8.3.2014, Sjónleikarhúsið, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands
This year the Faroese edition of Wacken Metal Battle Føroyar 2014 took place on an extremely stormy Saturday at the old, but very active theater venue, Sjónleikarhúsið, in the capital Tórshavn. The organizer for this year’s battle was yet again the non-profit organization, Upp Við Hornunum (transl. Raise your horns), UVH in short.
On this gloomy Saturday the competition started early for the competing bands, the judges and the foreign press members, who all had been invited to take part in the Meet and Greet at noon. This event was aiming to get the different parties to know each other better and break the ice between them. The keywords of the day’s session were the importance of learning to network, to work hard for your music and how to act on a stage in order to make people, (especially these judges), interested in the performance. Jörg Düsedau, and with him the rest of the judges, underlined the importance of making contact with the audience, to sing and to play for each and everyone of them. This year’s panel of judges were consisting of Kári Streymoy, the former drummer of Týr, of Jörg Düsedau from the german promotion agency Dragon Productions, of Kasper Molin, organizer of the Wacken Metal Battle Denmark and of Jan Roger Pettersen, his Norwegian counterpart.
After the warm-hearted and filled-with-laughter meeting event the judges and the foreign journalists ventured into an stormy adventure to visit to the northern part of the island of Streymoy. Our sightseeing guide Bjarni Nattestad poured us with stories about the Faroe Islands on our wobbly car drive in the absurdly windy weather on the narrow roads to the end-of-the-road places Tjørnuvik and Saksun.
During the afternoon the weather got even more extreme, but this was nothing new for the faroese audience, so slowly but surely the beautiful venue was filling up with metal heads and other curious and supportive people. At 8 pm. the announcer Ragnar A. Jacobsen, host for the Faroese metal radio program Ragnarokk, opened the competition.
The opening act of this year’s battle was Ceticide, a very fresh newcomer to the local scene. The band is offering death metal with a twist of black satire. The founding member Hvalvákn said that the reasons for creating Ceticide were foremost to have fun, play good music and to drink beer. The band is taking a less serious approach, since its aim is to deal with issues concerning ceticide, which means the killing of whales. The intro fades out into the quote from the Devil’s Rejects by Rob Zombie: I am the devil … and I’m here to do the devil’s work.
Bathing in red coloured lightning the band performed quite non-dramatically. All the lyrics deal with whaling, and if you have a dark sense of humour, you instantly know that this is one way of reacting to the dramatic and propagandistic condemning of a 1000-year-old culture. If reasoning, facts and common sense does not work, then take up the same arms than the accusers have. Overdramatize it. Plain, simple, and extremely funny. Not for people to take it too seriously or literally, though.
REDUCED TO ASH
The second band to take the stage was Reduced to Ash. It was to be the second performance that evening for guitarist and vocalist Eyðun Hvannastein (as he was also part of Ceticide). The band participated int eh competition also last year, and there were significant improvement in the band’s and its members’ performance since that, as they were less shy, a bit more aggressive, a bit more in contact with the audience and had come up with new material – a bit angrier would have been more interesting though, even if Eyðun Hvannastein‘s voice is getting deeper and more dark as time goes by. It seems that trying to be perfect in playing is still the main goal, which can get a bit tedious at times, because the performers are stagnated in themselves and not reaching out. When they step on the next level, and start entertaining the audience and making them to live with the music, something magical will surely happen. Their tunes had remained the same, and the songs were still very catchy and flowing melodic death metal – some of the riffs very beautiful, even if not anything too re-creating the genre. Nothing new per say, but very compelling.
Third act on the stage was progressive metal band Earth Divide, the only band this year to have attended all three local battles and hence, the most experienced band of the competing ones. The band had got some stage experience during the years and it partook in a 2-week-tour last year together with the icelandic band Angist in Iceland and on Faroe Islands. Included in this third Ferðin til Heljar 2013-tour were two concerts at festivals, at Eistnaflug in Iceland and at G! Festival on Faroe Islands.
