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  FEMMEMETAL FESTIVAL
De Effenaar, Eindhoven
16th/17th October 2015


Ian Sutherland
ian sutherland


riverside

FemME Metal is a festival celebrating women in Metal. Only in its second year, promoter Ton Dekkers took it to another level by booking a stellar line up in female fronted Metal terms and turning it into a two day event.

De Effenaar is a venue right in the heart of Eindhoven and this years' plan was to use both the smaller downstairs venue as well as the main hall upstairs and alternate the bands between them.

DAY ONE

The task of opening the festival fell to French Symphonic Metallers Whyzdom. On most occasions the band will use samples of choral effects but today they added a three girl Dark Whispers Choir and tried to make their philharmonic Metal fill the main hall as everyone got settled in and figured out where everything is.

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They managed to keep the attention of the crowd well in what are always difficult circumstances and I enjoyed singer Marie MacLeod's 'Hamlet' moment, theatrically singing to a skull in her hand.

femme metal festival
Whyzdom

The set was mainly based around their third album 'Symphony For A Hopeless God' and they worked hard but despite their efforts I'm not sure that this is band with enough stand out moments yet to become a real force in the genre. Nice start though.

I tramped down the two flights of steep stairs (Dutch stairs are always steep) to the small hall next to catch Dutch veterans Autumn. Purveyors of a sophisticated style of atmospheric Metal they do not play a lot of shows so it was a great chance to see them although I was puzzled they were on so early in the day.

femme metal festival
Autumn

They didn't let that faze them though as they hit the stage running, obviously intent on making the most of their forty minute set. Guitarists Mats and Jens van der Valk were as intense as ever about their playing and were joined by ex Delain man Ronald Landa. Another special guest for the day was ex Gathering member Marjolein Kooijman on bass who manages to look effortlessly cool as she plays.

Fronting the band for the last few years has been Marjan Welman and she bounces around the stage with a big smile. Vocally her superb velvet tones are as tuneful as ever. I swear that if smooth, creamy Dutch milk chocolate could sing this is what it would sound like!

Despite a muddy sound mix at times they gave an enthralling performance and final track 'The Venamoured' was full of melody, invention and atmospherics showing them really getting into their stride just as they had to stop.

Speaking to the lovely Ms Welman after the show she confirmed that a new album is being worked on at the moment (one new song was played during the set) which is good news. I hope they play more shows like this one in support of it.

Autumn's set overlapped with that of Austrian symphonic Metallers Visions Of Atlantis and after I stopped for food and a chat with some of the members of various bands around I managed to miss their set. I would have liked to see them with new singer Clementine Delauney but there are limitations to being the sole reviewer at an event like this so I had to rely on reports that they played well and Clementine was sensational. Next time guys.

German melodic Metal outfit Aeverium were up next. With a more modern twist to their sound and a dual vocal approach between the melodic style of Aeva Maurelle and the clean/growling mix from Marcel 'Chubby' Romer they sounded different but I was underwhelmed by them in the end.

There is nothing wrong with the nu-Metal undertones to their sound but I found both singers to be unremarkable and their style and presentation didn't really keep my attention. Some of those in the hall would disagree though.

femme metal festival
Aeverium

Swedes Draconian are another band who use a dual vocal approach and having welcomed Heike Langhans into the band after their last album 'A Rose For The Apocalypse' in 2011 they took the brave step of featuring many songs from 'Sovran', their first album with Heike, which has yet to be released.

This actually worked very well as the audience which filled the big hall for the first time in the festival seemed to love their performance. For the uninitiated Draconian play a mixture of gothic Metal and doom Metal, a bit like My Dying Bride with added melodies and ethereal, plaintive female vocals.

They have a knack of making their slow, atmospheric style sound absolutely epic and it worked perfectly tonight. The quality of the band overcame any unfamiliarity with the material among the audience and the new album sounded (and having heard it, actually is) very good indeed. I could have done with the balance of the vocals used being more 50/50 between Anders Jacobsson's mighty growls and Langhans' fragile beauty but a minor point. Terrific stuff.

femme metal festival
Draconian

With the tight time schedule by the time I dashed downstairs progressive rockers Kingfisher Sky were already on stage. This Dutch outfit have created their own sound mixing a bit of Metal here, a bit of folky atmospherics there and a big melodic sound into interesting and sometimes complex songs.

The fact that they have a full time cello player makes them unique, and live both the playing and the lively performance of Maaike Peterse is a real pleasure to see and hear. The rest of the band play very well too in a set which features songs from their three albums to date but special mention has to be made of singer Judith Rijnfeld.

femme metal festival
Kingfisher Sky

In a festival filled with great female singers I thought her performance really shone here, her shimmering, soaring voice rising hauntingly over the music. Kingfisher Sky seem to get better each time I see them and this was no exception.

