Review: Paganfest 2010 @ Melkweg Amsterdam – 13-03-2010

The annual traveling festival Paganfest came to town last weekend. The line-up this year consisted of Finntroll, Eluveitie, Dornenreich, Arkona and Varg, with Alestorm and Equilibrium as ‘special guests’ on most of the dates (including this gig). See also the separate review of the Dornenreich show.

The special guest might have been a bit too much, since that made the schedule very tight, leaving only 45 to 60 minutes of playing time per band.

I’ve seen Finntroll live several times and it’s always a great party and Dornenreich is one of my all-time favorite bands, so I couldn’t miss their first ever show in Amsterdam. Since I’m not a fan of the other bands, I decided this would be a good chance to enjoy the general festival atmosphere and observe the state of the metal-scene in Amsterdam these days. The review of the Dornenreich show will follow in another post shortly, this is about the Paganfest in general.

I have to admit I’m not really that heavily into this whole ‘pagan metal’ thing. It’s a bit of a hype, which generally means the market gets flooded with unoriginal clone-bands. A lot of these bands use the same standard ‘folk’ sound and mix them with very generic metal, making a lot of these bands interchangeable and boring. The same thing happened after Dimmu Borgir made the whole ‘black metal-light with a side order of over-the-top keyboards‘-thing popular. Also the term ‘pagan metal’ seems to gets used as an excuse for nationalism and other right-wing ideologies. Now everyone is entitled to their own opinions and ideologies, but I don’t like how this trend is drawing politics into the metal-scene and draws skinheads and Nazis to concerts and festivals.

Anyway, enough ranting.. Since this was the Paganfest I blocked these thoughts and went in to enjoy the festival. The line outside the Melkweg was longer than I’ve ever seen, so I decided to cut to the front of the line to get in on time to get at least a glimpse of the first band, Varg. They played a very energetic set and managed to get quite a reaction from the audience, quite a feat considering they were the openers and a lot of people were still waiting outside to get in. They mix quite a lot of black metal elements into their music and their presentation was certainly the most impressive of the night, they must have spent quite some time in make-up:

Yes, they actually wear this warpaint on stage, plus an elaborate leather armor for the vocalist!

Next up was Arkona, who were reduced to a quartet since Volk, who plays their ‘ethnic wind instruments’ couldn’t join them and was replaced by samples. I don’t know if this was the reason, but to me their show sounded a bit static and predictable, which left time for more beers and a smoke (the heaters and umbrellas outside sure are an improvement over freezing in the rain!).

After Arkona it was time for Dornenreich, more on this show very soon here

I didn’t see very much of the Alestorm show, but enough to find out that they sound like a very watered-down version of Finntroll, with a Pirate-theme. The crowd was packed, so the kids seemed to really enjoy this lighthearted fun-metal, something I’d already guessed from the amount of pirate-paraphernalia worn by the crowd. I spent most of the time talking with the guys from Dornenreich.

We had a quick bite to eat, but were back in time to catch the last few songs by Equilibrium, another highly derivative band. Their logo reminds me of many other bands, their new vocalist looks like Peter Steele, and their music lacked originality as well. I think they could have found a better band as a ‘special guest’, like Heidevolk.

Eluveitie from Switzerland was the next band, and they are a lot more original than most folk-metal bands, both in their folk and metal-parts. Their vocalist brings a more punkish attitude and the violin, the wheel fiddle and the flutes are a big improvement over the keyboards and samples used by the previous bands. Kudos to the big long-haired metalhead that only plays a tiny flute on-stage!

Closing of the Paganfest were the finnish swamplords Fintroll, always a blast to see live! They prove that you don’t have to lose too much heaviness and agression to make feelgood-metal, you just have to add some extremely catchy Humppa to it. Their ‘new’ vocalist is a lot better and more enthusiastic than the last time I saw them, but he’s nowhere near the level of Katla, who brought an irreplaceable charisma to the band, the way he shambled over the stage and introduced the songs in his charming Finnish accent (“This is a song…. about the mushrooms… in the forest”). I do think it’s a wise choice that the new vocalist doesn’t try to mimic his style, but it does make the band a little bit more like a ‘normal’ metal band. They played a solid show, no real surprises, except maybe that they played “Trollhammaren” pretty early in the show, which I would have expected as a closing-track.

Overall it was a nice festival. You could say a lot of the bands were a bit too similar, but that happens quickly if you focus on such a sub-genre of metal and it does make for a more appreciative and united audience. I’ve seen Eluveitie opening for Kreator and Fintroll for Sodom and there was a clear division in the audience between the folk-metal kids and the old thrash bastards (I’m mostly an old thrash bastard!). The kids clearly understand the spirit of metal, they know how to make a good moshpit, like proven by Alestorm, Equilibrium and Eluveitie:

A minor detail is that they’re so eager to mosh, they even started a huge pit during the accoustic song Dornenreich played, I think they would have moshed even if Britney Spears had been on stage!

But still, it’s nice to see that the metal-scene in  Amsterdam is alive and kicking and the new generation is picking up the unwritten rules of the scene (respect the bands, the fans and the beers). Like Chuck used to say: Let the metal flow!


2 Responses to “Review: Paganfest 2010 @ Melkweg Amsterdam – 13-03-2010”

  1. […] NachtVorst's Nocturnal Vagaries …rants, raves, reviews… « Review: Paganfest 2010 @ Melkweg Amsterdam – 13-03-2010 […]

  2. […] Review: Paganfest 2010 @ Melkweg Amsterdam – 13-03-2010 March 2010 1 comment 4 […]

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