European Metal Festival Alliance 2020
Virtual Festival – Live In Your Living Room
7th/8th/9th August 2020
Review by Beth Jones with annoying interjections from Rick Tilley
With the world still in the grips of a global pandemic and the flickering light of the chance of live music happening at all this year steadily dimming, the great and the good of European metal decided that sitting on their laurels and moping was not the way forward. Something needed to be done to feed the metal fans’ lust for a festival. And, as always, the best solutions to problems are found with a little thinking outside the box. In this case, ‘if we can’t bring the fans to the festival, then why not take the festival to them’. Ok it may not be what we truly want. Nothing beats drinking beer in a field with your best friends, amongst other like-minded souls who truly understand how we all fit in to this crazy world, and watching fellow like-minded souls thrashing things out on an awesome stage to bring us all pleasure. But, in the circumstances, it’s a pretty reasonable compromise, you just have to get into the right mindset. You can’t always have what you want, so run with what you can have.
With that in mind, 13 of the best independent Metal festivals from around Europe decided to get together to bring the Metal to us! They were Art Mania (Romania), Bloodstock (England), Brutal Assault (Czech Republic), Dynamo Metalfest (The Netherlands), Alcatraz (Belgium), Into The Grave (The Netherlands), Leyendas DEL Rock (Spain), Metal Days (Slovenia), Midgardsblot (Norway), Motocultor (France), Party.San (Germany), Resurrection (Spain), and Summer Breeze (Germany).
So, here at Ever Metal HQ, we found ourselves cracking open a can at 10:50 am, and logging on to the live stream, to stand in the virtual arena queue for the European Metal Festival Alliance 2020! To be honest, I much prefer this way of queuing! A sofa and a cold beer sure beats sitting on your bag drinking a warm beer! Now usually at this point in a live review, I’d spilt off and do it day by day, band by band, and have accompanying photos. But this year, even though the photo pit (just in front of my TV) was easier to get to, and a lot less crowded than normal, sadly no pictures were taken! So, I’m going to give you a run-down of my highlights for each day. There were some old favourites, some surprises, and also some gems of discovery!
I was still technically working on Friday, but another bonus of attending a virtual festival paired with working from home is that you can multi-task! There were three bands that stood out for me on this first day, Evil invaders, Alien Weaponry and Rotting Christ.
Having seen these guys before, I knew they were a great live band, and this performance was no exception. Here we were treated to a special set, filmed with a live audience at a private location in Flanders, Belgium. It was as blistering and crazy as you would expect from these guys, but it was also as tight as a tight thing! Their stagecraft is second to none. If you Like crazy speed thrash with added insanity eyes, these guys have got it covered! They were one of my favourite bands to photograph at Amplified festival back in 2018, because they’re so full of energy and fun, and Frontman Jöe pulls the best faces! If there’s one band that everyone should see live, it’s these guys. They’re invigorating, and are firmly planted in my ‘favourites’. Loved it!
Ever since these guys popped onto the scene, they have excited me. Their fresh brand of metal, many in New Zealand’s native language ‘Te Reo Maori’ is spectacular. It both sickens me and fills me with joy that people so young are filled with this much creative flair. Their performance for this set was again filmed in front of a live audience, and started with an invigorating All Black’s style haka, that set the tone for the whole performance. It was alive and electrifying! These guys are firmly on my bucket list of ‘people to see live’!
I’d never really paid much attention to these guys before. The name just made me think that it just wouldn’t be the sort of thing I would be in to. Well, damn! Was I wrong!!! This performance, recorded behind closed doors, was so full of passion and prowess, it was as if it had been created in front of a sell-out crowd. This is no mean feat, considering that the energy coming from the fans is a large part of the driving force behind live performances. Their brand of black metal is steeped in sounds from traditional eastern European music. Their use of droning and harmonic 5ths enhanced their black metal riffs and rhythms to create a very pleasing sound. I feel incredibly stupid for ignoring them for so long, they’ve been around since 1987! A very worthy closing act for Friday!
Rick’s Friday Interjection
Rick here: It would be wrong of me not to pipe up and let you know who my favourite band of the Friday were. Whilst the three bands that Beth has picked were all superb and definitely worthy of mention, German Melodic Death metallers Parasite Inc. knocked it right out of the park as far as I was concerned. Very heavy, but hugely catchy, their playing was exemplary, and they were as tight as a very tight thing. Their mix was also spot on with every instrument sounding huge without overshadowing. If you’ve not checked them out before then ensure you do. It is now my intention to make sure I see them properly live as soon as I can!
