On the final day of the three-day metal festival, I was determined to catch as many bands as I could. The roster looked particularly good, both on the main and off-venue, which meant I was constantly running between the two. Here’s a brief description of how my day panned out.
My first disappointment came in the form of missing Dys’s show at the off-venue. Packing my soggy tent took longer than I hoped, and when I showed up they had just finished their last song. I felt this was a shame, because their Thursday show had been brilliant—this old punk band was full of clichés, but they rocked and made them work in their favour, singing political songs about being anarchists, killing members of parliament, and how stinky a particular homophobe is. They had tons of energy, and more importantly, were having fun on stage.
Sipping my beer, I waited patiently for Kælan Mikla. They blew my mind when I first saw them a year and a half ago, and they continue doing so each time I see them.
This time proved no exception. The unique trio thrives on the fringes, with their dirty sound and artsy themes, and they told me before the show that they didn’t want to perform at big venues like the main stage, that it wasn’t their style—still, it surprises me that the trio hasn’t made a bigger splash than they have. At Eistnaflug, every journalist, artist and attendee I discussed them with told me they loved them, with one six-year veteran remarking: “everyone’s been through a rough breakup, and that’s what they capture in their songs.” A black metal drummer seconded that, adding: “I’m team Kælan!”
Before I talk about AMFJ, I must note that I work with the artist (he is Grapevine’s advertising director). Having said that, his set was by far the loudest one I heard at Eistnaflug. While he was shouting like a dictator into a distorted microphone, the speakers unleashed wave after wave of noise, feedback, and screeches. Getting into his music can be difficult, but once you do, it’s pretty damn great.
Back at the main stage, I caught one of my favourite bands, Muck. Their set was tight, their instrumentals fantastic, and they brought out two new songs that showcased their range; “Dracula Blues” was a fast, relentless fury of a song, while “Yesterday” exhibited the band’s sludge roots, and allowed guitarist Indriði’s voice to really shine. I also enjoyed hearing some songs rearranged differently, like “My City,” where the fading-out outro was then supplemented with an energetic burst at the end. One journalist I met after the set said he wasn’t supposed to like them, because he’s a diehard metalhead, but he did. He commented that they were great, they just needed to tour outside of Iceland (which they are doing this autumn, with a UK/US tour).
I ran to the off-venue and caught the last few songs from Börn, which were powerful, political, and focused on topics like autonomy, sexism, and ableism. And then, on the main stage, Brain Police got all the young ‘uns dancing, moshing, and crowdsurfing to hits like “Black Tulip” and “Taste The Flower.” Still, it felt like I had seen this show a few times before…
— Reykjavík Grapevine (@rvkgrapevine) July 11, 2015
Kvelertak were my surprise of the night, as the six-piece heavy metal band absolutely rocked! They’re not reinventing the wheel, but what they do they do well, and I really dug their guitar-heavy sound. The band that followed, however, blew them completely out of the park. Stepping onto stage, steeped in mysticism and dark heretical energy, Behemoth, felt larger than life. The band featured a drummer hidden behind an impossibly large drum kit with seven cymbals, a big and brutal-looking bass player who looked like he was about to smash his instrument each time he slapped it, a guitarist who shredded with reckless abandon, and a singer who had fantastic control of his pipes. Their faces were masks of contempt and hatred throughout the show, and their long instrumental segments were really intense. In between songs they turned off all the lights and the throng responded by shouting their name again and again until they came back and continued the onslaught.
Their show featured more frequent costume changes than Eurovision presenters, copious amounts of blood vomited from the musicians onto the crowd, and unabashed dramatic poses. Near the end, the sports hall felt full to the brim of people, sweat, and testosterone energy. And then for their final act the lights went off, something happened on stage, and then the band stood there with cowls and tall horns on, basked in back light. It would have been so easy to make that cheap, or feel gimmick-y, but they made it absolutely terrifyingly awesome. The only thing missing from that show was a five-metre-tall burning cross.
Ham tried picking up where they left off, and to their credit retained a lot of the crowd, but their set felt repetitive and stale. Shirtless fans lined up to pump their chests as they sang along, fought to get up front to crowd surf, and take selfies. The colourful FM Belfast then closed the festival with a series of danceable songs and upbeat energy, with DJ Töfri playing some of his favourite hits afterwards for the stragglers that refused to go to sleep.
More from the GV’s Eistnaflug coverage: