16.12.2005. XMAS FESTIVAL 2005 LIVE REPORT Hypocrisy, Exodus, Naglfar, Wintersun, Fear My Thoughts
XMAS FESTIVAL 2005 LIVE REPORT
Hypocrisy, Exodus, Naglfar, Wintersun, Fear My Thoughts
Strasbourg, France @ La Laiterie, Friday, Dec 16th, 2005
by Audrey Dujardin
The Xmas Festival has now become a traditional winter festival, almost as indispensable as the summer festivals. The advantage of this Metallysee-run event is that it is a traveling show. This means shorter distances to travel to the gigs, but on the other hand, each year the festival follows the same itinerary, and never goes further South than Paris. Last year’s Xmas Festivals was excellent because of the variety of styles represented, with Marduk’s black metal, Napalm Death’s grindcore, Vader’s thrash-death metal and Finntroll’s folk metal. This year was no less varied, with Hypocrisy’s death metal, Exodus’s thrash, Naglfar’s black metal, Wintersun’s folk metal and newcomers Fear my Thoughts’s metalcore.
A downside of the Xmas Festivals is that because of the mixing of the genres, the crowds are very heterogenous, and some acts don’t necessarily appeal to everyone. Furthermore, these festivals tend to begin extremely early in the day, sometimes even at 4H30 in the afternoon, which doesn’t suit people like myself who have a day-job. Therefore, in order to cover the Xmas festival, I had to take a day off from work, get up at 5 in the morning and travel almost 6 hours by train across France and through the mountains to Strasbourg.
The shows began around 5H30 PM, but some people in the crowd had been waiting in front of the venue since before noon. I had seen Hypocrisy and Exodus live a couple weeks before in Lyon, and there the crowd and stage were much smaller. Here the stage was higher up and several different drums kits were set up in advance, because the different styles required different equipment. There is stadium seating at La Laiterie, which enables the audience to have a better view. Moreover, there is a gallery accessible from the backstage area that overlooks the venue and stage and allows to take photos of the whole stage.
The first band on stage is Fear my Thoughts from Freiburg, Germany, and I can’t fully appreciate their performance since I’m not familiar with their repertoire. The crowd only begins to fill the venue as the show starts so early. The sound is decent, but the set is very short, about 30 minutes. Fortunately for us, a photo pit is created at the foot of the stage, so that we can take decent pictures, however during the FMT gig, I still was kicked in the head by a stage diver, who escaped from the 5 bouncers that were up front.
Next up were Wintersun. Unlike the following bands Exodus or Hypocrisy who have extensive discographies, Wintersun have only put one album out, which is convenient since they only have a 30 minute set. Being a part of the wide Finnish Folk metal scene and sharing members with bands like Norther and Imperanon, and with a frontman formerly in Ensiferum, the music is consequently tinted with very, very similar elements. The live performance of Wintersun was decent, but the songs are so long that it is difficult for them to run across the stage constantly. Furthermore, the guitar solos are so complex and incredibly fast that it is impossible to be distracted by stage gimmicks. On the other hand, the drummer entertained us with little drum stick twirling tricks, and funny faces. Unfortunately, and this is not the band’s doing, the vocals were not balanced well at all, and the guitars take over the vocals most of the time. Jari did his best to shout in the microphone, and I’m not even sure that he realized how little he was heard. However, the crowd went crazy and there were dozens and dozens of stage divers, who made it difficult for us to take operate, since there was a concrete risks of being kicked in the head again while take photos. The audience was really beginning to warm up with Wintersun and they vigorously asked for an encore, shouting the band’s name long after it was gone.
Many people in the audience got a snack at the Laiterie’s bar and then came back for Naglfar. I had seen Naglfar many times in the past, namely on their Spring Tour together with Finntroll and Amoral earlier this year, and at that time, their singer Chris who used to be the band’s bass guitarist had just begun taking over the vocals. Earlier this year, the band’s live performances were a lot shyer, and Chris seemed less confident on stage. You could tell at that time that he didn’t really know how to behave on stage as a vocalist, not having an instrument in his hands. And back then the band seemed to behave more seriously and have more props, including more leather and more spikes. In Strasbourg however, they seemed a lot more at ease, and more professional. In particular, Chris’s stage performance improved dramatically, and the other musicians didn’t hesitate to move around the stage and head bang like there’s no tomorrow. Altogether the set was good and the sound had been fixed since Wintersun was on stage, and was better balanced.
Second to last on the list was Exodus. Now, I had already seen Exodus live two weeks before in Lyon, and there, the stage was minuscule. Here, I finally experienced the show on a larger scale. The lighting was mainly done in tones of red which perfectly matched Gary Holt’s guitar. The musicians had more room to move around and Rob’s growling was more intense. I was able to see Paul Bostaph’s drumming from close up since I was on the side of the stage, and that is many drummers’ wet dream. I couldn’t help but stand there looking at how hard his arms hit the skins and how methodical and machine-like he was in his movements. I think that the ambiance in Strasbourg was great, and you could tell that the band was having fun. And when the band has fun, then audience does too.
Finally, after all those hours spent in the train and walking through the freezing streets of Strasbourg with my bags and no place to spend the night, I got what I came for. Hypocrisy hit the stage, and played for over an hour. I don’t know the exact order of the songs because I was so busy enjoying myself. The lighting was more varied than for Exodus’s performance, alternating between different blues, reds, oranges, and smoke, while the backdrop was light up from behind, putting the stage on fire. Stage divers were flying around like a hail storm and there were at least 5 other photographers in the pit besides myself, which made it increasingly difficult to stand still long enough to take decent pictures. After a while even Gary Holt joined us in the photo pit, walked up to Peter Tägtgren, shouted to attract his attention, pulled down his pants and mooned him in right there in the middle of the set, much to our amusement. A lot of intense head banging action ensued, and the paramount of fun was reached when the band played ‘Let the knife do the talking’ with sunglasses on, and Peter and Andreas wrestled each other from one side of the stage to the other. The fans were raging with excitement, stage diving, moshing and shouting, and some girls at the front row were blowing kisses in Peter and Horgh’s direction, wide eyed, and ecstatic.
Altogether, because the Strasbourg date of the Xmas fest is so close to the end of the tour, I recommend it to all who can go. The bands have had time to get to know each other and have become more confident on stage, and because the Holland dates add almost twice as many bands to the festival, this is the last time the artists will see each other in this particular order. Therefore, one can expect a lot of fun and letting loose, like tonight, and excellent shows due to a good atmosphere. I hope that Metallysee will keep putting up great quality bands like this in the future Xmas festivals, because now I’ve become addicted.
Fear My Thoughts
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