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Houten Deathfest - Unmerciful, Insidious Decrepancy, Despise a.o.
While some of my colleagues resided at the world famous Roadburn festival, I already made my choice to visit one of Holland’s most prominent death metal festivals; Houten Deathfest. Being held for the fourth time, the organisation had received a green light to set up a two-day event this time and so we got to see five acts on Friday and nine on Saturday! Hail brutality!

Friday April 24th

First up this Friday was death metal/grindcore act Stillbirth from Germany. Their self-proclaimed ‘punk rock songs’ existed of some fine musical chaos and extreme grunts, brought with a lot of enthusiasm. Yet it was still too early for the party they tried to start. Dressed in Hawaii shirts ‘n shorts and together with a flute as attribute they tried to get the crowd going, but they unfortunately missed the effect that for example Excrementory Grindfuckers would’ve had. Too bad but fun nonetheless.

Mortally Infected
Up next was Mortally Infected from Bratislava, Slovakia, who already managed to impress me with their EP The Age Of Eclipsed Humanity. Tonight they needed some time to get their machine working properly, but when the show progressed they succeeded to do so, which led to the first headbangers at this fest. A brutal grunt, some snorting, nice tech guitars and a song entitled “Keep It Fucking Brutal!!!”, now what more do you want?!

Led Astray
The only band to play a home match today was Led Astray, originating from Utrecht, the city that almost consumes the small village of Houten. A big disappointment was the sound, which obviously wasn’t as clear as it should be during a band that performs some tight technical thrash and death metal. The tracks from their recently released debut full-length In Ways Unforeseen were recognizable, but the songs apart weren’t as bright as on CD. The singer’s wide range of grunts and the amount of fans that showed up made it a sufficient show though. Curious how they sound under the right circumstances.

Hymen Holocaust
I had no prior encounter with Hymen Holocaust, neither did I see bands like Cliteater or Rompeprop live before. New stuff for me here tonight! Hymen uses some of the most distorted vocals I’ve ever heard in my life and a funny thing is that they never turn those pitchshifters off, not even between the songs. Consequence was that the comments from both their guitarist and bassist were completely unintelligible. Even funnier was the fact that if one of the two was talking, the other was laughing... I mean they still have so much fun about it after all those years, which is of course a good thing! The band performed a show with a really sick atmosphere. Crazy jingles and samples and the aforementioned absurd vocals. Great to see live once, and probably even more times... which I hope to find out later this year.

Blame me for not properly checking out Nox before. This band once featured Severe Torture drummer Seth on vocals and Patrick (also Severe Torture) on bass. Nox then split-up but reformed later on with Prostitute Disfigurement frontman Niels on vocals and Oskar (ex-Centurian) on bass duties. Here in Houten they performed a very brutal yet tight show, consisting of almost their complete Ixaxaar record. The result was a rough mosh plus crowd surfers, but most of all bleeding ears. This is definitely one of the best death metal bands in the Netherlands, and I’m glad to see them again on Neurotic Deathfest. I’m also sure not to miss their upcoming record for which they’re writing new songs right now.

Saturday April 25th

And there we were, on the second day of this Houten Deathfest. Everybody seemed relatively fresh for another day of brutal death metal, with an even more promising line-up and with for the first time even some bands from the States.

Dead End Path
The first act on the bill this noon was Grindpad, but we arrived a little later so I started with Dead End Path. This Belgian group played death metal with melodic/thrash influences. Thanks to the decent drummer, who also handled backing vocals, they did an ‘okay’ show. Not very special and certainly not in comparison with the other bands to perform here today, but they did well as warm-up.

After the warm-up, things were becoming a lot more serious with Swiss act Amagortis on stage. Houten Deathfest is known for its slamming death metal, and Amagortis proved they belong at this fest. A brutal death metal ambience will killer breakdowns and guttural vocals all the time made Houten go crazy with its slamming mosh and even a wall of death. All filmed by a dude from Stillbirth who still seemed to be around. Amagortis also performed a new song, which should be on its upcoming record due at the end of the year. Promising stuff, excellent show, nothing to add.

