Netherlands Deathfest 2018

Poppodium 013, Tilburg (NL)
Full report by Laetitia (L) and Wouter (W)


Three days of staying alive as undercover black metal fans during Netherlands Deathfest? Bring it on. Beside the master acts of Suffocation, Grave, At the Gates there was enough dark material to bleaken horizon, with the likes of Kjeld, Merrimack and Dragged into Sunlight. Oh, and did I mention Emperor?

Netherlands Deathfest – Friday

For the occasion, the complete 013 venue (Tilburg, NL) including the ‘Patronaat’ (an old church buildig) was used, totalling to three venues. After mandatory dropping my (not so big) backpack at the large item storage point (what’s with that guys, how do you expect me to carry around lenses and an SLR without a bag?) we headed to the central bar for the first beer, quickly forgetting the bag thing. This was the place to be; whether for having said beers, a conversation or for spending time while waiting for a band. Judging by the many languages and different people I spoke to, NDF is very much an international gathering – which I welcome wholeheartedly. Not one for talking or waiting? The 013 basement and cocktailbar had a couple of merchandise stands worthwhile to browse through. For the real shop-and-LP-aholics, the ground floor of the Patronaat was packed with stands selling LPs, CDs and other merchandise – which I only found out later on, much to my regret. But: perhaps better for my personal finances. Time for the first band, time for some Russian bombs from Hell! (W)

And what a bomb it was. Mixing death metal and grindcore, Hellbomb from Russia, energetically took the stage first at this years NDF. They were welcomed warmly by a crowd that was growing every minute and who were eager to start off a three day festival. Heads were nodding to the groove and the first beers were consumed, a relaxing start for what proved to be a marathon of metal madness.(L)

Aura Noir (Norwegian black/thrash, been around since the early nineties) have somewhat of a legend in their midst: Agressor (Carl-Michael Eide). Although partially paralyzed after a 10 m drop from a window, he still manages to play live and standing most of it – and rocking at it! Aura Noirs infective (Motörhead reminiscent) guitar and bass chords shred away, while either Agressor or their drummer take care of the vocals. No nonsense, swinging and music ever pushed on by their pounding drums. Maybe not something I would count among my all time favorites, but the thing if you are looking for some black-‘n-thrash-roll. (W)

One band I was looking forward to was the Italian death metal group Hierophant. Only a recent discovery, but the Italians most recent effort “Mass Grave”, had peaked my interest enough to add it to the ‘must watch’ list. Unfortunately, it was also one of the lesser shows of the festival. Hierophant on album is already quite a wall of sound, but today the live sound was mixed in a way that almost nothing was distinguishable. The low tempo songs made the performance monotonous, which was improved later, when more dynamic tunes were played. Perhaps an off day for the band, perhaps it wasn’t what I expected, we’ll discover that another time. (L)

A band that I’ve heard many good stories about, but never managed to see live is Broken Hope from Chicago. Now I get where the stories come from, since the musicians gave perhaps one of the best shows of today. No one reached their level of solidness when it came to the performance. Broken Hope also got the crowd really warmed up today, the first moshpits were launched and many heads were banging to something that can be truly called brutal. Overall, very impressive. (L)

I might have gone over to the dark side of metal but Suffocation remains one of my all time favorite death metal bands (next to Nile). It was the first time I’ve seen the band without Frank ‘the tank’ Mullen (who recently resigned from the band), but with Ricky Myers on vocal duty. Kudo’s to this man who not only literally had big shoes to fill but also figuratively, which he did flawless and convincing. The American five piece delivered a very good show, where hands wavered to ‘Entrails Of You’, ‘Clarity Through Deprivation’ and ‘Pierced from Within’. Both Suffocation’s performance and the reaction of the crowd (endlessly headbanging without a break) once again proved to me why these guys are still at the top of the genre. (L)

Thanks to a colleague of mine, I went to check Victims next. Having no idea what was waiting for me, this Swedish hardcore punk band blew the right lid off. Only seconds after the music had started, the entire downstairs of the small hall within 013 transformed into a pit, hardcore style. Drinks flew across the room, over this turmoil of people and the intensity did not cease for even a moment. The same goes for the musicians who were energetically jumping around, encouraging the crowd to even push it further. I have to say that I do not often come across such raw energy during a show, but after a while, it was time to prepare for the headliner of the evening, Carcass. (L)

Not even a year ago, the British metallers Carcass headlined the Stonehenge Festival and now returned for another headliner set (being an indoor festival, there was less chance of drowning in the rain, as most of us did last summer. That was already a big plus). The setlist evening was not a big surprise, but does it really have to be with ‘Buried Dreams’, ‘No Love Lost’, ‘Reek Of Putrefaction’ and ‘Heartwork’? Not for my part. These classics, combined with songs from the band’s latest Surgical Steel, made for a perfect setlist. Missing on stage was guitarist Ben Ash, replaced by Tom Draper. As later turns out, Ash would only announce a few days later that he’d left the band. Line-up changes aside, Carcass did what they always do: kick some motherfucking ass. (L)