Fronted by the energetic vocalist Jóhan Fríðrikur Sanderson, the group seems to be ready to take upon larger arenas, even outside Faroe Islands. The band has re-formed slightly during the years, recently taking ex-SIC bassist Gudmar Hansen in to their ranks. The first two songs, Godless and Claustrophobia were familiar from prior, and the songs were published 2013 in the band’s EP Earth Divide. Positive progress from last year’s performance was that the band introduced two new songs, The Seed and Primal. All present in “da house” seemed to appreciate Earth Divide a great deal, with their complete, most balanced and tightly-played-together-meshuggian-set – which sums it up as the event’s most successful performance. One of the (quite obvious) winner candidates for this battle.
Next in line was the old school thrash metallers from the southern islands, Asyllex from Suðuroy. The band is participating in the battle for the second year in a row, and after last year’s surprising burst of energy they had high expectations for their performance. The band members are extremely young, but abled musicians. With a great potential and enthusiasm they served a platter full of exciting songs. the performance was not lacking energy – bassist Finnur Nielsen and the rest of Asyllex were on fire. The line-up had shrunk from last year and Hans Hammer had stepped forward a step to become the new frontman, a bit more serious in many ways than the previous vocalist.
Iron Lungs, kind of a progressive metal band, was one of the new bands to compete this year. The band’s five members where not strangers to the this battle stage, since they had participated in other bands prior. This time the mix of people and the music created felt more convincing and had more determination behind it. Musically the performance would have needed a bit more focus, they wanted to be all over the place, being everything at the same time. Vocalist Fridi Djurhuus performance had definitely improved and he was attending for the audience’s attention. This meant also acting a scene where he pretended to be a preacher letting down the word from a book he held in his hand and a small part of the audience worshipped him at his feet. They also created a small wall of death amongst the audience, so one can say that the lack in smoothness and flow in the music, they really compensated in trying their best to entertain the audience.
After the competing bands, the bitter bourbon rock band Jürghinn had planned a special set of old school metal and rock songs to be played to the sing-a-long-and-dance-hungry-audience. The audience had more energy to spend, so this old school metal special fitted the occasion more than well while waiting for the judges to make up their minds. John Áki Egholm (also guitarist and one of the founding members of Hamferð) and Jürghinn pampered the audience with songs like All My Friends Are Dead, Breaking the Law and Seek and Destroy. When Breaking the Law started, the band got reinforced by quite masculine beer drinking backing vocalists in wife-beaters and sunglasses, Jenus Í Trøðini (Hamferð) and Jan Bolstad Anthoniussen (The Happening). Also, a bit later the line-up was beautified by a lady in jeans. A trully intensive ending filled with sweat, sex and rock ‘ n’ roll. Jürghinn released recently an album titled The Proof Is Evidence.
ANNOUNCING THE WINNERS
Past midnight, after a short break after the sweaty performance by Jürghinn, all the bands, the judges and the organizers gathered on the stage. It was time to bring forth some words by the judges, but first, Teitur E. Fossaberg took the stand on behalf of the entire organizing crew and of Upp Við Hornunum, the organizing organization. As was hoped for, the evening was running smoothly and all involved got their thanks. Next all the judges got their word, and this year’s event and the audience got a lot of praise from them. Being a unique, small metal scene, where all the bands get support from the audience equally and the solidarity against each other feels heart-warming, even for these experienced pro’s. Keep on incubating more metal bands and keep up the enthusiasm, keep up the good work. . .
Before announcing the winner, one band of the night’s performers was to be nominated to play in the Faroese Music Awards in the coming week. This band was Reduced to Ash.
Kári Streymoy was entrusted with the task of announcing the winner. The winner of this year’s faroese battle was Earth Divide. The band will take part in the international Metal Battle, together with bands from around the world, at the Wacken Open Air this August.
