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Metal Female Voices Festival, Brussels, Belgium
8 November 2003

Everyone of the bands on the bill featured at the very least a female vocalist and to the best of my knowledge this is the first time an event of this nature has been put on. [Though if I’d won the lottery, I have plans to do something similar myself.]

The venue was some sort of community centre, not too far from the centre of Brussels, with a capacity, I would estimate, of about 5 or 600 people. It was packed and the event must have been sold-out or very nearly so. Most people there seemed to be Belgian, though I recognised a few people from Paris, heard a few other English and German voices. Later in the evening, a large contingent of Dutch fans turned up to cheer the last two bands on the bill.

Keltgar (BE): They played while I was queuing at the entrance, so what I heard of their set was through the concrete walls, so it’s hard to say what they were really like.

The Last Embrace (FR): I saw these guys at a festival in France, earlier in the year and this time they played pretty much the same set. Singer Nathalie was the only front-woman who didn’t appear to have dressed up for the show, but her strong point is her excellent voice which is deep, emotional and with a hint of blues in there too. Their new material hints towards them moving in the direction of Anathema/Tiamat.

Morning (NL): Current touring partners for After Forever, their front-woman Saskia came over as very confident and assured. Her voice perhaps wasn’t the strongest of those featured, but their set impressed me enough for me to purchase their EP ‘Inside’.

Anthemon (FR): Another French band and one I must admit I hadn’t investigated at all. Shame on me, they were excellent. Very heavy, great keyboards and musically one of the most progressive featured. The singer was pretty good, and the bassist occasionally contributed some growls. Though they seemed to run into problems mid-set (the band members seemed to be talking between themselves a great deal), it all sounded pretty good to me. They finished their set with an instrumental cover, which I thought was a little odd, but didn’t stop me buying both of their CDs.

Sengir (BE): The second Belgian band on the bill and one of the acts who I had heard beforehand. Their debut album ‘Guilty Water’ was OK, but the songs sounded so much better live. Their sound was much heavier, richer in the keyboard department and singer Ellen Schutyser sounded way better too. A performance that certainly made me raise my opinion of them.

Autumn(NL): As previous touring partners of After Forever, I expected them to be quite good, but I wasn’t terribly impressed by their debut CD ‘When Lust Evokes The Curse’ boring old pagan metal, blah, blah blah. However, once again, they were a different prospect live. Vocalist Nienke de Jong moved very well on stage (showing some Floor Jansen influence I thought) and sang pretty well too. The band were very strong and powerful too, with the bassist contributing some great grunting too. They had a definite following in the hall who seemed to enjoy, in particular, the songs ‘Who Has Seen Her Wave Her Hand’, ‘The Rest of My Days’ and ‘Floating Towards Distress’. Another winner.

EPICA(NL): Definitely the most anticipated band of the day and they delivered big-time. Simone looked absolutely gorgeous and was an excellent frontwoman. I couldn’t fault her singing, she moved very well and headbanged enthusiastically when she wasn’t singing. The rest of the band were very good too. In fact I enjoyed the whole thing so much, I barely took any notes at all (but I did take a lot of photos of Simone).

The setlist consisted of the whole of the album, plus Japanese bonus track ‘The Triumph of Defeat’ (composed by the keyboard player), plus old After Forever tune ‘Follow in the Cry’. When they were called back for an encore they had nothing else to play, so they played ‘Cry For The Moon’ again as Mark Jansen reckoned that it was the tune which had received the best response from the crowd. One of the best sets I’ve seen all year.

Even though I’ve been to some pretty good festivals this year, I think this was the most enjoyable musically, because there wasn’t a single band I didn’t enjoy. All of the performances were very good, the venue was ideal and the organisation was excellent. Epica also dragged the organiser on stage at the end of their set and made sure he got a good round of applause from the crowd. Can’t wait for the next edition!

[One downside of getting into the venue late was that the Epica merchandise stall sold out of the new Ltd Edition Epica single (only 1000 made), which looks like its going to become a real collectors item. I did pick up the new Anathema and Dream Theater disks while I was there.]

Review: Charlie Farrell

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