After a very comfortable night’s sleep in our camp (aka our bedroom), it was time to get up and do it all again! We were pleasantly surprised to find the toilets still in a usable condition for our morning ablutions! Again, something we’re not accustomed to on the second day of a festival! I could get used to this! Another great day of metal was stacked up ready behind the login gates, so what would be today’s highlights for me?
There is something very special about discovering a new band that blow your mind. And that’s made even more special when it’s a ‘first band of the day’ band. The spot traditionally occupied by the lesser known names, some may ignore, but for me, seeing these bands is always my quest! And Romanian Progressive Alt Metal band, White Walls, were my treasure. Vocalist Eugen Brudaru absolutely blew my mind with the versatility of his voice; from metalcore screams, to soaring falsetto, his range was astonishing. And it didn’t stop there. Their blistering riffs, progressive rhythms and technical prowess was masterful. I would go as far as saying, from a technique point of view, the whole thing was perfect. One thing I find is often, when a band gets weighed down with technical performances, they lose some of their soul. But not these guys, and that was a joy to not see! They are a band that I will be checking out further, and following with eagerness! They’re very close to releasing a new album too! I’m already salivating at the prospect! My band of the weekend by a country mile.
Saturday afternoons at a festival are made for one thing, and one thing only – PARTYING! Whether it’s in a field with thousands of other drunkards, or in your own living room, it has to be done. And there is no better accompaniment to said party, than some jaunty Spanish monks delivering what they call ‘Folkoholic Metal’! They describe this as ‘festive folk metal that invites you to drink and dance and that also hides an important message of struggle and self-improvement.’ I was mainly in the drink and dance camp at the time, I have to say! Self-improvement was the last thing on my mind, because at that moment, I was just fine! They put on a great show, and looked like they had a great time doing it, which I love. The joy of music deserves to be as pleasurable for the performer as it is for the listener, so when it looks like a band are having a great time, then I’m much more likely to get on board with it! If you like any sort of Viking/folk/party/drinking metal, check these guys out.
Last time I saw Avatar was at Bloodstock, when they were bumped up to the main stage after another of the band’s plane was delayed. The arena went from ‘Ava…who?’ to ‘FUCKING AVATARRRRRRRRR’ in the space of one song! It was amazing. And from then on, it was obvious that these guys were destined for great things. The show here was a recording of previously unseen footage from their headline set at Alcatraz Festival 2019. My god how I wish I had been at that show! They are an incredibly talented bunch of musicians from Gothenburg, who’s tight as you like heavy metal melds perfectly with the theatrics of a slightly unhinged and freakish circus. I particularly liked the Trombone solo here! It added to the insanity! Sadly, but as is traditional with festivals, a technical hiccup cut the show slightly short, with the feed going down just before the end. But it didn’t detract from their splendid performance, and who are we to argue with tradition, eh?! The fact that the feed got an almighty lag about 10 minutes before it died also actually added to the craziness! The picture was a few seconds behind the sound which made for a bit of a mind-melt moment – if you were drunk and worrying that you’d maybe over done it, it’s ok, all of us who had drunk ourselves sober by that point saw it too! Anyway, Avatar smashed it, and I can’t wait to see them live again ASAP!
Rick’s Saturday Interjections
Me again! I cannot fault Beth’s choices, but I have to make additions. Firstly, Venom Inc. Surprisingly, I’ve never seen Venom Inc. live, in the flesh, although I have seen Venom on quite a few occasions, with various line-ups, over the years…the first time on ‘The Seventh Date Of Hell’ at Hammersmith Odeon in 1984, which was a definite eye opener for a 16yo Rick, but I digress. On this particular Saturday, whilst sitting in my lounge with a bottle of Hobgoblin, Venom Inc. were an excellent, short, sharp shock to the system, racing through their #EMFA set with barely a pause. Wonderful stuff!
The other band, who are definitely worthy of mention, are Spanish Thrash Metallers Angelus Apatrida, who I’ve been a fan of for a fair while. They played an amazing set of machine gun Thrash, so precise it would probably take your head off at 500 yards! Not only did they play superbly, but it was evident they were having a huge amount of fun doing it. They are another band who I much catch ‘properly live’ at the earliest opportunity.
In the same why that Saturday is party day at a festival, Sunday is ‘nurse the hangover and rue the fact that you’re not as young as you used to be’ day. This calls for bands on earlier in the day to be solid, not too much of an assault on the ears or eyes, and something that will help get that first ‘hair of the dog’ pint down. Also, in traditional festival fashion, we missed the first band because we were still trying to haul our asses out of bed! Oops!
