FESTIVAL REVIEW: Amsterdam Metalfest (2016)
With an impressive line-up of hard-hitting bands like Heart of a Coward, God Dethroned, Carach Angren and Decapitated, it was no surprise that the fifth edition of Amsterdam Metalfest 2016 was completely sold out. Veil of Delusions and Herder also performed to the swelling, enthusiastic crowd which was quite energetic throughout the fest.
British groove metal band Heart of a Coward then took the stage by storm, opening their set with “Hollow” from their latest album ‘Deliverance’. The crowd immediately responded with mosh pits, headbanging and audible singing. I was stunned by singer Jamie Graham, as his range is incredible on the latest album and he also expands on this talent in a live setting, and his clean vocals, mixed with growls and shrieks, makes him an amazing vocalist.
The last two songs, “Shade” and “Deadweight”, created further chaos in the mosh pit, and after Heart of a Coward finished, it was time for God Dethroned. The fans were hit with the sound of slammy guitar riffs and Henry Sattler’s death growls. Despite Decapitated being slated to headline that night, one could feel that this band was playing at home and that the God Dethroned army was out in force.
It was interesting to see the band spreading their setlist amongst several albums, as they played tracks like “Boiling Blood” from ‘Bloody Blasphemy’ and “The Art of Immolation” from ‘The Grand Grimoire’. Barely any time was spared to talk with the audience as they bombarded us with one track after another.
Next up was Carach Angren –the third band from the Netherlands on stage that day. I managed to secure myself a spot in the front row, and could see their drummer Ivo “Namtar” Wijers showing Neil Peart-like levels of emotion as he took his place behind the kit. He was totally focused on the job in hand, and as the rest of the band stormed onto the stage, the place erupted. More and more casual observers were being drawn in to see what all the fuss was about, and as far as I could see, the audience continued to swell throughout the set.
So what makes this band so special live? Well there’s no doubt they have some brilliantly-written symphonic black metal songs but their ace in the deck is undoubtedly frontman Dennis ”Seregor” Droomers. Carach Angren are one of those bands where it pays to get as close to them as possible. Seregor’s extensive acting background showed that he knows how to work the crowd, but for all his expansive gestures and playing to the horror gallery, it’s up close where you can see the frankly wild and slightly unsettling look in his eyes. That’s when a casual observer might realize just how well he plays this part, the voice, and the look on the whole, and everything just works in favor of the band. The set finished all too soon with a performance of “Bloodstains on the Captain’s Log”.
The monstrous polish death metallers Decapitated, finishing a triumphant jaunt around Europe in support of their latest album ‘Blood Mantra’, were up next on stage. With strong lights and smoke machines poised to add to an already incredible setlist, they walked on stage with “Exiled in Flesh” and continued the madness with “The Blasphemous Psalm to the Dummy God Creation”. It’s pretty impressive to stand in front of Vogg shredding his custom Ibanez while Rasta is headbanging all over the stage with his dreadlocks flying around and his deep and aggressive voice assaulting your ears. They worked their way down the albums, all the way to ‘Nihility’.
The combination of sights and sounds in this set seemed to blow the crowd away – their response was a full-throated, full-bodied outpouring of adoration. The show ended with the popular tracks “Spheres of Madness” and “Homo Sum”, as Amsterdam Metalfest 2016 concluded on an energetic and positive note.