Brainstorm Festival 2016 (festival review)

Brainstorm Festival 2016 (festival review)

November 11-12, 2016 | Gigant, Apeldoorn – In the quiet town of Apeldoorn there is a two day metal festival once a year called Brainstorm Festival and this year it had some interesting names on the bill! Even before the first band is preparing to climb the stage, there are quite some people present in the venue and the adjacent bar. Starting bands of festivals are often to play in front of only a handfull of people, but at Brainstorm it is busy.

Day 1

Empire of the Wolves (NL)
This metal band Empire of the Wolves kicks Brainstorm Festival into gear and with their performance at Mauce Festival as my reference, I’m very curious if these youngsters can impress me this time. The set starts out a bit shaky, but later is clear why; they haven’t performed in quite a while and there is a rather big crowd for the time of day, which may be a bit of getting used to. Unfortunately the performance didn’t improve much relatively to their performance at Mauce Festival. The vocal distortion (that’s what it sounds like) is still very substantial and doesn’t match the effort put in by the singer. Musically it’s catchy at times, but isn’t as tight as it could have been.

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Shadowrise (NL)
Where it was rather busy in front of the previous band, it is getting packed before Shadowrise starts their set. When singer Laura Guldemond enters the stage, it is immediately clear why it is this busy. Laura is an impressive sight with her long blond hair, hooded cape and an outfit which shows quite some skin and has lots of details like bottles and something looking like a kind of dagger. It would be to easy to judge this band on the looks of the singer, but when you read her bio, one would understand that this lady didn’t came only to look pretty in front of a metal band. Honestly I am quite impressed by this band. Musically and vocally it fits perfectly and when power metal is played well, this set is very enjoyable!

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VardØger (NO)
VardØger got off at the wrong foot with the sound settings. There were lots of issues with the sound throughout the whole set. The extreme stoic singer sings quite varied and the even stoic drummer guides the band pretty tight throughout the set, which is surprisingly very melodic and varied. It was a pity the sound wasn’t that good to write an honest review.

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Sleeping Romance (IT) (part 1)
Sea+Air sadly had to cancel their concert at Brainstorm Festival due to sickness, but they found Sleeping Romance willingly to travel 20(!) hours to Apeldoorn to fill the gap. Last year Sleeping Romance had an impressive dual performance during Brainstorm Festival: an acoustic performance in the small theater and an amplified version on the music stage. Like last year their performance just blew me away. Singer Frederica can vary her style from a somewhat country edge, but just as easily make it sound like Emma Shapplin. Brilliant, just brilliant.

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Myrath (TUN)
Next up is a power metal band from Tunisia. I’ve never heard of this band before and I await their performance with an open mind. It starts of with an energetic belly dancer, which sets the scenery, and wait… did I smell spices and incense or was it just my imagination? The band is dressed in recognizably Arabic garments, but it’s not some sort of traditional outfit, but it complements the atmosphere. After the first minutes I am flabbergasted! The Arabian influences are clearly there and not only visually; it’s audible too! Now this is interesting! There is a good show to watch, besides the really enjoyable power metal. There is a lot going on on the stage and the music is played with effort en enthusiasm. The belly dancer returns during the show to show her impressive body controlling skills and the audience is loving it. It is striking tot see, that there are quite some ladies in front of the stage, enjoying the looks of these Tunisian gents! Good on them!

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Sleeping Romance (IT) (part 2)
Part 2 of the acoustic set of Sleeping Romance is a continuation of the first set. The covers of Within Temptation songs make the original seems a bit pale. Frederica her voice sounds fragile and Frederico masters his guitar to perfection. The passion of his play results in a broken string, but that is fine by him; he continues to play with 5 strings after re-tuning his guitar according to the 5 strings.

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Narnia (SWE)
The stage setup of Narnia is a bit peculiar; I guess their bass player has been naughty, because heis stuck behind the keyboard player, next to the drums. It saves some space on the stage, but most of the time he is not visible.
Narnia plays is pleasant kind of power metal and the singer uses the extra space on the stage well to cheer on the large crowd in front of him. I lost my interest as the singer starts to preach between the songs, but the crowd is not bothered at all. They are there for just that apparently.

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Day 2

Leonov (NO)
The first band of the second day is a somewhat a stranger in our midst. Both guitar players have an enormous array of pedals/switches and even the bass player has quite some of those. The female singer plays keyboard too and even she has to (guitar?) pedals on her keyboard. Wat is different about this band is that the singer is not the central focus of the band, the lead guitar player is. The singer stands on the side of the stage at a place where there is hardly any light, so for the better part of the set she stands in darkness. The lead guitar creates amazing ambient sounds out of his guitar and even uses a screwdriver to create it. Vocally it is quite monotonous, but since the vocals aren’t leading they fit in perfectly. In my opinion this band would have been better of in the theater of the venue. Perhaps the interesting visuals projected behind the drummer would have a bit more impact there because of the bigger projection possibilities. All in all this performance was a bit strange, but in very interesting way.

