30.9.2023 Euroblast – DAY 2 @ Essigfabrik, Cologne

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Characterized by its unique lineup and familiar atmosphere among visitors and staff, Euroblast is a festival that gathers not only the most influential bands of the broader progressive scene but also offers insight into lesser-known acts that have just as much to offer as the more commercially accomplished. Keeping that in mind, every day holds a surprise for any connoisseur of progressive rock and metal. This year promised to be a special edition due to the festival’s 15th anniversary. This year’s Euroblast took place from September 20th to October 1st, 2023 at Essigfabrik in Cologne. For anyone who identifies as a proghead, Euroblast is a name that should at the very least sound familiar and a must-visit festival!

Euroblast‘s second day included bands like THE HIRSCH EFFEKT, GHOST IRIS, MONOSPHERE, A KEW’S TAG, THE SLEEPER, LEPROUS, and more…

Due to the knee injury suffered because of a moshpit during the festival’s first day, my knee was quite swollen and painful. Consequently, I wasn’t able to shoot at the beginning of the second day. However, we faced a stroke of luck when one of the festival’s staff personnel (shout out to Sylvana) happened to be a physiotherapist. She graciously massaged my knee and bandaged it, greatly improving my mobility and making the pain bearable. Thanks to her, we were able to continue shooting bands. This just goes to show how Euroblast delivers on every front!

Apart from the musical experience, Euroblast also offers visitors the opportunity to fulfill various needs, from trying out gear to getting tattooed, all on the festival grounds. In the previous live report, we mentioned that one of the most attractive aspects of this festival is its friendly and familiar atmosphere, so what better way to enhance a positive setting than by supporting charity work? The Hardcore Help Foundation (a non-profit organization) had a booth on the Euroblast grounds, where festival visitors could learn more about their work and contribute directly if desired. Their goal is to provide assistance to people in need throughout Europe and even Africa.

NORTHERN LIGHTS kicked off the second day of the festival with their heavy take on the well-known “baguettes & fromage” subgenre (as per their Spotify description). Seriously though, they offer a modern approach to metalcore straight from France, featuring outrageous growls that seamlessly transition into clean vocal choruses and melodic guitar solos.

Next up were the American band LUCRECIA, presenting their unique blend of pop and progressive metal, which appears to incorporate some math-rock nuances and, at times, could also stylistically fit the world of J-pop. It’s a highly ambitious approach, making it challenging to execute. Nevertheless, the band’s enthusiasm and joy shone through in their performance.

TIBERIUS from Scotland continued the afternoon with their unique approach to progressive metal, characterized primarily by clean singing that could be argued to have a power metal-like feel to it. Perhaps it’s their passionate endeavor to convey specific messages through their music that makes it even more powerful. Lyrics that appear to be deeply thoughtful, coupled with catchy and fitting rhythms, render this otherwise complex music quite accessible and entertaining for the audience.

Next in line were the Danish band FEATHER MOUNTAIN, and anticipation grew among the crowd. What stood out the most about them is their impressive compositional skill, which harmoniously blends their alternative approach with heavier and progressive elements.

THE SLEEPER is a band we have been eagerly anticipating, ever since our previous research revealed that they had more to offer than just progressive metal. Hailing from Leipzig, Germany, the band possesses a true talent for crafting earworm-like chorus lines, primarily sung cleanly, which seamlessly transition into heavier guitar work. One could argue that these passages could be considered part of a pop composition, in the best sense. Once again, our expectation of discovering a new obsession on the festival grounds has been fulfilled.

As mentioned before, I might have my limits when it comes to the appreciation of metalcore, considering I am not the most devoted follower. We mention this in the hopes of demonstrating our impartiality toward the genre, which can enhance the sense of objectivity with which we approach the description of certain bands. However, GHOST IRIS had my full attention throughout their entire set. Their tasteful heavy approach, which was far from being merely for shock value, allowed their authenticity to shine throughout their performance and provided us, the spectators, with the energy needed to kick off day two of Euroblast. GHOST IRIS is the kind of band whose highly energetic performance will have you moving to their music, whether you want to or not.

