On the 11th of October the seventh edition of Hardrockfest Avelgem took place. The festival has two dates, Friday the 11th which featured some of the most profound black metal bands that are active at this moment, on Saturday there were mostly heavy metal and tribute bands. We visited the festival on Friday and also made a photo coverage which you can find here.
We arrived a little after 18:00 hours and the first band, Inferno (***) was already playing which meant that the organisation was right on schedule. Although the set was very heavy and straight forward it was weird to see the occult band performing while daylight was still entering the venue. This made a big contrast with the diabolical and evil atmosphere that was created on stage with the help of some incense and a lot of stage props such as candles. The band only played for a little over 30 minutes but the set was delivered very properly and professional. At first the band Dragged Into Sunlight was programmed to open the evening since both the bands were together on tour with the main act Mayhem. Only two weeks prior to the festival itself it was announced that this switch would take place, some fans might have been disappointed but Inferno delivered well and convinced everyone who was present.
The second band to perform was the Belgian Lemuria (***), a lot of people remember them from over a decade ago when they gained popularity very soon and quick with their folk themed metal. The heydays of folk metal are somewhat over and also Lemuria decided that it was time for something new and a more adult type of music. Nowadays the band plays symphonic black metal which makes it somewhat more accessible for everyone to get into. Based on the reactions of the crowd this formula actually works. The crowd went loose and there were a lot of heads being banged all around. Frontman Wesly is also a perfect entertainer and crowdpleaser, and managed to hold everyone’s attention throughout the set. No one really noticed that he was recovering from some very bad injuries to the ribs some weeks prior. It has become a habit that at the end of the set there is still one folk songs played called Gerstenat, a Dutch song about partying and drinking medieval style. People always seem to get excited when they here the humpapa rhythm.
After a break of about 30 minutes the third band stepped foot on the stage. The opportunity was granted to the Dutch symphonic black metal band Carach Angren (**). Guessing by the amount of band shirts worn by the crowd a big part of the audience was here especially for them. Even though they had a big fan base present this was the least good show of the evening, the singer tried to pull the crowd in but wasn’t very successful in achieving this. The show was quite static even though the vocalist ran to every corner of the stage and used a lot of theatrics, also putting on a skull mask at a given point. In front of the stage there were some people headbanging and raising their fists in the air but it was clear that the more old school black metal fans were having enough of the symphonic styled music and were just waiting for the main acts to start. It was also painfully clear that a big part of the attendees were standing outside having a drink and totally ignoring the show inside.
The runner-up this evening was the Belgian black metal pride Enthroned (***) who has been active ever since the early nineties. It was clear that they still have a very big fan base in Belgium since the crowd was immediately drawn into the set and was behaving the way Carach Angren tried so hard to achieve. Those who were hoping for some of their more classic songs such as Evil church were left with a hungry feeling since the set contained mostly recent material, or at least songs that were composed after Sabathan left the band in 2006. Some may believe that they are not capable of bringing the same rawness and grimness that they delivered in the former days but as we could witness this evening is that the band just reinvented itself and came up with a new version of their former style. They may have abandoned their more thrashy and death metal influences but this gives rise to a modern yet still very orthodox black metal sound. The band certainly left a very good impression.
As stated before, the closing act was none other than the Norwegian masters of darkness, (the true) Mayhem(****). Their performance in Avelgem was one of the last on their tour but they showed no sign of fatigue or routine. This tour celebrates the 33rd birthday of the band and it is very clear that most of the audience was present to witness this particular show even though a big portion of it is even younger than the band itself. Nevertheless the band amazed everyone with the intensity and enthusiasm with which they played. Twenty-three years after its release the album The Mysteriies dom Sathanas was played from front to end. There has been much discussion about the newer albums and the line-up switches over the last decade but everyone agrees about their debut. The audience was clearly infatuated when they heard the old classics brought live by 3 of the 5 members who originally participated in the recordings. The gimmicks such as corpse paint and medieval weaponry have been abandoned in the recent years but for the occasion the band used traditional ecclesiastical robes and gowns just to remind everyone that the band is still as blasphemous and evil as when they first released a single note onto an unsuspecting world.
With all of this we can conclude that this edition of the fest clearly was successful and we can only hope to see another great line-up like this again next year!