In 2011, Wave Gotik Treffen celebrated its 20th anniversary and I doubt you can name too many festivals which have existed for such a long time, becoming bigger and bigger each year. Of course, I try to be there every time possible but this year was really special – it was 20 years of being the main dark-scene festival in the world and still counting!
I think WGT’s masterminds understood the anniversary’s significance quite well and tried not only to celebrate this great date, but also to re-capture the first ever WGT’s atmosphere. To accomplish this mission, a special pre-festival show was announced with all the bands who’ve originally played at the very first WGT 20 years ago: Das Ich, Goethes Erben (replaced by Oswald Henke’s band playing their cover songs), Sweet William, and more. An anniversary 5-day-long Wave Gotik Treffen sounded extremely promising and it was no surprise this year’s WGT broke all the attendance records. The whole festival was pure pleasure and fun, everything was perfectly organized and supported, the Dark Market and the Barbarian Village were generous with goods, food and drinks, the audience was beautiful, the guards were appropriate, and the weather was simply very gentle. Is there anything else to ask for?
This concert took place on the main stage in Agra Halle. As I heard later there was also a cool anniversary gig in Moritzbastei club (with Torben Wendt and other well-known folks), but it was already too late. It wasn’t stated in the official program and I think the information about that gig was spread only on the internet, so it was not a big surprise that I missed it.
Das Ich was the first band to hit the stage, but the message displayed on the giant screen above the drums cooled the audience’s excitement and made many people distressed: the singer Stefan Ackermann was very ill and couldn’t be a part of the performance. His band colleagues visited him in the hospital and he was very sad he was going to miss the show, but he definitely wanted the band to play. It led Das Ich to a simple solution: to perform a special show with guest singers, who were beautiful Vic Anselmo and Myk Jung of The Fair Sex. It’s safe to say they did a great job making the old Das Ich anthems sound fresh and powerful and I hope all this energy went right to Stefan Ackermann to help him recover as fast as possible.
The second band was Gothic-rock veterans Sweet William presenting a slightly psychedelic and calm old-school rock show. The band was born in the mid-80s, released their latest album just about a year ago, and it looked like there were a lot of fans who enjoyed the performance.
The extremely energetic show of Oswald Henke‘s solo-project performing the old Goethes Erben stuff was a real highlight of the evening! Herr Henke looked very inspired and ran across the stage like a comet, changing stage cloths and playing with various things like a crown he extracted from an old-looking chest standing on the stage. The fans got everything they came for, all the widely loved tracks from “Nichts bleibt wie es war” to “Das schwarze Wesen.”
Age of Heaven is a local band from Leipzig and it gave them a little bonus as the audience just loved them. Playing a solid Gothic-rock set that slightly reminds one of Fields of the Nephilim, they delivered a great show. The music varied from classic old-Goth to a melancholic sound, with some very hard-sounding kind of industrial-metal songs in between. All-in-all, it was a great performance, but I was already kind of overdosed with events for the opening day and left right after this gig – 4 days of WGT XX were to follow after that!
It was a perfect beginning of the first WGT day – the legendary Sarah Jezebel Deva started on the new stage of Halle 15 (which has been never used for WGT before), and I must say, it was much better than the old Kohlrabizirkus hall, which has incidentally closed down. However, it took me about 20 extra minutes to find the venue. Usually you can find the right direction very easily – just look for a long line of people in black clothes going somewhere and you can follow them to your destination. This time I wasn’t so lucky, as it was very early and no one was there to be seen. When I finally found Halle 15, I really wasn’t surprised to see only about 50-60 people there. After a small symphonic intro, Sarah and her band appeared on the stage right on time. I’m sorry to say this, but it seemed like such an epic start was useless. The transparent roof let too much daylight through, so the band couldn’t use the stage lights and effects, and the lack of audience probably made Sarah upset, because she looked kind of frustrated. Her band members didn’t share her frustration though and were very active doing a pure rock show. Starting from a fresh “No Paragons of Virtue,” the band went right to “I’m Calling.” The following program consisted of a solid mix of Sarah’s solo stuff and the songs from Angtoria‘s album, God Has a Plan for Us All. It looked like Sarah found her second wind for the final couple of songs, and I must honestly say I haven’t heard such a strong voice for a very long time, it was just unbelievable!