Tonight's headliners Lacuna Coil are very used to filling this sort of slot at small festivals like this now. I have never been a huge fan of the Italians dual vocal, slightly gothic take on Metal but they do have a fair number of good songs to fall back on these days and in particular I enjoyed the tunes from latest album 'Broken Crown Halo'.

Those tracks have a real riffing, Metal groove to them and fitted neatly into the vibe of the show. Cristina Scabbia is now a confident, fully fledged Metal front woman and they had the full hall in the palm of their hands very quickly. The old songs went down very well too and while they didn't exactly float my boat the fact that they got away with playing covers of songs by REM and Depeche Mode shows how warmly they were received.

femme metal festival
Lacuna Coil

Lacuna Coil are deserving headliners and are a hugely professional outfit who know exactly what they are doing. They weren't the best band of the day for me but judging by the reaction they got from an adoring crowd tonight I may be outnumbered on that one.

In common with many European festivals there was a band playing after the headliner tonight, US band Aria Flame in this case. Unfortunately I had to go and sort out an issue at my hotel so missed them but reports were that they played a promising set but in front of a dwindling late night audience. Day one had proved to be a day with some terrific performances, Day two beckoned with a much earlier start and fifteen bands to try and fit in.

DAY TWO

Day two of the festival started with a Metal fashion show! I guess that's an innovative way of getting some sponsors on side. The music part of the festivities started in the small hall just after 1pm with Unshine from Finland's druid Metal. I'm afraid neither the songs nor the singing impressed me much so I retired upstairs to await the next act.

femme metal festival
Unshine

Karmaflow was next but it's not really a band as such, in fact Karmaflow is the world's first rock opera videogame! What we got today was a mini rock opera of sorts with some of the cast who have done the soundtrack for the game performing their parts backed by a Metal band.

I'm sure there was a story of some kind being told but from my perspective we got a series of songs performed by different groupings of singers dressed in bizarre costumes. It was a kind of mad fun and much of the singing was very good but the whole thing left me more bemused than enthralled. Some of those around me clearly got what they were doing though and they did get a warm reception.

femme metal festival
Karmaflow

Sin7Sins were next up on the small stage but their slightly industrial style take on female fronted Metal while very well performed doesn't really work for me so I left the rest of the crowd to enjoy what these Dutchies had to offer.

The next part of today's bill had been rearranged as Xandria, due to perform later in the day had had to cancel due to their drummer suffering an injury. This was especially a shame for their singer Dianne van Giersbergen who was the face of the festival on the posters and t shirts but she made the most of it by spending the day mingling with the fans and promoting her own range of jewellery.

The beneficiaries of this unfortunate situation were Dutch symphonic Death Metal sextet Nymeria who got to fill a slot on the main stage. They were a busy and energetic bunch who really threw themselves into their performance but Death Metal is really not my thing so I left them to entertain the crowd.

End Of The Dream are a Dutch symphonic Metal band who had also been late additions to the line up. I would describe their style as pretty generic female fronted symphonic Metal and while singer Micky Huijsmans has a nice enough voice and the rest of the band hit all the right notes and poses I found them to be a little too typical of the genre and struggled to pick out anything special or unique about them. Competent rather than inspiring for me.

femme metal festival
End Of The Dream

Stream Of Passion moved a couple of slots up the line up due to Xandria's misfortune and were well capable of taking advantage of it. A serious step up in class from what had gone before on day two this Dutch band with the Mexican singer just tore up the stage and really grabbed the event and the crowd by the scruff of the neck.

High energy performers to a man (and woman) they ran through a set featuring the old (Passion, Calliopiea, Haunted) and the new (Monster, A War Of Our Own, The Curse) which were all greeted warmly by an adoring crowd. Singer Marcela Bovio is becoming an icon in this scene and her simply superb vocals lived up to that reputation.

femme metal festival
Stream Of Passion

Their allotted time went by too fast for everyone and after an emotional rendition of resurrected set closer 'This Endless Night' the conquering heroes took a bow. Now it felt like the day had really begun!

Another dash downstairs later I got my second chance to see another unique Dutch act, Scarlet Stories. Performing an ambient, dark and complex mix of Metal, prog and folk it took a minute to adjust to the completely different vibe from the Stream Of Passion performance I had just seen.

It was really worth the effort though as their performance was just riveting. The theatrics and intensity of singer Lisette van dan Berg are fascinating whether she is spitting out lyrics with real venom or using her unique, superb vocals to croon gently or soar majestically over the music.

femme metal festival
Scarlet Stories

For a group which doesn't play live too often and has some very complex arrangements the band are very tight and the overall effect is compelling. Their kind of music is maybe not to everyone's taste but it is noticeable that the large number of people in the hall that liked them really liked them, and roar them on enthusiastically. I hope I get to catch them again sometime soon.

It was a bit of a coup for FemMe Metal to get the first ever live performance from Therion offshoot band Luciferian Light Orchestra. Formed by Christofer Johnsson the idea of the band is to return to a seventies vibe, to play a kind of folk influenced heavy rock old school style.

