Gefle Metal 2022

After two summers without Gefle Metal Festival due to the Covid pandemic, the time had finally come to once again enjoy some extreme metal in the swedish city of Gävle. Of course, Stargaze Magazine was there to summarize the experience. Enjoy!

First off for me were the legendary american thrashers Exodus. I guess this is a band that needs no further introduction really, so I might as well just get to the point straight away.

You can tell that the pandemic has left Exodus hungry and ready to kick some serious ass, which I assure you they did as they almost always do. The band really delivers a high energy performance and especially guitarist Gary Holts is always very fun to watch. Something that is not very fun on the other hand, is the newer material. I have to be honest and say that every time singer Steve Souza announces “a song from our latest album” or something similar, I zone out completely and just wait for better days. Luckily, better days are coming when older songs like “Bonded By Blood”, “Strike Of The Beast”, or “Lesson In Violence” are played to perfection.

Both myself and the rest of the audience seem to enjoy this very much, since the moshpit is quite impressive, especially for a somewhat early show. Exodus sure know what they are doing and delivers a solid performance, but it is quite clear that there is a vast difference in both quality, as well as reception when it comes to what material is played. I’d say the grade varies between 5 and 9, so let’s give this one a solid 7, shall we?

EXODUS: 7/10

One of the highlights for me personally this festival – at least on paper – was surely going to be Entombed and their tribute gig to the late LG Petrov. Consisting of Nicke Andersson on drums, Alex Hellid and Uffe Cederlund on guitars and Jörgen Sandström on bass, the band invited various guests for a night that surely would be remembered for days to come.

The concert kicks off with the timeless classic, the death metal song of all death metal songs, namely, “Left Hand Path”, with Jörgen on lead vocals. This was in every aspect pure bliss and as magical as live music can be. Jörgen really is a worthy – not replacement – but successor to LG when it comes to the vocals and if Entombed choose to carry on, I see only Jörgen as the possible choice.

Next up on the vocals was none other than Tompa Lindberg from At The Gates. His performance was energetic, but not very solid vocally. I honestly don’t think he’s sounded that good with At The Gates for years either, but tonight was sadly even weaker than I remember. Sounding more like an irritated chihuahua than a ferocious beast, his guest appearance was a bit anti-climactic and clearly the only real disappointment of Entombed’s set.

The vocals however went from quite bad to utterly amazing very quickly when legendary Repulsion frontman (also known from Death Breath) Scott Carlson was next in line. Delivering some really kick-ass versions of songs like “Eyemaster”, “Damn Deal Done” and Repulsion’s “Black Breath”, this was truly a highlight for me as a big fan of Scott’s raw vocal style.

Once Scott had done his thing, it was time to pass the mic to Pia “Urskogr” Stjärnvind from Serpent Omega, and give a pair of drumsticks to Peter Stjärnvind, who now shared the drumming alongside Nicke Andersson. With Urskogr on the vocals, I must say that “Chief Rebel Angel” was the high point. Her unorthodox style of approaching extreme metal is always very impressive as well as refreshing and definitely works together with Entombed, just like it does in her regular band Serpent Omega.

Out of all the guest vocalists I think my favourite was the next guy; Johnny Hedlund of Unleashed as well as Nihilist. Bringing some crushing vocals on amazing renditions of songs like “Supposed To Rot”, “Revel In Flesh” and “Wolverine Blues”, this really put a smile on my face. Seeing all these guys together on stage having so much fun is what music should be all about and I’m sure they all felt the same things as when they got together for the first time, over 30 years ago.

Since these were the last actual Entombed songs performed, the last three songs of the night, with Cronos of Venom on vocals, felt more like bonus tracks. However, very good bonus tracks! It is not every day one gets to hear Entombed and Cronos play the Venom trilogy “Bursting Out”, “Countess Bathory” and “Witching Hour”. Once again, you could really tell everyone on stage as well as in the audience was having a blast, and I am 100 percent positive that if LG Petrov could see what was going down in Gävle this night, he surely would raise his beer whilst firing off a smile and a nod, just like I know the rest of the guys in Entombed had wanted him to.

Maybe not all perfect performances, but who cares on a night like this? I’m sure everyone who attended will remember this concert for a very long time.

