Now that the days are getting longer and the sun reigns over Finland, it’s time again to steep ourselves in darkness to balance things out. Steelfest is here again, a highlight in the underground metal scene that brings both fans and bands from all over the world together for 2 days. The line-up is as strong as ever with this year surprisingly many death metal bands for a festival known as a “black metal festival”, the weather promises us a dusty and thirsty weekend and the beer is cold… I hope you’re ready for this.
Sadly, I got too late to the festival grounds to catch the Finnish black metal outfit Disciples Of The Void and of Trollheims Grott I only managed to hear (luckily) one of my favorite tracks, Earth’s Last Stand, of their latest release.
First thing that struck me when I arrived, was the different layout of the area compared to last editions I was at. More seating to have a bite or a couple of drinks, an extra bar to handle the thirsty souls faster to a drink and a bigger merch area with new stands like an old school metal smith and a seller of Norwegian folklore/pagan jewelry and the lot.
Second thing was the upgrades to both stages. Both the indoor and outdoor stage were outfitted with big led screens on both sides, it felt like the structures were bigger and put together for more functionallity, which is a damn good thing for everyone there! Much approved by us!
So first up for me was the Norwegian death metal from Myrkskog on the outdoor stage. A relentless set of old school Satanistic death metal under the scorching sun, how else could you start your weekend? Thunderous drums with blastbeats slapping you around the ears and crushing death metal riffs. These guys have been around for a quarter of a century and despite not having released anything for ages, they are a band that just belongs to a death metal fan’s staple! And it’s not going to be the only one of the weekend, old school death metal fans are in for quite the treat!
Advent Sorrow (***1/2)
Advent Sorrow all the way from down under gathered the first clouds of the day with their depressive style of black metal. The whole band and performance brought forth a rather feverish feeling with the menacing presence of vocalist Rhys King and hyperactive action of bassist Jordan King. The black metal outfit with symphonic touches, had released a brand new full-length only a couple of weeks before this performance. A record I’m going to check out after seeing these guys on stage. And so should you!
Arkhon Infaustus (***1/2)
Next up was the much liked French blackened death metal outfit Arkhon Infaustus on the outdoor stage. Sadly they had a 15 min delay due to some technical difficulties which caused a small blemish on the otherwise always very punctual organisation of the festival. When they finally kicked off their show, we got what we expected to get, some quality old school blackened death from a talented legendary band that has been around for a couple of decades. They might have come across a bit better if they wouldn’t have to play in the blistering sun, but still kicked some ass.
Antimateria was not an unfamiliar sight for those who have attended to SteelChaos the past couple of years. The Finnish black metal outfit stands for quality atmospheric black metal creating a musical representation of the coldness and vastness of the cosmos. The hooded Ahma strode on stage and belted out his mind-bending creations one by one supported by his live band, delivering yet another strong show. Every time when seeing this band, it’s a memorable experience!
On the outdoor stage the Brazilian cult band Evil took over the stage to wage war. All 3 of them hooded with old school ski masks, Warlord, Wargun and Oldwolf unleashed fast thrashy and with times almost punk-infused black metal tracks upon the holy Steelfest grounds. It literally felt like they were there to start a revolution against the modern world and provide the perfect backtrack if we’d decide such endeavors! A pleasure to have experienced this cult outfit.
From Quebec, black metal outfit Monarque brought a certain level of hatred and blasphemy to the indoor stage that I hadn’t seen yet this day. With the freak of nature demonic and maniacal same named vocalist Monarque at the helm, they relentlessly fired aggressive tracks at us. The vocalist was probably one of the most expressive black metal artists I’ve seen to this point, seemingly going from hatred and anger to despair and misery in a snap. Highly impressive band!
Seigneur Voland (**1/2)
How strong and filled with evil energy the earlier performance was, how stagnant the next one was. The French black metal band Seigneur Voland on the outdoor stage played their music in an aptly manner, but nothing more. The outfit has some sort of a cult status and clearly quite some fans were ecstatic that they were performing at Steelfest, but to me it quickly became a bit stale. The often hunched over vocalist Xaphan adequately spit out his filth but brought for the rest a pretty static performance. And with a band backing him that didn’t really seem that much into it, this was an ok, but definitely not a top performance in my eyes.
