Report by: Didrik
Pictures by: Katja Torkar
As we woke up surprisingly rested, we decided to come to the festival earlier on day three and headed straight for the underground stage where Meduzalem was playing. Sonically one of the weirdest bands in theory at this year’s Tolminator didn’t really impress me, however. Listening to their studio recording now definitely makes me think there’s a lot of potential for this to be cool in some sort of a post-metal fashion, but live they weren’t particularly memorable and there’s still a long way to go. But the potential is there. Next up was Ater Era, an Istrian black metal outfit that grabbed my attention a lot more, but again, like most smaller bands, suffers from not much going on on stage. Soundwise, however, they are very solid, but for fuck’s sake, please be interesting. Get some cool outfits. Threaten us with genocide. Maybe murder an audience member. You know, the typical black metal shenanigans.
The third of the local Littoral region bands that day was Omega Sun, another stoner/doom three-piece that has, unlike Hemplifier a day before, a lot more vocals and I definitely like vocals. Once again I’m realising I’m enjoying this more here now as I’m listening to the album tracks than I did live where their sound didn’t seem quite as full and elaborately explored.
It was time for the beach! The weather was finally sunny and no storms were predicted for the rest of the festival. Sadly, this meant we were skipping Glista and Rodoljubac, but a festival is more than just the bands playing and sacrifices have to be made. Soča and Tolminka both clear up extremely quickly so they were back to their seductive green and while the air temperature didn’t go above 25 degrees, or maybe 27 at best, it was still quite hot in the sun and naturally that’s enough for my Alpine, cold-resistant body. I did take a bit of convincing but eventually jumped in fully and actually found the river very refreshing and, despite most people not agreeing with me on this presumably, not too cold, but just about right. The first of the two floatie rampages was also slowly getting underway and people were coming down the river in all sorts of weird inflated floating animals as well as tanks and lilos.
Back on the underground stage, my most anticipated underground band of the entire week was going to perform soon so we made our way over there to see Kvaen. Because this was day three and seeing ten bands a day is exhausting, I took every chance to be able to sit down and those lovely chairs were available in front of the stage, which was just an absolutely perfect way to watch the band. The Swedes opened with “The Great Below” off of their most recent 2022 album of the same name and immediately caught my attention. Kvaen plays a sort of vikingy Scandinavian black metal that makes it very hard to be still and my legs were moving along to the drums a lot and I was thoroughly enjoying the show on display. The band gave us the best performance of all the underground bands (probably only rivaled by Terzij de Horde the previous day) and would have deserved to be on the main stage (I’m told Noise of Kanonenfieber agreed with this notion), albeit that might mean their amazing sound wouldn’t be as great so I’m still happy we got to see them on the underground stage, in very comfy chairs, and in a more intimate setting. Since I mentioned Kanonenfieber again – it seems a lot of very good up-and-coming bands lately are really solo projects, along with these two, Helleruin and Blackbraid also come to mind. Anyway, Kvaen finished off with their only Swedish song, “Ensamvarg,” that got me to sing along (I’d love more songs in Swedish, as always) and then descended into their number one hit, “Revenge by Fire,” which is just incredibly dancey and catchy as far as black metal goes and I actually stopped being rude and got up from my chair to give them a well-deserved applause as they finished their show.
A quick trip to the main stage later – by “main stage” I mean the benches under the pavilion – where Frozen Soul were playing already. Firstly, I’d like to make a note saying that as the band is Texan a more apt name would perhaps be Boiling Soul or Overheated Soul, but the more important part is that they were, somewhat unexpectedly, really great. Although their death metal is fairly simplistic and naturally, in true American fashion, overly aggressive, it’s hard to deny the band goes fucking hard. “Fuck” is also the vocalist’s favourite word and he sure manages to squeeze it into every sentence about six times. The band really managed to get the crowd going with its pounding, in-your-face death metal, and even though they had some serious issues with losing their gear at the airport, it was Ater Era that stepped in and loaned them theirs, and the Americans were very professional and did the job seemingly without any major issues.
After this exciting warm-up on the mainstage. it was time for another death metal band, this time the Brazilian all-female Crypta, which was genuinely another positive surprise. The women were very entertaining on stage and seemed very comfortable despite the band not having such a long history of existence and only the vocalist Fernanda Lira being an already established name in the band from her many years with Nervosa. She was particularly fun to watch as she insisted on trying to make somewhat threatening or scary faces, but I’m not sure that really had the desired effect. Still, I have to say the band actually sounded better to me live, playing their somewhat thrashy death metal, than listening to it now as the production seems a bit poor and I will therefore not listen to the band at home, but I’d be happy to see them again if the chance arose.
