September 2, 2017 | Hoogeveen – The first weekend in September is traditionally the weekend of OccultFest and with again some sound names on the bill, this festival is still going strong… but is it really? With more and more competition, organizers of festivals like OccultFest lose quite some sleep to tie it all together. To promote new and unknown bands to a bigger audience, it is important to have some well known bands too, to draw the crowd in. To get the much needed funds, Organizer Jacco Zuidema climbs the stage at a certain moment to have a bit of an emotional appeal for the crowd funding his foundation has started for the 2018 edition of the festival. Without the proper funding, there might not be a next edition.
We cannot let this unique festival slip into oblivion, so checkout the page of their crowd funding and if you can spare something. Please do! Www.voorjebuurt.nl/campaigns/occultfest-2018/
It is quite sunny when I enter the festival grounds and I am pleasantly surprised there are 50 to 60 spectators waiting to see the first band of today; Grindpad. Although the name might fool you, this band plays thrash and does that pretty good. It is still early for the metal heads in front of the stage, because the eyes are small and the only hair flying, is on the stage. When their best known song “Sharkbite” is played, the two inflatable sharks are thrown in to the crowd. That wakes the crowd up and there is quite some fun frolicking around with the inflatable sharks.
Circle Unbroken (B)
This Flemish gothic/progressive band is unknown to me and I haven’t looked them up prior to this festival, so I listen quite unbiased to their performance. Singer Marieke Bresseleers is quite expressive and at times this influences her vocal performance a bit, but nothing too bad. The music is quite melodic and catchy at times. Vocally Marieke Bresseleers impresses the most with her gothic/opera-ish parts. It is a pity the band suffers some technical problems. The monitor of the guitarist stops functioning and on the small stage it rather distracting for the band when people walk around with cables, but luckily the problem is solved quickly. If that is not distraction enough, the plug in the mic of Marieke drops out of it, rendering her litteraly without sound. Professionally she plugs the cable right back in her mic, without missing a word. Ignoring the technical problems, this performance was very entertaining even though there are not that many people left in front of the stage. The last song is the most impressive. The clean singing and grunts combined with the beautiful melody matches very well.
Order of the Emperor (NL)
This is one of bands I went to Hoogeveen for. I’ve seen the Order of the Emperor before and was nothing less than impressed. Order of the Emperor plays old fashioned hard rock and the love for this genre is visible an most of all audible! The band has grown big time and the dual guitar harmonies are tributes to the masters of the NWOBHM. All it needs to make it perfect is a bit more action on the stage like Audrey Horne, to make it unforgettable. The small crowd is getting a great set during a little over half an hour. Sometimes a review can be short and sometimes it can consist of three letters: wow.
The deathcore band Pariah from The Netherlands displays a lot of energy on the stage, but it is going in all directions which makes it a bit messy. The first few songs sound decent, but there is not a lot of variation. This monotonousness made the set a bit tame, but when the band announces a cover of Iron Maiden’s Aces High, a lot of heads turn on the meadow in anticipation… To be honest, I’ve never heard a worse cover of this track in my life. I really hope the band had a bad day and that their instruments were out of tune for this song or that it was a coincidence of circumstances, but this was not their best set.
Mass Deception (NL)
These Dutch thrashers of Mass Deception play a pretty fast set with a different approach to the vocals. The lyrics are sung a bit staccato which takes some time to get used too. The set of Mass Deception is quite decent, but the band struggles a lot to bring it across. This combined with a not too spectacular stage presence, makes it a decent midfield performance.
Signs of Algorithm (B)
Another band from Belgium and these guys play death-core too. With a crew of 5, the small stage is filled up quit nicely, which limits the band in there movements. So no hefty jumps or spins this set. There are tons of energy thrown around and there is quite some interaction with the crowd. Signs of Algorithm plays a cover of Iron Maiden too. Run to the Hills is the track and is done ok. Singer Frederick strains his vocal cords quite a bit to keep it in the style of his band, for which he pays the toll near the end of the song. His voice is cracking with strain. Their own songs are played almost without a glitch and the set is varied and interesting. Maybe it is a Belgium tradition to keep the most interesting song ‘till last, because this one has quite some atmospheric elements and different guitar harmonics. Nice!
Morgarten is a Swiss band which tells tales of fictional battles. Battles as in war, but also battles from within. The name of the band refers to a real battle in Switzerland, where the Swiss won, even while they were outnumbered and under equipped. There’s a message hidden in there! The genre of Morgarten is folk metal, with a blend of black metal, which makes is varied and interesting. What makes this band more special, is the use of different instruments like flutes, and horns. Another interesting fact is, that only the drummer played his an instrument before they started Morgarten! Although folk metal is not really my cup of coffee, the energy and the fun of the band is contagious. The ancient battle songs and the medieval clothing match perfectly and for a bunch of autodidacts the play great set. There are a lot of fans of this band too, so the atmosphere is good. The joy on stage is visible as they perform, and after their own set the band is seen partying with the crowd during the other bands!