A black metal band from Taiwan! This line alone sounds interesting enough to stay for this band! Chthonic plays a very brutal kind of melodic black metal using it together with some ethnic Taiwanese instruments. The guys are very popular all over the country and even banned in some counties for supporting the Democratic Progressive Party. Fortunately, they just started to go out to see the world and will even support Arch Enemy on their world tour this autumn/winter. When the musicians appeared on the stage, it became clear the Taiwanese black-metallers also use make-up, but not corpse paint like European black bands do; the keyboard player wore a ninja mask. The band represented an uncompromising, storming, brain-crashing metal tornado with fast guitars, epic keyboards, and thunder-like bass supported by screaming vocals. The general impression was as good as you probably could get watching young and smoking-hot Cradle of Filth! The singer, Freddy, surely knows what the word “frontman” means – he was as emotional and eye-catching as a real rock hero should be. We also can’t skip the beautiful bass-player, Doris, if we’re speaking about eye-catchers – this metal Valkyrie kept all the male attention in the hall for the entire show. I think everybody waited to hear some traditional Taiwanese instruments Chthonic are famous for, but that happened only once; the rest was played by the keyboards player, CJ Kao. Unfortunately, the band’s set was over about 15 minuted earlier than scheduled, but they promised to visit Europe again very soon and now we already know they were going to keep their word.
Between the bands I came to the Clara-Zetkin-Park to catch the beginning of the annual Victorian Picnic. It’s pretty easy to get its meaning – hundreds of the most beautiful Gothic people gather on a big lawn and have a huge picnic attracting more photographers you can imagine! You’ll never meet so many well-dressed Goths in one place as you will during this picnic, so I just couldn’t miss that. Unfortunately, I only had about 40 minutes because I didn’t want to miss Umbra et Imago in Agra Halle, but I still managed to take a lot of nice pictures and meet some really magnificent people. Hope to see you there again in 2012!
I’ve loved Umbra et Imago for years and that’s why I hurried right to Agra Halle to be at their short gig on time. This was really a strange idea, because Mozart & Co played almost a 1-hour show at WGT in 2010 and had quite a lot of success. This time they were listed in the schedule in the same hall, but with just a 30-minute performance. Why was it so important to play here again the next year with a shorter set? Probably because this year the band had the same anniversary as WGT – 20 years! Unfortunately, there was no usual Umbra et Imago stage set and also no erotic show that the band is so famous for, so the gorgeous Madeleine Le Roy was only a singer that evening. Mozart appeared on the stage in some kind of frock-coat and a cocked hat on his head. He was in his usual best mood and his voice sounded very convincing. Today’s Umbra et Imago is a lot more into the music and less into the show. Or should I say Mozart is a big show himself? At some point a violin player came to the stage and Mozart said she was “borrowed” from ASP. The only disappointing thing that happened was when Mozart decided to make one of his classic speeches and started to trash Unheilig and the band’s effort to reach popularity as a mainstream band. The joke’s too old, enough said. All-in-all the show was fine and Umbra et Imago performed some really old stuff only die-hard fans know about and also some really new songs like “Davon geht die Welt nicht unter.” The erotic show was missed though.
Diorama was highly anticipated and I wasn’t very surprised when I saw the Werk II club 100% crowded. It’s amazing how Torben Wendt’s long-term collaboration with Diary of Dreams influenced his own band’s career, because there were a lot of people in DoD T-shirts in the audience. The stage was decorated with two metal cubes, right according to the last album’s cover style, and the drummer, Marquess, and the keyboardist, Felix, stood inside them. Sash, as always, made some sorcery with his guitar and Torben… you should see him live if you want to get the right impression! He’s the man of a thousand facial expressions per minute. Very mobile, very impulsive, emotional, and really knows how to get the fans over to the wild side. Between the songs, Torben said that Marquess’ father died 2 days ago and he was still capable to play here. The fans responded with some loud applause. Such tracks as “Why,” “Home to Millions,” “Erase Me,” and “Child of Entertainment” were played and I think Diorama proved once more it was one of the best live bands of the German dark scene. Unbelievably great show!