Netherlands Deathfest – Saturday

Waking up after an evening of socializing, dancing and some beers until deep in the night proved not so wonderful the next day (but worth it, if you are ever in Tilburg, visit the Little Devil). Getting some fresh air and breakfast for the three lovely ladies, one of which was kind enough to lend us her place to stay, did much to improve this. Ready for the next assault of bands, thanks to the daily cough syrup imported from Finland (kittos Nina), we made our way to the 013 to enjoy more music. (W)

First band on the main stage was Devourment, as Vallenfyre had to cancel due to the bad weather that held reign all over Europe (a problem that occurred quite often during NDF this year). Powerful punching drums and heavy as shit slam-death metal greeted me when I was still stomach-battling the weird coffee the 013 had served me earlier. Devourment is relatively devoid melody, leaving room for a very tight play. (W)

Seeing Rectal Smegma on the line-up brought a smile to my face: this I had to see. A brutal/gore grind metal formation from Naaldwijk (NL) with themes (yes, you’ve guessed right): sex, gore and excrement. But fortunately (or rather, obviously) with a twist of humor. This caught on nicely in the ensuing moshpit, with confetti, inflatable hammers and toilet brush wielding metalheads dominating the scene. Beside the themes, they also ‘nailed’ the music: it was awesome. The personal dedication of the song ‘Fuck Face’ to Ben (one of the merchandise standholders) was much appreciated. Mightily funny show! (W)

After the slam death and gore/grind from the previous bands, Nunslaughter proved to a welcome addition in terms of quality. Mostly old-school death metal, melodic and a very nice groovy sound made up for some melody I was craving for after the days’ start. The vocals were pleasantly brutal to listen to, doubling up some of the time. And although I didn’t necessarily share the enthusiasm for the staccato breaks and intermezzo styled short songs, the audience danced a happy jig around the mosh pit to celebrate said slaughter. (W)

My desire for melody and diversity was likewise (partly) answered by Skinless. Sporting two guitars did much for their awesome sound. The roses the frontman got had (and subsequently threw out to the audience), did nothing to lessen the brutal, guttural quality of his voice. (W)

What happens when one combines Satyricon and death metal? Well, that’s Witchery (Swe), off course! Quality death/black metal, with a twist towards something both fresh and theatrical. I loved it straight away. Maybe because the fast guitars were constantly chasing the light-footed (but still fast) drums, whereas the previous bands were mostly driven by the drums. Maybe because they did everything seemingly right and it fitted so well around my ears. Who knows. For me the surprise and new band of the festival. (W)

Time for more Scandinavian riffing (praise Hell, happy me!). With 1349, the Norwegian atmosphere was set, both in venue and mind. Their relentless black metal tunes sounded bit off due to apparent issues that were present through out the whole set. That did not lessen me enjoying the nightmarish voice and fast riffing. Corpse paint made the whole scene complete; but hey, don’t ruin a proven concept. As long as its done right, and yes, 1349 did just that! (W)

Well, what can I say? Besides: EMPEROOOOAAAAR!. The high king-of-kings graced the Netherlands with playing ‘Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk’, in honor of it’s 20th anniversary. Perhaps one of the best albums ever made? Complex, fast, relentless – I am struggling to find a band that rivals their quality. And yes: Ihsahn (vocals & lead guitar) no longer looks as evil and menacing as he might have done in the nineties. But holy-high-hell, the show and play was just spot-on, like listening to the actual album. The performance by Ihsahn was such a pleasure to see; his intricate guitar work and his incredible high ranging vocals – everything was 100%!. The goose bumps I felt while screaming my lungs out during With Strength I Burn were only rivaled during the encore with I Am The Black The Black Wizards. A hymn to the ancient Antagonist and evening closer Inno a Satana concluded what was (already) the show of 2018 for me (yes, I daresay this was the best show of the year, so bring it on 2018, prove me wrong). (W)

With a glee and stomach flutter unsurpassed, we headed off for one (well, maybe two) last beers, meeting more fellow metalheads and of course dancing a merry jig to some of the worlds best and worst metal songs at the Little Devil. (W)

Netherlands Deathfest – Sunday

There was a recognizable change of atmosphere on day three. Upon entering 013 early on the day, only a small amount of people had gathered around to watch the first bands. On Sunday, only the true death metal warriors of NDF are left and they all suffer from a hangover. Yours truly, maybe not a death metal warrior, did also slightly suffer from that aforementioned condition.

