Pascal (daiwel) wrote in disaonline,

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!

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