Report: Fortarock 2019

It is very sad that a festival such as FortaRock does not get the amount of visitors as they deserve. Of course a promotion such as one ticket for two is really great for the customer, but unfortunately it highlights the fact that there is a lack of audience. And that’s a pity because this festival has a great line-up, great location and super relaxed atmosphere. With bands such as Behemoth, Enslaved, Amorphis, Children Of Bodom, Amon Amarth and many more it is a great line-up well worth your money. For Metal Exposure a great opportunity to see some world class acts and giving them and the festival the review it deserves (E).

Tight at 13 o’clock FortaRock starts for me with “Devour Me, Colossus” from Ne Obliviscaris hailing from Australia. This melodic metal managed to get good response despite some sound issues in the beginning. Drums were too loud and the vocals couldn’t be heard properly. After two tracks this problem was fixed. After that excellent bass playing, the grunts and growls from Xenoyr and clean vocals of Tim Charles, who also plays violin were doing the job quite well. But for me it seems this band has to work a little on having synergy on the stage. On records it sounds coherent but on stage it feels little like everybody is doing their part…each for its own. And that’s a pity because songs as “Forget Not”, “Intra Venus” and “And Plague Flowers the Kaleidoscope” are quite good songs. Ah well, never mind me. Both the band and the audience seemed to enjoy it and that what counts (E).

Although the festival site is quite a lot smaller then years before it has one big advantage: you can scoop over to another venue quite quickly. So I managed to be on time to see the powerful Swedish Monolord on the second stage. This large tent gives well comfort from the sun since it was quite hot this day. Accompanied with shadow and a large beer Monolord is and has always been a great live act. This Stoner/Doom band manages to pack quite a punch. Heavy and intense slower songs are being pushed into your eardrums. Accompanied by fitting backdrop and fitting light show Monolord managed to give an intense show. Just listen to “Where Death Meets the Sea” and you will get my drift. This show was over far too soon and left you hungry for more (E).

Enslaved is and will always be a force to be reckoned with. After the Frost intro “Loke”, a golden oldie from this band, sets the stage on fire. Together with the superb “Allfǫðr Oðinn” it is good to hear and see that they still play some old songs! The show is tight and atmospheric although I must admit that keyboard player Mr. Vinje’s vocals are sometimes as false as frostbitten toes. But who’s complaining? Enslaved managed to enthrall the audience with a solid set where old material meets new(er) material. Enslaved is a welcome addition to the FortaRock 2019 stable and managed to treat people on some blackened progressive Viking tunes the way only Norwegians can. And that should say enough doesn’t it? (E)

Immediately after Enslaved, Myrkur started on the main stage. I wonder what was the decision to let Enslaved play in a (full) tent, and Myrkur on the main stage. Not that many people walked towards the main stage to watch their performance. Changing spots for these two bands would have been a much better decision. Now the crowd in front of Myrkur was a sad situation to watch. A lot of people were ‘hiding’ in the shadows and not prepared to walk a little towards the front.
Seeing Myrkur perform in full sunlight however was quite an experience. Even though they had to warm up a little (pun intended) they did manage to get some more people towards the mainstage during their performance. The show itself was a very strong and tight atmospheric show.(I)

A band that fits better on the main stage is Amorphis. The crowd has extended and multiplied immensely during the start of their set and with good reason. Put Amorphis on a big stage, or a small one, they know how to rock it, and today was no exception. The band played a good mixture of old and new material, including opening with one of yours truly favorite new songs ‘The Bee’. From the first tune till the last the Fins rocked their set spot on and the crowd went crazy. (I)

I admit: I have a soft spot for Cult of Luna. Ever since I heard their epic “Vertikal” album they managed to keep me interested with their records and excellent live performances. This Swedish Atmospheric Post-Hardcore manages to create something extraordinary with their unique sound. Also live Cult of Luna stands its ground. Accompanied with a great light show this bands throw excellent tracks such as ” I: The weapon”, “In Awe Of” and a new song from the upcoming album in the battle. Well executed, well dosed and highly enjoyable. It might be too far out of the comfort zone from your average metal head but if you give it a chance you certainly will not be disappointed. Both I and a lot of people who have experienced this band will give FortaRock a lot of credit for inviting this band. (E)