I was never an Anathema fan. I don’t listen to such music in my everyday life and when I heard they released their last album about a year ago I couldn’t care less, but I just couldn’t miss a chance to see such a legend, so I made this performance my last stop on the first day of WGT. Halle 15 was full and I could hardly make my way to the photopit. I was hoping the band would play something old from those blessed times when they played doom, but it looked like Vincent Cavanagh and company decided to forget about the past and live for today. The first four songs they played that evening were actually the first four tracks from their album, We’re Here Because We’re Here: “Thin Air,” “Summernight Horizon,” “Dreaming Light,” and “Everything.” All-in-all, the whole setlist consisted of the songs from We’re Here…, Hindsight (2009), and A Natural Disaster (2003). It was as though there was another Anathema in the 90s and now it’s dead and gone. Musically they sounded pretty impressive – Vincent’s singing was emotionally beyond any predicted limits and sometimes it looked like he was going to cry. As I said, I’m not a progressive rock fan, but I saw hundreds of people in the first rows literally dreaming away as they listened to Anathema’s set. It was like some kind of a hypnosis or trance. The band ended the set promising to come back again and stating that the audience at WGT was the best-looking one they’ve ever played for.
What’s good at WGT is that you must never wake up at 08:00 to be on time for some band. The performances usually start after 14:00 and you have a lot of time to sleep well, then to hunt for some cool-looking people in the city or near the main festival’s stage of Agra Halle and take pictures, or you can simply relax in the Barbarian Village, have some nice food and beer, listen to folk bands, and meet your friends or something. At my first couple of WGTs I tried to catch as much of the experience as possible – I ran from stage to stage, took billions of pictures, and actually skipped a lot of the fun with such an attitude. Now I started my second day in the Barbarian Village, the most relaxed and pleasant place in this part of the world – just to find the right mood and not to dive into the festival’s groove all at once.
The first of my music-related aims for this day was the signing session of a person I really admire: Monica Richards. She’s mainly known as the lead singer of the American Goth-legends, Faith and the Muse, but this time she was at WGT as a solo artist and had a signing session in Cinestar, so I knew from the very beginning I must be there. I actually shot Faith and the Muse at the previous WGT, so I printed one of my pictures from that performance to get it signed and didn’t forget to bring another copy for Monica. She and her musicians appeared right on time and were totally sweet to all the people who came to see them. Monica was very friendly, she signed my picture, thanked me for her copy, and looked very happy to be there. There were just about fifteen fans in the Cinestar lobby and it felt not quite right for me to see this, because Cinema Strange had a signing session before Monica Richards and they had about 300 fans in line… I hope Monica wasn’t very sad about this, because I for one, and hopefully all other people there, had a great time!
A well-known Norwegian Viking-metal band, Helheim, gave a perfect and highly energetic start to this day in Halle 15. The band has existed since 1992 and is very well-respected in certain circles. Their recent album, Heiðindómr ok mótgangr, was just released and this show was a sweet chance for Helheim to support it and remind the German fans who was the boss. The gig was pretty impressive; all four members wore chainmail armour and looked like they just came from the Lord of the Rings movie. They were so brutal, heavy, and courageous, that you just couldn’t help yourself imaging them with the swords instead of guitars. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you anything about the setlist, but if you’re into Viking-metal, you should check them out – they totally worth your attention.
