I asked myself these questions…. A trip to Europe and specifically Belgium in October?, A chance to hook up with friends I’ve made online over the years, Getting to cover a music festival as both a reporter and photographer?, A music festival billed with nothing but female fronted bands? To these questions and more, I said a hearty HELL YEAH!!
This was The Age Of Metal ’s first opportunity to cover a metal music festival in Europe, and try to extend our coverage beyond just the US. There was no way I could have said no. What follows is my report of the first night of the festival.
My adventure began with what everyone hates to confront at an airport. A one hour flight delay out of Austin to Chicago due to weather issues in Chicago. Had I stood around, there was a distinct possibility of missing my connecting flight to Brussels. Not the way I wanted to start this trip. Approaching the United ticket counter representative, I explained my situation. The rep went above and beyond to find me another flight out of Austin, so I could get things underway. The new flights took me from Austin to Washington, then Washington to Brussels. Bingo! I’ll take it.
Anyway, after that was taken care of, I subjected myself to 14 hours of airports and flying, I finally arrived in Brussels. From the Brussels airport, I made my way to the Crowne Plaza hotel, near the center of the city. Having arrived in the afternoon, I decided to just chill at the hotel for a while. Along the way, my body decided it needed some sleep. ZZZzzzzzz..
Waking up later in the evening I decided to get in touch with my good buddy Michel Stiakakis who is the guitar player for the Belgium based band Skeptical Minds. Ever the gracious host, Mich cruised by the hotel to pick me up for a late night tour of some of the sites of the city. Being a photographer first and foremost, I had an absolute blast getting some really nice shots of various locales of the city. Also, Mich took me to one of the many little shops that serve Belgian Fries. Yes, the fried potato goodness did originate in Belgium, not France. A good time was had, then Mich took me back to the hotel so I could get a good night’s sleep in preparation for the 3+ days of madness that were soon to ensue.
Mich, who really is an outstanding guy, came by the hotel the next day to give me a ride to my hotel in Aalst. Aalst is a small town outside of Wieze which is where Metal Female Voices Fest takes place. Aalst is the location for several hotels that are used to house both bands, and attendees. It is also the main location for what everyone calls party central, aka the Ibis hotel.
Friday night kicks off the first of 3 nights at MFVF. The fest is held at the Oktoberhallen in Wieze. To my eyes, it looks like a really large airplane style hanger that has been converted into a concert of large proportions. Upon entering the facility, you immediately see a very large section where various merchandisers have set up booths to sell your usual concert fare. T-shirts, CD’s, Flags, Banners, leather goods, and other items. You name it, and you’ll probably find it there.
First on the bill, is none other than Liv Kristine of Leaves Eyes who was there to perform a solo set of material from her solo releases, Enter My Religion (2006), Skintight (2010), and Libertine (2012). She also managed to pull out three Theatre Of Tragedy tunes from her past, Venus, Image, and her encore song A Distance There Is. Her singing was angelic, and the band was very lively. Her performance overall, is flawless and spot on this night, as only Liv can perform. This is certainly a fantastic way to start an evening of musical entertainment.
Next on the bill is what is being billed as Eve’s Apple. For those that may not know, Eve’s Apple is a collective of female singers who have banded together to form this collective. Their stated mission, as per the Eve’s Apple Facebook page is, “Eve’s Apple is a worldwide community of professional female singers, designed to be a platform that informs about women’s work in the world of music, supports new female fronted bands, and offers advice for navigating the music business world.”
The Eve’s Apple ladies sang in combinations of two, three, four, or multiples of the previous. They performed a wide range of cover tunes from Black Sabbath’s NIB to the Rainbow song Stargazer. The highlight of the night was the encore by all of the ladies performing a kickass version of the Ronnie James Dio song Stars. The women who preformed were as follows in no particular order…
Mariangela Demurtas- Tristania, Kassandra Novell-The Mill Dogs, Charlotte Wessels- Delain, Zuberoa Aznárez- Diabulus in Musica, Karolina Pacan- Skeptical Minds, Ailyn Giménez- Sirenia, Maxi Nil- Visions of Atlantis, VK Lynne –The Spider Accomplice, Vita Nova, Glitter Mortis Mary Zimmer- Luna Mortis, White Empress, Glittermortis Laura Vargas- Sacramento, Lisa Middelhauve- (Ex–Xandria), Heidi Parviainen –Dark Sarah (ex-Amberian Dawn), Sabrina Valentine – Seven Kingdoms, Iliana Tsakiraki- Enemy Of Reality (ex-Meden Agan), Lindsay Schoolcraft- Schoolcraft, Cradle of Filth, Clémentine Delauney- Serenity (ex-Whyzdom), Sanna Salou- Dimlight, Angel Wolf-Black – Seduce The Heaven, Annamaria Cozza-November-7, Grace Méridan- Lifeaftergod (ex-Shield of Wings), and Marcela Bovio- Stream of Passion
Of Saturday’s lineup, the highlights for me were Magion, Imperia, Serenity, Kobra And The Lotus, Kontrust, Leave’s Eyes, and Delain.
