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Ieperfest 2009 - Europe's best underground hardcore festival
As you may have red in our preview on the fest, this years Ieperfest is already the 17th edition! Even though there's still a lot of criticism about the new terrain that's being used for the fest (it used to take place on a parking lot next to a swimming pool) and a few big acts like PsyOpus and Misery Index got cancelled, I couldn't resist going this year as well. With a lineup including big acts like 108, Aborted, Terror, A Wilhelm Scream, Darkest Hour, Bane and First Blood we had a long weekend ahead of us!

Day 0 (Pre-Fest)
 
Ieperfest is known for its pre-fests that take place the day before the festival for the people who have already set up their tent and are ready for some party! 5 local Belgian bands were on the bill for this evening in the marquee (the tent).
 
We missed out on Fundamental while still setting up the tent on the camping and when we heard the first slow, doomy, sludgy noises on the camping-site we rushed to the festival terrain to catch most of Sensual Noise’s set. This five-piece turned out to be one of the highlights of the festival already, playing a short but intense set mixing Amenra, Neurosis and Isis into a perfect blend of deep post-hardcore and sludge. Unfortunately only a handful of people where in the tent and were standing in the back, but the band still gave everything they had. I picked up a hand numbered demo as well and according to their MySpace there are only a few left. Pick it up, this band could turn out to be something interesting in the future! Keep an eye open! (http://www.myspace.com/sensualnoisetheband)
 
Next up was Golden Bullet from Kortrijk, Belgium. The first, and (sadly?) certainly not the last beatdown hardcore on the festival. The band had some sound issues at the beginning but gave an energetic performance. The music however didn’t really grab me and I think the singer had to work a bit more on his vocal capabilities. Not bad, but certainly nothing more or less. (http://www.myspace.com/goldenbullet)
 
Even though I thought Parkway Drive wasn’t on the bill, they actually were. Open Sesame turned out to be more of a Parkway Drive cover band, rather than a normal band. Using absolutely every Parkway Drive-cliché you can imagine (check out their MySpace tracks to get an impression), I had a good laugh about this. Especially when they covered ‘Killing With A Smile’ from their biggest (and only?) inspiration as third track. It must be said, quality wise the band knows how to play, but it’s absolutely nothing original compared with what Parkway Drive and millions of other metalcore bands have done. They got the skills, time to use them right! (http://www.myspace.com/opensesamebelgium)
 
Boy did I enjoy this after two bands that didn’t grab my attention (except for lol at Open Sesame’s set), The Ignored, a fast melodic punk rock band from Ieper itself gave away a great performance. Put Propagandhi, The Bouncing Souls, Rise Against, Strike Anywhere and some hardcore influences in a blender and something that sounds like The Ignored will come out. The band enjoyed themselves, played a tight show and ended their set, and the pre-fest in general, with one of my favorite tracks ‘What Happened?’ from H2O! Even though this isn’t the easiest track to cover, also due to the Alkaline Trio guest vocals on the original track, they covered it flawlessly. Check these guys out! (http://www.myspace.com/ignoredmusic
 
Day 1 (Friday)
 
The first day of the festival was actually opened by Belgian hardcore band Teenage Lust followed by deathcore Italians Stigma, but I accidentally slept all the way through these bands so the first band of the day was Alcatraz. Not to be confused with the French screamo act (and tons of other acts with the same name), it was the first time for this straight edge hardcore band from San Francisco to cross the water in support of First Blood. Straight forward hardcore and an okay performance, but failed to leave a permanent good impression on me. (www.myspace.com/alcatraz)
 
Because of van problems, Brazilian thrashers Bandanos had to cancel their performance, so after a short break it was up to Rhinoceros to enter the main stage. Just like Alcatraz, another first tour in Europe for this American act. And the last day of the tour with xKingdomx as well, which was pretty clear. “We just want to get this over with, get our asses on the plane and eat chicken wings”. Right. Not much left to say about a band with an attitude like that, and no wonder they didn’t get much movement. The singer got off the stage to perform the whole set in the middle of the crowd and failed to get up the stage again because he was too fat. For bands with an attitude like this, especially on a first European tour, there shouldn’t be a stage for them in Europe. (www.myspace.com/rhinoceros716)
 
