METAL FEST (AFTER FOREVER, ORPHANAGE AND OTHERS) - 013, TILBURG, NETHERLANDS, FEBRUARY 24 2002
I was not going to do a review of this concert, originally, but after the second act it became impossible not to. The second act, of which ye shall hear a few paragraphs below, triggered in me an urge never before felt: The urge to assist in the termination of some people's careers, to use whatever powers stand at the command of the English language to grind them into the ground, ridicule them, and generally get rid of the awful feeling that, by buying a ticket to this Metal Fest, I have unwittingly granted them a slight bit of financial reprieve.
But let's first write down some impressions about the first band, Dimension Seven. A cross-pollination between Rage Against the Machine and Nu Metal (that dread phenomenon), the band was certainly very energetic. The singer seems to have some issues, and I for one am certainly glad he chose to spill his venomous gall across paying concert attendants. With these kinds of people (and I refer to the vocalist here), I am afraid it's either that or them shouting abuse at commuters in train stations.
Now then, compared to the second band, Dimension Seven seemed to display the Mother Of All Art, apparently inspired by all collective muses (as well as their daughters, mothers and aunties thrice removed). The second band was American Head Charge. I had read about them after they'd toured with Slipknot, so I expected a gimmicky kind of Nu Metal band, a good laugh, no more, no less.
Instead, imagine a few post-punk guys playing musical instruments (and I use 'playing' in the broadest sense of the word, obviously) and at least two, um, people of limited ability to express themselves artistically, running about on the stage. These together make a godawful racket that is closest to a loud version of a highway running through your head. Now I should emphasize that some bands would take this as a compliment. I would like to indicate with some vigour, to prevent any American Head Charge fans or other mentally challenged people from concluding otherwise, that the aforemeant was not intended to mean anything even remotely positive.
God, this band really made me feel old. In my mind queued up all the things that my dad used to say, 20 years ago, when he heard me listening to Venom or Slayer or even Madness. If this is where things are heading (such as was mentioned in "Rolling Stone" magazine, would you believe?) I might as well open a backpackers hostel in the most malaria-ridden, Ebola-suffused, darkest of Central African regions. Just to be on the safe side, I'd attach a "No Nu Metal Fans" sign on the door. I. Just. Don't. Understand. What. The. Fuck. This. Band. Is. All. About.
American Head Charge have lifted Sucking to an Art Form. If their americanheadcharge.com domain hadn't already been occupied I would have loved to register it with the sole intent to display the simple text "This is without an iota of a scintilla of a shadow of a doubt The Most Sucking Band in the known universe (and I don't mean that in a positive way)." A band like this could only have arisen from a country that elects a certified xenophobic dumbass for a president. Perhaps communism should have become the world's dominant political persuason - somehow I think the Reds would have known how to deal with this kind of utter tripe neatly and without too many lasting stains on the carpet.
Image I have a daughter, lovingly raised and supported through college and university, Nobel Prize winner of astrophysics and a photo model to boot. Suppose, now, she starts dating someone who people might conceivably have once witnessed saying, "American Head Charge might have a redeeming feature or two." I'd have no other option rather than to brutally kill her, kill him, and kill all females he's ever been with (or even snogged).
This band is an insult to music, an insult to taste, an insult to every paying audience member - such as I - who actually only came to see other acts on the bill. In fact, this band is a compelling reason to commit mass suicide, and I was surprised no end to find that none of the people, not even those in the front, had throttled themselves with their neighbours' intestines. American Head Charge calls for new words to be added to the dictionary, because phrases like "bewilderingly retarded", "mystifyingly stupid", "unbearably obtuse" and "revoltingly dense" can't hope to catch the true suckiferousness, uglytaceousness and horriblosity of what we witnessed. This band could only have been the result of several weeks stuck in the catabombs of the collapsed World Trade Center, suffering from the direst of oxygen deficiencies, and only each other's semen for drink.
Remember Wayne, in "Wayne's World", where he says, "yeah, and monkeys might fly out of my butt!" in reply to some highly unlikely statement? Well, if there's ever a "Wayne's World III" he cannot say anything other than, "yeah, and the keyboard guys in American Head Charge might get a cover story in 'Keyboard Magazine'!"