Unfortunately for the death/thrash metallers of Sacrificial Slaughter, this was also the type of crowd they had to play for. Few people had gathered to watch the first band of the day, and most of these few stood quite still, probably hoping that the heavy beats of the band would not upset their stomachs (or mine, in any case). (L)

The second most (positively) surprising act of this festival was the Spanish death metal band Altarage. Clad in cloaks and black bee keeper hats, the band has managed to keep their identity a secret. Altarage manages to create an incredible heavy, insanely dark and a slightly tech-ish sound, with only three musicians and quite an amount of amplifiers. The musicians started off with a few slower songs, but later on the tempo picked up and more and more people came to watch. Next to Witchery, Altarage is one of the bands to, figuratively, take home. (L)

Due to logistical problems and a forgotten wallet, the first band I saw was The Flesh, a band that was filling in for Sadistic Intent. A Dutch band with quality vocals while playing a doom type of death-n-roll. Although I personally thought their bass sounds was way too loud in the first couple of songs, The Flesh showed that having diversity and melody with just one guitar is very well possible. The atmosphere they managed to put down was even a bit off-worldly, something I had not seen yet on NDF. (W)

‘You’re an Angel Witch, you’re an Angel Witch’ – guess who’s next? These hard-rock legends playing solo rich, old-school, well yes, hard rock. This was just the music for the feeling of “I have been on a festival for 2 days and have to survive another”. Although having been around for some time, the vocals weren’t any less impressive, and neither was the guitar work. Maybe not my favorite type, but assuredly a good show. (W)

Next up, in the Patronaat, were Dutch (well Frysian to be exact) black metallers Kjeld – one of my favorite home-soil black metal acts. Their classical, fast black metal sound is positively offset by their incredibly enthusiastic performance these guys always have. Their frontman, Skier, does a very menacing and convincing job of bringing to live the purest Frysian evil that can be drawn out of the heavy clay soil the region is known for. Besides that, the music is just brilliant – the drums, riffing and interwoven soundscapes are just brutally awesome. (W)

Only a few weeks earlier, we’d attempted to see Merrimack in Utrecht, but the band got snowed in, cancelling their show. For a moment, there was the fear that also today’s performance might not happen, due to instruments and whatnot getting lost at the airport. Luckily, the band managed to get their stuff back, just 30 minutes before the show (and had already scraped together a back up). The sound was a bit blurry at first, yet the songs still came across well. Vocalist Vestal seemed on edge, even throwing the microphone holder into the audience, but then again, it also contributed to the intensity of the show. All in all, an impressive performance and hopefully Merrimack will be back to do a headlining show without problems sometime soon. (L)

We managed to catch a few songs from the Italian horror band Goblin and, well, it was quite the odd one out in thise line-up. The synth-heavy prog rock, heavily influenced by sound scapes, soundtracks and electronic music, did not only catch attention because of their flamboyant outfits, the surprising tunes between a line-up of mainly death and a bit of black metal, but also because of the big screen with horror scenes that flashed by throughout the set. We stood there a while, wondering, pondering the entire picture. Still not knowing what to make of it now, Goblin probably managed to do what they set out for. (L)

Grave played a special show during NDF, celebrating 30 of their existence. Their sound, a bit off at first, was nice, brutal and hard. The crowd seem to love it likewise, as the main venue was nicely filled up at the front rows (although decidedly less than during the Saturday). During the show, Grave only played their triple guitar death metal of up until 1991. Their groovy, technical sound was probably one of the best old-school acts of this festival. (W)

Festival closer melodic death metal giant At the Gates heralded the end of NDF, but not before giving one awesome show. Though they may be dating from a while back, they still kicked ass, as they have been doing since their re-union. Granted, their At War with Reality ‘re-union’ album did not convey the magnificence they recorded with Terminal Spirit Disease or Slaughter of the Soul, but the live show was still brilliant. With songs like Cold, Slaughter of the Soul and Under a Serpent Sun I realized how much I missed listening to them. AtG also premiered a song, of their likewise titled album To drink From the Night Itself. If that song is a standard for the new stuff to come, I am more than interested, as it seems to be leaning much more to the Slaughter style than At War did. Sadly we had to cut short the show to make it back home, but were able to hear the last bits of Suicide Nation. What a grand performance, I enjoyed it massively. (W)

As first time NDF’ers we enjoyed the festival immensely, as it felt like a (good) warming-up for the festival season to come. The atmosphere is great and likewise can be said for the billing: the line-up varied enough for you to bring your black metal boy/girlfriend. The festival suffered from a lot of cancellations from several bands due to the bad weather across Europe, which they managed to salvage nicely. However, for that reason, NDF will take place in May next year. The one complaint is that the food is a bit overpriced, but technically you could leave the venue for a bite elsewhere (if you have the time). We’ll definitely try to be there in 2019!

Check out the full gallery here.