult touch, and in that way it did make sense that they participated on this tour. Their songs were also quite great, with a strong Seventies touch and undeniable blues and psychedelic elements, the latter being emphasised by burning incense sticks on the drum kit. The bass guitar had a nice dominant but not domineering sound, while especially the two guitarists were gods, feeding each other guitar solos in best Scandinavian way, as if there were no tomorrow. I guess at this moment there were about 400 people inside the Atelier, while the remaining 300 were less tolerant of unblack metal and preferring to stand outside in the not so cold (despite black metal, still no winter), some even closely huddled around the heat mushrooms that I personally consider a crime against global pollution. But anyway, after forty minutes, In Solitude left the stage and were my personal highlight of the evening.

The next break took a little longer, because Behemoth needed to get their stage set up. The Polish black metal legend has been around for a little over twenty years, and where most bands lose their steam along the way, Behemoth somehow achieved even bigger fame with their latest and well received album “The Satanist”. So it was no surprise that already shortly before they entered the stage with burning torches, the Atelier was neatly filled, and it also struck my attention that there were more women now present inside. The band started their set with their latest hit single “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel”, and from there on, there was nothing much to lose. The audience was going along, and the black metal veterans had an easy game. After four tracks I left, as I do prefer an atmosphere where there is more room to breathe... call me claustrophobic!

Behemoth’s vocalist Nergal is apparently still facing two years in prison in his native Poland for publicly tearing apart a Bible, and considering that he recently survived leukaemia, it would be tragic if he were incarcerated because of some obsolete law from a theocratic government. Tonight the bands were selling t-shirts with such friendly slogans like “Jesus is a cunt” and “Dead girls don’t say no”, and nobody cared, because in the end black metal is just like a good horror movie: the more shocking, the better!

So what about Cradle Of Filth? I once saw them at the same location in 1998, when I went there to watch Napalm Death and Borknagar. Back then, after two songs, I had enough. Cradle Of Filth may very well have some redeeming values, but for me they have always been the band that tried to make black metal mainstream. And also, I had been tonight at the Atelier since 6pm, and after three hours, I had enough noise and beer and had to get home safely.

But still, this was a very nice concert, with an audience of 700 friendly metalheads that once again proved that inverted crosses and pentagrams are much preferable to any hipster infested coolness zone.