(This review has been previously published by Headbanger's Lifestyle and is still available to read at this location)
Click here to read my review of the second day at FortaRock
Much has been said in the press already about the slow tickets sales due to the fact that the organization could not book a headlining act with the stature of a band such as Slayer. I have to admit that the prospects looked somewhat dire, especially when a week before the festival was announced that anyone who had bought an e-ticket could bring along a person for free. Looking back on this whole weekend I can only conclude that this was one of the nicest editions of all the FortaRock festival I have attended so far. For starters, the weather was simply superb (except for the interference of Thor on the last day, but more about this later). Secondly, the program was very varied and versatile and every band that I witnessed had a phenomenal sound. Despite all the setbacks that the organization endured while preparing for this year's edition they still managed to set up a tremendously pleasant festival weekend.
God Mother from Sweden was given the honour to start the festival for an almost empty tent since most headbangers were still en route or just arriving at the festival site. This didn’t prevent God Mother’ singer to jump straight into “the crowd” by the first song to get the party started. His unbridled and hysterical performance fitted well with the fast-paced and energetic mishmash of hardcore, black metal and math metal. Nevertheless, a fine opening band of this years edition of FortaRock.
Expectations were high for the Australian based Ne Obliviscaris who opened up the activities at the Main Stage. The band has gathered a vast amount of followers over the last couple of years with their unique blend of progressive black, death and thrash metal with a hint of fusion and classical music. The set opener ‘Devour Me, Colossus (Part I): Blackholes’ proved instantly that all expectations about their live reputation were met. The stark contrast between singer/violin (with his long blond mane and beautiful clean voice) and the evil growls of singer Marc "Xenoyr" Campbell (dressed in black with matching long black hair) is what sets the band apart from the rest of the competition within the metal scene. Great performance!
The Swedes of Monolord took full advantage of the 45 minutes that had been assigned to them to bring their heavy psychedelic mix of sludge and doom to the eager crowd in the well-filled tent. The beautiful roaring, distorted bass sound of Mika Häkki, which is an essential ingredient of the overall sound of Monolord, really stood out during this show and the crowd seemed to love it as well judging from all the banging metal-heads around me. Because of Monolord’s amazing performance I had to miss out on the show of Batwölf in the smallest tent (entitled 'Hanks Garage') but from what I understood through well-informed sources is that their punk-based Rock was well received by the audience in Hanks Garage.
California based Atreyu took the stage at 14:30 and treated the FortaRockers on a heavy dose of melodic emocore. Personally, I am not that fond of this specific style of metal but due to the beautiful, sunny weather that fell upon us, the Atreyu show was still a somewhat pleasant experience. The Bon Jovi cover 'You Give Love A Bad Name' ensured a joy of recognition within the crowd and was a clever move on Atreyu’s part to increase their interaction with the crowd but I still prefer to listen to the original rendition of said song (and that says something…).
Anneke van Giersbergen
While Enslaved desecrated the grounds of the Goffertpark with their experimental take on extreme metal I chose to watch and listen to the Q&A session with Anneke van Giersbergen in Hanks Garage. But before the Q&A took place Anneke received the Buma ROCKS! Export Award 2019 by Frank Helmink, director of Buma Cultuur. Anneke received this award for being the most successful Dutch artist abroad in heavy music for over 25 years. This is well deserved, methinks! After the Q&A Anneke played some beautiful acoustic songs such as Iron Maiden’s Wasted Years amongst others. This session was a welcome variety on this day that was mainly dominated with heavy tunes.
The Danish musician Amalie Bruun a.k.a. Myrkur showcased her strange, yet an original mix of folk and black metal, along with a part of what looked like her garden shrub to a somewhat bewildered audience. I personally think that a production such as this can be fully appreciated when it’s performed in a dark setting, such as the tent, instead of the main stage in broad daylight. All in all, a nice, yet rather strange performance.
Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats
One of the highlights of the first day at FortaRock was the impeccable performance of Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats in the tent. I’m aware that the sound of Uncle Acid requires an acquired taste due to their somewhat strange high voices but I personally think that this style of singing perfectly fit with Uncle Acid's psychedelic rock. So from the opener 'I See Through You' to the closing track 'No Return' I fully enjoyed the eccentric wall of sound that is Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats. Unfortunately, this meant that I had to miss out of the show of Dutch black metallers Laster who performed simultaneously at Hank Garage.
Little can be said about the Amorphis show, except that they put on a solid and very enjoyable show that seems to appeal to most of the metalheads among the FortaRock crowd, including myself. Amorphis chose to perform their most accessible song material which is a smart move when playing a festival such as this. Amorphis can’t simply do no wrong with songs such as ‘The Bee’, ‘Silver Bride’, ‘Hopeless Days’ and “golden oldie” ‘Black Winter Day’.
Cult of Luna
Cult of Luna unleashed their overwhelming ‘wall-of-sound-post-metal’ onto the tent-crowd with their recently released ‘The Silent Man’-single. The podium production looked, from the perspective of the audience, very atmospheric and complimentary to their music but I understood that the photographers in the photo-pit had quite a challenge to take their photos since the stage was shrouded with smoke and mainly lit with red and white light. I also honestly don’t understand why Cult of Luna needed 3 guitarists and 2 drummers (along with a keyboard player and a bassist); the second drummer didn’t bring hardly any extra flavour to the racket that the band produced. Due to the unfortunate programming, I had to miss out on the JC Thomaz & and the Missing Slippers-show at Hank Garage.
Children of Bodom
The Finnish veterans of Children of Bodom entered the main stage around 19:45 with the sole mission of serving the FortaRockers on a heavy dose of unadulterated melodic power death metal. The mood was immediately set when the band switched into overdrive with the up-tempo track 'Under Grass and Clover' from their most recent album 'Hexed'. In the coming hour, Children Of Bodom would rule the main stage as if they were the main act. Recent work was tastefully interspersed with classics such as; "Are You Dead Yet?", "Bodom Beach Terror," "Hate Crew Deathroll," and "Every-time I Die”. Mission accomplished, methinks!
The Swedish all-star death metal band Bloodbath (which comprises members of Katatonia, Opeth and Paradise Lost) was given the unholy honour to close the blood ceremonies at the tent for the first day of FortaRock. As expected, the band performed with their bodies smeared with blood. 60 minutes of fast, old school death metal were thrown over the insatiable, bloodthirsty audience that yearned for even more with every song that Bloodbath played. X Raiders, a Dutch band hailing from Nijmegen, played simultaneously with Bloodbath in Hank's Garage, so, unfortunately, I had to miss out on their performance.
As mentioned earlier, the organization were unable to book Slayer (or any other band with the similar stature as Slayer) as the headliner for this years edition of FortaRock so eventually Behemoth was promoted as the headliner for the first day of FortaRock. Behemoth put down a, for extreme metal standards, massive and very impressive production. Behemoth’s stage was tastefully decorated with satanic attributes along with a huge, triangle-shaped video screen which served as some sort of unholy portal to visualize the sinister imagery of Behemoth dark lyrics. The many flamethrowers that Behemoth used during their show made the first rows within the audience feel as if they been trapped in purgatory; those flames were many and they were hot! Add to that a versatile (within the boundaries of blackened death metal, that is) and a very diverse set list with compelling and atmospheric songs such as 'Bartzabel' to blast beats monsters such as 'Ov Fire and the Void’ and then you can only come to the conclusion that Behemoth was a more than worthy headliner!