Living on the edge!

Graveland 2017 (festival review)

October 7, 2017 | The Maxx, Hoogeveen – I went north to Hoogeveen again, to witness the Graveland festival. In Hoogeveen’s indoor sports center The Maxx, at the tennis courts I guess by the markings on the floor, it all took place. The lay-out of the venue was well thought off. Outside were the food stalls with tents to give shelter for the rain. A rather large part of the hall was reserved for merchandise, which was quite busy throughout the day. When I walked into the venue there was some turmoil on the stage. It appeared that there were problems with sound; no microphones and no monitors were functioning at all.

Dead Will Walk (NL)
“Some turmoil” turned into mild panic when Dead Will Walk’s cue came… but still no microphones and 1 functioning monitor. The band sound checked while the technicians ran on and off stage, but no avail. More than 30 minutes behind schedule Dead Will Walk started their shortened set… without vocals… The people who were in front of the band were very sympathetic, but the drummer/singer giving his best, without being heard was a bit of a let down. The band was understandably visible frustrated and disappointed and so were the fans who came in early to see their favorite band. Huge amounts of respect is due to Dead Will Walk for their attitude. To go on stage and perform anyway, knowing that there are no vocals and your set is drastic shortened.

Disfuneral (F)
During the changeover there are some indications the mic-problem has been found and when Disfuneral starts to play, the sound is better and there are vocals! The light-switch has been found too and the colorful light fills the stages from both sides. Maybe a bit too colorful for death metal, but at least there is light! Disfuneral has a signature sound which is very recognizable in each and every song, without ever becoming dull. Although the sound is not perfect and the mics have some quirks, Disfuneral was a nice discovery as I enjoyed it very much!

Spectral Voice (USA)
This band is pushing the limits with the distortion of the microphones. With lots of reverberation and echo. This death/doom band has an extreme eerie sound, which I like a lot. It’s bombastic and the vocals are indeed sounding as if they came from the other side. During the set, the bands asks for a lot more smoke and only blue lights. Unfortunately there is only 1 small smoke machine and 1 blue light. Probably to compensate, the front lights are killed and so the band is hardly visible. The shadows on the stage might fit the sound, but personally I think it is a pity when a band hides in smoke and darkness when playing live. Nonetheless this is a very interesting band!

Absorbed (NL)
This is a local band from Hoogeveen, so it is quite busy! Absorbed is strengthened by the support and plays a very interesting set. It is varied, it sounds catchy and the dosed use of the double bass drums pumps up the tempo on multiple occasions. The grunts are not the best in the business, but they are not omnipresent. The clean singing on the other hand is and that is quite good! The last full album is from 2002, so maybe this performance is a step-up to another album!

Distillator (NL)
Old fashion thrash metal is what this trio plays and they are doing it damn good. When Distillator starts, there is a lot of static on the mics, but during the songs it is gone. Distillator brought their own smoke machines with lights and that has an impact. In no-time the stage is filled with colored smoke. Unfortunately the lights on the stage are turned down and it’s getting quite dark again. Distillator also has to cut some songs from their set, to regain some lost time. Pity, but another strong performance of these guys!

Necrowretch (F)
Before the set of Necrowretch, the band asks for only red light, for me as a photographer a horror and luckily there are not enough red lights, so this death metal band has to settle for pink, a bit of white and a few red lights… The drummer is the most eye catching figure in the band… literally! While drumming he’s looking around with his big scary eyes throughout the set, without blinking. It’s amazing he is still hitting anything at the end of the set and that his eyes aren’t withered yet of dehydration. The singer has some creepy grimaces too, which makes it very entertaining to watch. Although their genre is “putrid death metal”, it sounds quite melodic and filled with details. Their fierce guitar play and driving drums makes a lot of head bang!

Blood Incantation (USA)
This band is a bit different from the rest. Their singer is quite lengthly in his announcement in between songs, and does it in a quite monotonous way. Musically it sounds like a clock, where the slower parts are nothing less than brilliant! Very atmospheric and musically very elaborated.

