Review by: Ingrid, Laetitia en Michael
Pictures by: Michael
After not having an open air edition in 2017, Fortarock came back with a blast in 2018. With not the least of a line up, this year’s bands were spread over two days; Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd of June.
The party kicked off on Friday afternoon and at the start fields looked a little desolated. The festival had an entire new setting this year so we first had to do an orientation walk before banging our heads. The tent stage and main stage have switched places and an extra stage was added; the beautiful park theater. This last stage was only in use on Saturday so on Friday the audience only had to hop between two stages. Thanks to a very tight time schedule to which the festival hung on strictly, the stage hopping wasn’t a big deal and no performance had to be missed. Slowly metalheads dropped in and the first bands started playing. We entered when Suffocation was playing and noticed less people watching than we expected. Nevertheless their performance sounded pretty good even though we missed half of it (forces of work at play).
Next to watch was a band that probably attracted a lot of one-day visitors, because it was time for Ice T’s Body Count to enter the stage. The show started off very rusty and got a little better on its way, but still wasn’t what we expected. The sound on the main stage wasn’t all that good this day. Now that’s something the band can’t help, but because it was pretty windy outside, most of the sound was lost in the air. Second this was their first festival show this year and it was obvious that they needed to warm up. Song lyrics and the setlist got mixed up and it was pretty messy on stage, but nevertheless the band brought good energy and they, as well as the audience seemed to enjoy it so mission succeeded.
Next band to watch, Watain, was inside the tent and it was pretty obvious that the sound in here was much better which was a relief. There were much more people over coming to watch Watain than I expected and it’s obvious the band has grown a lot the last couple of years. Minor reason might be that it also started raining by now, and people were taking shelter inside; but still I was surprised about the amount of heads banging and people going wild. Main reason was that the band played a very good show, one of the better I have seen of them. Singer Erik of course entertained the audience with throwing some blood on them every now and then, and even a burning torch ended up somewhere between the fans… black metal at its finest!
One of the headliners this evening is Swedish/Canadian metal formation Arch Enemy. Interestingly enough, it’s up to me to write about this band, even though I feel that the last album was probably the worst metal release of that year. Opinions of the record shoved aside, Arch Enemy has grown into a show band par excellence, so watching a performance of these gents and lady, is at least entertaining. Clad in almost the female-version-of-a-Manowar-outfit, vocalist Alissa is a star in getting the audience to respond and Arch Enemy fires away one melodic power song after another (and a happy moment when the group starts to play “Nemesis”). Unfortunately, the technique isn’t cooperating with the band or the festival. Twice during the set, the power completely dies and when the band notices it, the show is put on hold. After dealing with the issues, the musicians pick up right where they left off. Still, the show never reaches a soaring high, partially due to the technical issues.
Next in the tent was Kreator. These German legends are pretty legendary in The Netherlands as well, which resulted in the tent being totally packed with fans; and with good reason because as expected, the band played a great and very tight show. I’m not used to any different and was glad to see they nailed it on Dutch soil as well. They of course played some song from their new album including metal-exposure favorite hit Satan Is Real, as well as the classics Flag Of Hate, Phobia and Pleasure To Kill. The party was complete when glitter canons exploded above the moshing and banging audience.
Headliner of the day was Parkway Drive, and even though there were quite some (young) fans going wild and crazy during the show, it also seemed a lot of people had already left, because the longer into their set, the emptier the field seemed. Nevertheless the show was pretty spectacular fireworks and an overdose on light included. The band is made to rock big stages and feels home on them which resulted in a worthy headliner of the first day.
Fortarock – Saturday
On Saturday the festival started a lot earlier and we almost had to use our alarm clock to be on time. Slightly tired from the day before we gazed upon the fields and saw it was good. The amount of visitors wasn’t comparable to the day before and even though it was still early, the festival area was already filled with many more metalheads than the evening before. The weather gods with us, and the vibe was good. We ordered a recovery beer and went to see the first band of the day Vuur. The recovery beer was needed since Fortarock introduced their own beer in companionship with Oersoep. The beer is called Hopshredder and is a nice IPA that really fits the festival feeling. We enjoyed a few of them during the festival and hope to see this beer back somewhere at some point.
So, it was an early rise Saturday morning to see our own VUUR opening the main stage. Spearheaded by Anneke van Giersbergen, the band has certainly developed in the short period of time that they’ve started playing live. Of course, with almost all veteran musicians in the line-up, the first shows were far from amateurish, yet what you see on stage now is an oiled machine (without the stage performance looking mechanical), ready to take on crowds from every size. VUUR mainly play songs from their debut record – In This Moment We Are Free: Cities. Some people were mouthing along to the lyrics, but a real energetic outburst from the crowd won’t happen at this early hour. Still when the five piece started a cover of the Gathering, you could notice a bit more response from the crowd and an overall vibe of recognition. It might still be a while before VUUR manages to get a hold on the Dutch metal scene, but their fire is shining bright.
