Report: Fortarock 2016

4/5 – 06 -2016
Nijmegen (NL)

Report by Laetitia – Pictures by Michael – Bandphoto’s by the courtesy of Livereviewer
FortaRock has become a must go-to festival for many Dutch metal and rock fans, as the festival always manages to get varied line-up, which features classic bands such as Megadeth and Disturbed, the trending, such as Babymetal and Gojira, the young such as EVRA and Avatar and the dark ones, like Dark Funeral and Abbath. We made our way to Nijmegen for not one, but two days of metal in the scorching sun!

Saturday, June 4th.
The first band to play on the festival were the young Danish guys from Evra. While the band seemed enthusiastic to perform here, the show was a tad unconvincing. The slightly melodic (rock), metalcore infused music failed to inspire much energy in the audience and the vocals simply sounded a bit off. While the group can be applauded for having a distinct and structured sound, the overall performance could have been better and having two naked women on stage do not make up for that.

The band Tremonti has some familiar names among the line-up, including Mark Tremonti (Creed, Alter Bridge) and Wolfgang van Halen (son of). The group is one with a more accessible style, which you could see by taking a look at the crowd, as it existed of both head bangers and people dancing to the wailing guitars and the sometimes laidback vibe. In a line-up that mixed metal and various types of rock, Tremonti was a good addition and his clear and melodic vocals lines combined with fast metal, functioned as a perfect bridge between the rock and metal fans at FortaRock.

Despite the line-up changes in the recent years, Heidevolk’s live shows have been as strong as ever. In terms of popularity, the pagan metallers have been gaining more recognition and one could easily see that today at FortaRock (and it helps of course when you are playing a show in the province where you hail from). Even though the sun was scorching the clad in black backs of the metal heads and the faces of the musicians, no other band invoked as much crowd participation as Heidevolk did. During songs as Saksenland, Ostara (accompanied by a small ensemble, that was unfortunately not always recognizable in the mix) and Vulgaris Magistris, dozens of hands were raised in the air and words mimicked. Keep up the good work!

The name of the French metal band Gojira has been buzzing in the last weeks and that because of their upcoming record Magma, to be released on June 17th, 2016. This of course fuelled curiosity and many people found their way to the tent to see them perform. Having never witnessed this band before in a live setting, the smoothness with which the band journeys through death and progressive metal and the professional attitude was definitely admirable to hear and watch. The crowd seemed to love the show, as they chanted for more songs in the end, which they got in the form of a drum solo and another track.

Once you’ve seen a Legion of the Damned show, you know what you can expect of the shows to follow. Some might call it predictable, but you can also see it as a certain standard that this Dutch band manages to maintain. With the performance of FortaRock in mind, I would say the latter. The death/thrash metal four piece delivers a strong performance again and again. No nonsense, no over the top performances but no=bullshit metal, expressed in head banging and tunes such as Werewolf Corpse and self titled song Legion of the Damned. LoTD celebrates the 10th anniversary of Malevolent Rapture this year and one can only hope the future holds more solid, heavy records like that one.

Within Temptation is one of those names that the metal police disapproves of when seeing it on a festival bill. Metal police or not, this symphonic metal band has certainly reached heights that others can only dream of. The band received that recognition in the form of the Buma Rocks Export award today as well. WT-shows simply boast professionalism: the flashy video screens, the timed moves, the different outfits of Sharon van den Adel – it all appears very calculated and maybe even to a fault. A bit of a disappointment were the duets on the CDs performed live. When you hear ‘Paradise’ with Tarja Turunen on a backing vocal tape and ‘What Have You Done Now’ with Keith/Mina Caputo from Life of Agony, you wonder why Den Adel didn’t make a study of taking up those lines as well, or ask a guest vocalist, like Caroline Westendorp from the Charm the Fury, to perform a song with the band, as happened later during the concert. Nevertheless, these two songs didn’t reflect the rest of the night and Within Temptation proved once again why they are on the best selling Dutch rock/metal acts out there.

Sunday, June 5th.
The United States thrashers from Havok opened the festival day as it should be opened: despite the warmth with an incredibly energetic show and inciting the crowd to create a huge circle pit and create a pile of bodies and that is exactly what happened in front of the stage. After seeing this performance, no one was in need of a coffee and the hangover of the first day was cured in an instance.

The young English metalcore formation Architects is not my cup of tea, but having reviewed some of their work, I was curious to see them in action and they have been a rising star in their own scene. While at first I suspected that their sometimes complex music and the early hour of their performance would result in a tamed audience, I was proven wrong. The raspy and slightly tortured vocals of Sam Carter and the diversity in guitar lines resulted in a crowd happily raising their horns and cheering which in turn encouraged the band to give more than 100%.