Taake (NOR)
One of the bands I looked forward to see on this stage was Taake. The sound check is not the best and when the band started to play, the shit really hit the fan. Singer Hoest started the first lines of his first song… with no sound. Angrily he throws the microphone stand on the ground and grabs a second. No avail and that one goes flying too. The third microphone kind of works, but it’s cable is trapped between the monitors, which limits his movements. The drummer has no sounds to and to get the attention of the soundboard next to the stage, he throws a box at them. The atmosphere became quite grim on stage and at one point I thought the band would walk off the stage. Luckily it was limited to some bad language and angry glares to the sound engineers, whom try to fix the problems. In which the partly succeed. The feedback on the monitors is terrible at times, but Taake is professional enough to take it out on the audience. There is a lot of interaction on the stage. Hoest stands multiple times with one foot on the barrier and lets fans sing in his mic and fist-bumps them. The fans love the show, despite the technical mishaps. Todays set may be angry-fueled, but is is a quite good set! The loss of a few mics is creatively solved by Hoest. When V`gandr has to sing some lines, Hoest holds the mic for him. The crow is going berserk over this great set. It was adventurous, to put it mildly!

Asphyx (NL)
The Dutch death metal band Asphyx is always giving top performances and the sound is surprisingly full and rich! There are quit some squeaks and cracks audible, but there not predominant and the band and fans choose to ignore it and enjoy the show. It is still quite busy in front of the stage and guitar player Paul is handing out beers throughout the set from a big beer filled tray. The audience is having a blast! The set is well build up and it is very catchy! Near the end Singer Martin is using some profanity to the Dutch national soccer team and a famous Dutch rapper in a typical Dutch way; cursing with a deadly disease. There is some uproar from the audience, but that did not stop Martin. Very deplorable and unnecessary. Great set, but this was uncalled for.

Tribulation (SWE)
Next up is the band I was really looking forward to see again. When the lights dimmed and the incense is taped to the monitors and lit, the band enters the stage the first notes of Melancholia sound. When the song is picking up pace, the anticipated lights stay off… the whole set is played in almost complete darkness. Bummer… Melancholia is not performed in the best way, but as the set progresses, the it is getting better and better! This a fantastic band, with a lot of atmospheric details en great guitar play and an a lot to see, if the lights are on. Guitarist Johnathan is dancing and prancing about the stage in his unique way, but in the darkness he is mere a shadow. The make-up of the band is also something worth seeing, but halfway across the venue, the band is nothing more than silhouettes and a bit more when an occasional light hits one of the band members !
The darkness is really a shame, because Johnatan moves very graciously and that should be seen! Due to some spilled water on the stage by a previous band, Jonathan at one time slammed quite ungraceful on the floor when moving about. Luckily he didn’t got injured or broke his guitar and continued playing like it never happened. The last song of the set is “Strange Gateways Beckon” and is nothing less than perfect. Although there is not as much audience compared to the previous bands, the ones in front of the stage got a musically impressive set. Visually it was a challenge…

The Haunted (SWE)
Sadly the technical problems are back again. The lost time that was made up by shortening the sets of previous bands, is gone. The sound check of The Haunted did away with all of that and more. Some people call it quits and leave, but when the bands starts to play, it seems they solved all problems. It took a while, but the sound is the best of the day. The set is impressive and the ones who stayed got a treat!

I haven’t been to the previous editions of Graveland, but I really like the set-up. The tents outside are spacious and perfect to stay dry while eating, drinking or just chatting. The food is served prompt, when it is not too busy. Otherwise it’s advised to keep an eye on your order to get it in time. The bars are spacious and all the volunteers are friendly. I enjoyed this festival greatly! The line-up was very strong this year and organized pretty good. The problems with the sound was really a shame for everybody involved. I was impressed by the stage manager(?) who took the blame and offered his apologies extensively to the bands. It takes a lot of guts to do that on the stage in public!

The best part of the festival was the programming. All the bands played some type of melodic metal, regardless of their (sub) genre, which made it a feast for the ears. I can’t wait to see next years line-up!

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