Your Demise is a band I actually didn’t like at all at first. With the release of their boring full-length ‘Ignorance Is Strength’, the band gained a shitload of fame in a very short time. I wasn’t really fond of the vocals on the album, but just after the release frontman George Noble left the band and was replaced by the former singer of Centurion; Ed McRae. A decent energetic and hyped up performance as well as the first movement in the marquee at this early hour. I’m actually curious how this band will sound on record with the new singer. (www.myspace.com/yourdemise)
 
After a short break we decided to check out Wait In Vain as their performance at Moshvalley in July turned out to be very decent as well. The band plays a melodic 90’s style hardcore mixed with Youth Crew elements in the vain of Verse, The Effort and Anchor. The fact that the band members have been in bands such as Trial, Sinking Ships, Champion and Set Your Goals says enough I think! This short, but tight set turned out to be worth it again as well. Make sure you check out last years debut album ‘Seasons’ as well as the Trial (former band of Wait In Vain’s frontman!) reunion!! (www.myspace.com/waitinvain)
 
After 2 months of intensive touring, xKingdomx finally finished their European tour. Female fronted hardcore (including hairy armpits!), very straight edge and very vegan. Quality wise the band played a tight set including tracks like ‘Hollow Bones’, ‘33/45’ and ‘The Rage That Guides’ but the speeches started to work on my nerves soon. Not that I mind speeches but the usual straight edge speeches (“best decision I’ve ever made”) are not really original anymore after all those years and this wasn’t the first band and certainly not the last band who made these cliché statements on stage all the time. Plug in and play and don’t interrupt every second of silence between the tracks with this please! Because of the fact that the guitarist decided to leave the band and the band played the last set with him, we had some real tears from singer Davin on stage who nearly couldn’t keep on singing anymore. Funny to see the sensitive side of such a pissed off little girl as well! (www.myspace.com/xkingdomx)
 
Next up was one of the bands I was really attending the fest for: The Number Twelve Looks Like You. For those who don’t know; chaotic mathcore/grindcore with some post-hardcore elements that can be compared with bands like Fear Before, Arsonists Get All the Girls and The Fall of Troy. Even though the band already released 4 albums in the six years the band exists, they have never been to Europe. Luckily they got the chance to catch a slot on the tour with Misery Signals and Your Demise and they absolutely tore down the place. Even though their music is very complex they played the tracks flawlessly, filling the space between the tracks with instrumental jazzy/samba parts. The singer is an absolute maniac, jumping on stage, posing for camera’s, lying on the monitors, sexy dancing on stage, letting people hold the microphone while he does the singing etcetera. Even a random guy from the audience had to get on stage because according to the singer, he had never kissed a girl. An extremely tight 35 minutes of complete structured madness including my favorite track ‘The Garden’s All Nighters’ from their recent album Worse Than Alone. Extremely amusing and tight at the same time, I can’t wait to see them again at Incubate festival! (www.myspace.com/tntlly)
 
After a huge intro (the whole track of ‘San Francisco’ from Scott McKenzie), First Blood finally got on stage to fuck shit up! Where I thought I couldn’t handle another beatdown hardcore band for the day, First Blood proved to be one of the best in its genre. The band is still touring in support of their 2006 album Killafornia and played mostly songs of this smashing debut full-length such as ‘Suffocate’, ‘Conflict’ and ‘Next Time I See You, You’re Dead’. Their happy pop intro was soon switched to extremely loud beatdown moshcore and the sound, after all those bands on the main stage, was finally at its best. Watch out for their new full-length album coming soon! (www.myspace.com/firstblood)
 
Bane was one of the bands I was really waiting for as well. This band, which once started as a Converge side-project, has been around for ages and still going strong. Every Bane show I’ve witnessed and heard about turned into complete madness and this one was no less. Constant stagediving, pile-up singalongs and moshpit action were driven by all the necessary Bane classics such as ‘Some Came Running’, ‘Ante Up’, ‘Can We Start Again?’, ‘Release The Hounds’, ‘Pot Committed’, ‘Ali vs Frazier 1’ and  ‘What Holds Us Down’. In my opinion the set at the Comback Kid tour in April was missing some classics, but this one was just perfect. A few speeches, but not about straight edge, and a band that still really enjoys playing live. Singer Aaron might still have the edge after all those years, but turned out to be pretty much of a party animal at the afterparty. I really hope they will finally come up with a new full-length instead of some singles now! (www.myspace.com/banecentral)
 