Slovenian Heavy Metallers, Skyeye, were the first band we tuned into, and they were a perfect way to start off our Sunday. If you like classic heavy metal in the vein of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, then these are the guys for you. Their music is littered with the classic riffs of heavy metal from back in the day, and vocalist Jan Leščanec has the perfect set of pipes to complete the sound. Their performance here was full of passion and performed flawlessly, even within the weird circumstances. They were certainly the perfect antidote to an overdone Saturday and made my body feel like it was rejecting itself slightly less. They also helped me get the first Strongbow Dark Fruits of the day down (I actually don’t particularly like that cider, but… traditional for a festival isn’t it!). They were just really easy to listen to. They know exactly what sound they want, and they do it well.
Now given what I’ve already said about Sundays at festivals this might seem like an unusual pick. And to be honest, given my taste in music, Blackened Death isn’t really the direction I would usual go in. However, French Blackened Death maestros, Svart Crown, caught my attention. It was heavy as hell, not great for my brain, but it was technically absolutely spot on. And it had some really exploratory elements to it, which as some of you may know, I really like. This special performance was filmed in the old theatre of Ramatuelle, which made a wonderful backdrop with its temple like columns, complete with orange glow lighting and dry ice a plenty! Like I say, not usually my bag, but I was very impressed with this performance!
French industrial groove tech metalcore, with a hint of thrash! Or at least that’s my best description of them! Shit many bricks they’ve got a groove! And who knew the lilting poetry of the French language could be shouted with such venom and brutality! Their riff laden chunkiness is like chocolate for the ears, and you can properly move to it! These are another surprise find for me, but now on the list of ‘must see’. Rick also says that they have a sexy drumkit! And they can drop into a bit of thrash without a second thought, too – bonus points for that! Got to love a bit of versatility! A wicked livener for my now fully normalized (hahaha) and raring to go evening brain! ALLEZ!! Spectacle fantastique!!
This year has been a battle for everyone, fighting an invisible enemy. So, what better and more apt a way to close a festival than the ultimate battle metal band, Sabaton. This previously unseen footage was recorded at their headline slot at Bloodstock 2019. Sadly, we weren’t there to witness it live, but I now envy all that were. What a fantastic show!! Rick remembers seeing Sabaton at the Engine Shed in Lincoln, back in December 2009, supporting Dragonforce, so the fact that they have grown to the point of headlining a festival, the size of Bloodstock, is tantamount to their hard work and dedication, and that shows through brilliantly in their performance here. It’s exciting, its powerful, and it doesn’t half pack a punch, and they carry it all off with the utmost professionalism and musicianship. Powerful vocals, superb harmonies, the thumping pulse of the rhythm section, and solid riffs, make Sabaton a band who most will find something they like in. This is a band who know exactly who they are and where they’re going. Everything you want in a headline band. Another job brilliantly done. What a perfect finish to a weekend that, under the circumstances, was pretty spot on!
Rick’s Sunday Interjection
Yes, okay, I know I’m hijacking Beth’s review again, but I couldn’t not mention Kissin’ Dynamite, who I’ve been a fan of since their first album, and who always put on a blinding show. Their performance at #EMFA was no exception as they galloped through a cracking set of hugely catchy melodic hard rock, with choruses that get stuck in your head for days. Their musicianship was spot on and vocalist Hannes Braun proved, yet again, what a superb voice he’s got. I’ll shut up now and let Beth sum the weekend up!
All in all, for me certainly, European Metal Festival Alliance 2020 has been brilliant. A huge thank you must go to all those involved in creating this experience; Their hard work and dedication has, yet again, proven that it is possible to overcome the odds. Yes, it might be very different to what we’re used to, but just because it’s different doesn’t mean it’s wrong. And, in the future, this sort of festival streaming could be the key to making festivals accessible for people who aren’t in a position, through whatever reason, to actually attend in the flesh. The choice of bands was great, as it gave people a chance to check out some that they might otherwise have ignored in an actual live festival setting. The onsite facilities were pretty top notch too – almost homely (lol).
But, joking aside and above all else, even though all the viewers might have been spread out in little clusters all over the place, the feeling of the mighty metal community spirit was still tangible. The good side of social media meant that we could all comment and converse throughout the event. We were together, even though we were apart. That, to me, is the most important thing about Metal. The community we’re all part of shares a common passion, and while we’re all individual within it, none of us need an explanation as to why others are there. In a world that’s ripping itself apart faster and faster as each day goes by, we have a common ground. Music. So, by whatever means possible, let’s enjoy what we have and let the music play on.
Art Mania (Romania)
Brutal Assault (Czech Republic)
Dynamo Metalfest (The Netherlands)
Into The Grave (The Netherlands)
Leyendas DEL Rock (Spain)
Metal Days (Slovenia)
Summer Breeze (Germany)
Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Beth Jones and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.