The past few months have been quite a ride in terms of the billing for this year’s metal festival in Aalborg in the north of Denmark. The first name to be announced was none other than Morbid Angel. The Trey Azagthot/Steve Tucker version of the band, naturally. I saw that constellation back in the nineties. It wasn’t my favourite, truth be told, but I could easily live with it. Then that got cancelled.
After that, My Dying Bride were announced as one of the headliners. I was completely in awe. My top doom band of all time!
Then they got cancelled, too. I was devastated. Instead, Dark Funeral were introduced. Bummer. I was not at all amused!
As a comfort, I Am Morbid were added to the bill, and that I could certainly not complain about.
But first, the opening day, or should I say evening, which is dominated by metalcore and the headliner, Danish cult act Invocator, fronted by none other that one of the grand, old men of the Danish metal scene, Volbeat producer, guitarist and singer Jacob Hansen.
I arrive more or less in the middle of the set of the opening band, ROAD TO JERUSALEM. This is in a way something you could call a supergroup in the sense that the band consists of the former The Haunted and Invocator drummer Per M. Jensen, Soilwork/Hypocrisy/Scar Symmetry bassist Andreas Holma, Konkhra guitarist Michael Skovbakke and singer Josh Tyree.
This is probably less hard hitting music than you’d expect from people with these portfolios. Road To Jerusalem’s music is heavy, agreed, but also very melodic. From the few songs I get to hear, it sounds like well-played hardrock. It’s alright, but, to be honest, nothing special.
LIVLØS means ‘lifeless’ in Danish. If there’s something this young band isn’t then it is indeed lifeless! In particular front man Simon is a bundle of energy who gives it all. He is all over the place; in the photo pit, leaning into the audience over the barrier, growling his way through the half-hour set like a madman. Great to see a Danish band who doesn’t just have the ambition to be good metal musicians, but also to give the audience value for money in terms of entertainment. There’s no holding back on the aggression here, that’s for sure. Note: First Wall of Death of the festival!
Australian CURSED EARTH’s front woman, Jazmine, claims that this is the craziest thing she’s done. Whether she talks about going on a tour of Europe with Novelists and Make Them Suffer or merely standing on a stage in Denmark where we’re close to zero degrees outside, I don’t know. But fact is that this cute looking little woman tears the stage up with her brutal voice and animated stage act.
Cursed Earth’s music is kind of metalcore mixed with a djent bass sound, and I’m wondering if this is a trend of sorts, because the next two bands also employ that sound. More about that later. The Australians with Jazmine Luders in front leave a very fine impression, even if I’m not totally a fan of the genre.
NOVELISTS hail from France and their sound isn’t a far cry from that of Cursed Earth. Their stage act is different, though. Less insisting and in your face, although singer Matt also jumps into the photo pit. He spends much time kind of…well, dancing around the stage in a way that is, to say it the least, not very heavy metal.
Given the fact that this is the second band in a row who play metalcore, and even if it’s varied with clean vocals, I start getting bored. The same emotional state is true for the majority of the Aalborg Metal Festival audience.
It’s Thursday evening, a lot of people have been to work all day and to go to work again tomorrow, and they’re holding back. There is also the possibility that metalcore simply isn’t that popular here.
MAKE THEM SUFFER, yet another band from Perth, Australia, also experience that there is little energy in the audience (or genuine interest); the response isn’t powerful, even if tonight’s third metalcore band are cool and professional and everything. We have just reached a point where we want to see Invocator for old times’ sake and then go to bed.
INVOCATOR represent total nostalgia for a lot of Danes, myself included. The first time I saw the band was in 1990. Jacob Hansen happens to be the only remaining member from that time. Back then, they had released two demo tapes (yes, tapes), and were the hotshots of the underground. When the debut album, Excursion Demise, came out in 1991, it was something a lot of people had been waiting for, and it was good, but nowhere near as good as the next two albums, Weave the Apocalypse (1994) and Dying to Live (1995), two true classics within the genre of technical thrash metal. A fourth album, Through the Flesh to the Soul, was released in 2003, a fine album, however not quite as memorable as the two previous albums.
Although marred by the lacklustre response from this Thursday night crowd, Invocator pull off a gig, which in my eyes is something Hansen and his stage buddies can be more than pleased with. The line-up beyond Hansen is guitarist Perle Hansen (who played guitar on Weave the Apocalypse and Dying to Live), drummer Jakob Grundel (who also played drums on the last album) and Raunchy bassist Jesper Kvist.
As it has been the case with Invocator since the mid-nineties, there is no big fuss, and certainly no metalcore fury and jumping around. It’s a modest and slightly shy performance, yet a self-confident performance. These people know that they can play their instruments, let me put it like that.
I’m tempted to say that I haven’t heard Invocator with a better and heavier sound before, and that is no trivial claim. They sound really, really good tonight, and the set list is excellent. All albums are represented with at least one tune, and, needless to say, there are some pretty damned amazing songs among them.
Thus ends the first evening of Aalborg Metal Festival 2017. A bit slow in terms of the audience response, but as always excellent sound and a friendly atmosphere. Time for some sleep and we’ll see what tomorrow brings.
01. Dying To Live
02. Doomed to Be
04. From My Skull It Rains
05. Excursion Demise
06. Shattered Self
07. Breed of Sin
08. Desert Sands
09. King in a World of Fools
10. The Afterbirth
11. Through the Flesh to the Soul
12. Through the Nether to the Sun
Jacob Hansen - guitar, vocal
Perle Hansen - guitar
Jesper Kvist - bass
Jakob Grundel - drums