Last act of the night, Terror, flew in for an exclusive show. Not very strange, as the Down To Nothing singer, who played earlier this night, plays bass in Terror as well! Well what’s left to say about a Terror show? Madness is the right word I guess. Just like Bane, a steady chain of stagedivers, moshpits and singalongs for the next hour (!) or so! The band almost played all the songs of their best of compilation Forever Crossing the Line along with a few new tracks including ‘Overcome’, ‘Always the Hard Way’, ‘Spit My Rage’, ‘Lowest of the Low’, ‘Betrayer’, One With the Underdogs’, ‘Keep Your Mouth Shut’, ‘Strike You Down’ and ‘Last of the Diehards’. A pretty long set for a hardcore show, but not a boring second. I can’t count the Terror shows I’ve seen on one hand, but this was certainly one of the best shows I’ve seen them play and certainly one of the best closing acts for a first day I could have imagined. (www.myspace.com/terror)
 
The rest of the night was filled with an awesome afterparty in the marquee and too many tasty Belgian beers!
 
Day 2 (Saturday)
 
The second day started way too early after a cold sleepless night, but turned out to be worth it! It’s still a mystery why this screamo/chaotic hardcore imprint, with band members from Germany, Japan as well as America, Julith Krishun didn’t break through yet because the band, which was founded in 2001 already, convinced me with a powerful set. After a bunch of tours and a bunch of 7’’s, 12’’s & 10’’s, the band finally released their Self Titled debut album last year and showcased us a short but tight set in front of unfortunately only 1/10th of the capacity of the marquee. The sound wasn’t at its best and the vocals were way too low but it was a good idea to get up at 11 to watch these guys. Check them out! (www.myspace.com/julithkrishun)
 
Next up was Oathbreaker, a female fronted Belgian band. After reading the booklet, it turned out that their singer Caro played in a band called No Recess which I received a free CD from at last year's Ieperfest because they broke up. The music of this band is totally different compared to the more standard hardcore and can best be described as a female fronted Converge mixed with Rise & Fall. Definitely worth checking out and I hope to see them in a smaller venue soon instead of a big outdoor stage at twelve in the afternoon. This band’s got some potential!! (www.mytsapce.com/theoathbreakerreigns)
 
Touring with Julith Krishun earlier the day were Suckinim Baenaim, yet another screamo imprint but this time all the way from Israel! Weird and experimental are the keywords for this band and they performed a chaotic yet superb and humoristic set. The singer looked like he just got out of bed (which wouldn’t be very strange as it was still early), performing the whole set in his boxer shorts on bare feet. Weird, but very amusing to see and a good wakeup call. (www.myspace.com/suckinimbaenaim)
 
Finally some movement on the Saturday! I didn’t get the chance to see Deal With It at Moshvalley so I was curious to check this English up-and-coming hardcore band out. Their sound can best be described as a mixture between Cro-Mags and No Warning. Energetic yet not too modern. Their love for Cro-Mags got expressed by playing (one of my favorite Cro-Mags tracks) ‘World Peace’ as well. This resulted in some early afternoon movement and singalongs. One to watch for sure! (www.myspace.com/dealxwithxit)
 
Another Moshvalley band I missed out on was The Effort. Luckily I got the chance to check them out at Ieperfest this day once again! Even though this was the band’s last day of their long European tour, they still gave away a quality set. The most annoying thing about this band was the fact that their singer gave away just as much speeches as their playtime. The topic mostly concerned the fact that he was such an unhappy person in this life etcetera and made me think where to draw the line between music and private life? A quality band and definitely worth checking out on CD as well, but this live performance left me with mixed feelings… (www.myspace.com/xeffortx)
 
With Raein following shortly, we had to fill the time so we caught a bit of Nasty in the marquee. It turned out to be just as shitty as I thought. Extremely worthless moshcore, with breakdowns every 10 seconds and extremely unoriginal and uninspired guitar riffs. The sound was really flat as well but the crowd seemed to love it and the violent dancing pit grew every second. I just don’t really get the fuzz around this band though. (www.myspace.com/getnasty)
 
