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European Metal Festival Alliance 2020 Report

SABATON, ORANGE GOBLIN, PRIMORDIAL, MASS HYSTERIA, EVERGREY, KISSIN' DYNAMITE, SPOIL ENGINE, SVART CROWN, ROADKILLSODA, SKYEYE BAND, DEAD LORD, AVATAR, HEIDEVOLK, ANGELUS APATRIDA, VENOM INC, LEGION OF THE DAMNED, GUTALAX, DER WEG EINER FREIHEIT, LÈPOKA, DESERTED FEAR, NYTT LAND, WHITE WALLS, ROTTING CHRIST, BUTCHER BABIES, PARASITE INC., AMENRA, UNLEASH THE ARCHERS, ALIEN WEAPONRY, KAMPFAR, VENOM PRISON, DIRTY SHIRT, EVIL INVADERS, CULT OF FIRE
in Friday, 7 August 2020 at Online
by William Travers

Europe. Is. Silent. As I’m sure we are all aware, these are unprecedented times, life has turned upside down and we are all adjusting to the struggles that are currently surrounding us. With the global economy being hit quite harshly, people are crying out for the reinstatement of live music. Small local venues are on their last legs, bands are finding new and innovative ways to raise funds. But, across Europe, festivals are pulling together to ensure their survival. Now, I do not mean the likes of Download Festival or Wacken Open Air, these are beasts in their own right, with the support of hundreds of thousands of Metalheads, sponsors and in fact some of the very acts that they book.

I am talking about the small independent festivals, the family run, for the fans festivals. Well, when everything went a bit Pete Tong, thirteen festivals from the European circuit came together to fight for their survival and deliver respite to the throngs of hungry fans across the continent.

And so THE EUROPEAN METAL FESTIVAL ALLIANCE was born.
 
Step forward and take a bow:
ALCATRAZ, ARTMANIA, BLOODSTOCK OPEN AIR, BRUTAL ASSAULT, DYNAMO METALFEST, INTO THE GRAVE, LEYENDAS DEL ROCK, METALDAYS, MIDGARTSBLOT, MOTOCULTOR, PARTY.SAN, RESURRECTION FEST, and SUMMER BREEZE!

Collectively the promoters and directors of these festivals have saved the summer for many fans, bands, and most importantly, themselves.

Where normally across the summer we would see thousands of beer-drinking, head-banging, party-mad metalheads descend on their festival(s) of choice, this year we were left in limbo, lost without direction. For many, myself included, the yearly pilgrimage to the festivals is their holiday, their one true chance to let their hair down and be their truest self. And we lost that this year. So, can I get a collective "FUCK COVID"?

But there it was: Our salvation, a festival at home. Now, many people will have been skeptical. Hell, I know I was! But at €6,66 for a weekend pass to the streaming event, there was nothing to lose! And oh boy was I glad that I followed my gut.

Normally, when I step out of my car, the wind blowing my kilt and the sun on my cut-off exposed shoulders. I look to my best friend and brother and say, ‘We’re home’. The hairs on my body stand on end and I get goosebumps all over. Many of us will have missed this awakening on arrival at the festivals this year. But the moment the stream begun I knew that we were about to bear witness to something special, a game changer.

Friday 7th August. Lunchtime. I was still working at home, with the festival set to explode on my monitor, speaker hooked up, and a childish excitement that I simply could not contain. I was counting down to the start of the event like a kid before Christmas. I put in my code to access the stream… ERROR, INVALID CODE. This couldn’t be happening, I checked the event’s Facebook page, it had gone live, there were warnings of scammers using fake websites. Had I lost the game and been scammed?!

Instantly I emailed the support team, and the issue was resolved within 5 minutes. So to FLORI manning the emails that day, you are a fucking rockstar!

I was in, I’d managed to navigate the crowds, found a good spot in front of the main stage and settled on the edge of a mosh pit ready to throw myself in. Although I don’t think the cat sleeping on my sofa would have been too impressed.
 
With the event being as big as it was, it would obviously be important that the correct band was selected to warm the eager crowd up. CULT OF FIRE delivered. Their set was polished and was the perfect introduction to the festival. In fact, the Friday was a resounding success, apart from some minor technical issues during the DIRTY SHIRT set, but these paled in comparison to the enormous fun had by all throughout the day. For the Friday’s stream I would say that my honourable mentions would have to go to:

CULT OF FIRE - for their resounding success at opening the event.

