Fortarock In The City 2017 (festival review)

Fortarock In The City 2017 (festival review)

May 27, 2017 | Doornroosje, Nijmegen – In november 2016 came the disappointing news, that there wouldn’t be a Fortarock outdoor festival in 2017. This decision was triggered by difficulties the organization had to get a worthy line-up and the absence of a killer headliner. In the same press release they announced a smaller indoor festival in the venue of Doornroosje: Fortarock In The City.

With temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius and above, it was going to be a very hot day. And to be honest, I didn’t mind a lot that it was indoors. Indoors…! Where the air conditioning was buzzing, to keep it pleasantly cool the whole time! The whole venue, including both of the stages (Red and Purple) and the hallways are cool and only the brave go outside for some “fresh” air. Security is tight, but that was going to be expected shortly after Manchester. The security staff is correct, polite and efficient; there is hardly any waiting time.

Destrage (I)
When I arrive at the venue it seems not very busy yet, but at the “Red” stage, the slightly bigger of the two, it is already busy. When Destrage walks on the stage there are about 100-150 spectators which make a nice atmosphere. Destrage plays a more than decent set. The songs are put together very well and the band is wel attuned to each other. The progressive metalcore of Destrage is done with a very interesting heavy punch and lots of variation and energy. The show at FortaRock in the City was going to be their last show of their tour, but there was no sign of fatigue. Destrage was extremely enjoyable.

Pelgrim (NL)
All bands are playing back to back on the two stages, so right after Destrage Pelgrim is starting their set on the Purple stage. Pelgrim plays roughly the same kind of progressive metalcore as Destrage, but Destrage is clearly more professional. On hind sight it would have made more sense to let Pelgrim open the festival and Destrage be the second band. Pelgrim is quite good, but the difference is there and that is a disadvantage for Pelgrim. The action on the stage is good; bearded singer Wouter performs some crazy jumps and interacts with the crowd quite a bit. The overall entertainment factor is high and best of all; there is a rather big number of fans present!

The Contortionist (USA)
To be honest, this band puts me a bit on the spot. Musically it is fantastic! It is complex without being overly complex, it’s insane melodic, varied and at times impressively atmospheric. The Contortionist sounds formidably, but… The stage is quite dark throughout the set and there is a lot of smoke. The band doesn’t move about a lot and there is limited interaction with the spectators, so there is not a lot to see; literally and figuratively. Some fans at the stage are overjoyed for seeing and hearing their favorite band live and that’s all what counts in the end.

Ulsect (NL)
I haven’t had the privilege to see this band live before, but heard the stories. I’m very curious how and if Ulsect can live up to the expectations… After a few songs the answer to that is clear: this is some well performed metal. It’s loud, it’s heavy and it’s venomous. The setlist is varied and there is a great aura of professionalism by each of the band members. The people present are having a blast too. Multiple times, while taking pictures, I’m being whipped by flying hair from all sides and that is a good sign! Still it seems to be quite scary to stand close to the stage for most of the audience. The photographers and hardcore fans are in the front rows. Then there is an open space and behind that, stands the majority of the crowd, nodding and bobbing their heads. I guess everyone present agreed on the fact that Ulsect is killing it!

Batushka (POL)
I leave Ulsect a bit early to see the preparations of Batushka and hopefully find out who are behind the masks. There are a lot of guys on the stage prepping the lectern, the candles, the bells, etc. I look around to see the core members of the band, but I only see the choir members and the roadies undisguised. The band members are nowhere to be seen. The mystery of who the band members are, still remains a mystery. The music and shows of Batushka are inspired by the slavic orthodox church, but if you had some catholic upbringing, you could recognize a thing or two (e.g. the smell of the incense used!).

Before Batushka starts their show, there is a member of the organisation asking for a 2 minute silence. At gigs all over the world, there will be 2 minutes of silence for the victims of Manchester. It is impressive to witness the silence of the metalheads in Nijmegen. They all know it’s not only about metal, but about enjoying live music without having to think if you are safe or not.