Dornenreich is a very special band that can’t be described as black metal or folk metal or any other metal – this is just Dornenreich, a band with its own nature. Back in 1996, they played pretty obvious somewhat epic black metal, but now it’s rather ambient with folk elements and sometimes some really heavy guitar riffs. There were just two guys on the stage – the acoustic/electric guitar player and singer, Eviga, and Inve, who plays violin. If you think two men are not enough to play something really magnificent and bombastic, you’re dead wrong! It’s amazing how Eviga and Inve thrill the audience. Playing about 50% of the songs unplugged, they usually can easily reach the emotional top and that is extremely hard even for the bands with large line-ups and some eccentric show. The performance was split into a quick 100% acoustic set with “Freitanz” and “Meer” (as usual Eviga also used some kind of a tambourine fastened on his leg) and then went right to much heavier stuff when Eviga changed his acoustic to an electric guitar. Unfortunately, this was the turning point of the show because the sound turned really bad. I don’t know who mixed this performance, but all I could hear was the violin and some grating sound… oh yes, it was the guitar. I couldn’t recognize it at first, my bad. Don’t get me wrong, the band was awesome and they really tried to play a terrific concert. Too bad some deaf guy was at the control desk. The setlist, however, was quite nice: there were all the well-known songs like “Jagd” and “Der Hexe nächtlich’ Ritt,” and also two tracks from the new album, Flammentriebe: “Flammenmensch” and “Erst Deine Träne löscht den Brand.” It could have been the best show of the day if there hadn’t been such awful sound quality.
I’ve seen Lake of Tears twice before, both times at WGT and both times they played before Tiamat! Is that a coincidence or what? Anyway, this time Lake of Tears and Tiamat played one after another on the same stage again, that’s what I call consistency. The former just released a new album, Illwill, and this show was a part of the actual tour. I must confess I’m not a fan; I do like “Forever Autumn” and some selected songs from other releases, but I’ve always thought LoT is slightly boring live. They always provided a standard-level metal performance without something that could really excite me, but this time I think was the best show I’ve ever seen from this band. Daniel Brennare sang really well and the guitar player, Magnus Sahlgren, was clearly in some kind of a rock-star mood and looked and played fantastic. The band played thirteen songs in total and five of them were taken from the new album. The audience took them with great enthusiasm, especially “U.N.S.A.N.E.” and “House of the Setting Sun”. The old fans were also not forgotten and tracks like “Raven Land,” “So Fell Autumn Rain,” and even “Demon You/Lily Anne” (my all-time favorite!) were also in the setlist. In general, it was a cool show and I can say Lake of Tears has never been better.
Tiamat is a frequent guest at WGT; the band plays here every two years as a headliner and fills the halls every time? Johan Edlund and co. hadn’t released anything new for about 3 years, but who cares? It’s TIAMAT! “Fireflower” was the first song of the set and… then the second guitarist’s amplifier broke down. This made the whole band wait about 5 minutes, but as soon as the amp was fixed the rest of the show went smoothly. Everybody’s favorites like “Cain” and “Brighter than Sun” were played and you could clearly see how much Johan enjoyed the crowd’s reaction. They played a more love-metal-oriented song, “Vote for Love,” and then turned to some more serious stuff like “Until the Hellhounds Sleep Again,” “The Ar” (from the cult album, Wildhoney), and “Cold Seed.” For the encores, Tiamat saved some pure diamonds like “Sleeping Beauty” (with the guest growling by some guy I don’t know) and the unbelievable anthem, “Gaia.” It was a perfect set from one of the most noticeable bands of the dark scene and a perfect end of the festival day.
It was really nice to start the day in Heidnisches Dorf (the Barbarian village), as the atmosphere was relaxed and joyful; people had just woken up and tried to open their eyes while having a light breakfast. They didn’t do it in silence, I must say – there were three or four little stages and five to six bands played there every day, sometimes twice a day! The same place was used for the barbarian fights and fire shows which I unfortunately missed… Well what can I say, WGT is a festival where you just can’t catch everything going on because you simply cannot be in ten places at the same time. Sometimes the choice is unbelievably hard, but you learn to make it faster and easier with time. By your third or fourth WGT, you become a kind of a quick-choice-making-expert! Be quick or die in doubts. Returning back to the Barbarian village – on that day I caught some of the bands who played there, like the cheery Vroudenspil and also The Moon and the Nightspirit and Eviamara, both very lyrical, atmospheric, and beautiful. The happy folk melodies changed into some serious medieval music and vice versa and I’ve seen some people who spent the whole day there – they dance and then just lie on the grass listening to the music and then burst into dance again with some simpler folk stuff. Needless to say, it’s also a paradise for the children!