And you know what is so petrifyingly scary about the whole thing? Someone signed this bunch of people. Someone thought it a good idea to waste perfectly good plastic to put their outpourings on CD, and to even pulp enough trees to add liner notes. Some double-deranged moron reckoned it OK to take this band seriously and write anything other than "Boy, does that suck!" about them. Someone considered this band compatible enough with, say, After Forever, to add them to the Metal Fest package. And, worst of all (lawds!), there are probably a few pubescent individuals out there who see in American Head Charge the perfect vehicle to shock their parents.
Thankfully, my faith in the general sanity and musical taste of humanity was restored somewhat when the band left the stage to the clapping sound of only a few of the thousands of hands present. Needless to say, I dragged those three or four individuals, one by one, into the men's room, shot them in the head and urinated in the bullet holes.
In short, I was actually angry and pissed off at the end of their show. Geez, what a waste of time and oxygen. Life is too short for this. Even if the collected electric power saved by the cancellation of all past and future American Head Charge gigs could be used only to propel one final ship onward to the slaughter of the last innocent baby seals and the senseless murder of the ultimate Blue Whale, that would be all right with me. While they're at at, they might as well find and kill the remaining few Bengal Tigers to grind their dried feline gonads to penile stimulant. Fine with me, anything beats the mere thought of anyone having to listen to another American Head Charge concert. Ever.
One would almost forget that there were other bands on the bill as well. The next one up was German Tanzwut, a cross between Rammstein and Skyclad with generous helpings of In Extremo and a Dance Topping. I had never heard anything by them and, after the earlier things that had gone one on the stage, I had a beyond-religious conviction that, if anything, this would be better. Thankfully it was. And, in fact, it was pretty good even if not compared to The Heinous Shit That Came Before.
When Tanzwut took to the stage, the first reaction was one of mirth. A couple of guys with bagpipes, all of them dressed in semi-mediaeval garb (including brown leather skirts and dresses), lead by a vocalist who'd attached devilish horns to his bald pate. So far they looked like a toned-down, culture-shocked version of Gwar. Then they started playing. Initially I have to confess there were some compatibility problems with me and their dance beats, as well as their singing in German. Before and since Marianne Rosenberg ("Ich Bin Wie Du", 1976) I have not been capable of appreciating any form of German-language music. The beauty of German's cases never struck me, Goethe to me was just a guy babbling in a language fit only to shout hysterically at impressionable mid-20th-century would-be boyscouts and armies with.
Be that as it may, my blinders slowly widened as the band continued. Some of the songs (most notably a track I think was called "Lügner" ["Liar"]) were actually pretty damn good, the bagpipes actually did add something quite cool, and, horror of horrors, I began to reckon there's nothing much wrong with dance beats anyway... Before I knew it I was having a pretty good time - which I believe was shared by pretty much everyone who had formerly been bludgeoned into baffledly flummoxed disbelief by a certain earlier act I shall endeavour not to mention by name again.
I shall definitely check out Tanzwut more. Hail "Morpheus", for starters, and we shall see where it takes me from there (the Tanzwut web site at www.tanzwut.de teaches me that they have released two CDs, but the page elects not to reveal the track listings thereof, nor does it seem to mention that they're touring at the moment).
Next, the primary band that had caused me to attend Metal Fest in the first place, Finntroll! Though they had a replacement singer (original vocalist Katla, I read somewhere, has a tumour on his vocal chords), they certainly did pretty much what I had expected, i.e. rule. Their stage presentation was a bit bland after Tanzwut's visual extravaganza and the vocals weren't always audible, but the music was really cool. They played tracks from both albums, with some emphasis on "Jaktens Tid". There was a pretty good mosh pit and, again, a good time was had by all and sundry. It's a shame that I do not feel inclined to spend much more words on them, after all the band that certainly deserved it least did get so many. But hey, that, to quote the words of Bruce Hornsby, is just the way it is.
Orphanage was up next. And before I write about their performance perhaps a bit of a background story is in order. Those of you who don't like to reminisce (or, worse, witness me reminisce!) might want to skip the next two paragraphs...