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Undawn (NL)
This metal core band from Dedemsvaart is drawing quite a lot of people when they start to play there set. Right from the start Undawn make a lot of heads bobbing and one guy in front of the stage was having a blast throughout the entire set. I’ve heard this band before and I must say, they sounded very good this time. There seems to be more concentration and that is noticeably. Quite some tracks are coming from their last album “Justice is…”, where “Coming Home” is well known by the audience. The Undawn Jam is this time a part of the set list too and even though it is great fun to watch and hear (it sounds really good!), it is quite something different from the rest of the set.

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Levi Acoustic (NL)
The front man of hardcore band Seven Spirits Burning, is honoring his musical heroes by performing their songs acoustic. Levi is accompanied by the guitarist of Seven Spirits Burning for this acoustic hardcore set. It is clear, that Levi has a good voice and his clean singing is impressing, but honestly I must say this experiment is not a resounding success. The screams are awkward and don’t fit the setting in which they are done. Again, Levi can sing, no doubt about that, but this is something he shouldn’t do again in my opinion.

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Dalit (NO)
Christian Doom/Death metal from Norway is what Dalit is bringing to Brainstorm Festival. It is pretty straight forward Doom/Death metal and that is exactly what is it. It is not very distinctive even though the subjects of the lyrics (christianity) could give it a somewhat different twist. But then again, it isn’t bad either. The most surprising thing about this performance is, that the light engineer did find a new light color; green besides blue and red.

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Within Silence (SK)
For Within Silence it must be great to be on tour with Theocracy. Their catchy power metal is well played and even the double guitar solo’s are played well. Surprisingly there are quite a lot small children present in the venue. The audience is very appreciative for this band and there is a surprisingly large amount of people who sing along with this band.

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Mantric (NO)
To be honest, the metal this band is playing is decent & varied and played enthusiastic and vigorous, but the Jesus-stuff in between songs are not my cup of tea. It’s quite in contrast with the satanic-like screams in a few songs and it leaves me a bit puzzled. Musically it’s rather good, but the jokes made to introduce the songs are not understand by the audience, which makes it a bit uncomfortable. This band should just play… that sounds way better!

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Selfmindead (SWE)
Apparently hipsters did discover this hardcore punk band from Sweden, because there are suddenly quite some bearded men in front of the stage. Selfmindead is resurrected after they called it quits in 2003 and a few shows in 2014. Tonight this band is going to hit Brainstorm Festival with quite some force. Regrettably some of the hipsters took this too literally and the pit which was formed targeted the people in front of the stage, among quite some ladies. Not something to be proud of IMNSHO. The band rages on and there is loads and loads of energy set free. Singer Ilkka Viitasalo looks very happy to perform again in front of a crowd going berserk. When half way the set one of the drums breaks of his mountings, Ilkka decides to improvise and freestyles sitting on a monitor at the front of the stage, with help of the guitar player Timo.
This set of Selfmindead was awesome and Ilkka hopes Brainstorm will invite them over again in about 2 years, or ten…

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Marius (USA)
Marius Kozlowski is the guitar player of ‘Royal Anguish’ and is invited to Brainstorm Festival this year to show his guitar skills solo in the theater of the venue of Gigant. Supported by a kind of drum computer Marius plays a kind of atmospheric tracks which sounds very interesting, but that only lasts for more than 3 songs when you are a guitar fetishist. Although it is very impressive what Marius does, I lost my interest after 3 songs. The problems with setting the drum computer between songs didn’t help either. Perhaps next year with Mena Brinno in an acoustic setting?

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Theocracy (USA)
The venue is now seriously packed. The side of the stage looks like a kindergarten with kids from approximately 4 till 7 years old who are getting to see this show at 22:30. In front of the stage are the die hard fans of this main religious metal band. 10 minutes before the show starts, it is hard to move through the crowd and there are a lot of eagerly waiting people to see their heroes up close and personal. When the band starts to play, there is a lot of enthusiasm in front of the stage, but on the stage too. But after the first song I notice something is different and it takes me another song to realize what it is. To me it looks like the lyrics and the music does not match completely. The lyrics are stories to be told and the music is more of a decoration, than the vessel to deliver the message. This makes it feel out of place at some moments. When a slower song is set in, the venue looks more like a church, when dozens of people waving their arms in the air praising the lord.

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Conclusion
If you are into different types of metal, then Brainstorm Festival is the place for you to be. What bewildered me the most during this festival, was the amount of small children present. It varied from babies of just a few months ‘till about 7 years. At more than one occasion the babies were in the same room where the bands performed at 80 – 100 dB. Luckily these kids all wore ear protection, but still… I can’t imagine babies enjoy music at these volume levels and the ultra low frequencies generated.

To me, the biggest surprises of this festival were Myrath, with their power-metal-with-an-Arabic-twist, Shadowrise and Selfmindead for their sheer and raw power. Undawn and Sleeping Romance weren’t surprises anymore to me, but performed at the high level that what I was expecting.

About the author

Marc is concert/festival photographer and reporter for PitKings. On occasion he's also writing album reviews. Besides PitKings he also has his own photography company called LOUDimages and has his own event-solutions company: LOUDservices.

View all articles by Marc van Kollenburg