(Norway-based metal writer Karina Noctum went to Netherlands Deathfest on March 2-4, 2018. She wrote to us about her experiences. She probably had no thought that this would turn us a radioactive shade of green with envy, but all things have unintended consequences. She also arranged to have her words accompanied by a sequence of brilliant photos by Niels Vinck, also probably without any desire to stoke the putrid fires of jealousy in those of us who weren’t there, but strengthening the conviction that we damned well better go next year.)
My journey from the frostbitten lands of Norway started pretty early. 4 am on friday. I arrived in Amsterdam after some hours and a trouble-free flight, this being the usual for Scandinavian airlines that boast of being the most punctual in Europe.
The cool thing about The Netherlands is that every trip to another city from Amsterdam seems to be within a range of no more than one-two hours. After wandering a bit in Amsterdam, I took the train to Tilburg through the somewhat boring landscape (the landscape of every other country in Europe seems boring on the surface if you live in Norway).
I planned everything for the fest a bit too late and found no accommodation other than a private house on Air B&B. I was both lucky to have found a place at all and kinda unlucky that the owners, in addition to being circus artists, were also nudists.
Their shower had a huge window with no frosting or anything and anyone could see your whole body from the street, but only if you showered too close to the window. So I tried my best to hide, covered a part of the window with towels, and tried not to think about it. After some involuntary and quite brutal introductions to nudism, I took the bus to the venue.
I like 013 as a venue because it is central in Tilburg, so you have access to all kinds of restaurants. Inside the venue there are many bars, so there are no queues anywhere. You never miss a single band just by waiting for a chance to buy your beer. And for all those who smoke, there is no need to go out because they have two big smoking rooms where you can smoke everything you wish, whenever you want. But well, the most important thing is the sound, and 013 is awesome in that respect.
The first band I saw was Aura Noir. I have seen them many times before. The last time I saw them at Party.San they were not so lucky with the sound. In fact the Norwegian bands there had to struggle a lot with the sound. It was a curse or something at work. It kinda ruined it for me. I saw a desperate Blasphemer trying to get stuff to work, receiving zero help for some weird reason. Later Abbath went mad over the same sound problems and was pretty vocal against the sound guy. After the whole ordeal I was looking forward to a good experience this time, and I had it.
As a special treat, Apollyon sang “The Merciless” as a bonus. I enjoy old Aura Noir the most of all, so this was awesome. Their upcoming album is coming out on April the 27th, by the way. You can expect a hell of an awesome album! (You can read my interview with them here).
I went to the venue across the street after Aura Noir. It is called Patronaat and used to be a chapel. It is adorned with stained glass of what seem to be the apostles or other saints of some sort. I didn’t read the names; too many of them. Stained glass effect is better with sunlight, but there was nothing of that. so after a while you are oblivious to it and you forget it. I do appreciate the fact the church seemed to be liberal enough to let metalheads use it. They should lend the bigger church right beside as well, as it must have awesome acoustics.
So yeah, chapel or not, I was expecting to see Auroch but instead there was Hacavitz. They are a Mexican band and they play really well. It was a solid performance. They play Black/Death Metal of a good quality. So it kept me entertained enough to stay rooted in place until it was time to venture out into the cold again, without jacket, and toward the main stage again to see Broken Hope.
Broken Hope were crushing. I have spent some considerable time trying to headbang to the proggy riffs of BH. I remember that years ago after many trials and feeling stupid because it is not easy, I managed to nail it, and keep to the pace somewhat satisfactorily. BH play a good blend of brutality and prog that’s super-enjoyable.
After that one it was Leng Tch’e’s turn. I had seen them at Hellfest. I remember that concert was early and I was just drinking a cup of tea. It felt like taking your breakfast within a massive destructive grind force. As a good breakfast should be! So I wanted to see them again, as their grind is rhythmical and musically understandable enough to suit my liking. But lo and behold! I did not find Leng Tch’e.
Instead of them there was a pretty different band. The stage was covered with sigils, very magickal! It seemed to be some sort of atmospheric Black Metal. It was Ibex Angel Order and they are from Tilburg. They were a tad too slow when I was in a mood for fast pacing. However, I remained there, sometimes smelling the myrrh incense they were burning. I really like the smell. Other bands should have brought that incense to every stage to dispel the beer flatulence. It works wonders.
Suffocation were next. Quite a contrast to the previous experience. What can be said of Suffocation that hasn’t been said before? They are seemingly flawless. They bring on the structural blueprints for lots of Death Metal bands. So it is always a great experience. The new drummer and vocalist do an excellent work.
