FortaRock 2019 Sunday

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Today it is going to be even hotter than yesterday, but luckily there is a small breeze blowing the entire day, so in the shade it is sort of doable. The location, the Goffertpark, is ideal for this weather. There are lots of places with shade from trees and is relative open for the wind to blow away the heat a bit.
Later on the day there was a thunderstorm expected, but that was not an issue now. The issue now was to stay hydrated and use enough sunscreen!

When the gates open, it is already more busy than yesterday and that is a good sign. With the sun at its highest point, the guys of Savage Messiah walk on to the main stage.

Savage Messisah (UK)

The first thing to be noticed about this band, is the extreme joy they display on the stage. Especially guitarist David Hruska is having a blast; he just can’t stop smiling!
These gents have a pretty straightforward approach; play metal, have fun and entertain. There is no finery to their gig, but they play a more than fucking decent gig!
Singer Dave Silver apologizes for his voice after being sick, but I did not hear anything wrong with it.
With a recently released album, there is even more to smile about. These guys can come back more often to our country!

Car Bomb (USA)

These Americans were flown in after Allegaeon canceled their performance on a short notice. These guys play some pretty complex progressive metal and I even hear the term math-metal and I guess that is pretty accurate. Musically it is very complex and once you think you’ve got the beat, it changes… in speed, direction, sound and everything else.
To me these changes in all directions are a bit too much, but the tent is filled up rather well, so I guess I am too old for this and after a few songs I decide to leave the hot and stuffy tent and find a cool spot outside in the shade.

Gloryhammer (UK)

I love to hate these kind of bands and I hate it I love them… It is over the top, the scenes played out on the stage are toe bending at times but musically it ain’t half bad and it is entertaining as fuck!
I’ve spotted some inflatable swords early in the morning and these are now in the front row.
Singer Angus McFife XIII, Crown Prince of Fife (Thomas Winkler) is all over the stage and posing in heroic stances for the crowd and photographers.
I’ve said it before; I don’t see myself buy records of Gloryhammer, but if they are on a festival I will have a look for sure, because bands like this really heightens the fun of a festival and the crowd is always very much involved and everybody has a few laughs.

Decapitated (PL)

I decide to skip Decapitated because of the immense heat in the tent and the fact that I must get something to eat.

Kadavar (D)

The positioning of this German band on the main stage is surprising. The drum kit is in the middle and upfront, so everybody can see the frills en facial expressions of drummer ‘Tiger’ and boy does he have some frills and facial expressions to show! On the left side of the drums, guitar player Lupus is playing his part and he too has some pretty slick moves, but is mostly pinned to his spot behind the mic as he sings too.
Bass player Simon isn’t bound to a spot and moves about quite a bit and competes with Tiger for the facial expression award of the festival.
Musically it is ticking like a clock! Although it is not really metal (it is more heavy rock), there is no one on the field in front of the stage who has any problem with that.
It is entertaining and it is quite danceable too, as I see quite some couples dance to the beat in the back of the field.

Batushka (PL)

The saga around the two versions of Batushka continues in Nijmegen and it was unsure which one of the two versions would perform at Fortarock. It turned out to be the band of Bartlomiej Krysiuk.
The stage is filled to the max with religious attributes and there is hardly any place for the band, so the choir is on the side of the stage and hardly visible and the drummer seems to be behind the backdrop. De other band members are in front of the backdrop, but still way in the back.
Before Bartlomiej can take his spot behind the lectern, two fully dressed monks light the candles on the stage and they take their time for it.
When the show finally starts, it is clear that only new songs will be played. Both Batushka’s seems to have sworn never to play their previous material ever again, because of their differences. I think that is a shame and even an insult for the fans who want to see these songs live.
Although I really like this kind of performances, this one seems a bit pale this time. I’ve seen Batushka before and really liked them then, but it seems as if they are struggling to prove something and therefor missing the spirit.

Nevertheless the props are awesome! It is as if one is visiting a church in Eastern Europe on a very hot and very humid day.
Saying that, I must pay respect to the artists of Batushka, as they are fully dressed in cowls and facial masks. They must have been sweating bullets!

Symphony X (USA)

The sun is still blistering hot As Symphony X starts on their set. Another progressive metal band and what a band it is! On their fifth lustrum, the band is still going strong. It is hot on the field in front of the stage and I guess that is why the crowd is quite tame. Heads move, but that’s about it.
Singer Russell Allen is still emotional when he refers to the accident 2 years ago with which he still struggles.
The gig however is impressive and in the shade the people are more brave to move, as is it is less hot over there.
Russel takes quite some gulps from a bottle of Jack Daniels and it is almost a miracle he keeps going! I enjoyed Symphony X very much. All artists are top notch and the sounds awesome too. The voice of Russel is perfect and maybe the Jack Daniels kept it smooth.
Another band of whom I don’t mind if they play on more Dutch festivals and stages!