I’d never heard of Waves Under Water before, but a friend of mine sent me a link to their song “Still Here” on YouTube and I found it excellent, so I decided to skip some morning bands to see this one instead. This is a dark wave band from Sweden and to me their music is a fresh breath of air for the modern dark scene. So many bands try to write their music in approximately the same style, but don’t get even 10% of the potential Waves Under Water have. You can’t call Angelica Segerbäck’s voice strong, but it’s exactly right and very sensual. Add really good melodies and some cool steampunk aesthetics and you’ll understand what this band is all about. Waves Under Water already have two albums and the last one, All of Your Light, was released in 2011. Halle 15 was halfway full and Waves Under Water enjoyed a slightly bigger crowd than any other opening band on the previous days. Guitarist Johan Svärdshammar and keyboardist Ursula Ewrelius stood on the big platforms on stage with the stylized sea waves on them. Between them you could see a lady with a barrel organ who played the intro and I’m not really sure if it was a normal working instrument and not just a cool steam-punk accessory.
After a short intro, Angelica Segerbäck appeared on the stage and started “Sinking Deep.” The setlist consisted of a lot of songs from the last album and a couple of tracks from the first release, Serpents and the Tree, and everything would be very nice if there were no technical and probably personal problems. All the musicians looked slightly scared and not confident enough and it became worse when some sound problems appeared after the second song. Johan’s guitar didn’t want to sound proper and it caused some terrible squeals. Well, let’s blame it on the equipment. Apart from that, the gig was pretty impressive and I can really recommend you buy their studio albums, because they are simply beautiful.
Centraltheater was a completely new venue for me as I’d never been there before, but this time I had a good reason to come there – Trobar de Morte, a Spanish medieval/neo-folk band that I liked so much at WGT 2 years ago. All I remembered was an outstanding voice in Lady Morte and I was eager to hear it again. Centraltheater appeared to be a very conservative place, but the guards and employees were very friendly with such an unusual-looking crowd of Goths. All the performances were held in a small and refined hall with a quite huge stage, probably suitable for an average choir. Trobar de Morte had already started when I came and I could see the whole stage set at once. It was rather like a chamber performance because the audience sat quietly in comfortable chairs and clapped between the songs only. Lady Morte was there in the front singing brilliantly as always, and occasionally playing the flute. There were also Marta, who played violin and took all the solos; Fernando with an acoustic guitar; Jose Luis Frías on various wind instruments; and Armand sitting at the percussion. It was a shame I couldn’t stay longer – I just heard a couple of songs, took some shots, and ran to the Moritzbastei club where I hoped to catch an electro-miracle from Finland’s Beati Mortui.
Moritzbastei was always a cult place for those who love various electronic types, because at WGT all the interesting new or not widely known electronic bands play usually there. Sadly, in Moritzbastei I have the same problem every year – almost no light. Sometimes you can barely see a band and of course there’s absolutely no chance for the photographers to get a single decent shot. Anyway, somebody told me I’d be a fool not to see Beati Mortu on that day and you know I hate to be a fool, so I moved my body to the club. As I said, Beati Mortu is an electro/industrial band from Helsinki, founded back in 2005. As of today they have two albums, the last of which is Let the Funeral Begin, released in 2010 to immediate positive responses from all of Europe. In 2008 they already played at WGT, so this gig was their second one in Leipzig. The audience met them with a storm of applause. The setlist consisted mainly of the songs from the actual release. The singer, Maria, was dressed in a long black coat, had a top hat on, and had a very dark and atmospheric look. I’m afraid it was hard to fully enjoy the gig because the stage wasn’t illuminated and the drummer, Sami, was the only band member visible in the dark. I don’t think it was a problem for the fans, but when you see the band for the very first time you probably want to actually see them. Well, no luck this time, but the music was great.