The black metal project that took over the indoor stage next was a show I had been looking forward to and was shaping up to be very interesting. Local musician V-Khaoz created a symphonic black metal outfit baptized Vargrav, releasing 2 highly appreciated releases in the span of a year, proving that you can go epically symphonic without losing the rawness and evil sound of black metal (for our review of Netherstorm go here and of Reign In Supreme Darkness go here). The question was of course how all of that epicness would translate into the first ever live show.
First off, by creating the perfect setting and atmosphere for such by showing some of the majestic artwork on the screen in the back taking you into a dark fantasy world. Secondly, having 2(!) keyboards on stage to get all the orchestrations played live (so no backing track it seemed, thank the gods for that). And lastly, get some of your highly experienced friends and colleagues of the black metal scene to play with you live. I’m pretty sure I saw Werwolf of Satanic Warmaster on main vocals and some guys from Azaghal of which even the Steelfest Commander himself making his appearance on guitar! The result was of majestic proportions and took the room for 45 min away to an epic world of darkness and evil bombast!
Back outside we got bombarded with music that wasn’t as refined, but definitely didn’t lack in pure raw power and aggression. The Austrian death/black metal outfit Belphegor is well-known for its relentlessness and extremely harsh style of music. Even though the sun was still shining bright, it felt as if the light was sucked away by the darkness that took over the stage. No matter on what stage you put these guys, they make it their own and seemingly portray the demons from their tracks in the flesh. With the often otherworldly looking front man Helmuth leading the pack and pushing the crowd into a frenzy with his demonic presence.
One of the most popular black metal bands of Finland was the last Finnish band of the day and of course the quite legendary Horna was very much up for the task. A bit of a homecoming after a much talked about tour in the States, they fired the one Satanic track after the other at us, talked together with the interesting binding texts by frontman Spellgoth. The creative brains behind the outfit, Shatraug, was still sporting the tongue-in-cheek shirt with the slogan “I love Jesus” and together with the blood splattered rest of the band they played an as solid show as ever. That this pillar of the Finnish black metal scene hasn’t gone soft any bit throughout the years, was proven again when Spellgoth dared a heckler from the crowd to come to him to work out his grievances. Horna, you were a welcome sight back at Steelfest!
Closer of the outdoor stage was of a total different caliber again. Mainstays of the USA death metal scene Immolation put up shop there tonight. What we got was over an hour of the highest quality old school death metal drenched with groove and high octane energy. Especially main music writer and guitarist Robert Vigna threw himself completely on his deftly crafted compositions with every part of his being, including throwing his guitar around. Vocalist and bassist Ross Dolan delivered on top of that one of the more pleasant and consistent vocal performances I’ve seen of a death metal band in a while. Throw on top of that a damn booming sound and seemingly the full use of the light capacities of the stage and they really set the night ablaze!
Absolute last band of the first Steelfest day, was another pioneering band. The Norwegian black metal outfit Mysticum are the forefathers of industrial black metal and they got back together almost 8 years ago after a long hiatus. That this show wouldn’t be your conventional black metal gig, was immediately clear when approaching the completely empty stage except for a row of spotlights both at the back and front of the stage. No drums, no bullshit, just 3 guys with their guitars and a drum computer.
Dr. Best, Prime Evil and Cerastes strode on stage, geared up and kicked off what was a mind-bending experience. The music often sounds as if someone threw techno and black metal together and blended it real well. And it fucking works! The music sounds inhuman and pounding, matching perfectly with the usual coldness of black metal. Adding the revolving spotlights and crazy visuals on the screen in the back, made the show all the more impressive. This was an experience to not forget any time soon… Never Stop the Madness!
For more pictures, go see our photo coverage of day 1 here:
For a report of day 2, hang around and keep an eye out on the site!
If you feel the need for a good soundtrack while you’re reading this, we got you covered: