Steelfest 2014 – Hyvinkää Finland
(by Timo Hanhirova)
Apocryfal from Jyväskylä won a demo contest and an opening slot of Saturday. The guys’ semi-technical, semi-brutal, semi-modern death metal resides in that challenging middle-ground which hasn’t much popularity right now in the metal underground but I liked what I saw and heard. There’s touch of old death, touch of suffocationish brutality, touch of some chops from 2010ies, wrapped into the something that’s not directly cloned from anywhere. Of course they have still lots of room to develop their style, but the own identity is definitely rearing it’s head. I’m hoping these lads end up to a good real death metal label capable of handling this kind of “hard” material, not some pseudo-label Inverse Record where Finnish demo bands go to die off.
The beginning of second day was all Jyväskylä as the next band Alghazanth took the stage. This long-running patrol of black metal hasn’t been sparking my interest in ages I’m afraid. I fondly remember the second demo and that’s about it. Maybe they are just too “soft” for my taste buds nowadays. This doesn’t mean that Alghazanth is a bad band in live situation. Years passed but basically Alghazanth is still performing consistently a style that you could call “late-90ies Finnish melodic black metal. They have some good corpse-paint jobs there also, as a real black metal band should.
Nokia’s semi-legendary Convulse didn’t have second guitar this time but surprisingly it didn’t matter that much as the atmosphere of the gig was really easy-going and – paradoxically when you speak about dusty old death metal from early 90ies – fresh. Sound was clear, heavy and crushing, old songs were goodies yet again and Rami Jämsä didn’t talk any unnecessary bullshit between songs. Trio was having genuine fun on stage, and not fun in a bad, non-death metal way. Maybe the best gig out these few I’ve been witnessing during this resurrection, even without the “mandatory” second guitar. Convulse should not die again any time soon.
Archgoat is always pleasure for the eyes and ears. In Steelfest, Archgoat was somehow even more sinister than last time in Hammer I saw ‘em. Lot’s of slower stuff too which is nice. I must admit that even their material is usually great, one the main appeal is that Archgoat is one of the most “true” looking bands in the whole scene. They just look evil, bad-ass and filthy and I love it.
This year it seemed that Steelfest is doing it’s best to get every Hammer Open Air related band they can. Goatmoon was one of them. And still I have hard time to understand these guys fully. I know that they are trying to emulate some aspects of mid-90ies black metal, but they are missing the point once in awhile. Too often they sound clumsy, not clumsy-but-great like for example Gehenna in their prime. Luckily Goatmoon has also some decent highpoints in their catalogue and their live act is always energetic. I’m still annoyed by these post-teen youngsters channeling their painfully obvious party Nazism in Goatmoon gigs.
MUSTAN KUUN LAPSET
Hollola’s finest, Mustan Kuun Lapset didn’t interest me before their break so I went to eat something during their comeback gig in Steelfest. I still caught the amusing “classic” Sodoman Ilmestys. This band is probably remembered from ridiculously named split “Uusi Suomalainen Black Metal Tulokas” with Azaghal.
Drunkards of Urfaust are also something “stolen” from usual Hammer Open Air lineup. I’ve seen them so many times in recent years that I can’t say anything special about their performance. It was very ordinary Urfaust gig with very familiar songs. I’ve seen couple better from them. The most interesting fact is that IX has a quite long hair already. Still the gig was surely good enough to look from beginning to end but I’m not sure I have any fire left to see more before the set list is fully overhauled.
Desolate Shrine’s debut gig was a treat to behold. Crushing, that’s the right word to describe this heavy-as-hell performance. ‘Ritualistic’ is already a cliché to drop in these kind of situations, but what the heck, it was ritualistic. There were plenty of, maybe too much, folk on the stage as they had two vocalists, but it was just like in records. Vocal ranges are still quite similar, so they’d be OK even without extra guy. I heard that they didn’t rehearse their sinister live presence so well done boys. Lights, sounds, foggy atmosphere, everything was spot on. Maybe their music has tendency to go quite close to the borders of boredom now and then, but still, clearly one of the best in Steelfest this year. There may be more gigs coming if the planets align, so let’s see what the future holds for the temple of Desolate Shrine.
I belong to the generation whose members were in the midst of their manic black metal years when Aeternus’ debut Beyond the Wandering Moon was released. And oh boy it was an interesting album back then. Those devilish norsecore riffs were filtered through some murky dimensions to achieve heavier-than-usual sound. Also death metal-like deep vocals contributed to the fact that Aeternus was something bit different among it’s Norwegian peers. And they still are. Unfortunately my fandom ended to that debut record and seeing them live 2006 didn’t reignite any love. But in 2014 things were better. First of all, the current material sounded pretty OK, some of it was almost comparable to some old stuff. Secondly, band just performed better, more convincingly. Old songs were the highlight, of course: Brooding Raven and Blood from Dark Sorcery and aggressive Sworn Revenge from the debut. Audience, en masse, didn’t find band that interesting though. Maybe years of hiatus and some boring material before that just made people forget that these Bergenians can churn out some pretty decent metal.
The return of the old vocalist Anders Stokirk boosted hopes up that Necrophobic would play more from the awesome first album The Nocturnal Silence. Sadly, hopes were hopes. The stark reality provided just one good old song and somewhat spiritless performance from these veteran swedes. The former vocalist Tobias Sidegård had at least some wicked presence on stage. Stokirk was rusty and a bit too “nice” in his comeback gig and the rest of the band wasn’t that enthusiastic either. Still the biggest problem is that most of recent Necrophobic material is million miles away from the superb quality of David Parland era. I actually expected some words of homage to Parland, who passed away about a year ago, but nothing.
Vader is always Vader, what else to say? This Polish institute is a well-oiled death metal machine taking no prisoners. Commander Peter is almost 50 years old already, who would believe when looking him rage on stage like a young man. Band also looks utterly metal on stage with these customized leather’n’spikes uniforms so they really try to give a show, not just play their songs. And yes, they played Wings, Sothis and Dark Age, good enough for me.
As stated with Destroyer 666, Primordial keep visiting Finland more than often. The Irish heathen metal patrol enjoy the true fanatical following in Finland and pulls a lot of people to their shows. In this case Primordial didn’t make any exception. The whole area in the front was indeed packed when A.A. Nemtheanga hit the stage with the full warcustom. Primordial came and conquered the Steelfest as the last band on the bill. The audience in the front was utter in the trance reaction when following A.A. Nemtheanga’s performance and moving on the stage. It is obvious Primordial will be seen on the Finnish soil in the future for sure.
The 2014 Steelfest is over now has gained the monumental status amongst the metal fans in Southern Finland. Steelfest will get stronger in the future when and if the line-up will stay as strong and unique as this year and years before. It is going to be interesting to see what kind of ace of space the organization of Steelfest will be having in their sleeve when creating the next Steelfesti 2015. Anyway looking forward to it.
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