If you’ve been following this space for the past couple of weeks, you’ll have noticed that there’s been a focus on the Faroese Wacken Metal Battle. The time has come now to sign off on the subject. With this humble live report from the event, I’ll go back into the darkest pits in search for brilliant, disgusting music. For this assignment I’ve teamed up with my dear friend from the land of the thousand lakes, Eija Makivuoti, who has acted as photographer for all the Metal Battles we’ve had on the islands. Props to Eija for letting me use her photos, be sure to check out the webpage here. Photos of In Parallel and Konqueror, as well as the pic of the winning band, are borrowed from Olaf Olsen photography.
After having a pause in 2015, this year’s Wacken Metal Battle on The Faroe Islands marked the fourth edition of the event. It also marked the highest number of band admissions so far. Eleven competing bands plus a headliner is a sure sign of a scene that’s evolving. This was also the third time the event was organized and hosted by the metal community group Upp við Hornunum, taking place in the intimate venue Perlan in the center of Tórshavn. The judge panel this year was comprised of people with various ties to the music industry, from Dragon Productions, Devilution, Blastbeast to Eistnaflug Festival and current and former members of the Faroese band Týr.
First band to hit the stage, leaving them with the daunting task of opening up the event in front of potentially less people. Thankfully, there was a great atmosphere from the get go. No bullshit, maximum pedal to the metal, no big talk, all performance. The quartet showed at this year’s battle that there’s a solid progression to their melodic death metal art. A band to watch out for definitely!
These blood-soiled hounds are among the finest metal musicians on the islands. You just have to savor the small scene when you realize that two guys from the band that played before are already back on the scene. It’s a charming aspect of this event. Even though the music isn’t all that exciting, the show was killer and raised the atmosphere to the next level. Proper death metal in all its directness and gory scores.
The first of two trios performing on the evening. A stark contrast in style, more of a seventies stoner rock vibe with a metallic groove to it. The performance was quite good even if it felt a little disjointed from time to time. I noticed especially the drumming was a bit chaotic, which is a shame since it reduced the energy of the show. They’re still pretty new, so naturally there’ll some bumps along the way but I think these guys are unto something refreshing.
Always fun to watch, the hard rocking bad boys in The Happening continuously manage to spread that youngster rebel aura that’ll make you want to start a band based on all mischievous clichés. The guys performed a good set with unsung national rock and roll icon Anselm Højgaard leading the charge. If you ever want your beer sales to prosper, call these guys!
Next up on the stage a new formation performing for the very first time. A trio with members from Synarchy and The Apocryphal Order playing a form of blackend death metal with emphasis on groovy parts. With no references before the concert next to a vague description of the sound, I didn’t really know what to expect. Nevertheless I enjoyed the raw and highly brutal atmosphere. I hope these guys put something out sooner than later.
Halfway through the running order of bands, In Parallel’s performance suffered from lackluster vocals and tedious stage presence. Whether it was just a bad day or if they might have been too hasty in entering the competition, I cannot say for certain. Some of the clips I had heard online were not that bad; the music I found adequate and I remember the vocals being better, not great, but better than what came out at the show. Room for improvement.
A real pick me up spell fifteen minutes later, Iron Lungs really made the whole place animated again. The most interesting band of the evening stylewise. The opinions are always divided on this band. Their apeshit, chaotic music either has people giggling from a distance or engaging in some truly neanderthalian metal action. For me, this was a highlight of the evening, I’ve seen them plenty of times and they’re getting better, still some small fine-tuning to be realized. That is some strong and potent apeshit energy they’ve got though.
Enter the grunge portion of the evening. This took me back to the early nineties, back to a certain Seattle sound. The performance was a bit of a disappointment and felt misplaced simultaneously. This band definitely has some cool hooks here and there, but overall the show felt stale and the vocals could’ve used more “oomph”! Maybe this wasn’t exactly the right forum for their music? Anyone?
The pace picked up again with the thrashers in Asyllex. Innovation isn’t a term that’s even remotely close with this band but holy fuck how the trash is strong in them. I really loved the energy of the frontman, who happens to be a killer solo guitarist for his young age. The guys executed their old school thrash metal without mercy and the crowd loved it.
My curiosity about this band’s progression had been reveal in my write-ups before the event. I was positively surprised by Konqueror as they performed a couple of new tracks this time. The new tracks seemed to have better dynamics with emphasis on a darker edge. The band’s stage presence can still be improved but as a whole, this was one of their better concerts.
Last competing band. Brand new band. A band that had been much talked about prior to the event. Svartideyði´s cryptic approach to the whole affair had secured chief interest beforehand. What an introduction! The crowd was bestowed a single track of intense and exceptionally atmospheric black metal that heaved and descended several times in its grand expression. The second true highlight for me of the evening.
HAMRADUN, CHAIN DANCE AND DELIBERATION
I checked the time after Svartdeyði’s performance… past 2.00AM. Where did those all those hours go? Right, watching eleven bands. That happened. The night wasn’t over yet. Still to come was Hamradun while the judge panel retreated to a nearby sanctuary to deliberate on which band should win.
I’ve seen Hamradun a couple of times and they always deliver. This time was no different; the band’s set went down well, guided by the always modest and cheerful Pól Arni Holm. This was just the right amount of heavy I could bear at this point; I enjoyed the performance from afar and noticed that several people had started chain dancing together in good (and severely drunken) spirits. A nice closing to the musical content of the event.
… AND THE WINNER IS
At circa 3.00 AM came the announcement that Svartideyði had won the Faroese Wacken Metal Battle 2016, which means they’ll represent The Faroe Islands at the Metal Battle final at Wacken Festival in August. It might have been a case of personal exhaustion, but to me, the moment of celebration felt lukewarm and ended rather abruptly. As I had expected, I did catch some mutterings around the venue about the “non-metalheads”, who incidentally had only just started a band, winning this year’s metal battle wink wink, which I found amusing. Thusly, an epic night of Faroese Metal came to an end, hopefully to be repeated again.
I thought I’d jot down a short epilogue as to put some tiny perspective to the whole thing. First of all, I think the metal community group Upp við Hornunum has to be given substantial recognition for their time and efforts in putting the event together. It’s done purely out of passion and in interest of shedding light and hopefully also progress on the Faroese Metal scene.
It’s also great to see that the metal and rock milieu is expanding slowly. The proof lies in the diverse line-up for the Metal Battle this year, bearing of course in mind that the bands are at different levels in their development stages. I hope that the participating bands reflect on the critical review they get from the judge panel.
Finally, and out of pure egotism, I’m thrilled to see that Black Metal is slowly taking form on the islands. It’s been missing and adds another level of extremity to the Faroese metal landscape.
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