Confusingly Johnsson isn't in the live band but you can see behind the masks worn by all the musicians in the band the familiar faces of Nalle Pahlsson and Christian Vidal. Vocals are handled by Mari Karhunen who is a fine singer.

femme metal festival
Luciferian Light Orchestra

The overall vibe is very low key though as most of the audience don't know the band and in contrast to Therion later there is no attempt to get the crowd involved. Despite all those factors I enjoyed the old fashioned vibe and groove of the songs and the LLO were refreshingly different if kind of laid back in their presentation.

Another trip downstairs brought another change of style. Dyonisis are a Sheffield four piece who were invited over especially by the organisers after a stellar performance at the UK Dames Of Darkness festival last year. Confusingly for some they are not Metal at all really but play a kind of trip hop influenced rock with sampled drums, a huge bass groove and two female singers with contrasting styles.

The overall effect is for those with an open mind simply irresistible. Tonight the sound is a little muddy but kind of works as what we get is loads of that bass groove. The vocals are clear and as effective as ever, combining Nel Cave's plaintive cries to the heart with Louisa Welsby's haunting operatic undertones.

femme metal festival
Dyonisis

The guitar is a little too low in the mix but the overall effect is still mesmerising. The hall wasn't as full as it could have been as their set clashed with The Gentle Storm who were a big draw for many here but those that stayed to watch were enthusiastic and appreciative. I hope I get a chance to see these guys do a headline set sometime, they deserve more attention than they got today squeezed in between some bigger names.

Another rush up those damn steep stairs got me in front of The Gentle Storm. This collaboration between Arjen Lucassen of Ayreon and the mercurial Anneke van Giersbergen resulted in a stellar album in 'The Diary' and Anneke formed an all star Dutch Metal band to tour with the songs.

The handpicked musicians have developed into a band of real quality and right from the opening build up of 'Endless Sea' you can tell this is going to be a special set. Both crowd and band are right up for it and the high energy levels of the musicians really reaches out into the hall.

femme metal festival
The Gentle Storm

Marcela Bovio and Johan van Stratum from Stream Of Passion are doing double duty today but you wouldn't notice from their performance and the Bovio/van Giersbergen duetting during 'Brightest Light' is spine tingling.

The energy in 'The Storm' is epic and dramatic with drummer Ed Warby pushing it along hard. We also get some songs by The Gathering to keep fans of Anneke's past happy and a mighty version of 'Witnesses' from her solo career where the drive of the song and the vibe of the band fit beautifully together.

All too quickly 'The Shores Of India' brings things to a close. Many, many people said to me afterwards that this was the performance of the festival and you know, it's hard to argue.

I'm afraid Cripper's super growly take on Thrash Metal isn't for me so I took the opportunity to get some food then waited to check out Norway's Tristania. This was my first time seeing these Norwegian gothic Metal veterans and I was impressed.

You know a band are taking their music seriously when they use three different grunting vocalists to get different tones and styles into their sound. The melody in the vocals came from Marieangela Demurtas and she was a strong and engaging presence throughout.

femme metal festival
Tristania

The overall set list leaned more towards their more recent gothic Metal leanings and not much was aired from their doomier beginnings but personally I was happy with that. They had an interesting sound, some really good riffs and tunes and showed themselves to be a fine live act with a style of their own.

Apologies to death Metal fans everywhere but it's just not my thing so I gave next act Purest Of Pain a miss. That left me plenty of time to imbibe a beer or two before headliners Therion. These veteran Swedes are old hands at headlining shows like this and boy did it show.

Everyone is tired after two long days so there is no playing around or promoting of the latest weird and wonderful Therion albums. What we get is a greatest hits set presented by a professional bunch of musicians who do everything they can to get the crowd involved.

The father-daughter vocal pairing of Thomas and Linnea Vikstrom may seem like a strange idea but you can see the resemblance in character as both of them sing superbly while exhorting the crowd to sing or chant or jump up and down at every opportunity.

femme metal festival
Therion

Newly added soprano Chiara Malvestiti plays her part perfectly and the band are tight as the proverbial duck's bottom. With the crowd right with them and a closing trio of songs of 'Son Of The Slaves Of Time/The Rise Of Sodom and Gomorrah/To Mega Therion' Therion show that they might just be the perfect band to end a weekend like this. Fantastic fun and it's great that we're finally getting a proper UK tour in 2016 from them.

The post headline act tonight were Belgium's Lovelorn Dolls but their brand of gothic pop rock seemed a bit of an anticlimax after Therion for me so I left them to it and went in search of some post festival drinks.

This was a terrific festival with a good set up and a great location right in the heart of a city with good transport links and accommodation options. The stage times were a bit tight if you wanted to see everyone and the smaller hall could get a bit jammed up at the entrance but overall this was a very well put together event with a nice, friendly crowd and some terrific bands.

With next year's event already confirmed for September 23/24 it looks like it will become a welcome addition to the festival calendar.



beerbeerbeerbeerbeer


31.10.15











 


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