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Warning, Hirax, Artillery, Assassin, Valhall, Vesen @ Metal Merchants Festival, Oslo (NOR)

in Saturday, 31 January 2009 at Metal Merchants Festival
by Erika Wallberg

Second Day
VESEN was first band out of the second day. Nothing I've really had heard before but this band is absolutely something I'll check out more. Old School type Thrash_Black with a very modern production is absolutely a turn-on for me and that was what VESEN served. Extreme in all ways and with their new album Desperate Mindless Aggression released the same day as the event they took their chance to show off what they're capable of.

It's always popular to label bands but VALHALL was a hard task to categorize. I wouldn't say Doom really because it was a lot of influences present in their music, a lot of Southern Rock, some touches of Stoner, regular Metal. On the other hand, bands that come to mind while watching this were bands as TROUBLE, SAINT VITUS and COUNT RAVEN and that is Doom. The thing was that everything was normal type of music only played on half speed. Well, speed and VALHALL shouldn't be mentioned in the same sentence so perhaps rather ordinary Rock 'n' Roll but very slow. At first I had quite a hard time to take this in, I felt mostly annoyed and restless but after a while it all settled. Perhaps that can have something to do with the complete contrast between VESEN and VALHALL, all energy VESEN had built up was slowly wrestled down by VALHALL's gloom and it took a while to adapt. But the smoke screen danced above the speakers, the music that trotted on and on creating a really psychedelic atmosphere. Getting into it everything was actually really pleasant.

Just by looking at ASSASSIN it was quite easy to see what this was all about. Not that I didn't know but it's not often it's so obvious just by looking at a band.

Half punk, half metal and that's just what ASSASSIN was. I didn't have them as favorite band on the bill and this show didn't change that. But they absolutely did a strong impression on me, a lot stronger than I expected. Easy going, straight forward music and extremely vital! The power in the sound took away a lot of the punk feeling from the music and the pounding from the drums sent shivers all through my body. ASSASSIN live are absolutely preferable to ASSASSIN on record. Ok, they got a lot of help from the crowd and were the first one who got a real moshpit including all from jumping and strutting around in a circle to shirt-ripping and beer soiling of the floor. It was fun to watch for sure but it's not as much fun to constantly have to stay focused on what's going on on the floor rather than on stage. But it's either that or the surprise tackle of a +100kg sweaty shirtless dude that smacks you straight to the wall. So, by that I missed much of ASSASSIN's stage show but their music was much appreciated from my side anyway.   

What can I say about ARTILLERY this time then that I already haven't written? Actually nothing, ARTILLERY was just the same as on 'Keep It True' and the 'Sweden Rock Cruise'.

They sound great and Soren Nico Adamsen (vocals) took the stage by force, he still is a great frontman and an awesome singer. Also, two new songs were performed Damned Religion and When Death Comes from the coming release. Two very promising samples that continue along regular ARTILLERY paths, if they can keep this up their new album will absolutely fight for the top positions over the year's releases. But apart from that, nothing really happened. The nature of the stage at Kanonhallen though didn't allow much movement for a five piece band so the overall feeling was better than before but that didn't have anything to do with the band. It's a little wrong when a band like this is preferable on record rather than live.

HIRAX really stunned me when they performed at 'Sweden Rock Festival' a couple of years back. I've never been a huge fan of them, I've always fancied the cleaner Thrash rather than the punk-influenced type HIRAX plays. Or should I say played since nowadays HIRAX are absolutely as pure as Thrash can be. And that is absolutely my cup of tea.
And damn, HIRAX can rock. It was intense at 'Sweden Rock' but this was even crazier. The -at least at this time of the night- very small stage offered blood, sweat and tears basically. Perhaps not so much blood but the security had to work really hard to keep the security-fence in place and at the same time keep the crowd off stage. I did the best to wipe that silly smile off my face since in general, reporters should maintain an objective role. Yeah right, screw that. When a band rocks as hard as HIRAX did it's impossible to be still or stop smiling. Today's edition of the band surely is kick ass, the Harrison brothers (Lance - Guitar and Steve - Bass) backs up Katon with such a cool attitude together with Glen Rogers - Guitar and Jorge Iacobellis - Drums that Katon has to work for it to not get run over by his bandmates. Anyone that has seen HIRAX before, knows Katon as a true character who brings a lot of energy to the show but now he's getting a real match in the spotlight. And everything was absolutely great and the band sounded super too. What about the tears? Well, mostly tears of joy I guess because everyone around me looked ridiculously happy.

I guess taking it from one extreme to another is the way of doing it if there's no possibility for a smooth transition. It was a quite bizarre contrast between HIRAX and WARNING I tell you. Going from 100% pure craziness to something very striving and beautiful was a truly huge change. It's pretty amazing that such slow music can be intense.

WARNING held a drive from start to end and that's also a very rare term to use about a Doom band. To me this wasn't the best arrangement because even if I really like WARNING and their records got to me really strong from the first time I listened to them at this time of night I couldn't take it in. Very unfortunate since this was the last chance ever to see them. The best party-time of the evening with WARNING on stage was a quite strange combination. And even if the sound was great and WARNING's selection of songs was outstanding it wasn't perfect since the party mood was still on high after HIRAX. Ok, an hour-long WARNING concert won't include that many songs and frankly, to reset everyone and get a fair chance they should have had more time. A true farewell-gig should probably have been double the time to make WARNING justice. Now the main part was from Watching From A Distance and I think that was a good choice. But even if they served nearly musical perfection WARNING live didn't hit me as hard as they did when I first heard the albums.  
So, all in all I think all bands on the bill did really well. There were no low points what so ever, besides the dysfunctional hotel reservation and having to sleep in the 'TPL Records' bus without any heat instead of the warm hotel but that's another story. It's hard to pick one out of these bands. HIRAX rocked really hard and it only felt like they've begun when they announced their last song. But perhaps MEKONG DELTA's music fits my taste a little more. But the band that made the strongest impression on me these two days was absolutely PAGAN ALTAR.

(photos by 'metal merchant' Erika)






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