Katatonia (S)

I was very much looking forward to this band, as I’ve seen Jonas Renkse perform during Ayreon Universe and was pretty impressed by his voice.
Before the band enters the stage in the tent, the smoke machine is cranked up a lot, but luckily most of the smoke disappeared before the set begins. There is a chuckle when Jonas says to the crowd: “I know it is Sunday, I know it is Katatonia on the stage, but it could be worse! It could be Monday. It could be Opeth playing songs exclusively from their last cd! He thinks it is funny too, as he smiles cheekily behind his long hair.
I love the doom/depressive sound of Katatonia and they are going to play their 2009 album “Night is the new day” from front to back. Jonas thinks there are quite a few ballads on the setlist, but no one is complaining. The gloomy slow metal of Katatonia is a fresh gush of wind in the hot tent and it is pretty busy too!
It is as if the vibe of Katatonia makes one think it is a cold day in the fall with rain and wind. The thought of that sends a shiver down my spine and no it is not a sunstroke!
There is not a real stage show, but man… musically and vocally this is stellar.

Hammerfall (S)

Next up on the main stage is Hammerfall. This year the power metal fans are getting their money’s worth, as Hammerfall is a live band par excellence!
With the sun largely behind the trees, more and more people are standing on the field in front of the main stage. With the sun gone, there is more movement in the crowd too. On the stage the show is slick and rehearsed, but no one gives a damn. The band does everything right and singer Joacim Cans interacts a lot with the fans.
Both guitarist battle for attention during their solos and the fans are loving it. Especially the tall, white haired Oscar Dronjak is getting a lot of attention with his custom made guitars, which he changes regularly.
After drinking water all day, I switch to beer. With Hammerfall filling the air and the sun setting, life couldn’t be better.

Animals As Leaders (USA)

Another anniversary and this time it is Animals as Leaders, whom celebrate their 10th anniversary. It takes some getting used to, but after a few minutes one does not miss the vocals at all.
Musically this is fucking awesome! If you take in account, that Tosin Abasi is an autodidact, it is even more jaw dropping. I could not determine if the bass sound came from a track or that Javier Reyes also plays the low notes on his guitar.
It is pretty busy in the tent and loads of people enjoying the complex riffs en chords this trio generates.
The band is so into their own music, that the forget at times that there is an audience in front of them.
I’m impressed by their musical quality and how they master their instruments and didn’t expect this to see on Fortarock. It is very enjoyable!

Amon Amarth (S)

These gentle Swedes are no strangers in The Netherlands, and not even on Fortarock! In 2016 they were on the bill too, but at the time a bit lower. At Into the Grave 2018 they were an impressive headliner and I was very curious if they could live up to these expectation.
The wind picked up quite a bit before the gig and a quart of the huge screen that shielded the stage from prying eyes, got ripped of the clamps which should drop it at the start of the show. It flapped violently and it threatened to fall on the stage, so the stagehands decided to let it drop prematurely to keep everyone and everything safe. To give the stagehands time to get things in order again, “Run to the Hills” of Iron Maiden is played and this enhances the comradery on the field to a maximum! Everybody present sings along, making Fortarock the biggest outdoor karaoke bar ever!
Only minutes later the intro of “The Pursuit of Vikings” sounds and the band enters the stage.
Huge fire columns shoot up in the air and a broad smiling Johan Hegg is appearing at the front of the stage. A huge roar goes through the crowd and Johan plays the crowd as if it is a flock of meek sheep.

The fire columns are almost constantly shooting up in the air and we photographers are kept at a distance by security, but these poor bastards feel the heat even better and some touch the back of their heads to check if there is still some hair left. The heat is very intense as the fire shoots up, but damn! We are only halfway through the first song and the Goffertpark is already turned upside down!

The first three songs are the songs everyone wants to hear; “The Pursuit of Vikings”, “Deceiver of the Gods” and “First Kill”.
As I walk around the field, I notice the wind is picking up some more and an occasional flash can be seen in the sky across the main stage.
It is cramped at the field in front of the main stage and that is a good sign!
Amon Amarth plays a very diverse set with lots of older material, but some of the new album too of course.

When the first raindrops start to fall, I pack my stuff and walk towards my car. Halfway I hear a police radio saying that Fortarock will be stopped due to severe weather…. It seems that Fortarock will not be spared anything this year…
At home I read that the park is cleared out in an orderly fashion and that everybody thinks it’s a shame, but there is understanding for the avoidance of any risks with a thunderstorm.

Conclusion

The organization of Fortarock 2019 was a tough one. The problems in the run-up, the disappointing ticket sales and now the weather gods whom intervened with Amon Amarth. I just tell myself that it was because of the absence of “Twilight of the Thunder God” on their setlist 😉

Personally I had a blast. Fortarock is always well organized and the line-up was very diverse and that is no problem. As a visitor you have a problem if all bands are your favorite; you don’t have time to eat, drink or
hangout with your mates!
The number of bands in the category of Iron Maiden, Slayer, etc. are decreasing as they get older and don’t have the urge to tour anymore. That is no criticism towards these bands, it is their good right!
Personally with Amon Amarth there is a new generation of “big names” rising and I can get used to them!

Hopefully there is going to be a Fortarock 2020 and if it is a smaller setup, that is fine by me! Another XL version is fine too, but we must be real.