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Metal Female Voices Fest V - Review

Metal Female Voices Fest V – Reporter’s-Eye View
Article by Sam B. Grant


By the end of the festival we had probably become the people the organisation wished they hadn’t let in. And, unfortunately enough for those with me, sometimes I remember most things about an evening, maybe it’s something to do with the strength of the beer. Flowing Tears had left and Leaves’ Eyes had shut up shop. We screamed "Val" several times as she walked pass us, pretending to ignore the drunken Brits who were cluttering up the backstage areas. The festival, to her, probably seemed like less of a problem than the native English speaking nerds who were lolling about at the table mere feet away. We had become the very thing that most people leave the country to avoid.

The crowd numbers hadn’t been bad at all and looking at the gathering of those who still remained in the venue, most people had thoroughly enjoyed the headline act. I’m not a massive fan of Leaves’ Eyes and I wasn’t overly keen on the prospect of a humongous MDF Viking ship accompanying them on stage for the DVD shoot. The whole thing lacked a serious amount of irony and I have a feeling that the Viking theme may be prevalent with them for a good while to come. However, what I actually caught of their set was impressive – really quite impressive. I’ve seen them live twice before and only because they were on the same bill as other bands, but I couldn’t doubt that they put on a very decent show.

And good for them, since they didn’t have the easiest act to follow. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve seen Epica now. They plaster themselves all over so many country’s gig schedules that I wouldn’t be surprised if the Portuguese fado fans had stumbled across one of their events on the way to seeing the latest Christina Branco. This was the fifth Metal Female Voices Fest they’ve done. But I don’t know. As much as I love the new songs and I’m very impressed with The Divine Conspiracy, something was missing for me. Live-wise, it may be a case of over-egging the pudding and though I’m more than aware than this band can cut it in front of an audience - Simone making us aware twice and thrice a song that they were indeed playing "new material" - it had lost its pizzazz for me and no amount of pyrotechnics and confetti could help it. Stage pyro? This wasn’t Rammstein and the only reason I could possibly think for its inclusion was because…. it was possible. As The Divine Conspiracy’s title track wended and dragged its way to its lengthy conclusion, I was much more interested in listening to Miri from Distorted talk to me about her toy cow in Israel. It certainly sounded better than what was coming out the PA.

Mind you, the PA was probably recovering from the awfulness of the set that had just preceded it. Sirenia were a band I started out respecting a lot when their debut, At Sixes and Sevens, was released in 2002. It remains one of my favourite Gothic metal albums, and one of my favourite albums in metal overall. However, something seems to have gone seriously awry after that. Their next album, An Elixir For Existence, was Morten Veland’s first example of how he was losing his focus, and their most recent effort, Nine Destinies and a Downfall, contains some of the most horrific numbers ever to be committed to a Gothic metal disc. And, lucky us, we were about to experience them first hand. A lot of them.

I really don’t know what has gone wrong with this lot but from the first chord the set was laughable. In fact, it was too embarrassing to be laughable, it was just a farce. Monika Pedersen, the new singer, stumbled around like she’d had had a few too many Hoegaarden backstage, which I hope was the case and she hasn’t got a condition. Seeming to have absolutely no idea about how to get the crowd going, she slapped her hands together like a seal and didn’t look too different from one, trussed up as she was in all her netting and leather. Her vocals were something else. Literally. Whenever she moved the microphone away from her mouth and stopped singing, her voice would magically come out of the speakers. I was almost proud of her for being so totally blind as to how ridiculous the whole thing looked. And Morten, for his part, looked permanently bored and pissed off throughout the set. Strangely enough, there were some people who came away from the set praising it, but these were probably the same people who had been standing next to the gargantuan speakers for way too long, their sense of hearing shot to buggery. If I’d played them a tape recording of white noise mixed with orders for cab pickups in Willesden they probably would have liked it.

A band who I was very keen indeed to see were Flowing Tears. Having missed their set in 2004 due to interviewing other bands, I predicted seeing them this year as being one of the highlights. Having had other things to concentrate on of late meant that this was the first time that the band had been onstage for 18 months, but they still managed to put on an excellent show. The biggest surprise for me was just how comfortable and natural Helen was with being in front of an audience and she even managed to get the crowd involved during the difficult minidisc and sound problems the band experienced. With Ben and Stefan running round like madmen and the band playing some of the best songs from their catalogue, they certainly put on a very strong exhibition, and it will be good to see more of them now they’re back on the scene.

The start of Flowing Tears’ set fortunately heralded the end of two bands who I’ve never really been a fan of, and their sets didn’t do anything to change my mind about them. I’ve never really been keen on Delain and Elis due to their watery, bland style of Gothic metal with paltry, middle of the road vocals. I stood there, in awe at the insipid music pouring out of the speakers once more questioning why these bands are as popular as they are. Maybe it’s because they’re accessible, maybe it’s because the pander to what a lot of the younger Gothic demographic like to hear, but I can’t really find anything musically credible in their sound. Seraphim, the band before them, were even less entertaining and probably the weakest band of the festival. Forty-five minutes of twiddly, homogeneous power metal with banshee-esque high vocals seemed to set quite a few peoples’ teeth on edge. I walked around. I did some shopping. I went outside to have some conversations. I even received text messages from people saying, "when are they going to stop?". All I knew is that their set seemed to go on for ever, and quite a few people were pleased when they finally gave the stage a break.

The first few bands of the day are normally the ones that get the least attention and crowd numbers, though those people who were fortunate enough to see Distorted may well have argued that they should have been higher up the bill. Since I first heard Memorial I was in awe at the professionalism and dynamics and I was pleased to say they excel in a live setting. They worked their way through their debut album with flawless expertise and vigour, with Miri sounding note perfect throughout the set. The large stage was clearly undaunting to them and they were in their element, so natural and fluid was the performance that they put across. Interria also managed to put on a good show, and though the music was more rocky than I’d normally appreciate, they were certainly a promising band. Unfortunately I missed the majority of Valkyre’s set due to their early start time, but if Mieke could learn to be a little less static onstage their performance would have improved markedly, in spite of opening a festival not being the easiest thing for a new band to do.

When we arrived at the venue a little after 10am, the crowd numbers looked very promising indeed. I was told that the presales for the festival ran into something like 3001, much better than last year’s. It was obvious than the line-up had enticed many people, and a lot of people were justified in their enthusiasm about the show. The MFVF remains the keystone in the female-fronted metal scene with a lot of very decent bands already lined up for next year. Not all the bands will be to everyone’s tastes on each occasion but spanning the majority of a day certainly most tastes are catered for. With bands falling over themselves to play it, and the talk and anticipation that yearly surrounds it, it keeps the femme metal scene refreshed in everyone’s attention.