THE WINNER: EARTH DIVIDE
Now a bit of insight in the winning band, Earth Divide, and its vocalist Freddy’s (Jóhan Fríðrikur Sanderson) thoughts through answers to some of my questions.
EM: Your band, Earth Divide, was the winning band for this year’s metal battle? How does it feel, and did you know you will win (had to ask)? Tell a bit about your conception of the event in aftermath?
JS: WMBF is a highpoint of the year in the Faroese metal scene, and becoming a finalist for WMB is a dream come true for any up and coming metal band, and we have still have a tingling sensation and sense of euphoria from the aftermath of the competition.
We didn’t really know what to expect this year, because of the larger amount of newcomers to the competition than in the two years before. The previous years of WMBF have been with a lot of familiar faces from the scene, but this year we were the veteran band at the competition (which was a strange feeling, because we’ve always had a sense that we were the new kids on the block). But on the larger scale of things, it’s a good feeling seeing so many new bands being formed. And as for knowing if we’d win the competition, the best we could say is that we had a good feeling, but it was pretty much anyone’s game.
EM: Earth Divide has been around for a while. Can you tell a bit about the band and its highlights?
JS: All our band members have strong ties to the Faroese metal scene, and we also have musical roots elsewhere too, but I like to think that our strong connection to a large spectrum of genres, is what gives us our edge and helps us define what we’re trying to achieve musically.
Technically, the band formed in late 2009, but without any proper drive or direction. And the band lay dormant for quite some time. But in late 2011 we decided to start up again and take the band in a new direction musically. Which, as luck would have it, was exactly the kick in the crotch we needed to make Earth Divide into what it is today.
The first highlight that springs to mind is the Ferðin til Heljar -tour last year, which we did together with Angist. It was the first time we’d performed our music outside the country and we did so to a very positive response. Secondly, I’d say it was releasing our EP, because it’s always a fantastic feeling holding a physical copy of something you’ve been working your ass off for. It’s a gigantic feeling relief and happiness.
EM: How do you see Earth Divide‘s future now that you won the WMBF14 and you are going to take part in the international final of the Metal Battle at Wacken Open Air?
JS: Winning WMBF and becoming finalists at WMB is a huge opportunity for us to connect to a larger metal scene and spread our music into a broader field of view. It has already started opening doors for us to play internationally and created a lot of publicity around the band. Last week we were confirmed as the first Metal Battle band on the billing at Wacken, and I have to admit that my heart soared, when I saw Earth Divide next to Emperor on the billing list (even though it’s in alphabetical order, but still I was thinking: ‘’f**k yeah!’’) playing at Wacken is any metal band’s dream. Because it truly is the mecca of all things metal.
So we’ll have to answer the question with a resounding… YES! We will be taking part at Wacken Open Air.
EM: What is your view of the Faroese metal scene at the moment, and vision for the future?
JS: Over the course of the last decade or so, the metal scene in the Faroe Islands has taken a giant leap forward and the bands of today are going to hights that ten years ago wouldn’t be believed. We have bands like Hamferð, Týr who are not only paving the way for the Faroese metal scene, but the Faroese music scene as a whole, and are breaking barriers internationally, that again, ten years ago would have seemed inconceivable. Both musically and stylistically, we are proud to see the progress of the scene here. It truly is becoming a sight to behold. And the sheer amount of willingness to create and perform, especially from the younger metal musicians is staggering. The future of the Faroese metal scene is very bright indeed, and who knows, maybe in ten more years the metal scene here will be the next huge international tourist attraction.
Texts and photos: Eija Mäkivuoti
W:O:A Metal Battle | http://www.metal-battle.com
W:O:A Metal Battle Føroyar | http://www.facebook.com/WackenMetalBattleFo
UVH | http://www.facebook.com/UppVidHornunum
Earth Divide | https://www.facebook.com/earth.divide