The Schoonebeek Death Fest is a relatively new and quite small outdoor festival. I think it is the second installment, and they aimed at 400 visitors. I’m not sure there were that many tho. Nevertheless, they organised a interesting line-up, featuring a number of bands from the Raw Skull records roster, who organised the festival, and a number of interesting international acts. A few months Pitfest was organised a few kilometers north of there too. There were quite a few Germans at the fest as it is located really close to the German border.
The first band was the German band Aeon of Disease, starting at 13.30 sharp. They play mostly mid-paced death metal, everything is quite standard here. But it was quite sloppy at times, especially the tremelo picked guitar parts.
From Sweden came Gravebomb. They play Swedish death metal, with the HM-2 sound, a bit punkish, nothing too complex, maybe a bit of death’n’roll thrown in as well. Listenable but nothing great.
Also from Sweden were Gravestone. They play Swedish death metal, but with a more thrash approach. Nothing that hasn’t been done dozens of times before. But okay to listen to.
Graceless was the next band. These Dutch lads, play old school death metal, which I have seen a couple of times before. Not bad, but would be a lot better if the drummer played twice as fast and made his drumming more interesting. Remco’s voice is really good, but I definitively prefer his other band, Soulburn.
Departed Souls are a bunch of local heroes in the death metal scene and this would be their farewell show. The singer also runs Raw Skull records. Frankly this was quite terrible. Death metal with weak songwriting, sloppy playing, the only good thing was they played shorter than the time they were given.
The first really interesting band were Phrenelith from Denmark. Stylistically quite different from the former bands. They play cavernous death metal much in the vein of Cruciamentum. They took a long time to get the monitors right on stage before they could actually play, and sound-wise this wasn’t all that great. But despite all the sound troubles they played pretty great, with interesting guitar riffs and especially a creative drummer, who only uses a minimal kit. They have two vocalist that sound quite the same. Pretty killer gig.
The band that actually drew me to this festival was Burial. A Dutch band from the early 90s that released one album in 1993 which is really great and aged very well. I never got to see them live, so a good time to catch up. Their influences are quite obvious: Death and Massacre. They are now back in their original line-up and this evening they would play their album Relinquished Souls in its entirety. It’s always a bit of a question how a reunion like this will turn out, but this time it was awesome. They played these songs very tight and they seem to have fun doing so. They even played an encore for which they invited a friend who at one point sang in the band, in the form of a death cover Leprosy. Great gig.
More Swedish death metal came in the form of Entrails. They did a short weekend tour in the Benelux and this was one of the three gigs, with Graceless as support. The HM-2 sound is very prominent in this band. Musically pretty good, but they just aren’t as good as Nihilist, Dismember, Carnage, Grave and the like in the songwriting department. The bit of Chopin’s Funeral March in one of the songs was an interesting touch.
The headliner of this gig was another Swedish band, namely General Surgery. They don’t seem to play live that often, I have only seen them once before, a long time ago. Considering the genre, mostly goregrind, it would be a question if they would actually play that stuff tightly or with would become just a blurry mess. The band came on stage dressed in surgeon’s outfits, all covered in blood. And after a bit of an intro they started oddly enough with Antemortem Symphony #9 off the split with Butcher ABC. And man was it tight, and fast, and brutal. They raced through their set, which touched nearly every release, including a couple of tracks from the very first EP Necrology. The encore consisted of 4 more songs played one after the other, ending with the Carnage cover The Day Man Lost. Awesome.