HeavyLake 2021

-- HeavyLake 2021 --

11/06/2021 - 11/07/2021
Stijn Daneels

[INTRODUCTION]

Review written by Stijn “Metal Shredder” Daneels with assistance from Marjolein “Mrs. Metal Shredder” Deduytschaever. All pictures (except for the final pic) taken by Andy Maelstaf.

When we met up again with Cult Of Scarecrow at the Darken The Moon event in Asgaard Gentbrugge last September we also encountered their newly recruited manager Glenn Timmerman. Glenn introduced us to his newly founded HeavyLake 2021 festival which featured his client Cult Of Scarecrow as well as 8 other epic Belgian metal acts. So we decided to get to the Donkmeer lake at Berlare to check out his event.

[DEVONPORT]


At the early hour of 13h HeavyLake 2021 kicked off with Devonport. According to their official website (https://devonport.be/) this rock band started around 2019 when the band members decided to write original music after they had been playing cover songs for years. Since then, the band managed to become finalists of Gigstarter Artists of the Year 2021 and at HeavyLake 2021 I finally got the chance to check them out for real.

I felt Devonport’s sound to be slow, bluesy hard rock with grunge & groove influences and featuring guitar solos that reminded me of AC/DC. They also reminded me a bit of the famous Belgian pop rock band Clouseau, abeit during their raunchier early 1990s period wherein they made a couple of albums in English (just check out the seriously underrated “In Every Small Town”). The band did look a bit stiff on stage, but lead vocalist Jan did show some confidence and expressiveness on stage that suited the edgy music pretty well.

A short but strong leather-clad rock n’ roll show from an act that I believe would fit very well alongside other heavy Belgian rockers like WildHeart, Rebel’s End and Sin Savage. They may be not fully fledged metal, but these Devonport guys do sure know how to rock. I’m looking forward to hear more of these fellas.


[WORLDS BEYOND]


Marjolein “Mrs. Metal Shredder” and I were particularly looking forward to finally seeing symphonic metal band Worlds Beyond ever since they offered us to review their well-made debut album “Symphony Of Dawn” (read our review: https://www.belgianmetalshredder.be/reviews/266) and after we had a very friendly Skype chat with them (which you can find here: https://www.belgianmetalshredder.be/interviews/150).

Worlds Beyond’s style is a blend of symphonic and gothic metal with slices of folk and progressive tossed throughout. Aside from the truly magnificent vocals of lead singer Valerie, lead guitarist Tijmen’s lenghty guitar solos also grabbed my attention. This heavy emphasis on guitar is rather unlikely for the symphonic subgenre and I’ve always been a sucker for guitar virtuosos. The band also had a sense of visual flair to them, with the blue and purple stage lights giving the darkened venue a gothic fantasy feel and Valerie’s white dress providing a stark, almost angelic contrast compared to her black clothed colleagues. One thing I do believe could improve Worlds Beyond’s sound even more is to make the guitar riffs even heavier. It would provide a larger contrast with the more soothing parts of their sound and it would make everything feel even more impactful. And some more movement from the entire band aside from Valerie (who frequently danced and moved around the stage) would also make things better.

Our first live on stage encounter with this band was a highly anticipated one and certainly didn’t disappoint. Despite Worlds Beyond’s youth, absent violist and limited stage experience they impressed the crowd with a versatile, energetic and operatic show of symphony that left me, Mrs. Metal Shredder and many others in the crowd hungry for more.


[IF I MAY]


Next up were 5 folks from my own hometown called If I May, a metalcore act that I saw once at JH De Muze in Zottegem but didn’t pay much other attention to the band since then except that I saw they were gradually moving to the bigger stages and that their brought out a well-received album called “As Above // So Below” last year.

If I May’s style of metalcore made me think of such bands like Breaking Benjamin, Bring Me The Horizon & Three Days Grace. If I May smoothly switches between fast, distorted riffs with rhythmic drums and screaming vocals with melodic and almost angelic singing and it’s that meticulous mélange that made the band very interesting to me. The band also used the stage to jump and spin around with confidence and finesse and the lights that flickered to the rhythm of the beats made their music feel even more impactful. And their music is certainly suitable for some intense moshing and headbanging, as it should be.

It was a pleasant (re)encounter with If I May at HeavyLake 2021 and it felt great to see how the band had evolved since I last saw them live back in 2017. The band plays metalcore with passionate force and pleasant unpredictability. It’s clear that, given further time and growth, these 5 guys are ready and able to leave a deep mark on the metalcore subgenre.


[OBJECTOR]


A mere month after seeing thrash metal act Objector ravage through the charity festival Devils Rock For An Angel they were bringing their T-game to HeavyLake 2021.

And they sure didn’t pull any stops this time either, the band’s signature dual-guitar chemistry between vocalist/guitarist Bock and his fellow shredder Filip was once again prevalent as well as the shouting yet clean-sounding vocals further amplified the old-school thrash experience. Their music was even intense enough to evoke mosh pits and a wall of death despite the rather limited audience present during the gig. As for me, I couldn’t help but bang my head furiously to the raw energy of their tunes. I also liked the green flashing lights they decorated the stage with since it gave their music a sense of urgency. The band also encouraged people to move around the stage and the aforementioned moshing and death walling proved that the crowd couldn’t resist the temptation to slam around.

Objector came and did exactly what they always do, getting the crowd into a frenzy and balancing rough thrashing with long melodic intermissions. A rollercoaster of a thrash metal act that I can warmly recommend to everyone looking for an awesome band that can stand on its own among this saturated subgenre.


[EXOTO]


Exoto is an veteran act in the Belgian death metal scene, having been active in the 1990s but then becoming rather inactive for well over 2 decades. In recent years, however, the band has resurfaced with a fresh lineup (headed by lead vocalist and founding member Chris Meynen) and remastering their classic material as well as throwing out new stuff including the excellent EP “Absolution In Death” in 2019 (which we reviewed: https://www.belgianmetalshredder.be/reviews/152). I’ve seen the band a couple of times in 2019 and I was looking forward to seeing the band once again.

HeavyLake 2021 was covered in a darkness of shadows and blue light when Exoto came on stage and ripped us all apart with their aggressive death metal tunes. The drilling riffs, the pounding drums and the rough, yet naturally sounded vocals. It all felt reminiscent of iconic acts like Death, Obituary and Morbid Angel. Exoto also had a taste for the visual side of things with their banners depicting bald, deformed zombies devouring on human flesh, frontman Chris’s mic stand decorated with a longhaired skull and the blue lights going through the stage like lightning strikes.

Exoto played a very energetic and visually pleasing show that proved that their death metal can still you moving and to get you sucked into their infernal realm. Kicking and screaming as they cut through your flesh and soul. Absolution in death indeed.


[CULT OF SCARECROW]


After Exoto left the stage another kind of darkness fell over HeavyLake 2021 but this time it was the doom & roll tunes of Cult Of Scarecrow. Back in 2019 they had already left a solid first impression on me when I saw them compete at the semi-finals of the Wacken Metal Battle Belgium 2019 contest but it was their debut album “Tales Of The Sacrosanct Man” which they released earlier this year that really drew me into their stuff (read our review: https://www.belgianmetalshredder.be/reviews/310).

Cult Of Scarecrow’s style was pretty accessible yet complex at the same time. The band combined long rocking guitar solos with orchestral keyboards and hypnotizing vocals all the while being covered on a dark stage with blue light rays shining down from high above. The band often began a song with an ambient and moody opening and then gradually moved towards an explosive section and then going back and forth between the two while jamming expressive guitar solos and dancing around the stage with hypnotizing flair. And top it off, they made a surprisingly well-made cover of Megadeth’s iconic “Symphony Of Destruction,” despite the band not having much thrash into their style. It was a great testament of the band’s musical flexibility.

This was my third time this year I saw Cult Of Scarecrow live and in my opinion it was the best one thus far. The large stage made the band feel even bigger than before. The band’s cocktail of old-school heavy, and doom metal created an epic grimness that still felt rather joyful. Cult Of Scarecrow is a special breed of metal band and one that I can warmly recommend to see live on stage. I’m looking forward what show they’ll be bringing when they’re supporting Candlemass at Zappa Antwerp next year.


[IRON MASK]


Power metal act Iron Mask is a band which I had seen on several event lineups before but that I hadn’t seen live yet before HeavyLake 2021, neither did I gave their music a serious listen. That all changed, however, when the band entered the HeavyLake 2021 stage.

