Dear Reykjavík Deathfest,
After your decent first night of crushing extreme metal, I am full of anticipation when I arrive at Gaukurinn at around 7pm. This night is all about nostalgia. We’ll see two reunions of old and beloved Icelandic bands—namely, Gruesome Glory and Gone Postal. The line-up features also some big names when it comes to death metal; both Dead Congregation and Psycroptic are international headliners, alongside Skinned and Ulcest. But you already know that.
Divine Defilement are already playing at full speed when I arrive. Before I know it, my head is nodding along to the groovy riffs and effortless tempo changes. Low, guttural vocals and morbid lyrics complete the sound that reminds me of Cannibal Corpse. Could there be a better compliment? It’s a great taste of what was yet to come.
Next on stage are Cult Of Lilith, who’ve been working hard on writing new material since the release of their first EP in 2016. Their new singer is a beast, and even though the clean vocals are barely audible, the variety of vocal styles and his presence on stage totally make up for that. Cult Of Lilith play very technical metal and, unfortunately, they lose themselves in showing off their talent as instrumentalists at times, instead of actually making the riffs sound good.
The first reunion of the evening has it all—technical complexity, tightness, groove, heaviness and most of all—fun! Gruesome Glory play for the first time in six years and one can feel the pure joy of the audience of welcoming them back on stage. From the first riff, my vision is blocked by flying hair, and as the first mosh-pit of the night opens up, I’m completely in awe of this band, and wonder even more why they ever stopped playing.
Skinned’s performance can be described in three words: bulldozer-fucking-metal. If your neck didn’t hurt before, it hurts now.
Now for something a little different as Dutch band Ulsect put on a show that could be vaguely described as “atmospheric blackcore.” After one of their guitarists fainted yesterday during his performance with Dodecahedron, everyone’s relieved to see him back on the stage. Ulcest build up their songs with dissonant guitar lines that remind of black metal, climaxing in heavy breakdowns. Their singer deserves a special mention for his theatrical performance, which takes their performance to even deeper emotional depths.
Dead Congregation start at a slow, doomy pace and then accelerate into full blown death metal. I can actually feel the vibrations of their singer’s super-low growls through the floor, mixed with ferocious riffs and an excellent show (samples and all). Even though the vocals lack diversity, people hugely enjoy the band and even call for an encore—a first at this festival.
When I finally thought I had seen it all, Psycroptic arrive on stage—and holy fuck, they rip the place apart. Even though they only have one guitarist, the sound is on point and all I hear is riff, after riff, after riff, after riff. The crowd goes wild in various circle and mosh pits. I’m sure I’m not the only one left with an open mouth when their last song ends.
It’s been almost ten years since Icelandic death metal favourite Gone Postal released their debut album. They decided to reunite especially for Reykjavík Deathfest, and proceed to play through the whole album. The excitement in the room is almost unbearable when the band finally enters the stage—and hell breaks loose. The band’s enthusiasm and sheer joy to play these songs is a sight to behold. Even though it’s hard to pick a favourite amongst the amazing bands that performed tonight, Gone Postal have a special place in my heart.
As screams for more start to fill the room, I leave into the cold and windy Icelandic night. I’m a little surprised that I survived seven hours of extreme metal without getting bored, which speaks for the quality of the line-up. I’m deeply impressed what the organisers have achieved by putting on such a good festival that only revolves around extreme metal in the heart of Reykjavík. The line-up was stellar, the sound mostly on point, and the organisation smooth. Veganæs—Gaukurinn’s upcoming vegan-only restaurant—even served the staff and bands food, and everybody seemed to be pleased.
Lack Of Feminine Power
There is one thing I would like to mention: although there were a lot of women in the audience, and often in the front row, there wasn’t a single band that featured female members. This is sad, and I hope it will change—either by encouraging the organisers to book bands that feature female members, or by booking newly formed female-driven bands (I know you’re out there!). There’s nothing wrong with a little feminine touch in this male-dominated metal scene.
To everybody’s delight, next year’s edition of the festival has already been announced, now called “Reykjavík Metalfest.” The first lineup announcement includes Napalm Death, Hamferð and Svartidauði. I hear rumors about the festival trying to move to bigger venues to accommodate more people—even though Gaukurinn worked well, it has a limited capacity. This decision seems appropriate, and in all honesty, I cannot wait for next year. The discontinuation of the Oration festival will leave a hole in the black metal scene, and Reykjavík Metalfest will fill that hole by catering to a larger part of Reykjavík’s metal community, which is blossoming and ever-growing.
On this note, thank you for this amazing festival, Deathfest. Until next year.