ENTOMBED: 9/10

My last band for the first day of Gefle Metal Festival was one of my absolute favourite bands in the world. I am talking about the swedish war machine Marduk. No matter how many times I see these guys I just want more and more. They never disappoint. The concert kicks off without mercy as very non-apologetic versions of “Werwolf”, as well as “The Hangman Of Prague” gets shoved in the face of the innocent bystanders. Sadly, Marduk were suffering from some problems with the sound from the stage, since all we could hear was vocals and kick drum. After two or three songs, the sound became better, but it still felt like it was a bit off the entire show.

Technical difficulties aside, Marduk still put on an amazing show, as they always do. I really think that Mortuus is both one of the best singers as well as one of the best frontmen in metal overall. The way he holds the audience in a chokehold with his iron hand is very impressive. Seeing Marduk live is always like being run over by an entire panzer division of pure metal. This night was not an exception. Crushing versions of monolithic beasts such as “Seven Angels, Seven Trumpets” and “Materialized In Stone” punches you in the gut with a black metal fist of merciless strength.

Honestly, I think a song like “Wolves” maybe could be cut from the setlist in favour of something a bit more exciting, since I find it to be one of the more boring “hit songs” from their catalogue. Classics such as “Panzer Division Marduk” or the more recent “Frontschwein” however does the job. Speaking of hits; I think this might have been the first gig in many years that Marduk didn’t play “The Blonde Beast”? So, no black metal disco tonight.

Disco or no disco, Marduk gives a solid performance as they always do and it’s impossible to not be impressed by how extremely good they are every single time. The sound, like I mentioned, could’ve been better and I might have had some other requests for the setlist, but nonetheless this was still one of the best gigs at Gefle Metal Festival 2022.

MARDUK: 8/10

When I went to see Seid inside the Gasklockan Stage, I wasn’t expecting it to be as crowded as it was. Getting inside, or more like trying to get inside, was like trying to move a wall of human flesh, but I managed to find a spot where I at least got a glimpse of these guys from Stockholm. So, a big following of fans and curious festival-goers. Playing a quite classic style of viking black metal, Seid puts on a solid performance during their short set. After releasing four records, the band has a pretty varied mix of songs to choose from, so the overall impression is that it feels very dynamic.

Having two singers on stage; the mastermind Seiðr accompanied by Jimmy Wistrand of Sepulchral Frost, is innovative for the genre, but I am not sure that I like it. I feel the vocal performance would be just as good with only one singer, but less weird and not as Linkin Park-reminiscent. Still, a solid show that surely tickled the fancy of every viking metal fan in attendance.

SEID: 6/10

One of the bands I was the most excited seeing beforehand, was the ever mysterious swedish death cult Tribulation. They’re always top class live as well as on record, and speaking of records they had released one – “Where The Gloom Becomes Sound” – since the last time I saw them, so I was very happy seeing a lot of the songs from this “Grammis” (the swedish Grammys) winner live.

The new material works just as well as the somewhat older material, just as expected since Tribulation has really come to their own the last ten-ish years, after adopting a bit more goth/italian horror kinda vibe. There are no songs from the more classic old school death metal sounding debut album “The Horror”, so as one might have expected the setlist is mainly based around the three latest albums. No real complaints from me there since I love later day Tribulation, but I also must admit I would go absolute apeshit with joy if they played maybe “Spawn Of The Jackal” or another gem of that calibre.

Tribulation have really developed a quite unique sound over the years and it’s obvious they have a lot of fans, and rightfully so. Their mix of death metal and a little bit gothy and gloomy dark rock, is compelling both musically and esthetically. The whole almost vampyric concept around both band and musical endeavours, works really well and Tribulation truly have gained a back catalogue filled with some amazing tracks. Combine this with a live band consisting of pure rock star quality with all the coolest poses and you have yourself a recipe for constant success.

This was also the first time I saw Tribulation without iconic guitarist Jonathan Hultén who now has been substituted for Joseph Tholl. Musically, there’s no big difference since it’s one high class musician replaced by another top class musician both on record as well as live. However, I found myself missing Jonathan’s a bit more androgenous appearance, which I found brought a lot to the show and its overall vibe. With Joseph, I find the band to be a little less esthetically unique, but still an extremely good act both in the studio as well as live on Gefle Metal Festival.

TRIBULATION: 8/10

Before the band went on stage, someone said that this was the second gig in Sweden ever for Emperor. If that is correct, then I have seen them one hundred percent of the times they’ve been here. First time was on Sweden Rock Festival and was a very good concert, just like this one was.

The setlist was primarily focused around “Anthems To The Welkin At Dust”. A solid record, but nonetheless still the last alright Emperor album. I would have wished for a little bit more from “In The Nightside Eclipse”, but one can’t get too greedy. Really cool to hear “Wrath Of The Tyrant” though and also two kick ass covers in the shape of “The Usurper”, originally by Celtic Frost and “Call From The Grave” by Bathory. Last time I saw Emperor they played a cover on “A Fine Day To Die “, by the aforementioned Bathory, so obviously very excellent taste in music.

The band’s lineup for the show had been added with none other than the legendary Mortiis on the bass, which felt quite exclusive. Even though he, as well as Samoth and Ihsahn, might not be the most energetic dudes on stage, it still never gets boring. A big and crazy show is not at all necessary if the musicianship and songs stand out for them selves. On a track like the mindblowing “I Am The Black Wizards” – one of the best songs ever – one does not miss a thing, but during some parts of the show, a puritan like me can’t help but to wish for a little less turtle neck and a little more corpse paint.

Overall an extremely competent and impressive performance from a band comfortable enough to let the music do the talking, rather than sorting to crazy antics for effect.

EMPEROR: 8/10

If you must choose just one band to represent the entire genre of black metal, I believe most people would pick Mayhem. This iconic norwegian act has been making sinister music for almost 40 years and I think almost everybody with an interest in heavier music, have at least heard about the many infamous stories from the bands career.

Together with Mötley Crüe; Mayhem is probably the metal band with the most legendary tales, rumours and myths surrounding the entire essence of its existance. Murder, suicide and various endeavours concerning death have become synonymous with Mayhem, but one must not forget they’re also responsible for some of the best black metal music out there. Sure, they’ve also released some – in kind words – less good music, but on this night we got a pretty solid setlist, I must say.

In a concert that peaked with “Deathcrush”, Pure Fucking Armageddon” and of course “Freezing Moon”, the biggest star of the show was without a doubt singer Attila Csihar. His unique style of singing in combination with a magnetic stage presence really brings an aura of mystery and evil. It’s dark, it’s theatrical and it’s very, very good.

I’ve seen Mayhem three times. One of them was worse than this and one was better. There can be a little bit up and down here and there – mostly based on the setlist – so it’s a bit hard to keep it top class through and through. However, this is an extremely solid band that has a very high level of professionality and you can often tell just why these guys have reached – as well as kept – their status as one of the biggest black metal acts in the buisness.

MAYHEM: 8/10

The first band on my personal roster for the third and last day of Gefle Metal Festival, was the swedish viking metal act Thyrfing. This is actually a band that I really don’t know that well, but I listened a lot to “Farsotstider” when I was a teenager. After this, they sort of fell into a slumber for me personally, but after a friend saw them live recently and told me how good he thought they were, I of course had to go see them when I had the chance.

I can definitely tell you that my friend was right when he told me that Thyrfing was a good live band, but I can’t say I was quite as euphoric as my friend. I’m guessing he wasn’t sober when he saw them, which I was now, so perhaps my sober senses could identify that this is very solid in every aspect, but maybe nothing that is so spectacular that it’s gonna get those 9 or 10 point grades.

Singer Jens Rydén (ex-Naglfar) is however a world class frontman who really knows how to work the crowd, as Thyrfing hammers out an impressive stream of pounding viking metal hits. Although I might not have been as utterly blown away as my friend was, I still very much enjoyed my first Thyrfing concert. I realised that this is a band that I should listen more to and I’ve actually already ordered some records, so congrats to Thyrfing for gaining one more fan.

THYRFING: 7/10

After performing as a guest with Entombed two days earlier, it was once again time for Johnny Hedlund to enter the stage, this time together with his own band; Unleashed. Formed close to 35 years ago, Unleashed have for decades been a corner stone in the swedish death metal scene. Often regarded as one of the genres “big four” together with Entombed, Dismember and Grave; Unleashed have a big fan base in Sweden as well as abroad and have put out a large number of quality albums.

Often with a viking or norse mythology theme, Unleashed have written a lot of really kick-ass death metal songs, which this gig really was a good example of. We are treated to a quite varied setlist with tracks spanning over a period of like 30 years. I’d say the highpoints – at least for me – were the most early songs, together with bangers such as “Midvinterblot” and “The Longships Are Coming”.

I was a big fan of Unleashed in my teens and early twenties, but I have to be honest and say they sort of fell out along the way in advantage of other bands that I discovered throughout my musical journey. However, I always enjoy Unleashed a lot whenever I hear them and they main thing I think about when I come across them is; “WHY are people listening to Amon Amarth when THIS exist?”. This is just what I assume everyone who wants heavy, pounding viking death metal are looking for. At least it’s exactly what I want when I’m in the mood for swinging my imaginary hammer of Thor against nearby christians in my local area.

Unleashed is a band who knows exactly what they’re doing and they’re doing it well. Not spectacular or a unique experience every time,, but through and through, always a solid performance.

UNLEASHED: 7/10

Now, the next review might be hard to explain to our international readers, but I’ll try my best. I know you swedes will understand exactly what I’m talking about, at least. When I was eleven years old, way back in 1999 (yes, I am old), the band that really was THE SHIT all over Sweden… was LOK, from Gothenburg. With hits like “Skrubbsår” and “LOK Står När De Andra Faller”, they dominated the rock and metal charts in Sweden completly.

For the ones who now are wondering “who the fuck are LOK?”, I guess I can compare them to a swedish Limp Bizkit? They had that whole late 90’s/early 00’s rap metal thing going on, but with lyrics in swedish. They released three albums between 1999 and 2002 and now they are back, 20 years later.

If I had a chance to see the forementioned Limp Bizkit live, I would go just as a fun nostalgia thing and not because I think it would be actually good. It would be entertaining to hear “Break Stuff”, Rollin'” and all those songs from my childhood, but nothing more than just that – a fun thing.

This was my exact thought going into the gig with LOK. “I guess it might be fun”. Believe me when I tell you how shocked I was from how very, very good this was. This was definitely not a show based on tired nostalgia, this was a hungry band that delivered on a high level. The sound was really good and really massive. The performance energetic as hell and overall it was just a great show. Lots of kick-ass songs who sounded better than ever and a band on top of their game.

Afterwards, I felt like a lot of people om the festival ground walked around and almost quietly whispered to each other that they thought LOK was really good, as if they didn’t expect they’d be “good for real” in lack of better words. Something like that was honestly my response as well, so I guess they were many like me, who were pleasantly surprised by LOK.

So, LOK, I think I obviously speak for a lot of people when I say sorry that we ever doubted you. You’re not just a fun nostalgia band from the ninetees, you’re actually a very good live band.

LOK: 8/10

After this somewhat surprising rap metal feast, there was time for something completly different. “What is the exact opposite of swedish rap metal?”, you ask? Well, the exact opposite of swedish rap metal is really angry polish guys in leather jackets and hoodies, shouting about Satan. The black metal band Mgla, from Poland, have been one of the biggest hypes of the scene over the last decade. Rightfully so, they have gained praise from both fans and critiques alike, for their astounding performances both live as well as on record.

Although the songs are some of the best you’ll hear within recent day black metal, the real payoff here is the show, or should I say the lack of such? In times where “a cool image” or crazy antics on stage often trumphs the actual music, it’s very refreshing to see musicians putting the art first. The art piece here, is of course the songs and the message that lies therein.

If you really want to cut to the core of something, it might be wise to remove all unnecessary distractions, which Mgla very much have managed to do. The musicians play their songs to perfection, but they do so faceless as well as nameless, both when it comes to the songs and the band members.

Wearing identical combinations of black jeans, black leather jackets and black hoodies that also covers up their faces; Mgla puts the art of music first. The messengers are not what’s important. What’s important is the message and that is a message of darkness, death and total destruction of flesh as well as of spirit.

In all of it’s minimalistic brilliance, Mgla is one of the most powerful black metal acts you can bare witness to. A festival stage is however far from an optimal setting for a Mgla performance, since the down-scaled vibe really would feel a lot more optimized on a smaller and more intimate stage, preferbly even indoors if one can choose.

Regardless of this, still a very solid gig from one of the most real and inspirational acts in black metal today.

MGLA: 8/10

Now we’ve come to one of the hardest reviews I’ve ever written. I honestly don’t really know where to start with… Meshuggah. They sure can play. But…. that’s kind of it? I don’t understand the allure with neither this band or this genre. Like, at all.

I’ve read several people write that this was world class and 10/10 etc, so… maybe it was? But honestly, if you think that Meshuggah is good, do you also grade the cooking skills of a chef based on onion chopping technique rather than how the food tastes? Because this is purely advanced playing of instruments, with zero groove or emotion. For me, music really is everything. I love this shit. I live for this shit. Based on that, I almost think it’s sad that there are bands like this around, that drain metal music from all that is emotion. All that is passion, feeling and most of all; a message. The message here is just a dumb and simplistic “look, we play our instruments very well”. You sure do. Congratulations. Too bad that perfect musicianship is such a minor part of all that is music. I’d almost say it’s a minor detail. Music should come from the heart, the crotch and last the brain. This is zero heart and zero crotch.

But you had pretty screens on stage and the scenery was impressive, so of course I understand this is a big band who gives their fans what they want, I guess. It just sucks that what that is… isn’t music, it’s just instrumental masturbation.

Go out and buy a Venom record, nerds.

MESHUGGAH: 4/10

We’re almost done with Gefle Metal Festival 2022 now, the only band remaining is the Stockholm death metal guys of LIK. Originally, Dark Funeral were supposed to end the festival, but due to Covid they had to cancel. Instead, these death worshipping heroes came and saved the day, which for me was a change for the better. Dark Funeral á 2022 is in my opinion pretty “meh”, so I prefer LIK every day of the week.

Since releasing their debut album “Mass Funeral Evocation” in 2015, LIK have stayed true to the days of old. Their classic old school Stockholm style death metal is far from unique, but who really needs originality anyway? When it comes to classic death metal, LIK really are one of the bands that have mastered the old school sound and play it to perfection.

We get killer songs from all three albums and we get a lot of talking between songs. I mean, like… a lot. Too much. Frontman Tomas Åkvik is a charming guy, but I wouldn’t hate it if he toned it down just a bit. He’s legitimatly funny sometimes, but there’s a lot of swing and miss too. Also; dude, you’re screaming about death, you don’t have to try and give us a comedy show between songs. We like you anyway. Just give us that kick-ass death metal you’ve delivered for three records straight.

So, a musically competent gig filled with so many meaty riffs the vegans in the crowd must have cried. However, also a bit too goofy for my taste, for it to be REALLY good. I don’t think goofy and extreme metal go hand in hand. It might sound elitist, but I care too much about metal to want it turned into a fun and charming family hour. Sorry. But still, a good gig from a very good band to end the festival for this year.

LIK: 7/10

 

 

Gefle Metal 2022

September 21, 2022

After two summers without Gefle Metal Festival due to the Covid pandemic, the time had finally come to once again enjoy some extreme metal in the swedish city of Gävle. Of course, Stargaze Magazine was there to summarize the experience. Enjoy! First off for me were the legendary american thrashers Exodus. I guess this is a band that needs no further introduction really, so I might as well just get to the point straight away. You can tell that the pandemic has left Exodus hungry and ready to kick some serious ass, which I assure you they did as they almost always do. The band really delivers a high energy performance and especially guitarist Gary Holts is always very fun to watch. Something that is not very fun on the other hand, is the newer material. I have to be honest and say that every time singer Steve Souza announces “a song from our latest album” or something similar, I zone out completely and just wait for better days. Luckily, better days are coming when older songs like “Bonded By Blood”, “Strike Of The Beast”, or “Lesson In Violence” are played to perfection. Both myself and the rest of the…

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