Directly after VUUR we headed towards the tent stage where Týr started their show. The band had just landed back in Europe after their American tour but didn’t seem to be bothered by any jetlag. It’s been quite some years since I last saw this band on stage but it was good to see they still have what they got. They played a nice mix between some newer songs and golden oldies, from which I only knew the golden oldies. But since the tent was pretty packed with people who could sing and dance along with all songs, I guess I was one of the few who didn’t know the newer material.
In the meantime something new emerged on the Theater Stage: Heavy Talks. This cooperation between Fortarock and Buma Rocks! isn’t new, but the fact that every visitor of the festival could join is. During the day, Buma Rocks! presented some very promising bands on the stage: Death Alley, Dool and For I Am King and managed the Q&A with Nightwish singer Floor Jansen, during which they presented her with the Buma Rocks! export award! At some points the Theater Stage was full and security had to stop people from entering. We can’t say anything else than it was a success and very well received by the Fortarock crowd.
Less sound issues on the main stage this day, but they’re not completely gone; Dragonforce their catchy sound is heard all over the festival area. If you like this or not, you can’t escape their technical tunes. The band gives away an enthusiastic performance with a setlist that makes many fans happy and sing along, but also Dragonforce is struggling with some technical issues this day. Fortunately they’re solved fast and the crowd didn’t have to be bothered by it for a long time.
One of the acts that were quite unusual was Igorrr. The mix of a DJ, drums, opera female singer and grunts/screams from the lead singer are quite something to hear. In a very dark show, it was clear that this kind of music wasn’t for the faint of heart. But one thing is clear, this is quite a unique show to see, even if the music isn’t exactly your cup of tea (or pint of ale).
Avatar is a returning act at Fortarock. They were here as well in 2016, which was the first time I saw them and they left quite an impression. It’s like watching a circus/freakshow and their whole performance is built around this. With freaky make-up, a stage that looks like a circus and quite some theatrics, they sure know how to entertain the crowd and keep their attention. Right from the start, their show was quite something, as the band members were lifted up on the stage on moving platforms, with one of them sitting on a throne. Their enthusiasm works addictive and their uplifting melodies sure kept the crowd moving.
Alestorm is a perfect festival band. Even though I’ve seen them on stage plenty times, they still know how to entertain. The band gets away with repeating the same joke over and over again, and truly this party attitude is what makes them more like-able than their music capabilities. They have added the biggest rubber duck I have ever seen to their stage props and somehow it works. The set list included songs as Keelhauled, Mexico, Nancy The Tavern Wench and Wolves of the Sea. The guys from Týr decided to give the band a surprise visit on stage and with that, the party was complete. Crowdsurfers, headbangers and (dancing) pits, not to mention people sitting on the crowd and making rowing motions; Alestorm did it again.
Another band who came straight out of the USA after a long tour is Satyricon. The Norwegians looked a little tired on stage I must say, but maybe I’m a little spoiled since this is about the 5th time I’ve watched them within a year. Nevertheless they gave a great show. The sound inside the tent was good and the longer they played, the more people came in to watch. Classics as Mother North got the crowd moving and banging their heads, but also new song Deep Calleth Upon Deep was well received.
Something completely different came in the form of Opeth. This atmospheric, melodic metal band always gives out quite a performance with their technical music. In a very tight show, they knew how to captivate the audience. I must say, I think that their show and sound brings much more atmosphere during a small club show, instead of on a huge stage like this. During their show, in the middle of the Fortarock festival area, a small fire show was being held, to let the guests see something else. Sadly enough, it was still quite bright outside. This would have been much more impressive during the night.
When I thought that Kreator on Friday filled up the tent stage pretty well, there was this one band that has outshine them: Messugah. The band isn’t new to the Fortarock stage, and like the previous times we have seen them here, they produced one huge wall of sound from the beginning of their set until the end. This well-oiled machine know how to headline the stage and played a very tight set. They proved once again what they’re worth as musicians and got the huge crowd excited as f*ck. Great last show here inside the tent.
Only band left was the true headliner of the festival, Nightwish. The days prior to the festival Dutch singer Floor already gave away some interviews in the national newspapers about the low appreciation and underestimated position of metal in our country and watching this show, we couldn’t agree more with her. What a major performance the band gave. You’d think by now after so many years you would have seen it all, but the band still knows how to amaze. They stood on stage like a rock and proved they were the one and only true headliner.
What also amazed was the setlist; ‘long lost songs’ as End Of All Hope, 10th man down and Slaying The Dreamer are back to the live shows and gave many fans goosebumps. Newer, and a little catchier, songs as Nemo, Élan and I Wish I had an Angel were sang along by thousands of fans. The show ended with the theatrical Ghost Love Score which can’t be described anything else than majestic and beautiful.
After this we can only conclude that we’re happy that Fortarock is back and metal is still very much alive in The Netherlands. Especially the Saturday was a huge success. Even though it was crowded, it was not too crowded, something we have experienced differently the past years. The way the festival was set up worked better than the old set up and is truly improved. The variety of activities and styles of metal the festival offered made sure that there was enough to enjoy for every type of visitor, and if you would find yourself in a moment of not feeling the need to watch any band, the beergarten and food corner offered enough space to sit down with a drink or nice meal.