Next for me were other architects of DM, Carcass. I enjoyed Carcass more than Suffocation, and so headbanged a bit more. Carcass are an institution for both Melodic Death and Gore. I loved the way the lights changed with each song, from light blue for “Swansong”, to red for the more gory “Reek of Putrefaction”. What a great show. Amazing guitars. It’s awesome live, even though some songs brought intrusive thoughts about Arch Enemy and other bands, since there are many who owe such a great deal to Carcass. It’s amazing how a big riff from an influential band can inspire entire albums.
The night ended for me back at the chapel with the ghouls.
I have been a fan of the type of blackened hypnotical American metal that Profanatica play for a long time, and it was a luxury to see them live. They are perhaps not the most impressive band live as far as technique goes, but it was a very cool experience nonetheless, just to enjoy the hypnotic repetition and relax. The setting definitely contributed to the theatrical nature of their show. Drained of all energy, I headed back to my weird accommodation.
Saturday! The awesome Saturday lineup. My day! After a dreadful shower, I put on a cute dress for the special evening. Still feeling kinda paranoid for the whole bizarre shower situation that I had to go through yet again, I left early, intending not to miss Vallenfyre. I found out they had cancelled, so I headed for a pretty stressful meal. I had to eat as fast as possible so I could gain enough energy for the total blasting experience of seeing Devourment, which was coming.
I really enjoy Devourment, and the rhythm and everything else they have influenced, and anything they have been influenced by themselves, with few exceptions. It’s the closest I come to what I believe dancers experience (I can’t really dance, so it’s my best guess). Some kind of joy of moving your body to the music. I can’t say I precisely dance to Devourment, but damn, those slams move me.
Damn crushing powerful drumming as well. You feel like you wanna say to any non-Brutal Death fan hanging outside : “Listen to this! Blasting power! Fucking awesome!” Of course, a casual Goblin fan wouldn’t buy into that. Anyway, Devourment were originally scheduled for the second stage on Sunday. That stage is kinda claustrophobic. So we were really lucky they had to be rescheduled and got the main stage. All Brutal Death bands should play mainstage. It’s just such a powerful experience.
So, I skipped a couple of bands and saw Nunslaughter. They have some vulgar and kinda funny intros to the songs. How could you forget Satanic Slut! Endearing. They delivered some good Death Thrash and it was entertaining enough.
I managed to see some songs of Meat Spreader as well, but the thing with second stage is that if you don’t get there early it can be difficult to see the whole show. Meat Spreader are an all-star gore-grind band with the former Dead Infection vocalist, Jaro, and Artur (Squash Bowels).
I missed most of the set because I went to see Skinless, who were playing the main stage. I’m glad they played “The Pessimist”, which is my song of choice when things go to hell. Skinless delivered a good show and gave lots of flowers to the audience for no apparent reason.
So it may happen that you come to a Death Metal show and you get a bunch of flowers.
The whole weird show culminated with a guy from Devourment getting knocked in a WWE fight fashion on stage and getting flowers over him. Weird enough. Pretty irrational, pretty Death Metal.
I saw about a half of the Witchery set. They are Swedish and play Black Thrash. They are well-established, fairly well-known. Swedish precision with good song structure. They have been around since 1999 and their latest album I am Legion was released last year. This album has a blend of thrash and it’s blackened in Satyricon’s black ‘n’roll way.
Guttural Secrete were playing right after them at the second stage, so I had to get there early to make sure I got to see the show properly.
The song I listened to the most in 2016 on Spotify was precisely “Deadened Prior to Coitus”. Oh, the harmonic riffs amidst a sea of blasting brutality. Gorgasm-like. How to not to like it? The beauty inside a monster. Lovely!
The vocalist apparently thought there were no girls present. But a few of us were there. Pretty fucking awesome show! I got to stare at the drummer from the balcony. Good vantage point to see these drummers live. Lots of technique and impossible speed. I’m absolutely looking forward to seeing them again in Las Vegas.
From one awesome show without taking a pause to another. 1349, another drumming sound paradise to enjoy. I believe what Frost does in 1349 is superior to his Satyricon work in many ways, and I guess it’s because he is being himself, doing exactly as he pleases as fast as possible, and it’s awesome.
Well, Frost wasn’t playing this time. It was Dominator, who left Dark Funeral and also plays in another favorite band of mine called Myrkskog. He is freelancing, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up becoming the next Abbath’s Creature. Anyone who doesn’t know Myrkskog should be utterly ashamed for it and go and check out their music. It’s absolutely awesome Black Death, with Destructhor (ex-Morbid Angel) and Emperor’s bassist Secthdaemon.
How lucky I was to get to see Guttural Secrete and 1349 in a row. I couldn’t get a place in the first row, though, and there was a tall annoying guy filming with his cellphone, so it wasn’t the perfect show for me, but I’ll catch them later for sure somewhere else.