Time for another personal highlight of mine, this time we finally got some proggy goodness, in the form of In Mourning, the Swedish force that’s in some ways overtaking Opeth as the kings of prog death. They started with “Thornwalker” and yup, you’ve guessed it, the vocals were undermixed, which definitely ruined the first half of their performance slightly, although hearing those lovely soft lines of Clear the path for the silent choir / Gather now in circles of fire was all I needed to make me happy. The floor wasn’t very full, which is to be expected as a lot of people just want to party and In Mourning is definitely very complex and not that easy to appreciate, but absolutely worth devoting time to. In the second half, the sound was definitely improved as the band descended firstly into “Black Storm,” with its beautiful proggy passages on the drums and I was fully enjoying the elaborate soundscape. I really do hope there are more prog bands next year. The setlist finished with the fantastic “A Vow to Conquer the Ocean” and, of course, “Colossus,” a nearly 10-minute long epic which, I insist, is one of the best songs ever written to which the band even adds a few more minutes live to give it a really memorable finish.
From contemplative and serious music we go back to insanity and another crossover thrash band, the Catalonian Crisix. If you’ve read yesterday’s report about Insanity Alert you can mostly copy-paste everything here as well, except the shenanigans were a bit lesser and they actually try to play music a bit more – for a start their songs aren’t just a minute long. So you know the gist, circle pits going throughout the show, silly songs about thrash and drugs, and most of all just a lot of fun seeing people go crazy. It’s very easy to start headbanging and moving along to the rhythm even if you’re not typically into this type of music so once again I’ll say bands like this are a welcome addition at festivals. The guitarist and the drummer actually exchanged their positions at least once, which may signal they’re both very talented and can play both instruments well, but it more likely signals that their music isn’t very difficult to play and they can, in essence, afford to fuck about. One of the guitarists hopped on someone’s shoulders towards the end and they ran laps in the circle pit together before he was joined by another one of the band members and they both played guitar in the middle of the circle pit while the audience ran around them. Definitely some extra points for style and crowd engagement!
The Thursday main stage lineup seemed interesting from beginning to end so it was a bit hard to find some time for a food break, but a bit of the Ancient show was sacrificed for it and I’m slightly regretful that I missed a part of their show. If you’re listening to this band at home and hate it, much like I did, due to them clearly recording their music on a washing machine, I have good news because the band actually sounds so much better live. The melodics in their music actually become apparent and it made their music truly enjoyable live as the Jesusy figure of the vocalist, Zel, was screaming at us. Their, otherwise great, performance was, however, disturbed at several points by very sharp sonic mistakes that sounded like a knife being dragged across some metal which threw me out of the chill black metal vibe the band was creating. Quite annoying, but overall still a good show and another welcome surprise.
As the hour approached 10 PM it was time for Phil Campbell & the Bastard Sons to take the stage. They’re playing their Motörhead setlist on this tour and I suspect this was the main draw of their show. If you’re somehow unaware, Phil Campbell played in the aforementioned band for many years and is now keeping the spirit of the legendary band alive with his shows. I’ve never really had a classic heavy metal/old rock phase so I wasn’t particularly interested in the band and started out listening to them from the benches. When the band got to “Born to Raise Hell” they spent about two minutes preparing the audience to chant along…and then I’m pretty sure the actual song was shorter than that, which was hilarious. I decided to join the audience shortly after and actually ended up right behind two of the Kvaen lads who were also there to enjoy the show after their earlier performance. Surprisingly, the band doesn’t end with “Ace of Spades” but plays somewhere in the middle of the set while they actually finish with “Killed by Death” and “Overkill” – both songs I didn’t really know before but managed to sing along to the chorus anyway. They had one of the best sounds of all the bands on the main stage and the crowd seemed to really enjoy them, with someone I spoke to shortly after even calling it “the best show of the entire festival.”
My last personal highlight of the festival came in the form of Insomnium, the kings of Finnish melodeath melancholy. I’ve seen them once before and actually forgot in the meantime how passionate and crazy their superfans can be as there’s just something in the band’s music that seems to really speak deeply to certain people and that’s quite beautiful to see. The band started with “1696” off of their recent album and their setlist was in general favouring “Anno 1696” quite a bit as they played five songs from it in total, but made sure not to forgo the standard tracks such as “While We Sleep,” “And Bells They Toll,” “Ephemeral,” and the loveliest of all, “Valediction,” during which it gets surprisingly violent for such a melancholic band that doesn’t really rely on aggression but instead plays to your emotions and tries to invoke feelings. I would have liked the vocals to be a bit more audible and prominent again, but at least the cleans sounded as they should. As the hour was approaching 1 AM and the band was finishing their roughly 70 minutes long set we were all getting pretty tired, but the Finns definitely left us in a great mood, and except for the weary legs, everything else was just brilliant.