For the opening act, Dutch band Magion brought their A game and put on a great performance of the material from their first release, and their new release that just came out. They were for me, the surprise performance of the festival. I had never seen Imperia live, only via youtube videos. But man, talk about a singer who brings complete and utter passion to vocals, Helena Iren Michaelsen brought emotion with her performance by the proverbial boatload. When she sings, you can just feel the emotion of the song to its fullest meaning.
Austria’s Serenity is always a great symphonic metal style band to watch and listen to. The interaction between Georg Neuhauser and Clémentine Delauney is a sight to behold. The singing and interplay between these two is amazing. Now that Clémentine has been made a fulltime member of the band, they’ve gone back through some of the older material and divided up vocal duties. And to these ears, it works very well.
When Kobra Paige of Kobra And The Lotus takes the stage, you know exactly who is in command. She is totally in control of that stage. When she opens her mouth to sing, she lets out a roar like very few front women can. Kontrust is another band from Austria that falls in the crossover genre, blending multiple styles such as alternative rock, new wave, hard rock, avant garde, and even nu metal elements. All I know, is that they are a wickedly fun act to watch and hear perform.
Leave’s Eyes with Liv Kristine making her second appearance at the festival in two nights, came out and performed an amazing set of music that included five brand new songs that had never been played live, from the soon to be released album Symphonies Of The Night. The new songs included Galswintha, Fading Earth, Maid Of Lorraine, Hell To The Heavens, and the title track, Symphonies Of The Night. To me, the new music is much heavy than their past material. Some of the usual folk elements aren’t as prominent. Could this be the influence of one Alexander Krull? It could very well be. Regardless it sounded killer, and I for one can’t wait for the new CD to drop.
The final highlight of the night for me was Dutch band Delain. Fronted by Charlotte Wessels, they rolled through material from their earlier releases, with a primary focus on material from We Are The Others. But the real highlight of the night, was the appearance of one Sharon den Adel from Within Temptation, who came out to perform two songs with Delain. The first was a duet with Charlotte performing No Compliance from their first release Lucidity. This was followed in short order by the two ladies performing a duet of the Within Temptation song Restless from the Within Temptation début cd Enter. This was something that I would probably never see anywhere else, and I have MFVF to thank for that.
Of Sunday’s lineup, the last 4 bands just absolutely put on a great evening of entertainment. A band that has never toured the US, Stream Of Passion is a band I’ve been dying to see. I can finally cross that off my bucket list. What started as an Arjen Anthony Lucassen project, over time has turned into a stable and solid band, that is a vehicle for the amazing vocals of Marcela Bovio. In the given set time, they preformed a variety of tunes from their previous releases, and even managed to throw in a Radiohead cover of Street Spirit.
The next artist that I was thrilled to finally see in person, was Anneke van Giersbergen. I’ve completely enjoyed her music and vocals, since her days with the band The Gathering. She’s played a bit in the US, but I’ve never had the time or money to travel to see her live. Another one crossed off the bucket list! MFVF was the 5th stop of her Drive tour in support of her new album. The first 8 songs preformed, was evenly split material from the new Drive release, and the Everything Is Changing release. The last 4 songs that were played, were songs she had originally preformed with her first band The Gathering. They were Broken Glass, You Learn About It, Saturnine, and my favorite, Strange Machines. The whole set saw an amazing amount of energy from the band, and from the crowd. If I’m given the chance to see her when and if she comes back to the US, you can bet I’ll be first in line for tickets.
Revamp is the band that Floor Jansen formed after her previous band After Forever broke up. Floor is another front woman who commands the stage and enthralls the crowd with her performance. With vocals ranging from a good clean hard rock style, to an operatic style, there is no style of singing that this woman can’t do. There is a reason Nightwish selected her to be their new vocalist. Not only is she a monster vocalist, but also someone who attracts and holds everyone’s attention with her onstage performance. One moment she will be wailing away on the mic, the next, she’ll be headbanging and twirling her hair like a woman possessed. The band preformed a set of mainly cuts from their new release Wild Card.
Tarja Turunen was the last act for Sunday night and the closer of the festival. Backed by an all-star band, Tarja hit the stage to loud applause and opened with In For the Kill from her What Lies Beneath release. This was followed by 500 Letters from her new Colours In the Dark release. She would go on to play more cuts from the new cd, and from several her previous releases. After the she had finished the main part of the set, Tarja and the band left the stage. They would return after the crowd would go into a chant to bring her and the band back out for an encore. 4 songs were played, of which one, was the Nightwish song that she is well-known for, Wish I Had An Angel. The very last song to close out the set, and the festival, included a special guest duet performance by none other than Floor Jansen. Tarja and Floor preformed the great Gary Moore song Over The Hills And Far Away. As the song ended, the crowd erupted into mass cheers and applause. What a way to end three days of awesome female fronted metal!!
Overall, I found this to be a fantastic three days of great female fronted music. If you’re into female fronted metal, MFVF is the festival that fits that bill to a T and ranges several genre’s of metal. I wholeheartedly suggest that if you’re given to the desire to attend this festival, do it. You will have a great time!!