Netherlands Death Fest III, 3 and 4 March 2018, 013 and Patronaat, Tilburg

The third installment of Netherlands Death Fest already took place last weekend. I skipped last year because the lineup wasn’t all that interesting. This year’s lineup was a bit more interesting. Now going all three days is a bit too much for me. I decided to go both Saturday and Sunday. The festival had to deal with a lot of cancellations (7) during the festival due to extreme weather conditions all over Europe leading to flight cancellations, particular in the UK. But fortunately it affected none of the bands I wanted to see.

The first band I wanted to see on Saturday was Evoken. So I planned my trip such that I was pretty sure not to miss them. Meaning I was right on time to Skinless first. Even thought I hardly listened to them before. This US death metal outfit is largely focused on heavy riffing and just being blunt with little to no melodies in the mix, much like Deeds of Flesh is. Decent gig for a first act. The Crowbar cover was a bit unnecessary.

The to the Patronaat, located across the alley of 013 to actually see Evoken. This US doom metal band doesn’t cross the pond all that often. The played no less than five songs in the 50 minutes they got, covering most of their latest 4 albums with one song and adding a new song. All is very well played and this band has written some great music. However some of the material seems to drag a bit where too little is actually going on. Pretty solid gig though.

I briefly went back to see Witchery in the large hall. It’s been more than 20 years since I had seen them. Somehow they have always been a bit of mediocre band though. The music is mix between heavy metal, thrash, and black metal, a bit in the direction of old Mercyful Fate, however they don’t come close long shot from those legends. The music isn’t interesting enough for that. Not bad tho. And considering the mix of old and new material they haven’t evolved all that much.

Then back to the Patronaat for one of the mean reasons to go to this day after all. The mighty Esoteric. Fortunately they were able to come over from the UK despite all the weather. These guys really never let down live. And with three guitars and an outstanding bass, there is always something going on musically with them. They opened up with Abandonment off the last album, which has some nearly continuous guitar soloing going on for the 15 minutes this song is. I wonder even how the guitarist can memorise it actually. Anyway, a great gig as always for this great band. The last song of the set was a new song, which sound a bit more rawer, like the material on earlier albums.

Then there was some slack in the schedule, where I checked out the merchandise only to come back for Blood in the Patronaat. These German senior citizens play deathgrind, a bit in the vein of really old Napalm Death, alternating between heavy chugga-chug riffs and fast, chaotic riffing. It all sounds a bit sloppy and chaotic, but hey that’s grind. The audience received it quite well with lots of moshing. Never the less after a song of 10 I had enough and left to the small hall where Rotten Sound played. Also death grind, but from Finland and a lot more modern sounding, I’m thinking in the direction of Nasum. Not all that interesting actually.

The main course of this day was the Norwegian black metal band Emperor. I have never been a big black metal fan, but Emperor is one of the few exceptions. They played the Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk album in its entirety. It’s been obvious that Isahn has been the creative mastermind of this band, as his parts are most prominently forming the music along with the drumming. Samoth’s playing is far more mundane and most of his guitar work is just chords during which he remains rather stoic, contrary to Isahn who seeks some interaction with the crowd. The intro of Curse You All Men is a bit spoiled by a mistake, but they seem to catch it up onwards. Then there were three more songs of the debut album ending in Inno A Satanas. Good gig, despite some pretty annoying mistakes and some sloppy double bass drumming, but it seem to be lacking a bit in enthusiasm beyond just playing the songs.

I checked out a bit of Dragged into Sunlight in the small hall. An English gimmicky black metal band that opts to play with the backs to the audience and nearly in the complete darkness and a huge candle holder placed at the front of the stage. Really “mystic” and “cult”. A bit too much for me, so I left early.

The next day I pulled the same trick again. The first band I wanted to see was Angel Witch, meaning I was right on time for the Ukrainian Fleshgore. A brutal death metal band along the lines of style popular in the USA. The vocals are very monotonic. And most riffs are played on the first five frets of the sixth string and are very rhythmic and little melodic. Not generally what I appreciate. And occasional higher notes riff couldn’t fix it for me. They seemed to play pretty tight tho.

Then in the main hall it was time for Angel Witch, who I was curious to hear. I heard of them a lot but never actually heard them. They NWOBHM much in the vein of early Iron Maiden, with a singer who is not as good. The riffing is interesting and so are the leads, including a couple of two-guitar leads as is common with this style. The bass has that more familiar galloping style although not as much upfront as with Iron Maiden. Most of the material came from the debut album and a few new songs thrown in from their latest. Pretty solid gig.

Afterwards I went to see Internal Bleeding, who play slam death metal, meaning lots of break downs. Where Suffocation mastered the art of writing good songs with breakdowns, these guys are writing a lot of break downs and knit them together as songs. It sounds quite brutal and is quite entertaining in a live setting. I wouldn’t really listen to it at home. During the last song they invited a lot of the crowd on stage with the guitarist jumping into the crowd.

Then in the large hall the odd-one-out band Goblin was playing. They play prog rock with lots of Synthesizers. I am mostly familiar through the sound tracks they made for many old horror films like Dawn of the Dead and Susperia. The background showed various gory scenes from these films as they played the music from it live. Mostly it is instrumental and seems to be a cult act among some metal heads. It was enjoyable for a bit, but I left early for the next band.

I have never seen Shape Of Despair before, I missed their appearance at Dutch Doom Day a couple of years ago. So time to make this up. The stage was mostly dark. And both singers wore a hood to cover most of their faces. The keyboards were coming from tape and were quite massive in bass, so the entire venue was vibrating as they played. This band has a bit of the same issues as Evoken have. Some sections are really cool with great melodies, but at times they just play slow chords and nothing much seems to be going on. Good gig, but not as entertaining as I had hoped.

I caught a few songs of Grave next. They played a set consisting of only very old songs, no newer than 1991 as they were celebrating their 30 year of existence. They even played the old Corpse song Black Dawn which is quite interesting and the demo version of Into the Grave, which has a bit of a semi-acoustic intro. Quite interesting but I had to skip a couple of songs for the next band.

The Australians from Mournful Congregation were playing in the small hall. Along with Esoteric I rate them as the best doom bands out there, so I wouldn’t want to miss them. They had some technical problems during the setup, resulting in the singer, guitarist getting some shocks when he would touch the microphone, but that also led to cracking sound in the guitar during the first song – Suicide Choir, as well as a bit unbalanced guitar sound. That was some how fixed only after the second song. They played the second song of the latest EP, and concluded their set with the majestic opener of the Monad of Creation, Mother-Water, The Great Sea Wept. Despite some annoying mistakes an excellent gig

Then in the large hall, the last band for this festival I would watch, namely At the Gates. At that time I was already quite a bit tired and lost interest somewhat. These Swedes have a new guitar player formerly of the awesome God Macabre. Obviously they played a lot of their most popular album Slaughter of the Soul, which more or less spawned the entire Gothenburg melodic death metal rage of the mid-1990s. And they added equal amount of songs of their latest album, which I find rather dull mostly. Tomba sounded quite low in the mix or his vocals have worn quite a bit. From the earlier material and IMO much better songs only Raped by the Light of Christ was played (slightly different from the original, I think) and The Swarm. Decent gig, though, played tightly but not all that convincing.

All in all a pretty entertaing festival at which I have only seen relatively few death metal bands for a death festival. Not necessarily a bad thing though, but it seems that this festival and Roadburn are growing into inviting the same bands, making each festival having less character. It also seems there are less and less people from the Netherlands but lots of people from abroad.

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