At this point I was supposed to watch Children of Bodom. Yet as most of you probably already read somewhere, during the beginning of their show, a festival visitor had a heart attack.
Yours truly happened to stand close by, and being cpr certified, offered her help to the first responder who just arrived at the scene.
I indeed was requested to stand by in case there was a need for an extra pair of hands, so I can’t tell you much about CoB their show, even though I’ve watched the last couple of songs after the ambulance arrived and the paramedics took over.
What I cán tell you though is how awesome the metal community is and how great the first responders at Fortarock are. Without their quick and professional action, and their total commitment to save this man his life, he wouldn’t have made it. We like to show our deepest respect to the two ladies who started the cpr, the first responders and Fortarock organisation around the First Aid, and of course the paramedics.(I)

Last band in the tent today was Bloodbath. I’ve seen some ups and some downs with them, but today they played a decent show. The tent was dark, as are all Bloodbath their shows, and would remain quite dark during the entire performance. Singer Nick Holmes had a good day, and the rest of the band was on fire as well… as was one of the crowd favorite songs because classics as ‘Like Fire, So You Die, Cancer of the Soul and Eaten, couldn’t be missed in the set that had a lot of newer songs on it as well. A good ending in the tent of the first day!(I)

Closing act Behemoth has been roaming festivals and venues ever since they spawned their excellent “The Satanist”. Follow up “I Love you at your Darkest” proves to be a worthy successor of this superb album. If you haven’t seen them live over the past four years I can tell you: you have missed something…. you pour soul. If you have: Behemoth has not changed its formula this day. In fact this show is quite the same as during their Ecclesia Diobolica Evropa tour beginning this year. With a great (pyro)show Behemoth plays nearly to perfection. Starting with the intro “Solve” the right ambiance is immediately set before bursting lose in flames (literally ;) ). Although songs the most of the songs are played from the above mentioned albums (“Wolves ov Siberia”, “Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer” and “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel” ) Behemoth does not forget older songs such as the devastating “Chant for Eschaton 2000”. Although you can see that their performance is somewhat over-orchestrated the sheer enthusiasm and professionality of the band makes good for it. A performance near to perfection creating a pit in front of the stage while mesmerizing the rest of the massive audience around. Front-man Nergal is a great and enthusiastic musician who doesn’t forget to portray the dark/occult side of their music as well as enjoying himself. This Black/Death metal outfit is firmly anchored on the extreme metal throne and proves with this performance that it will remain so. Behemoth is the perfect main act for FortaRock 2019 this day and makes this day, together with all the other great acts, a Saturday to remember.(E)

On Sunday, the temperature rose even higher than on Saturday. Today, we would mainly be alternating between the Tent Stage and Main Stage and appreciating the water tap service a LOT.

When we arrived at the festival, Gloryhammer was already performing. The band is always in for a party and so was the attending crowd in front of the main stage. Sadly, it sounded as if the sound was a bit distorted near the end of the field where we stood, but sometimes this can be expected during an outdoor festival. It’s only been a short while since their latest record has been released, so naturally we were treated to mostly songs from “Legends From Beyond The Galactic Terrorvex”. The setlist ended with “The Unicorn Invasion of Dundee” and it was fun to see some plastic swords in the crowd.(M)

A lot of Polish bands this year on Fortarock. Decapitated by far is one of the stronger Polish bands there are nowadays. Even though the tent already got very hot, most lovers of the bit harder metal style didn’t seem to bother. We were sweating entire waterfalls, but around us we saw heads banging, people going wild and even some moshing every now and then. Decapitated played an extremely tight set, one of the best performances this festival.(I)

While the temperature rises, the German trio Kadavar enters the main stage. Their stoner rock is a bit of a strange act in between all the heavy metal, but their energy makes up for it. Especially their drummer, who you might compare to the muppet Animal. And that with these temperatures! Still, I think apart from the fans who were here, most of the Fortarock crowd took a bit of time during this set to grab a drink and stay hydrated.(K)