The British post-punk/new-wave heroes Killing Joke were one of the headliners at Agra Halle that day and that was well-deserved, because the band isn’t just a living and breathing legend of this scene, but also an active one – they just released a new album in 2011 called Absolute Dissent. It was not a surprise that the hall was full and the crowd was exploding with impatience, so when Killing Joke finally hit the stage, it sounded like a bomb exploded. The guys looked fantastic and you couldn’t tell that they’re actually quite old, because there are not so many young bands sounding and making a show like this out there. Jaz Coleman wore camouflage coveralls, had some red and black make-up on his face, and sometimes I had some sort of déjà vu, because he really looked like an Alice Cooper clone from the 80s! The show was a real “best of” and I think everybody got what they came for, because Killing Joke played it all: starting from the old stuff like “Love Like Blood” or “The Wait” and finishing with the recent tracks like “This World Hell,” “Ghosts of Ladbroke Grove,” and “The Great Cull.” I was not really a fan, but I must say the show was spectacular and I didn’t hear any other opinions.
Fields of Nephilim was the band I was really looking forward to see and hear, because I’ve never seen them live before and I was told a million times they were great. They band was formed unbelievably in 1983, fell to pieces in 1991, and then re-started their career in 2005 to record one single album, Mourning Sun, followed by playing a show or two here and there, usually at some really big festivals like M’era Luna, Tuska, and yes, WGT. They’re considered to be one of the biggest bands to inspire Gothic music in its every aspect and have an interesting image of the heroes from some kind of a steampunk Western movie. Anyway, the intrigue was huge and Agra Halle was packed to 101% capacity. In the beginning there was a long instrumental composition, “Shroud,” and all the musicians were there on the stage in darkness and smoke except for the singer, Carl McCoy. Then he suddenly appeared in the front to start “Straight to the Light.” Many people said the sound was awful and unfortunately I must agree with them – the sound was very indistinct and I could hardly hear the melody behind all the noise. I don’t think the band was to blame and I hoped the engineers could fix the problem before the concert’s end, because I was extremely tired and just couldn’t survive through one more hour of it. Fields of Nephilim looked and sounded very professional and solid and I really wanted to check them out, but it looked like this was not the best moment to have such an experience. I hope I’ll see them around next time.
The last day of any festival is always the hardest one – your legs are destroyed, your eyes aren’t ready to open till 12:00, and your willpower cries that it is ready to give in. To my relief, there were not too many destinations in my plan for that day and all the bands I was interested in were playing in Agra Halle, with a unique Misfits show in Werk II club as a nice ending. So I started my day in the Barbarian village again to find the right mood and to have a shot of my favorite stimulant – a glass of Teufelsbier (can be translated to “Devil’s beer,” which is true). I also had a brief chance to check a couple of bands playing there – the quite well-known Wolfenmond and a one with a funny name, Los Dilettantos. Both were very good but I needed to move to be on time for the first act.
The young Spanish band, Northland, plays on the crossroads of folk and death and that’s very unusual for a band from Spain. Viking stuff could be easily expected from a band from Germany, Norway, or Sweden, but it looks like Spain also has something to say about that. Northland was founded in 2004 and got its first contract in 2009 to release their first album in 2010. This self-titled CD got some very positive feedback in Europe and it led the guys to their first ever European tour (partly as a support act for Turisas) and also to their WGT gig. It’s very easy to express an opinion about Northland’s live performance – it’s loud, funny, very melodic, and it has the very nice and appealing attitude of a metal party. The band’s music is really very optimistic and you just can’t question its professionalism. If you ask me, I’d say it’s influenced by Children of Bodom and bands like Ensiferum. The vocalist, Pau Murillo, can not only scream but also sing in a clear voice and it surely puts some diversity in the band’s material. What is also worth mentioning is the Northland’s charisma – all those people in the hall saw the band for the very first time in their life, but they clapped and sang starting from the very first song! That was a luxury even some well-known bands can’t reach – the audience reacted like there were old friends on the stage! Even when one of the guitars refused to work, the fans’ support got even stronger. The setlist consisted of the tracks from the first album and even one of the new songs called “Beer,” something they prepared for their next album. It was a great gig overall and Northland can be proud of themselves – Spain can really rock!