Iron Mask immediately impressed me with their catchy melodies, virtuosic guitar solos, majestic power metal beats and soaring vocals. Band leader Dushan’s guitar skills in particular caught my attention because during each song he unleashed a lengthy and technically impressive solo. The other three guys of Iron Mask further enhanced the power experience with heavy bass, blood-pumping drum lines and vocals soaked in youthful energy. I may not have given Iron Mask the appropriate love before their HeavyLake 2021 gig but they did become one of the few bands I recently saw that made me enthusiastically go to the merch booth simply because I was pleased with this first live encounter with a band I didn’t checked out before.

Next year Iron Mask will be celebrating their 20th anniversary and I’m more than willing to join that party. And by then my knowledge of the band and their material will certainly considerably expanded. I can already begin with my copy of the “Shadow Of The Red Baron” album which I bought right after their gig.


[REJECT THE SICKNESS]


The first of two headliners of HeavyLake 2021 was the death metal band Reject The Sickness. Like Objector before them, I last saw Reject The Sickness during the charity event Devils Rock For An Angel wherein they made the place rumble like hell.

While Reject The Sickness’s style may be death metal on paper, their style is quite cinematic and complex, featuring tons of long guitar solos, fast drum gallops, furious vocals and an atmosphere that’s grim but at the same time quite heroic. That atmospheric duality was mostly provoked during the sections wherein the screaming vocals were sung alongside the symphonic sounding guitars. And all of this was presented on stage fuming with smoke and multi-colored flickering lights that made crowd either dance or look in awe at this raw but very melodic power.

Reject The Sickness’s show at HeavyLake 2021 felt very similar to their performance at Devils Rock 2021 and that certainly was a good thing. After having seen these two energetic and larger-than-life gigs in such a short time span, I can confidently say that Reject The Sickness is more than ready to move on to the big leagues.


[FIREFORCE]


The second headliner and final act of HeavyLake 2021 were the combat metal pioneers called FireForce. The last of their gigs I had attended before was back in 2017 during the release party of their “Annihilate The Evil” album. Since then, a lot has changed within the band with a new vocalist/guitarist and a style that felt heavier and thrashier than before, the result of which became their album “Rage Of War” that they released earlier this year (read our review: https://www.belgianmetalshredder.be/reviews/259).

And with such an excellent new album in their arsenal FireForce brought their tunes to HeavyLake 2021. Describing FireForce’s combat metal isn’t that hard, combine the upbeat vibes of power metal with the harshness of thrash metal and you’ve already got a solid idea of their style. The band mostly played tunes from “Rage Of War” with a few classics in between. Of course, the biggest chance in FireForce between the gig at HeavyLake and the gigs I saw of them in the 2015-2017 period was of course the addition of the new frontman Matt “Hawk” Asselberghs. Compared to former singer Flype, Hawk exhumes a more subtle charisma, he’s also able to hit the high notes and despite the late hour, he and his other FireForce comrades managed to keep the audience engaged with their badass guitar riffs and tight songs. And to celebrate the end of HeavyLake 2021, they shot confetti into the air.

While I felt the FireForce gig to be a little on the short side (I wanted more), it was great seeing FireForce again, revitalized and heavier than ever before while still remaining a bunch of colorful & fun-loving guitar shredders and drum pounders. They still remain one of my personal favorites of the Belgian metal scene and it’s unlikely that will change anytime soon.




[CONCLUSION]

{+ a huge & varied lineup of Belgian rock & metal;
+ most of the bands received 1 hour to play and all of them got 30 min to set up;
+ professional backstage;
+ beautiful park and lake right near the venue;
+ more than enough toilets and very tidy too.


- the food was tasty but limitedly available;
- mixed acoustic quality throughout the venue especially in the VIP section.


HeavyLake 2021 promised us 12 hours of pure Belgian guitars and they definitely succeeded. With a large and varied all-Belgian lineup and all the bands received adequate time to prepare and present themselves as well as a pleasant location we had and the rest of the crowd had a ton of fun here. HeavyLake may be a young festival, but the people behind it know for sure how to bring out an epic event. We’re already looking forward to the sequel(s).

}