The band I was looking forward to most were the Italian symphonic metallers of Fleshgod Apocalypse. Their latest record King is a massive piece of work and their theatrical performances great to watch. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always result in a flawless show, since today in the tent, the sound was too much of a blend to hear the subtle dynamics in the music. It worked out for the heavy aspects in the music, but mainly on the symphonic elements, the finesse was lost.

Even though it was uncomfortably warm in the tent Dark Funeral was the band of the day for me. Their new record Where Shadows Forever Reign is rightfully praised and it was the first chance many metalheads got to hear some new tunes live. Also, I hadn’t had the chance to see the band with their latest singer Heljarmadr yet. The vocalist practiced his cold gazes upon the crowd, but to no avail as the audience was mostly busy with cheering and head banging. The Swedes played with ferociousness, even though their corpse paint stayed remarkably well on their faces, leaving the tent in a more inferno like stage of heat than before.

On the main stage, the Swedish pagans from Amon Amarth had started their show. As I have been one of the lucky ones to see the band perform in a small venue earlier this year, I could now expect a full on AA-show, with stage props and all. These were, among others, rune stones (to my memory), smoke breathing dragons and a massive mjolnir. The set was somewhat predictable with songs as Runes To My Memory, Deceiver of the Gods, Death in Fire and Twilight of the Thunder God, but that didn’t lessen the good atmosphere during the show. Johan Hegg, born for his role in Amon Amarth, cheerfully chatted away and easily got the crowd going.

The King of frostbitten poses Abbath made a show alright. His black ‘n roll filled the tent with headbanging and people moving to the groove, while one also wonders whether or not to take this whole thing seriously. Musically you’d say yes, but when the front man proclaims things like “ am Abbath, we are Abbath,” with an unmistakable grin and making a bit of a show of shouting at the crew for the guitar sound, you begin to wonder again. Despite that, Abbath & co really rocked the show and had one of the best performances on FortaRock.

Babymetal caused a lot of discussion among the attendees of FortaRock. Some people love it, some hate it, but in the end, nearly everyone stood in the tent stage to watch this phenomenon. The girls, dressed in black dresses and with two pony tails, danced in an almost military fashion to the poppy overtone that dominates the music, while the musicians – who by the way played flawless – anonymous, dressed in white hospital coats, performed somewhat generic death metal. The response to Babymetal varied from; “This is sick,”, “You can see what is wrong with the metal scene today” to appreciation of this band not giving a fuck about what people say about them. Yours truly decided to go and watch a veteran in the metal scene after a couple of songs, since Obituary had taken the stage on the field.

Obituary – Florida’s death metal veterans – are always in for a good party in the Netherlands and today was no different. The American death metal legend spew out heavy tunes like Don’t Care, Slowly We Rot and Find the Arise the only way they know it: with a vile conviction and a passion for their music while making the crowd bang their heads and simultaneously training their own necks as well.

Danish heavy metal legend King Diamond played a special show at FortaRock. The Danes would play the record Abigail from 1987 integrally and this record has set some high standards for concept albums in the heavy metal scene in general. The stage set was a type of haunted house, which is of course not surprising when thinking about the concept of the album. King Diamond gave a typical theatrical performance and his voice was as piercing as ever.

For Eluveitie, it must have been an akward show. It was the last performance of band members hurdy gurdy Anna Murphy, drummer Merlin Sutter and guitarist Ivo Henzi, who have left/been asked to leave the group. One wonders how the relations between the musicians were, since the interaction was next to zero during the show. Don’t get me wrong, they all played without fault, but they didn’t even so much as look at each other. Near the end of the show, the love for playing music took over again and some of the band members interact with each other and smile. Vocalist Chrigel Glanzmann thanked the three leaving members and FortaRock showed them gratitude by ongoing cheering. Anna Murphy, who has built up her own fan base in the mean time , singed her last songs in Eluveitie and also thanked some of the crew members, who were departing with the aforementioned three. Even though the Swiss folk metal formation gave a good show, you could sense the emotions on stage.

The headliner of FortaRock was the Danish heavy metal formation Volbeat. Over the years their own brand of metal, rockabilly and country hasn’t changed much, but the band has become more popular. One could also see that in the stage set up: a massive screen hung at wall, broadcasting graphics and the show itself sometimes. The audience welcomed the Danish with a lot of clapping and when the first notes were played on the guitar, some fireworks did burst into the air. Vocalist Michael Palsen sounded crisp and clear and pretty early on the band played their most famed card, Sad Man’s Tongue, which naturally resulted in a lot of people singing along. While Volbeat may not be everyone’s favorite band, they certainly know how to create a good mood and that is what they did as the headliner at Fortarock. We hope to be back next year!

About Laetitia

As founder of Metal-Exposure, I'm a bit of a jack of all trades: first and foremost I'm a writer/freelance journalist. I also run this blog and I do some concert photography. You can find me at a lot of metal festivals/gigs, where I show off my disco moves, sing Monty Python songs and proclaim my faith in the number 42.