AALBORG METAL FESTIVAL has always been a bit of an Easter egg for me. There have always been unexpected, positive live experiences by bands I either didn’t know or didn’t really like. There have been years where it was no surprise at all that things were all good. 2012 was for example legendary: Devin Townsend, Gojira, Fear Factory. 2015 with Carcass, Obituary, Sepultura, Napalm Death and Voivod. But there have also been years where there were no particular favourite, like 2016, where Týr basically cleared the deck with a sweeping performance, much to my surprise. And there was last year, where we didn’t know whether I Am Morbid would actually live up to the expectations, but certainly did.
This year is, truth be told, one of those years where the announced billing doesn’t exactly give me a hard-on. Yes, I’m looking forward to seeing Danish doom legends SATURNUS again, as well as death metal veterans ILLDISPOSED and up-and-coming extreme metal band XENOBLIGHT. But we’ll see how things turn out.
The latter mentioned newcomers, XENOBLIGHT, have the honour of opening the festival this year. It’s usually a doubtful honour, but the crowd is bigger than usual on the Thursday evening of the festival. This indicates that Xenoblight have quickly become a name to be reckoned with here in Denmark, and it’s cool that a local band gets the deserved support.
Fronted by Marika Hyldmar, the five-piece play a sort of blackened thrash metal mixed with death metal, a cocktail that earned the band a spot at this year’s Wacken Metal Battle stage as the representatives for Denmark. This is not something you ‘just’ do, mind you. Moreover, the band released their well-received and convincing debut album, Procreation, earlier this year, so they’re on a roll.
Although it’s the first time I see Xenoblight live, I have a feeling that they can be more on a roll than they are tonight. They play well, no doubt, and Marika is certainly a natural in front of a crowd, but it’s as if the initial stretching and warm-up has just been completed when Xenoblight’s half-hour slot is suddenly over. Anyhoo, it’s pretty clear that we have a shining new star arising on the Danish metal scene, I can feel it in my ol’ bones. The strength of the new song presented, ‘Oblivion’, only underlines that the curve is good for these young folk.
02. Obsidian Chromatism
05. Kill Your Self.
Just like in 2016, the Aalborg Metal Festival bookers have run into a prog tech death tour package. I’m in truth missing my brother-in-law and Power Of Metal.dk guest writer Phil. He can’t be here until tomorrow, which is a darned shame since the whole tech death thing is so much more him than me. And there’s four of them!
Anyway, deep breath, and in we dive: BROUGHT BY PAIN from Canada is half-way the same line-up as the headliner of the tech death package, Beyond Creation. Bassist Hugo Doyon-Karout and guitarist Kévin Chartré work double shifts tonight! And how they keep all those notes in their brains, I have trouble to fathom. All those strings! Without having done any research at all, my guess is that all of these musicians are music teachers, but I could of course be wrong. Halfway through, my stomache and I agree that it’s dinner time.
A wee while later, I’m back for ENTHEOS. The US outfit is fronted by Chaney Crabb, and like Marika earlier today, she’s an intense front woman. Chaney’s one big smile whenever she has a break from growling/screaming. Entheos has a different and in my taste more consumeable take on the tech death genre. It’s more straight-forward and brutal. Also, Chaney’s partly using a microphone with a voice coder of sorts, which adds a different aspect. It’s cool. Approved gig.
The same can be said of France’s GOROD. They have a number of releases out and are in that sense the most experienced band of the tech death tour package. The members of the band have reached an age were they are greying and/or balding, but in this case, I’d say that with experience comes power. Gorod can be extremely effective. They use parts that are more like metalcore than anything, and at the same time, they have the more experimental hippie-zen moments. Front man Julien Deyres, a Henry Rollins-look-alike, is an in-your-face crowd inciter, and like the rest of the band, it’s so obvious that they’re just having a blast playing their music in front of a crowd. Nice one.
IN BRIEF WITH…Marika Hyldmar of XENOBLIGHT
During the break, I sit down for a few minutes with Marika from Danish newcomers Xenoblight and talk about the future of the band.
Thomas: You’ve put out your debut album earlier this year, you came in fourth in the Wacken Metal Battle contest, and you’ve played Aalborg Metal Festival now. What are the next steps for Xenoblight?
Marika: Well, there’s a tour of Denmark with HateSphere and Livløs coming up in February and January, which we are of course looking very much forward to. We’re working on new material – we presented the new song ‘Oblivion’ earlier tonight. And then we’re working on some things that’ll hopefully help us move ahead as a band, but it’s all secret for now, so I can’t reveal anything, hahaha. Something will be announced soon!
Thomas: Is it your ambition to be big?
Marika: Sure! If it’s possible at all. We’ve agreed in the band that we’ll take it as far as we possibly can. We’re ready!
Thomas: I know that you’re here in Aalborg for the entire festival. What are you looking forward to see and hear here?
Marika: The important bands for me at this year’s festival are Anaal Nathrakh whom I’ve seen a couple of times, and they’re so insane, Gaahls’ Wyrd and Enslaved.
BEYOND CREATION also graced this very festival with their presence in 2016. Phil was near-orgiastic back then and he’s in Norway right now, biting his knuckles in frustration over the fact that he’ll miss this. It’s understandable. For people who really appreciate tech death, this is sublime. Even I can see that.
You stand there and watch these insanely skilled musicians and craftsmen, and even without being a fan, you have to acknowledge how utterly amazing it is that human beings are even capable of coming up with music like this, let alone actually perform it live. I’m basically in awe as the Canadians perform the new album, Algorythm, in its entirety. This is crazy stuff.
Sadly, the Thursday night crowd has little energy left (or some have had to leave because they must go to work tomorrow), but a few soldiers do their best to muster a pit of sorts. I wonder what will become of tonight’s headliner, Vreid.
Beyond Creation setlist:
01 . Entre suffrage et mirage
02. Surface’s Echoes
03. Ethereal Kingdom
05. À travers le temps et l’oubli
06. In Adversity
07. The Inversion
08. Binomial Structures
09. The Afterlife
Ah, but my fears have been ungrounded. The black souls among us seep out of their holes and gather in a decent crowd in front of the stage. VREID is definitely not something I’d pick up from a record store, but like so many black metal bands who’ve moved on, there’s at least oftentimes a live experience to be reckoned with. Vreid sound like Satyricon light in my ears, which isn’t a bad thing as such. They have an abundance of charisma and put on a show. The chants and stuff I like. This is a fine way to conclude the first day of Aalborg Metal Festival 2018!
02. Black Rites
05. Væpna Lengsel
07. Flowers & Blood
08. One Hundred Years
09. Raped by Light
10. Pitch Black