Supreme Pain
Supreme Pain
is a relatively new act in the Dutch death metal scene, yet the members of this band aren’t newbies. All of them have experiences in other bands, for example their singer is no one else than Aad Kloosterwaard, known from the legendary Sinister. Supreme Pain itself was formed in 2006 and played its very first show ever here this noon! Unfortunately some of the audience went outside to take a break between the slamming death metal acts, but those who were supporting these lads were witness of an intense wall of noise and a show full of on and on blasting. Presented was not only Supreme’s 2008 debut Cadaver Pleasures but immediately its currently unreleased follow up as well, entitled Nemesis Enforcer. It all went pretty good, too bad the sound was a bit blurry. Looking forward to see/hear more from this band in the near future.

Begging For Incest
Those who visited last years edition of Houten Deathfest could foresee that Begging For Incest is one of the highlights of this slamming fest. While the evening was still young, Chipolata went nuts as if the headliner commenced. What a party it was! ‘Fill Every Hole’, ‘Awaiting The Fist’ and ‘Crushed Testicles Smeared With Excrements’ and even a new slam passed by, with total annihilation as result. Not every note may be hit with ultimate precision, most of them are, and the slam-grade is so high that it doesn’t matter anyway. When they finished their regular set, we got to hear one song as encore, being (just like last time) ‘Babykiller’ from Devourment. Awesome appearance!

Septycal Gorge
After a couple of good shows it was up to Septycal Gorge from Italy to keep the fine row. But you know what? Septycal Gorge took a resolute distance from the other bands, delivering one of the best death metal shows I’ve ever seen. Both songs from their Growing Seeds Of Decay album as from last years Italian split record Da Vince Death Code were thrown upon the audience with amazing brutality. Everything seemed to go perfect for this band; the sound was great and their play was simply stunning. This was US-style brutal death metal at its best, as if they were Suffocation themselves. I can’t wait for their new record, if it’s going to be recorded under the right circumstances it’s bound to end in my year list!

From Despise on, we had to deal with the Extirpating Europe tour, featuring the last three bands of today’s line-up. The long set change gave them time to build up their own drum kit, especially for Despise and Unmerciful. When the band began to play I was watching it from the side since Septycal Gorge took all of my energy, but when Despise’s show progressed I became more and more interested in taking a closer look. Despise wasn’t only brutal, but also quite dynamic and sometimes even melodic. A creative drummer and two singers made it an energetic performance that displayed the talent that this band has.

Insidious Decrepancy
With Insidious Decrepancy on stage I once again got to see death metal sicko Shawn Whitaker. I expected him to do a show with Unmerciful drummer James King, because I’ve seen him doing it before with his other solo project Viral Load. Today however, he brought his drum computer with him, and armed with his headless guitar he looked a bit vulnerable on the dais. Until he began to play! The sound mix wasn’t optimal, but he creates a whole lot of noise nonetheless! Whitaker is a very dedicated person to the scene and surely a man with fans, who were present here this eve. After 45 minutes of drum computer brutality I was both satisfied as curious how his set would work out with a live drummer. I guess even more powerful.

After two days of madness, we had only one crazy band to go. Whoever saw Unmerciful live before knows what a sick machine it is, but for who didn’t, I’d like to compare them with Origin, of which some (ex-) members of Unmerciful were part of. During their show they reached the same sound quality as Septycal Gorge, with mighty triggers on top of it all. This was Houten’s final hour of brutal death metal in the highest gear, destroying all and everything in the venue. Absolutely awesome to witness in a setting like this, on a small festival with a great audience. This was without a doubt together with Septycal Gorge and Begging For Incest the highlight of a great festival. After a devastating set in which we got to hear the complete Unmercifully Beaten record we were treated on an encore with Despise’s singer on vocals; being 'Effigy', a mighty Suffocation cover. Fucking killer. Hail Houten Deathfest!

Photos by Richard Treurmars -