I live in Utrecht (I shan't reveal exactly where, because I think fans of a certain band not to be named again might consider it interesting to see what my reaction to an Anthrax letter might be), and Utrecht is the home town of Orphanage. I regularly met original guitarist Lex in the super market around the corner, and I run into vocalist George with an almost frightening regularity at concerts, in town, in bars, that kind of thing. Not that I get off on that kind of thing, but I mean to say that Orphanage kindof grew up around here, and I was there to see and help them grow. I was at the show where they launched their "Oblivion" debut CD (vocalist Rosan was introduced there as a replacement for Martine, I seem to recall). I was at the show where they launched their even better second CD, "By Time Alone" (where they were supported by Within Temptation). I remember they had original Celestial Season vocalist Stefan do a guest performance, there was a background choire, there was copper instrument support, and they played a cover of Europe's "The Final Countdown". Orphanage was cool, their music was interesting and groovy and cool, too. I visited their concerts with friends, and it was fun to be part of that scene.
Then, suddenly, the magic was gone. With the third CD ("Inside") the music didn't have the magic ingredient anymore. The lyrics were more straightforward ("I'm gonna kick your fucking ass" is a far cry from the Lovecraftian influences on earlier albums) and the music sounded familiar and groovy but not special enough anymore. Original bassist Eric left, guitarist Lex left. Keyboardist Guus - an OK guy but he's got the stage presence of a wet towel - took on guitar duties. Vocalist Rosan - on stage a faltering soprano at times - got a more prominent role. I suddenly noticed vocalist George's repetitive between-song banter including a lot of "oh yeah", "hell yeah", "spank you" and "owl-righty-then". And when you start thinking that 'Orphanage' is actually a pretty silly name for a band, then you know the special bond between you and that band is a thing of the past.
With that in mind it is inevitable that my conclusion of the Orphanage part of Metal Fest was that it couldn't hold a candle to what came before or after, nor to the fond memories I have of their heyday (1996) shows. The old songs they played ("At The Mountains of Madness", "Chameleon", "Sea of Dreams", "Deliverance" and the excellent set close "Five Crystals") got me into the mood, I will like those songs forever. But the new songs (and there were more of those than of the "old school" stuff) just caused me to wait for more old ones to come. Floor "After Forever" Jansen did guest vocals on one of those new songs, totally blowing away Rosan. Almost painful, but I've seen it happening several times already and still they continue this tradition.
Anyway, the headliner and secondary band that prompted me to get my arse over to Metal Fest: After Forever. I've seen the band play a few times now, and every time they get better and more professional. Vocalist Floor's voice never fails to impress, and I maintain that there are few things women can do on stage that look better than when they bang their long-haired heads (hence my fondness of "Nighttime Birds" era The Gathering, any-era "Within Temptation" and, of course, After Forever). I guess this particular little fetish in me was caused by having seen Van Halen's "Hot For Teacher" video clip when I was young and impressionable. Well, impressionable, anyway.
Maybe I should set up an "MPEGs-of-Women-That-Bang-Their-Heads.Com" site some day. But that's another story altogether, you'll be relieved to hear.
Now where was I? Damn, the disadvantage of being your own editor is that it is sometimes difficult to focus. There's no maximum word count, there's no deadlines, there's just your own fingers doing the typing and sometimes a lot of stuff comes out. It appears that you have caught me in such a mood right now. Better get with it.
After Forever played a selection of tracks from their debut ("Prison of Desire") and last year's "Decipher". These included "Leaden Legacy", "Beyond Me" (with guest vocals by Orphanage's Rosan which I can only imagine made people collectively wish original performer Sharon "Within Temptation" den Adel were present instead), "My Pledge of Allegiance" (parts 1 and 2), "Estranged" and the beautiful "Forlorn Hope". A good show, which almost (but not quite) succeeded in making me (and no doubt others) forget some of the nonsense we'd seen and heard earlier in the afternoon.
Disclaimer type thing:
Some of you may say that my opinion is not carefully honed nor delicately balanced on anything you might remotely consider 'objective'. Some of you may say that I have, with this, prevented people from purchasing CDs or concert tickets for American Head Charge. Because of that, the members of said band, who all no doubt devoutly love their mommies and daddies, will be deprived of some income they genuinely think they deserve because of the way they redefine the very borders of Art. Isn't a free world a beautiful thing, though? Whatever gave them the opportunity to vomit over the masses their senseless load of...of...something odious...gave me the opportunity to spill forth this righteous anger at them having aurally fucked up 45 minutes of my life. To think of other things I could have done instead, but which I was, I am ashamed to admit, too stricken with disbelief to do.
(You're more than welcome to rip the pictures and use them wherever you want, however please credit Metal-E-Zine and add the www.metal-e-zine.com URL. Thanks!)
Written February 2002
Back to the Main Menu