After a short break from all these 13 in a dozen mosh bands, it was time for some quality music. Raein from Italy drove all the way here for just one show! They played at the fest before a few years back, before their breakup in 2006. In 2007 they reformed however, but still they rarely play shows. Luckily, Ieperfest booked them once again and left me with no choice to go again to the festival. The band started with ‘The King is Dead’ from their most known album I’ll N’ye Pas De Orchestre, but didn’t really grab the attention from the audience. However, the band continued to play an extremely epic set showcasing some new tracks from Nati Da Altri Padri along with some classic tracks like ‘Tigersuit’ and even an almost 10-15 minutes reaching track I haven’t even heard before that filled most of their set. The band members turned out to be a bunch of weirdos, constantly having conversations and making jokes with each other (in Italian!!) even during the tracks. Shame their playtime was so short and the sound on the vocals was way too low, the quality music made up for that. Apparently they plan to do a European tour in springtime next year, so make sure you check them out! (www.myspace.com/raein)
 
From screamo to yet another beatdown/mosh band. Hoods from California played the first show of the small European tour and luckily made it through the airport, as Mikey Hoods told the audience “the fuckers” refused him to get into the country. With the release of the brand new album Pit Beast earlier this year, it was time for a party tonight! And if you're straight edge, I’ll buy you a sprite! The setlist contained a mix of new and old songs including ‘The King Is Dead’, ‘Nunchuck’, ‘Beat Cops’, ‘Pit Beast’, ‘Friend Or Foe’ (Agnostic Front cover), ‘Betrayed’ and ‘Don’t Fight, Let’s Party Tonight’. The sound was at its absolute best this time, and so was Hoods! Mikey is one of the best frontmen in hardcore, with some decent jokes about Victory Records, punk rockers, football, Metallica etcetera. Even though the band was already way out of playtime, they kept on playing and the audience matched the same moshpit seen at Terror the day before. Very surprisingly one of the best performances I’ve seen at the fest! (www.myspace.com/sactohoods)
 
Up next was Trash Talk to tear down some shit! This band gained a lot of respect over the last year for their short and intense records as well as their live performances. Arriving in the marquee, it turned out the band switched the whole lineup of instruments. Only the drummer was set on the stage, just behind the edge and the guitarist, bassist and vocalist were located in front of the stage. This resulted in complete madness of course; a huuuuuuuge pile-up moshpit, continues stagedives and broken instruments. Even though their songs mostly last not longer than a minute and lean more towards thrash, grind and power violence, the audience knew every single line and the marquee absolutely exploded. A great way for them to end this European tour! (www.myspace.com/trashtalkfu)
 
Later that night, Belgium’s proud Rise & Fall entered the stage, another band I was pretty excited about to see. Since last year’s Ieperfest, where they filled in for Outbreak, I haven’t seen them nor heard any of the new tracks so I couldn’t wait for this performance. It turned out to be a quality show once again! Of course the band played some old tracks from the 2005 album Into Oblivion but especially the new tracks from their upcoming album, which should be out soon, really blew me away! They got a more sludge-vibe rather than hardcore and got me pretty excited. Can’t wait!! (www.myspace.com/riseandfall14)
 
Finally some fucking metal! Weird enough, Darkest Hour was actually one of the first metal bands of the fest as most of the metal was planned for the day after. The band actually recently finished the Thrash & Burn European tour together with bands like Bleeding Through, Carnifex and Beneath the Massacre, but planned to do a small Summer tour just after that, Ieperfest included! Yet another great performance including tracks like ‘Doomsayer’, No God’, ‘Devolution of the Flesh’ and ‘Demon(s)’. The band is known for their crazy performance at Ieperfest 2005 (which I unfortunately didn’t attend myself), and I think the craziness of this show didn’t top that, but still the band proved to be a worthy headliner and a good closing band for this fine day! Time for more metal on the Sunday! (www.myspace.com/darkesthour)
  
Day 3 (Sunday)
  
I actually slept through Viathropy’s set, a band I definitely wanted to see. Unfortunately Burning Skies cancelled their appearance due to the fact that one of the band members missed his flight. So the Belgian deathcore / death metal imprint Fatal Recoil was the first act I’ve seen on this beautiful Sunday. I didn’t notice that Burning Skies got replaced until after the show due to some serious brain damage, but even though the sound wasn’t too optimal yet, the band gave away a decent show. (www.myspace.com/fatalrecoil)
 