When the organisation thanks all present for their 2 minutes of silence, the show begins and men in cowl enter the stage. Faces are covered under their large hoods and during the intro, the audience is blessed with incense and hand & finger gestures (not thát finger!). The band has only one album out and I’ve been told that it is a concept album. Great! As far as I could judge, they played the entire album and I must say, live it is a hundred times more impressive than on the CD. Although there is no wild action on the stage, the “Father” is running his mass with tight precision and it is impressive! Satanic screaming/singing with a thundering bass and a monk choir… bone chilling! Maybe it is the oppressive atmosphere of it all, to make it very impressive.

The Charm The Fury (NL)
The Purple Stage is now filled to the brim. The Charm The Fury has become very popular in a relatively short time and a lot of people want to check them out. This female fronted metal band is from Amsterdam and is compared best with a stick of dynamite! It is explosive, loud and fast. Front woman Caroline uses the whole stage and interacts a lot with her fans and cheers them on to go even wilder. The obvious fun of this band is contagious and the crowd is banging and moving about. The genre of this band is supposed to be metalcore, but it is not all metalcore what the band plays. The newer songs are less metalcore-ish, but still have that little metalcore edge, which makes it pretty interesting to listen to. The temperature of the venue rises as a result of the packed crowd and Caroline is sweating profoundly, but never ever she’ll take it easy and gives it al ‘till the last note has faded. Superb performance of this Dutch gem!

 

Decapitated (POL)
The Red stage is cool when I enter it after The Charm The Fury. The next Polish band is starting any minute now and it all begins with an ultra low noise, with shakes everyone and everything. The singer has extremely long dreads and when he bangs his head, they fly al about. There is a lot of energy on the stage, but musically it isn’t that impressive. The ultra low sounds dominate the set and it becomes annoying after a while. Pity, because without it, I guess it would have sounded way better.

DOOL (NL)
The first album of DOOL “Here Now There Then” sounds promising and a new real heavy female fronted metal band would be very welcome in the scene. Front woman Ryanne is rather introvert on the stage, but brings her lyrics convincingly. The band plays rather good and varied, but the kick I expected wasn’t there. Mind you! I am not saying it was a mediocre performance… not at all! Musically and vocally it was pretty good, but it wasn’t as metal as I expected it to be, based on their album. It was less metal and more rock. Maybe my expectation wasn’t on par with reality. I surely will go check them out any time soon.

Periphery (USA)
This American band has a lot of fans in The Netherlands! From the first song ‘till the last the die hard fans sing along. At times they sing so loud, that singer Spencer can’t top them even being amplified. The show of the band is very American. Quite a few (rehearsed?) routines are done on stage, but the fans don’t care if it is acted or spontaneous. They just love everything what happens on the stage. Musically it is all very professional and well performed. At times, mostly during (rehearsed?) jokes or acts, it sounds like the band is playing on autopilot. At other times the passion for music is back and the band excels. All in all a decent show.

Noctem (ES)
This Spanish band has made an effort of their corpse paint and outfits and mean business to bring their blackened death metal to Nijmegen. Even standing on the front row, the band and their show is barely visible because of the smoke and the dim lights mostly coming from the back. Later on it gets a bit better, but most of the times only silhouettes are visible; even from less than 2 meter form the stage. I guess the people standing half way the venue never noticed the corpse paint the band is wearing.
Musically it is incredible. A lot of variation and an icy voice completing the musically impressive set of Noctem.

Conclusion
FortaRock in the City has a dual function. One is the festival as described, but there is also a networking possibility for bands and artists who can rub elbows with the influencers and decision makers in the metal industry. This chance is extremely important so that deserves a big cheer for the organisation. Personally I had a great time. Even though not all the bands matched my taste or expectation. A metal festival with only my favourite bands would not be much fun either! Doornroosje was definitely the coolest place to be on this extremely hot Saturday! Literally and figuratively!

It was announced that next year there was definitely going to be a FortaRock outdoor festival again. I can’t wait for the first names of that line up!

About the author

Marc is concert/festival photographer and reporter for PitKings in the northern and eastern part of The Netherlands. On occasion he's also writing album reviews. Besides PitKings he also has his own photography company called Loud Images.

View all articles by Marc van Kollenburg