KAMPFAR – The atmosphere surrounding the set, recording at MIDGARTSBLOT I believe, was astounding. They absolutely nailed the performance.

ALIEN WEAPONRY – My brother has ranted and raved at me for years about the Kiwi three-piece band, and this was the first time I had really given the time of, my eyes are opened!

PARASITE INC. – Ruthless riffs, electric energy throughout, and an undeniable tenacity shot these guys to the top of my playlists.

ROTTING CHRIST – this list would be incomplete without the old and bold of the Grecian powerhouse. But their pre-recorded set for the event was divine… No pun intended! They have since made it available on YouTube, something I have been wholly taking advantage of.

So, we moved onto Saturday, and I have to say that it was pleasant not waking up in a greenhouse environment within my tent, having slept a grand total of two hours, with a raging hangover from the shenanigans of the previous night. That being said though, I wouldn’t trade that feeling for anything in the world. Does anyone else get a red flag that I have a drinking problem?….

Again, the event started at midday. Giving everyone ample time to get themselves seated, prepared and a nice level of tipsy as the streams began once more. The honour of opening the second day fell to WHITE WALLS which was delectable, the music was a perfect balance between being intense and easing us into the following bands throughout the day. The event flowed through without any major issues again, bar a slight lag in the audio stream during AVATAR’s set, but I honestly thought it was part of the performance with Johannes throwing his voice… For Saturday I would have to go with the following as my standout performances:

WHITE WALLS – The perfect introduction to the days stream.

LEPOKA – At first, I was confused by the imagery, however the part atmosphere and lively music soon had me dancing around my flat.

DER WEG EINER FREIHEIT – I’ve grown more into the Black Metal genre over the past six months, and I thoroughly enjoyed discovering such a talented band.

GUTALAX – I’m sure it wasn’t the desired effect; however, I found some comic relief in the set…

VENOM INC – The reimagined outfit delivered a storming set, packed with old VENOM favourites as well as some of their newer successes. The use of a green screen was a slight distraction however.

ANGELUS APATRIDA – The Spanish Thrash band delivered a fun, energetic and amusing set from what appeared to be someone’s front room. A special mention to lead singer Guillermo Izquierdo calling for all viewers to get a circle pit going at home.

AVATAR – This was my first exposure to the theatrics and eccentricities of the Swedish band as they streamed a recording of their headline set from ALCATRAZ last year. I joined the stream halfway through after supporting my brother's band FAMYNE on their own stream from INTO THE GRAVE. At first, I was unsure, however, I came back to the set on Monday and watched from start to finish. WHAT. A. SHOW. Safe to say that I am now a convert, or is that a citizen of Avatar Country?..
 
Sunday, the home straight. The inevitable end is in sight and as much as I, and the other festival-goers don’t want this to end. We know that it must. But if it will end, it will go out with a bang! Opening the day, we had DEAD LORD and their glorious Old School Hard Rock. They would be a welcome sight for any hungover, suffering individual on a Sunday morning, as we gently ease ourselves into the day with silly antics, lots of laughs, smiles and of course cries for us to fund their Champagne drinking. The day rolled through with no band missing a beat and some of the best discoveries for myself of the weekend.

DEAD LORD – Fun, enjoyable music that you simply wanted to dance and move around to. Please donate the cost of a record to help this band continue drinking champagne.
SKYEYE – Stop. Make sure that you read this and read it very very very carefully. Read it five times if needed. This was my stand-out performance of the weekend. The Slovenian group seems relatively unknown but with delicious riffs and a powerful lead singer that reminds us of Bruce Dickinson. I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for these guys. I will be them watching very, very closely!

SPOIL ENGINE – This band produced their own brand of hard, aggressive and downright badass music, turning heads and catching the attention of all those tuned in.

KISSIN DYNAMITE – Who doesn’t love a bit of cheese? Well, when that Old School 80’s Stadium Rock cheese is blasting out tune after tune, I think we all love it. This is some great easy and enjoyable listening.

PRIMORDIAL – Again, with my new exposure and development within the Black Metal genre, this was a welcome and enjoyable find.

ORANGE GOBLIN – As always, reliable and sturdy like a lighthouse in a storm. The British Hard Rock outfit delivered a stereotypically solid and powerful performance.

SABATON – They are like marmite. You either love them or hate them. For me, I love them. And, for me, the chance to relive their headline set from BLOODSTOCK last year was something special.