Just when I got home the brand new Polar Bear Club record Chasing Hamburg was there for me, ready to be reviewed! But early in the Sunday afternoon I got the chance to hear some of the new tracks live as well. Polar Bear Club toured earlier this year with The Gaslight Anthem and Frank Turner and I was pretty impressed by their performance as well as their debut CD Sometimes Things Just Disappear. Even though it was still early and most of the crowd didn’t pay much attention, I was impressed just as much as the first time. The new tracks definitely matched the quality of the first album and their recent signing on Bridge 9 (Have Heart, Verse…) will definitely push them forward even a bit more! Watch out for the review of the album on the site soon! (www.myspace.com/polarbearclub)
 
Some more metal! Trigger the Bloodshed from the UK played at last year's Ieperfest as well, and to be honest, it sucked. This show however, was completely different from what I’d expected. Maybe it’s due to the fact that their new drummer, Dan from Aborted, recently joined the band, or because of their new album The Great Depression (which is definitely a step forward, compared to their debut) but the band gave away a stunning performance. Fast brutal death metal, with a few heavy hitting breakdowns every now and then. Weird how they switched from an absolute boring and uninspired band to such level of professionalism. This band can definitely compete with other big bands in the scene. If you’re a fan of Aborted, Job For A Cowboy, Misery Index and even Hate Eternal, make sure you check them out. (www.myspace.com/triggerthebloodshed)
 
Another band on the bill for the Dominatour (featuring Trigger the Bloodshed and Viathropy as well who played earlier on), was Annotations of an Autopsy. Even though the guys were partying and drinking like mad the day before, they still found some energy to perform a 25 minutes set, covering some new tracks from their upcoming album Hell Will Have A New Meaning (out on Nuclear Blast soon!) along with some older tracks including the classic ‘Welcome To Sludge City’. The crowd loved it but I thought it was kind of monotone after a track or two. A decent gig, but nothing worth mentioning. (www.myspace.com/annotationsofanautopsy)
 
After a short break in the supermarket and finding out one of the tents got vandalized by some idiots on the camping, Bringin’ It Down was ready to enter the stage. Desperate for a holiday or something, this “all-star” band formed to perform covers of especially Judge (lead singer is the only original member in this holiday-project) as well as Project X and Youth of Today. The whole performance turned out to be absolutely worthless and did not add a single thing to the whole awesome line-up Ieperfest had put together this year. No wonder almost no one turned up for the other gigs (one in Den Bosch and Rotterdam as well). Let’s just forget about this and keep Judge in mind the way it was! (www.myspace.com/not worth mentioning)
 
Luckily some more metal after this deception; Aborted, “all the way” from Belgium, were ready to destroy the marquee with their brutal / melodic death metal. The band finished a tour with Salt The Wound just recently and played more or less the same setlist. I’m always impressed by vocalist Sven’s vocal duties though and their performance was nothing less from the first time I’ve seen them at Neurotic Deathfest earlier this year. From newer tracks from Strychnine 213 like ‘Ophiolatry On A Hemocite Platter’ to ‘Dead Wreckoning’ from The Archaic Abattoir . A good mix of the newer, more melodic death metal kind of tracks and the older tracks that lean more towards brutal death metal. Even though I’m much more of a fan from their older work, they definitely know how to translate the new tracks into a sick live performance as well. Sadly no new tracks yet, as the band is currently writing the new album which is due out in 2010, but the quality 40 minutes of good death metal made up for that. (www.myspace.com/abortedmetal)
 
From death metal to punk rock, A Wilhelm Scream had the chance to play the last set at the marquee just like last year! For those who have seen these guys before, you know what to expect. For those who don’t know, pure quality fast melodic punk rock and a good dose of humor in the vain of Belvedere, Pennywise, Strung Out and This Is A Standoff. A great setlist once again as well including ‘Jaws 3 People 0’, ‘5 to 9’, ‘The King Is Dead’, ‘I Wipe My Ass With Showbizz’, ‘The Horse’ as well as a few new songs from their upcoming album! Think you missed out? Don’t worry, these guys will be back in November-December for a full European tour (instead of this small festival tour). A great way to end the fest once again and for me the last band, as actual closing act Bold turned out to be just as worthless and boring as their tour mates from Bringin’ It Down who played earlier that day. (www.myspace.com/awilhlemscream)
 
But fuck it, Ieperfest proved to be the best underground festival for hardcore, metal and punk in Europe! And there’s nothing more to add to that! Bring on next year's edition!
Details Written on Tuesday Sep 22nd, 2009
Writer @Brent_

Tags: #Ieperfest 2009