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Metal Female Voices Fest III - Band Summary

Metal Female Voices Fest III - Band Summary

Oktoberhallen, Wieze Belgium, 22nd October 2005

So here’s the deal: Twelve bands alternating over two side-by-side stages (the main stage being bigger and having a kick-ass lighting rig) in a glorified aircraft hangar, backed up with an intricate timetable of interviews and photoshoots. Unfortunately a last-minute technical hitch meant the doors opened incredibly late, well after the first band was due on and the first photoshoot scheduled, and someone’s well-planned organisation went well and truly to cock.

The nerve-jangling honour of kicking off this year’s event on the side stage was French act ANACHRONIA, a last-minute addition to the bill to replace Diluvium. A traditional Metal Female Voices six-piece (vocals, two guitars, bass, keys and drums), their set was enlived by the near-traditional additional male vocalist who slipped on for the set opener and last number ‘Insanity’ and did the usual shouty bit – a nod to the genre’s black metal roots. At first the musicians appeared either nervous or a bit lacking in experience (or maybe an unhealthy combination of both), but once they got into their groove they opened things up with a bang and had quite a healthy sound. ‘Across the Universe’ (presumably from their ‘The Endless Agony’ CD) with its jazzy twists and turns really made the cut for me.

Opening the main stage, up next came the first of several Dutch bands, AUTUMN. I liked this band a lot, despite the fact that delightful frontperson Ninke de Jong appears to have learned English from watching Courtney Cox on ‘Friends’. Autumn have some great songs and play some great guitar solos too – the standout song of their forty-minutes being ‘The Green Angel’ of current album ‘Summer’s End’.

I sacrificed the next band on the side stage, Mexican six-piece THE LEGION OF HETHERIA in order to attend the Midnattsol interview/photoshoot session. From what could hear, they did a pretty good job, but by the time I got back out front ELIS had just come on to the main stage. I quite like Liechtenstein’s finest (only?), but my partner-in-crime had already damned Sabine Duenser’s "white suit and girly voice" in the notebook and scribbled "Eurovision!!!" underneath. I guess live they didn’t seem to have the power that manager and producer extraordinaire Alexander Krull has invested in their ‘Dark Clouds In A Perfect Sky’ album, and did veer towards the pop end of the spectrum at times. But "Eurovision" was a tad harsh! I’m quite looking forwards to seeing the again sometime, to see if this was just a below-par performance, because I rate the album highly.

Back on the side stage, SKEPTICAL MINDS kept both the lighting and the mood harsh and indulged in the White Zombie approach with a vaguely industrial spin on the MFV scene. Maybe this is what Shirley Manson and the boys in Garbage had in mind when they first started out. Lots of samples, lots of electronica, lots of fun. Vocalist Kristell kept the Belgian quartet bouncing along, and despite some down time between songs, they are definitely a band to watch for the future. If you like your music with more than a twist of fx, this could be the band for you.

Got to be honest though, I kept half an eye on the main stage throughout their set in order to keep an eye on anything to do with MIDNATTSOL, the band I’d really come to see. I had high expectations, and the band met ‘em and them some. They are a stunning live act and ran through eight of the eleven songs from their stunning debut album ‘Where Twilight Dwells’, the opening pairing of ‘Dancing With The Midnight Sun’ and ‘Another Return’ being particularly effective. This is a band that fires on all cylinders, and when they rock, they rock big-time! Guitarists Christian Hector and Daniel Droste and bassist Birgit Öllbruner covered every inch of the stage 101 times or more, and Carmen Elise Espanaes sang her heart out. It was nice to see big sister and Leaves Eyes’ frontwoman Liv standing side stage and clapping and cheering approvingly (there surely can’t be many Norwegian families where two sisters both end up fronting German bands). I am reliably informed that the white dress and black bra was a fashion faux pas, but what the hell do I know about such things. "We had a great time, " Christian Hector said later; "best crowd so far we have ever had…"

There are some great bands in the UK, and it fell to MERCURY RAIN to have the privilege of being the first British band to be invited to play the event. I like this band a lot, and this was probably the best show I’d seen them do. Making full use of their stage space they literally tore through a seven-song set which opened, as ever, with Sonia Porzier’s solo piece ‘Tales From Beyond’ and climaxed with ‘The Messenger’ with shouty male vocals supplied by David Larzul from In Memoriam, whom Sonia once shared a band with in years gone by. Unfortunately, Mercury Rain performed only one more gig after this before deciding to call it a day in the face of mounting debt and a generally apathetic UK music scene. There is already an under-swell of thought that such a move might have been premature, and after a healthy lay-off Porzier, bassist Jon Hoare and guitarist Dion Smith may well climb back in the saddle. Fingers crossed…

Back on the main stage, EPICA whipped up a storm. One of the fastest rising stars of the genre, the Dutch band fronted by Simone Simons have class, character and an armoury of well-crafted songs, as their latest album ‘Consign To Oblivion’ expertly illustrates. They also have the most stirring intro of all time, although the ten-minute closer and album title track is just too much for me. ASRAI are another Dutch band (must be something in the water) but they come from the fetish side of the scene, all pig-tails and PVC, guitars and gasmasks. Imagine Marilyn Manson’s younger sister and her mates, and you wouldn’t be far wrong. Their set was an extravaganza of beats and noise, and although it wasn’t my thing, everyone else loved them. Incidentally, trivia fans, I think they are the only MFV band to feature twins, with Margriet on vocals and Karin on drums

Completing three in a row from Holland came AFTER FOREVER. Not content with just sounding tight and being exciting to watch, and having an extremely stylish and charismatic singer in Floor Jansen, what sets them apart is that despite being professional in the extreme, they are not afraid to have fun: so snippets of Kiss’s ‘I Was Made For Loving You’ cropped up in one song, and this was followed by a lively rendition of Europe’s ultimate cheese-anthem ‘The Final Countdown’ (unfortunately at the expense of their superb cover of ‘The Evil That Men Do’). Besides, this is the band who recorded ‘Remagine’, one of the greatest albums of all time. They came, they saw, they well and truly kicked ass!

LEAVES’ EYES rounded up proceedings on the side stage. When I saw them a couple of months previously on their UK support slot to Paradise Lost, they managed to impress in just thirty minutes, so with another twenty minutes to play with they were able to really showcase both albums ‘Lovelorn‘ and ‘Vinland Saga’. Drummer Moritz Neuner was pretty unhappy at first after their set, reckoning that a technical problem had ruined the opening couple of numbers ‘Norwegian Lovesong’ and ‘Farewell Proud Men’, but out front they sounded OK and aside from some down time while the samples were sorted out their set was a pure gem. Alexander Krull spent a lot more time onstage alongside singer and squeeze Liv Kristine Espenaes Krull than in the UK, and boy, does he keep the energy levels up. Highlights of the set were ‘Leaves’ Eyes’ itself and of course the closer ‘Elegy’ which may well become the anthem of a generation. Once he was feeling a bit happier about things, Moritz did concede that despite the glitches it was overall "a really great show for us; amazing people, great audience and very well organised."

Milan’s LACUNA COIL rounded off the event, with an opaque cloud of dry ice hanging over the stage and crowd and a sound that was giving to yield to the onslaught. Although what I heard of their set sounded reasonable, by this time things were conspiring against us. The show kicking off late meant that transport outside was already ready and waiting to go, and with no vegetarian food available at all I was beginning to flag a bit. Sorry guys, but it was time to cut and run. See you all next year?

Check out the Photo Gallery Section here to see Photos from the Event.