I ventured to the Rotten Sound show at the second stage. It was already packed when I got there, but I wasn’t going to shorten the 1349 show for anything. Rotten Sound are one of the best grind bands out there. I was mesmerized by the bassist. Grind and basses! Good combination. I managed to see the show somehow. The mosh pit is to blame for that second stage not fitting a larger audience. They just take lots of space. So that is one band that I’ll have to see later to enjoy thoroughly.
It was time for the headliner, Emperor.
I had seen the Anthems show in Norway at Tons of Rock. They hadn’t played there in 10 years. They had their families with them on one side of the stage, so it felt pretty local. It must have been cozy for them. Proud wives, awed children. But not grim at all. That day I placed myself so I could see the most of Trym’s performance, but by doing that, I missed most of Ihsahn, sadly, because of the way he plays. Nergal was there for the occasion, trying to take pictures of Trym as well distracting me for an entire song. Anti-Christian from Tsjuder was on stage as well. Shagrath was also somewhere in the audience, like a mere mortal soaked by the rain.
Celebrities and all, still it was not the perfect concert. So I intended to make the most of everything this time in The Netherlands. I headed for the third floor at 013 and I saw the whole thing from the balcony. Now in total darkness, it was perfect. Emperor’s stage was elegant, and the light show helped a lot. I got to see more of Ihsahn this time. The sound was perfect as well, and everything unfolded beautifully. It was a much better experience than in Norway. I’m glad I got to see it again, and now I’ll get more of it at Inferno!
I knew the Dragged into Sunlight show was going to be good, but it was a bummer not to be able to see them due to a fully packed venue yet again. I got to see their massive candelabra though, and remained at the entrance kinda dragged by the drumming. Pretty good stuff. I have been listening to them since this show, and I’ll keep at it even though it requires a good deal of patience.
It was a pretty weird day since I somehow managed to miss lots of bands. I saw Altarage first. A blend of Black, Doom, and Death for fans of Portal and Teitanblood. Dissonant, atmospheric, dark, and just the kind of music I use to relax to at home. I just enjoyed the whole concert from where I sat. Later on I saw a bit of Fleshgore from Ukraine and went to the chapel to check Cauldron Black Ram as well, although I didn’t see their entire sets.
Internal Bleeding was the band I got to see the most of out of that first part of the evening. Even though Internal Bleeding are pretty influential I’m not really 100% into it, for reasons I can’t quite explain. I skipped Goblin altogether because it is not my thing. I had to escape from all the psychedelic colors and sought refuge at the chapel, waiting there for Merrimack. Some other fans were there already, either waiting for them or escaping Goblin as well.
Merrimack‘s concert was a great experience. I mixed it with lots of absinthe and that helped even more. I had to inwardly thank France for the double goodness. Merrimack are veterans and they play BM the French way. They have gotten lots of support here at NCS — because they absolutely rule. If you don’t know of them, or had forgotten them amidst the deep black sea of old and new bands, you can discover/rediscover them by reading this review of their discography. They are subtle and elegant, yet crushing. The show definitely saved a rather uneventful start to the evening.
I was a bit late to see Grave — a pity since the sound was awesome. I have had my good dose of Swedish DM over the years, although I haven’t listened to much of it lately, and Grave have always been one of my favorites. It is always exhilarating to see them live; they carry that credibility and the true metal feeling with them on stage. I’d say it was one of the best performances I saw.
After that I witnessed Urn’s performance, which was a good one. I headbanged during the entirety of their old-school-oriented set. They have gathered cool thrash and heavy riffs, timeless stuff, with a Motörhead cover as well.
Back at the main stage I was to see more Swedish wonders — At the Gates. Their stuff I know by heart. I guess Grave takes the crown when it comes to sound, but At the Gates’ performance was excellent and nothing less than what you would expect from such experienced and talented artists. There were lots of songs from Slaughter of the Soul, including “Under the Serpent Sun” and “Blinded by Fear”, music to sing along with.
After some hours of headbanging without stop (fueled by more divine French liquid, alas!) I headed to one of the coolest experiences of the fest: Darkspace! They are from Switzerland and play fast-paced, relentless Black / Industrial submerged in a cosmic ambience that is very akin to that of Thorns. I have them on my playlist for relaxing before sleeping; the music’s relentless hypnotic nature helps a lot after a long tiresome day.
On stage Darkspace were amazing. So a cool experience, and one you can watch in its entirety here. The impact of some of the ambient elements and vocals got lost in the live performance, but the atmosphere, their image, and their stage presence made up for it. They do not move much and are one with the music. I tend not to get impressed by corpsepaint or other aspects of visual appearance any more, but Darkspace make it work without having to use much in the way of props. I guess it could be defined as minimalistic, in comparison to what many bands do nowadays. To me less is more!
In addition this was not a mosh-friendly gig, so it was a pretty civilized experience. A unique concert, and a very good way to end the festival for me. I’m already looking forward to seeing next year’s lineup, and if NDF gain brings such a good mix of my favorite genres, I’ll be there.