The previous edition of Drachten Death Fest was one of the last gigs I went to before corona hit., in 2020 This year there finally was a new edition, with a line-up worth the 2-hour drive. And it takes place in a pretty cool venue.
The opening band was Deadspeak. A local band who has only released a 4 track demo. They play old school death metal, like so many. But somehow it stands out from the majority of those bands. Solid songwriting, lots of variety and good riffs. Never all that original, yet a lot of good ideas, and quite a solid performance all in all. So a positive surprise for the first band.
Grima was next. I had not heard of these Russians before. They were billed as “they’re on tour with Kanonenfieber” which doesn’t sound like the bookers were really interested in them, especially since Grima was actually the headliner of the tour. Them playing black metal probably has also something to do with it as this is a Death Fest after all. Anyway, modern death metal. Four masked fellows in robes playing mostly melodic and atmospheric black metal. Not really my interest, decently played though.
It was time for some grind when Teethgrinder played. The second Dutch band on the bill. Chaotic music with screamed vocals, burst of aggression – it is not really my thing.
Then it was time for Kanonenfieber from Germany. The stage was set up with some props, including some barbed wire, sand bag and christmas trees – no less. This band has world war 1 as a theme, like 1914 has. The band is masked, with WW1 – I guess German – uniforms. Musically it is quite a different beast. Labelled as black/death metal – the death part is likely mostly because they play a lot more lower notes. Riff-wise it was more like Grima actually. Lots of melodic, atmospheric riffs, and high pitched vocals. They put on quite a show with some theatrics from the singer and different outfits. Later in the set they even produced fake snow. The show is laudable and the music is okay for me.
One of the oldest death metal bands around was up next, namely Master. They have been around since 1983, but never got the recognition. I suppose the frequent change of band members, name changes and messes with the labels, never helped. Also the music is quite simple and never progressed much. Nevertheless they have some pretty great songs, notably on their first and second album. They started with Master. Which sounded solid. The newer songs sounded okay too, yet it all remains pretty much the same. The songs of the “On the 7th Day God Created…” album sounded a bit off, which is unfortunate as these are Master’s best material. The riffs sound different, the leads are different. Terrorizer was a bit of an odd choice from their debut as it is instrumental. They had to cut their set short after Vindictive Miscreants of their latest album, due to time issues. They closed their set with Pay to Die. Decent gig.
More grind followed with Wormrot from Singapore. I like the way they constructed their logo, as if it were written in Japanese. Anyway, musically much in the vein of Teethgrinder. Very chaotic, with short burst of aggression and noodling interludes. Quite energetic, some interesting ideas here and there, but not my thing.
Probably the best-known Dutch death metal band is probably Pestilence. And they were gonna play their best known album in its entirety – Testimony of the Ancients. Now again a fully Dutch line-up again. They started off with The Secrecies of Horror. And what followed were all the songs from the album – the intermezzo’s were played off tape. Musically solid as can be, the songs are great – along with Consuming Impulse their best material by far. Some of the leads seemed to sound bit different, or missed a couple of notes here and there. And Patrick’s vocals don’t sound as anymore as they used to. But all-in-all a pretty great performance. After Stigmatized – misannounced first as Presence of the Dead which they had just play – they continued with some other material. Horror Detox off their come-back album and a couple of songs of their latest album – even though the material is decent, it doesn’t live up to the older material. The set finished with Dehydrated and the perpetual set-closer Out of the Body.
The final band of the day was Cancer, surprisingly the headliner instead of Pestilence. A bit of a second-tier death metal band from the UK, with some solid but never groundbreaking thrashy death metal released in the early 90s. A couple of really mediocre albums and already five years ago released a new album in the style of the earlier material. They opened up with a couple of classic songs – CFC and Tasteless incest. Newer material like Ballcutter and Garrotte seemed to fit quite well in the set. It seemed a bit that they played a little faster than on the album, which makes the songs a bit more intense and also a bit more down-tuned. The majority of the songs came from the debut. The Sins of Mankind only added one song to the set – Meat Train. After Body Count, the band sort of went of stage and the whole venue went basically silent. Yet they returned to play Hung Drawn and Quartered, and Blood Bath. After which the audience started to yell the ‘we want more’ kind of things. But they didn’t come back. Pretty good set actually. And someone had made a small illustrations on the set lists for each of the song.