When I asked some of my friends what Coppelius is like and what do they play, a vague mumbling was the answer. The most articulate response was, “They are… interesting.” Not a bad sign for someone who loves to be surprised. What’s even more interesting is the fact that the band practically hides any information about itself like a top secret. All the musicians have characters they play on stage and their official website does not reveal any real information but just to present the band’s image. You can read something about their stage personas and the albums though. Coppelius was born in 2003 but lived as an exclusively live band for several years (with some EPs as an exception) until they finally released their first album, Time-Zeit, in 2007. The last album, Zinnober, was released in 2010 and the band’s recent setlist usually consisted mainly of the songs from it. Well let’s get to the show. Coppelius’ concert was staged as a XIX century home performance. You could see five slightly manic gentlemen gathered in a music room to play violins and cellos together. The sixth member of the group – a butler – ran here and there trying to take care of the gentlemen’s clothes, cleaned the room, asked the audience to be quiet or applaud, makes some announcements, and of course, sings! Combined with the very “mentally unstable” kind of music Coppelius plays, the whole gig turned into a theatrical and highly entertaining muddle! All the musicians took part in the action – they all sing, dance, and go crazy, and this performance was exactly what you would expect at its best. Too bad the festival time was limited and Coppelius had just eight songs to play – the audience was actually screaming for more. What I’m trying to say is that I strongly advice you just not to miss a chance to see the band live if you have one. It’s worth your time.
I didn’t know Crimfall before that day, so my impressions were completely fresh. The band appeared in red smoke dressed in furs and leather and from the first sight you could tell it was going to be pagan metal. In reality, Crimfall appeared to be a little more than that, mainly due to some heavy orchestration. They already have two full-length albums, As the Path Unfolds… and The Writ of Sword, and do have a lot to show live, though the stable line-up was found already after the first album was recorded. As I said, Crimfall’s music can be described as epic pagan metal with a lot of orchestral work and two lead singers – the male growler Mikko and Helena, who has a beautiful and very strong clean voice. If I have to label them, I’d say their Finnish colleagues, Battlelore, sound quite similar (it’s not like they’re a somebody’s copy, but now you should have a general idea). The start was slightly corrupted by the indispensable minor sound problems, but Crimfall didn’t let that spoil the party. They sounded like a bombastic shredding storm of battle hymns and you could see they really enjoyed every minute of their set, especially Helena, who sang fantastically even though she had some problems with her microphone. You could also appreciate the band’s very sincere approach to the audience and I hope they found some new fans that evening.
Moonsorrow is a very unusual pagan metal band from Finland, which is unique enough to unite such different things like Viking and progressive metal. It’s not another Finnish group with the same beer-and-fight attitude, because Moonsorrow was able to drive the style to something new. The fast and heavy tunes with some definitive folk influence are alternated with the conceptual slow and leisured insertions you could easily expect from bands like Opeth, but not from a pagan metal group. Moonsorrow has already released seven albums and is a cult status phenomenon. The last album, Varjoina kuljemme kuolleiden maassa was released not long ago in 2011. The uniqueness of Moonsorrow is also in the fact that they can compose the very long songs just like that, and I mean they can be very long, so it was not a big surprise when they managed to play only six songs in an hour. They started with “Tähdetön” from the new album and I must say they probably had the best sound of that day. I was pretty surprised by the way the band looked and sounded, because I was used to seeing them in the small clubs and this time they played on the main WGT stage. It was like they were a whole other band. Moonsorrow need some more space to show themselves! It’s a completely different band when they perform on a big stage, probably because the sound was better and the stage was decorated with a giant backdrop with their logo. The blue smoke made them look and probably even feel better and more self-confident. The guitar player, Mitja Harvilahti, surely needs a big stage, because he runs and jumps like crazy! In general it was a very atmospheric and professional show and I’ve never seen them in better musical and visual shape – that’s what I call a headliner.