In 2016 this band got the opportunity to play at FortaRock, but back then they seemed to be quite nervous. This time there is no sign of stress and filling the small stage with 5 persons the set is less dynamic than it could have been, but that is an issue more bands today have to conquer. The audience is not omnipresent unfortunately and they miss out on a nice set of Hibakusha. Their quite complex and technical groove metal is quite good and the performance is solid.
When Endymaeria is getting ready for their set, there is one band member which is noticed right away; the violin player. Many metal bands make use of violins, but most of them get them out of a synthesizer… in the background… but not Endymaeria! They reserve an important part for the violin which is a great addition in my opinion. Especially live! Their current violin player is quite new to the band and appears a bit shy and hides in the background when she is not playing. But when she starts playing, all shyness and modesty falls of like a shroud and she’s really getting into it. A violin player performing live with the band is a valuable addition. Vocally and musically Endymaeria is very interesting and entertaining. There is quite a lot of variation and the stage presence is great too. The sound of this band is full, rich and very well defined. Impressive! I guess it is an OccultFest-thing to finish the set with an impressive song. Endymaeria’s last song has a very interesting part of guitar and violin which sounds totally awesome!
Splinterbomb is one of the much anticipated bands of OccultFest. With their no-nonsense grooving thrash metal, a lot of people stand and watch when their guitars make their first noise. Due to a holiday, the bass player is a substitute but no one, apart from the die hard fans, would have noticed that if they kept it quiet; he blends in perfectly. Splinterbomb plays an interesting mix of thrash, death and doom, which translates in some unexpected twists and turns. These twists will keep you listening and anticipating the next groovy twist. The best parts in my opinion are the doom metal parts, which explode into violent thrash and return to doom… or not… The sudden twists and turns keeping you on your toes. Singer Michel van Bijnen seems to sings effortless, which is an achievement by itself, but at times it would be more convincing if he “leans more into it”. The cover of Sepultura’s Refuse Resist is quite good and fits rather well with his voice by the way. Michel seems more relaxed after this cover. All in all a solid performance!
Nightland is a band I always enjoy. Their perfomances are nothing short of solid and there is something to see on the stage too. I quite like the bombastic metal of these Italians and their atmospheric sounds are really an addition to the set, but as I said in an earlier review it is a pity it is all coming from a computer. The disadvantage it coming from a computer became painfully clear today. The “background” sounds were played way too loud for a background track and it interfered with the music of the band. Playing aloud there was no problem; Nightland easily topped that, but in the slower or softer parts they were there. About halfway through the set all I heared was the background track and it distracted me quite a bit. With the band is nothing wrong, the set is great as usual and these guys always draw a crowd.
The Lucifer Principle (NL)
The biggest crowd of today is for this Dutch band. Singer Earik Mortem plays the crowd even before the set starts and that does a trick or two… people getting interested and gather in front of the right stage with some anticipation. With 5 minutes to curtain, The Lucifer Principle gets the green light and waste no time and start their set early. It’s during the second or third song that the guitar strap of Guido comes loose of his guitar and he has to sit on the drum riser to continue playing. Earik tries to fix the strap while singing but no avail. With the spare guitar of Thomas, Guido can continue the set. It is pretty busy in front of the stage now and The Lucifer Principle is on a roll now and the crowd is having a blast! Frontman Earik joins the crow on the field quite a few times. He climbs the barrier while siging and even joins the pit an the polonaise with his fans. Tonight The Lucifer Principle is nailing it. Again! With hands down with Earik as the master of ceremonies.
To be honest I find it hard to review Inhume, because I really have no connection with the genre at all. Sorry guys! With a absolute neutral point of view this band is capable and are true musicians. The performance on the stage is great too; a lot of action is going on from left to right. The audience less divided and the hardcore fans are banging their head ferocious. So it must be me and just a few others :-)
De facto headliner Izegrim is one of the better bands in The Netherlands and with an concept album which was very well received last year the stakes and the expectations are high. It takes a few songs to notice there is something different. I seems the band is on autopilot and although singer Marloes sounds enthusiastic, the fire is just not burning fiercely. The show is professionally played and is still adequate, but the sting is just not there. A not so professional act was, when singer Marloes mocked the organizers of OccultFest for removing the fans from the photopit, which she invited there. Maybe she was unaware that some drunk guys were terribly annoying and that it could spin out of control any minute, but she has to rely on professionalism of the guys ensuring a safe festival for everybody.
It was getting pretty cold and the majority of people went home or to their tent and all of them missed out the performance of Inferum… and they missed out on something! At Stonehenge this year I visually missed out the larger part of their set due to the heavy rain, but I did hear them though and what I heard was pretty good. This time it was dry and with a small, but enthusiastic crowd Inferum put down a great show. The band was at least as enthusiastic as their hardcore fans and they played as if they stood in a large sold-out venue with them as headliner. The set was nothing short of great. It was melodic, played tight and with a lot of action on the stage it was very entertaining. Sure there were some hick-ups, but if you go all in with heads first, nobody gives a fuck! See them if you can! Baroeg Open Air is their next gig!
After a long day I decided it had been enough. When the fireworks crackle in the air I still have one hour drive ahead of me. OccultFest has been a nice one again and hopefully there is going to be a next edition!