But the main day streams weren’t all that the tickets granted you access to. There was bonus sets from other bands and artists. DEE SNIDER, BATTLE BEAST, and BURY TOMORROW were some of the extra sets that were available to watch on demand. WEDNESDAY 13, LACUNA COIL, and PARKWAY DRIVE all recorded interviews that were available long after the event ended… In fact, some say they’re still lurking inside the festival grounds to this very day. Of course, there were the obligatory adverts between sets, and I think that all who enjoyed the weekend have a new and unrivaled appreciation for the letters E, M and P. Or as they were repronounced throughout. EEEEEEEEMMMMMMMPEEEEEEEEE

Now, what made this event so special was the standard of recording, and the fact that many of the bands recorded sets specifically for the event. Now when you think of a band performing a full set, lighting, full rig etc in an empty hall it’s a bit of a special achievement and testament to each band’s love of their craft that they could portray their passion through the stream and touch so many people. Each day's stream stayed online for 48 hours after its airing to allow people to pick and choose which sets they wanted to watch again. For myself, I rewatched AVATAR, DEAD LORD, SKYEYE (probably about 10 times!!) and KISSIN DYNAMITE. This also allowed us to soften the blow of the end of the festival, as we could relive our favourite parts. It was also a very welcome fact that I did not have to collapse all my camping gear and lug it back to the car, don’t you think it always seems to be twice the distance as when you get there?!
 
Within the EUROPEAN METAL FESTIVAL ALLIANCE community there was a live chat, moderated by festival directors and actually hosted by all the bands involved at various points so that they could talk to their fans. Now that is something special! Also, many of us are keeping in touch and continuing this spirit of collectiveness and defiance to the virus through the event's Facebook Group.

I took to the group to ask people for what they found special about the event. You will be able to see these quotes below:

Steve Evans said ’One thing I love about festivals is the atmosphere – sharing beers with like-minded people and enjoying live music together. There were moments, chatting in the forum or on social media, when the EUROPEAN METAL FESTIVAL ALLIANCE managed to do that for me, and it made for a brilliant weekend. The band sets were all outstanding, and I discovered a lot of new bands’

Steve is so right. The community came together, making the most of the inter-connectivity available to us with social media and the integrated chat function for the event. It created as real of a festival feel as could be mustered in such austere conditions. In fact, I was seeing various pictures of people setting their own mini-festivals at home, camping in their gardens, and setting their televisions up as the main stage. It was heart warming to see. A personal favourite was SPUDSTOCK, I am sure that I saw it somewhere… However, now I am doubting myself!
Morgan Lee came in with ‘In all honesty the chat was amazing and the little mistakes like Intro and Slaughtering The Pigs made the event more fun and memorable for a lot of people. People found out about a lot of new bands and got to support a festival of their choosing. Having exclusive footage and talking to the bands in chat was probably my favourite part though as I got an insight to the performance. Overall, just an amazing weekend. Thanks to everyone being a part of it.

Again, Morgan has hit the nail on the head, there was so much available for such a comparatively low cost, it was almost daylight robbery. You were supporting a festival of your choosing, for myself that comes in the form of BLOODSTOCK, but I felt as though I was supporting all the others in my own way. My eyes were opened to the options of adding others to my yearly migration and this is something that I need to investigate, especially METAL DAYS, the scenery surrounding the festival just seems utterly amazing!

Philippe Dewindt added ‘The reason why I started going to festivals is the atmosphere and the fact you go to them to see certain bands and at the end you have discovered a ton of new bands you also like.

This proved to be so true to myself. I was unfamiliar with maybe 75% of the bands performing at the event, but now I have come away with an entirely new playlist with all of them in, and all the new bands that I will go to see once this pandemic is over
But what comes next? I am an advocate for an annual winter edition of the event, showcasing lesser known bands to help with their own publicity and to drum up some extra funds for the relevant festivals. I understand the difficulties of this, I know it’s a pipe dream, but I sincerely hope to see this happen one day.

If we take a minute to stop and think about what’s happened this year. All the shit we, as a global population, have had to endure. There has been a shining beacon that eased the pressures of thousands. And that was THE EUROPEAN METAL FESTIVAL ALLIANCE.

All those involved, please stand up, be counted, and take a fucking bow. From the absolute bottom of my heart and with all the sincerity I can muster: Thank you for all your dedication, passion and hard work! You are all the stars of the Heavy Metal community in these trying times. And we will never forget what you collectively did for us during these times.

And all together now, once more for good luck:

"FUCK COVID!"


 

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Edited 29 September 2020
 

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