Had you told me a year ago I would be partying with most of my friends at a three-day metal Summer festival without any restrictions this soon, I would have laughed in your face. Yet here we are. Okay, we had to vaxxed or get tested beforehand but still. This actually happened. People could get their festival crews back together and drag themselves and their gear to a fresh green field, that just lay there waiting to be trampled into brown mush. We would be able to hug, high five, toast, dance, mosh, and enjoy live music once more. There have been a few smaller-scale festivals before this one, but those all had us tied to some form of restriction. Alcatraz is the first big Belgian festival to give us more or less the same freedom as before. And did that feel good. Read on for the full coverage of an awesome second day of pure catharsis.
With our heads still buzzing from one hell of an afterparty the night before, we decided to move our butts over to La Morgue for a breakfast concert with Carneia (****), the second day’s kick-off. As expected, the Belgian post metal foursome, with ties to King Hiss and Miaya, played some really cool explosive grooves that echoed far and wide. Thus the band drew a fairly large crowd despite the early hours, and did a great job at warming everybody up for another hot day of festival shenanigans.
Off to the Swamp we went to check out the German deathcore brutes, Necrotted (**1/2). I say brutes, but the band seemed all too friendly and happy to be back on stage. Singer Fabian, the band’s stronger element, has a growl that was by far the most menacing thing we’d hear in those three days at Alcatraz. He’s also a very entertaining frontman, demanding the crowd’s attention, and getting it to boot. A bit early for violent dancing, but his enthusiasm and a few heavy breakdowns managed to get some punches out of the willing crowd. The show suffered however as the instrumental audio wasn’t always up to standards. I couldn’t hear any rhythm guitar and could barely hear guitar solos towards the end. But the worst by far, was the drum kick. Not only was it not a tight play, but it came out much too loud. There were moments where it put a real damper on the whole thing.
Compared to Carneia, the Mechelen based Psychonaut (****1/2) managed to draw an even bigger crowd to La Morgue at this still quite early hour. Their passage on Studio Brussel’s ‘Zwaarste Lijst’ and the fact that their bass player, Thomas Michiels, now anchors said best-of radio show definitely helps their knowability. However, it must be said that it’s mostly their exquisite song writing and strong live reputation that convinces fans to come out and support this band. People who enter their show unknowingly stick around and leave convinced. In my opinion this is still the most pure and true form of building your fan base. It’s hard to miss this band as they are taking Belgian stages by storm. I’d say enjoy the intimacy of their local shows on smaller stages, because I believe it’s only a matter of time before this trio and their wall of sound are noticed abroad and occupy the higher slots on the festival program. Stake and Amenra, be warned! Psychonaut is ready to take its place right next to you!
Off to check out the Dutch-Belgian collab Spoil Engine (****). We got there a bit later than we’d hoped but that made singer Iris Goessens‘ beckoning growls all the more impressive. This concert kept today’s variation between chill and heavy going, the latter being most definitely applicable here. The five-piece threw all the death groove they had in store at us, making sure to expel any hangover leftovers we may still have been enduring at this time of day. And that without too many sound issues.
It was time to get old school with hardcore unit, Ryker’s (***1/2). Now these dudes hail from Germany, but you could have fooled me because their sound is hardly any different from that of NYHC bands the likes of Sick of it All or Cro-Mags. The crowd now fully awake, The Swamp turned into a battleground. The first crowdsurfers showed up right after a few friendly circle pits, and a few violent dancers who suddenly realized this wasn’t this kind of gig quickly made way for veteran two-steppers. It’d been a while since we’d seen a true hardcore show – well, any show really – with a crowd acting like it, but this was it.
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