There is a lot going on in the Batushka camp, or should we say ‘camps’. We’re going to spend any time here to the legal battle between the (nowadays) two Batushka’s, but we were very curious about how the show today was going to be. After a way too long candle lighting ritual, the band finally entered the stage, to play only new material. The many stage props made it hard to spot the band, which was a shame. It was clear that this was not what most people were waiting for and the tent emptied more and more by the song. At the end, probably half of the audience was left.
The show by far wasn’t as strong as the previous shows I have seen. Might be because the band hasn’t played this songs that often live yet, or because I’m also not familiar with them, but I expected more than they have shown today.(I)

Symphony X’s lead singer Russell Allen has been through a lot. He lost two close friends and band mates during a fatal accident a while ago. Still, he is here and ready to give one hell of a show, as Symphony X can easily do. Russell’s voice is one of a kind, with power and still smoothness over it. That combined with the major complexity of Symphony X’s music, is something that the crowd will remember for some time to come. (M)

It has been ten years since Katatonia released “Night is the New Day”. To celebrate that, the band did a special tour where they played the album in full. And so they did at Fortarock. One thing the band often does, is thank the crowd that they are there and ask if everybody has fun. Jokingly, they said: It could be worse, it could be Opeth playing only stuff from their three latest albums. The show was fantastic though, as the songs were played in full enthusiasm. The mood setting needs to be good at shows like this, and it was perfect. (M)

When we talk about energy on stage, Hammerfall sure as hell sets the bar high. A new record is about to be released and the cover artwork was their backdrop. If one image can say a lot about a band, than it’s this one. It breathed out power, metal, heroics and so much more. And the same can be said about their show. Of course fan favorites like “Hammer High”, “Any Means Necessary” and “Last Man Standing”. A funny moment was halfway through the set, when the band asked the crowd how many have seen tem before. Only a few hands were up in the air, and the band were wondering where everybody has been over the last twenty-six years. Thankfully we get another dose of Hammerfall next year when the band will be in Nijmegen again to promote the new album.(M)

The American instrumental progressive metal group Animals as Leaders was the closing act in the Tent Stage. With a great light show, they tried to mesmerize the crowd, as they let their instruments do the talking. The tent stage wasn’t as full as it could be, but that might also be because people were off to eat something or were preparing for the last band of the festival. Nonetheless, Animals as Leaders played a very tight show (M).

Temperatures were cooling down near the end of the festival, right before Amon Amarth were set to play. The band wanted to keep things mysterious, but their plan to have a cover in front of the stage before they would start, was thwarted by the wind. One side was torn loose and they had to decide to take the whole cover off. Under the sounds of “Run to the Hills”, which was loudly sung along by the attending crowd, Amon Amarth was about to begin.
Amon Amarth have recently released their new record “Berserker”. Naturally some songs of that album were played, but I must say that the setlist was really well balanced. Songs like “The Pursuit of Vikings”, “First Kill” and “The Way of Vikings” cannot be missed in a Amon Amarth show and the crowd clearly showed their appreciation. And what a show it was. Fire, brutal metal and lots of energy. Yet sadly, the show was cut short. The weather took a turn for the worse and threatening thunderclouds were closing in. A bit of rain we could handle, but with the addition of thunder, things could be dangerous. That’s why the organisation of the festival did the right thing and asked everyone to calmly leave the festival grounds.(M)

It is not clear whether FortaRock will be back in 2020. The competition with other festivals is tough and everybody is trying to get the perfect main act resulting in pitch high costs. The future is unsure but I hope that FortaRock will be back next year stronger than ever. With a great line-up, friendly atmosphere and nice set-up in Goffert Park Nijmegen it would be a shame if this festival witters and dies. So come on people: promise me that you will be here next year….you won’t be disappointed!

Also our advise to Fortarock is: don’t aim for those ‘big headliners’. The smaller setting this year has so much more atmosphere. Previous years we heard a lot of complaints with the festival being too big and crowded, and not breathing any atmosphere at all. This year we heard so many fans being happy about the current set up of the area and the way the festival was organised.
Happy and satisfied fans is the best compliment and review a festival can get 😊

Review by: Erik, Michael and Ingrid
Pictures by: Michael and Ingrid

Full photo album will follow soon