Mediæval Bæbes was a very unusual act from England performing mediæval-styled songs. YouTube gave me my first impression and the more I watched their videos, the more I was surprised, because Mediæval Bæbes isn’t exactly what you can expect to see after a band like Moonsorrow. The band was founded in 1996 and the idea was to make an all-maidens band with the strong emphasis on singing, which could rearrange mediæval songs and also compose original material. To this day, Mediæval Bæbes have released three full-length albums (the fourth one is on its way already) and made the soundtrack for The Virgin Queen, a historical BBC production composed by Martin Phipps that resulted in a deserved Ivor Novello Award 2007 for best television soundtrack. The ladies sing a wide variety of songs in about fifteen languages, even with some dead languages among them. In 2011, the band started to work more on its visual performance and the WGT audience could finally check out the results of these efforts. Six ladies in tunics with the long hems came on stage holding tambourines. Some supporting musicians were also there, but they are were partially hidden in the shadows so the audience could just hear some acoustic guitars, drums, and violins. The ladies not only sang but also sometimes used a couple of instruments, like violin, flute, or lute. Unfortunately, I can’t mention anything from their setlist, but the music was very relaxing and I could describe it like mediæval folk meets a hint of pop music. There were moments when the singers suddenly started to dance or waved with the tambourines with the ribbons attached synchronously. The act was perfect… or may be even too perfect. Of course I don’t want to show any disrespect and the audience seemed to like Mediæval Bæbes very much, but I just couldn’t help myself imaging them on the stage of Centraltheater where I had a chance to see Trobar de Morte a day ago. I think that would be a perfect place for the band, because the last WGT day in Agra Halle was mainly given to some way more aggressive music and you could really expect to see something a lot more “rocking” between Moonsorrow and Eluveitie… Mediæval Bæbes was fine, but simply out of its place and I’ve met quite a lot of people who felt exactly the same.
And that was the time for me to make the hardest choice of the evening: to stay for Eluveitie or to leave for the Werk II club to see the legendary Misfits. I’ve seen Eluveitie and I had a strong feeling that I was going to see them many times more, but the Misfits gig was a way bigger deal for me, so I left to the club. Werk II was packed beyond any reasonable limits, but I was lucky to be the first press guy who got there, which was why I was first in line to the photo-pit. If I had arrived 10 minutes later, I may not have been able to get into the club at all.
Misfits was born in 1977 in the USA and quickly became one of the most important bands in the American punk scene. Their impact can be compared only with what the Ramones did for punk music in general: they were fast, they were evil, and their look was also kind of original, especially their stiletto hairstyle that they labeled the “devil lock.” Many great and highly popular bands were raised on their songs, like Guns n’ Roses, Metallica, and more. In the 80s, the band’s original singer, Glenn Danzig, left to start a successful solo career and later to sue his former colleagues for using the band’s name again. In 1995 it was clear that Glenn lost his case and the band hit the world’s stages again with the bass player Jerry Only as the new lead singer. As for today, Misfits still releases albums and plays around the globe, holding proudly to its cult status. The guys were stone cold serious on this night – they just came out and started to play as hard as it gets, song by song, very fast and very true in the way only old pros can. Jerry was very imposing in his black armor with thorns, make-up, and an axe-like bass with a scull on the head. Sometimes he started to walk around in a very demonic way, like he was some Gene Simmons reincarnation. The guitar player, Dez, was also cool with his long red hair and vampire make-up. The setlist was a real best-of: “Angelfuck,” “Hollywood Babylon,” “Saturday Night,” and so on – they all were there, nothing was missed. I heard some people complained that Misfits played all the songs without any real breaks in between and without even telling the people what the song they were playing next was called. Some say the sound was bad, but I can’t agree – the sound was good and that was a very positive ending to my anniversary WGT festival. Thanks Misfits!
Well, I must say it was one the best of all WGTs I can remember! The line-up was perfect and there were, as always, a lot of interesting bands to see and hear! If I had to rate the overall organization level, including security, food, stage aspects, timing etc, I would say it was an “A”! I even can’t imagine how hard is it to put such a giant festival with 200+ bands on its legs! It’s like an endless sea of work to be done to me, but the WGT masterminds have done it for already 20 years and make it better and bigger with every year. All I can do is to tip my imaginary hat to them and to wish to be there the next year to enjoy WGT XXI. Thank you!
Text/photos: Albert Buschatsky | Ed: Amy Wiseman