Wacken Metal Battle, Iceland took place at Harpa Norðurljós on April 11, featuring performances by Aeterna, Röskun, Narthraal, In the Company of Men, Oni, Church House Creepers, Auðn, Ophidian I and The Vintage Caravan.
After Aeterna opened the night like it was the Year Of Our Metal 1989, Röskun kicked off the competitive proceedings on a low note, as their drummer seemed unable to keep a beat and they seemed about as well rehearsed as a drunken heckler at a stand up comedy show. Each song was composed of a clichéd chain of breakdowns, each link weaker than the one that preceded it. Dynamics, structure and even the faintest notion of melody seemed a foreign concept to them, and their clean singing vocal harmonies were as palatable as a puddle of fermented cat piss.
Narthraal kicked the professionalism up a notch, but their middle of the road old school death metal performance suffered from a muddled sound mix. This rendered the doom of their oppressively heavy sound toothless, and the barely audible bones of their songwriting seemed like errant, pointless, tunes cast astray in the wilderness without a path to follow home.
Following this lacklustre affair, noisecore aficionados In the Company of Men put on a show about the art of how to put on a show. In a convulsive fury of an onslaught of seizure-like intensity, they slapped the ever-loving shit out of the collective senses of the rapt audience, and walked away with best in show, like the champs that they are.
Oni, then served up solid swaths of metallized rock, laced with grooves as deep as Guadal Canal, marred only by a monotonous vocalist shorn of all the feral force exuded by his bandmates.
Church House Creepers showed up ready to party, bringing more fun than a sackful of kittens and a laser beam pointer. They can best be described as a fully packaged, high quality stoner-tinged rock act, looking the part to a tee and displaying some high quality songwriting to boot. They looked to set to emerge victorious… until Auðn appeared and ushered the audience into a ravishing realm of pure artistry. Their sordid, blackened, dirges were coated with solemn heart rending melodies that tiptoed across the frail frozen surface of a bleak, mournful lake hued with infinite sorrow. Auðn’s performance was as convincing as a spiked wooden chair to the face, and based on artistic merit alone they easily snatched the prize away from all and sundry.
Alas, it was not to be. As we awaited the final verdict, 2013 winners Ophidian I played a set that was as pinpoint in its precision as aural acupuncture treatment. We then learned that had Auðn come in a strong second, behind In the Company of Men, who walked away with the unanimous vote of the international panel of judges. Deservedly so, as they are a hard working band getting their comeuppance on the back of a riveting live performance that puts the competition to shame.
A third place was rightfully awarded to Church House Creepers, a band perhaps not at home at a metal battle, but bound to cause some international waves in the not-too distant future with their barnstorming brand of rock ‘n’ roll hijinx.
The Vintage Caravan then ripped the room a rift in the space/time continuum right back to the ‘70s, rocking the night away in full flaxen-haired and leather-vested abandon.
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