The Berlin-based group PRIMATERRA took to the cellar stage with their straightforward fusion of metal and hardcore, characterized by a significant groove, which vaguely echoes the US/American nu-metal or early 2000’s neo-thrash scene. It was an intriguing proposition that was warmly embraced by the crowd.

Back on the main stage, HEART OF A COWARD continued somewhat along the path that GHOST IRIS had set. With a straightforward metalcore approach, driven by hard-hitting riffs that transform into aggressive breakdowns, they quickly won over the crowd.

The German trio A KEW’S TAG filled the cellar stage with a highly attentive audience. For all we know, it may have been the somewhat reduced number of musicians that had the crowd in awe, or the flawless performance of vocalist Julian Helms. Perhaps it was the sole acoustic guitar with its hypnotic melodies (when not busy establishing the rhythm) in combination with the elegant drumming that kept everyone’s eyes wide open. Considering all of the above, A KEW’S TAG left us breathless with their minimalistic yet fulfilling offering. It’s important to note their high-quality live performance that left us yearning for more.

Another German band, THE HIRSCH EFFEKT, took the main stage next. Characterized by a wide range of instrumental diversity, drawing influences from the alternative, electronic, metal, and other musical realms. Predominantly accompanied by clean vocals and lyrics in German, this might be the element that ultimately lends cohesion to their music. For those who believe that German is an inherently aggressive-sounding language, it’s worth noting that it can also be highly poetic. THE HIRSCH EFFEKT makes perfect use of this quality in their lyrics, pouring out their emotions effectively. With their newly released album, they electrified the crowd with both newer and older hits that had the audience singing along to the infectious sound of their choruses.

Back to the cellar stage, THE CITY IS OURS took the spotlight. The cellar once again witnessed some unprecedented action as the crowd moved in harmony with the Londoners’ metalcore rhythms. While their music is straightforward, with occasional melodic flourishes, it remains highly effective. The latter, combined with their infectious and likable energy, made their performance truly memorable. Frontman Oli Duncanson descended from the stage to dive into the crowd and oversee the coordination of the mosh pit. This time, the main stage began filling up more rapidly than usual, and the anticipation for the evening’s headliner was palpable.

The time had come for the evening’s headliner, LEPROUS, to take the stage. Nowadays, they are undoubtedly one of the most established acts in the progressive scene, and the crowd’s impatience for the band was palpable, with expectations rising by the second.

By this point, it was also known among the visitors what could be expected from their setlist, as the band had announced before the festival that they would be focusing on their “New Era” sound for this evening – the band had not one but two slots at the festival due to VOYAGER‘s unfortunate cancellation.

Their set started with “Have You Ever?” from their latest album, “Aphelion.” Beyond the groundbreaking style that this band has had since day one, what sets them apart is the precise execution of their craft, which can be described in many ways, but “simple” could never be one of them. One thing that might help in understanding their depth is pointing out how Einar Solberg‘s unique vocal style, known for its exceptional range, manages to captivate the listener through its complexity. The entire band displayed remarkable accuracy in their performance, using their precision to portray not only the complexity of their compositions but also the intricacy of human emotions. This is precisely where it becomes challenging to find something comparable.

All human beings have a fundamental understanding of emotions, at the very least until we are either compelled or choose to describe them in detail. Through their music, LEPROUS show us that we may not always need to articulate these emotions perfectly in words. Still, their music will guide us through all the phases, providing a profound sense of resolution at the end of each song.

Faster than we anticipated, the evening began drawing to a close. We made our way into the cellar for the last few bands and were met with the phenomenon that is MONOSPHERE. It’s truly challenging to pigeonhole them into one or two subgenres, and I believe most would agree with this. Nevertheless, the atmosphere they conjure remains consistent throughout their entire performance. They create an air of uncertainty with alternative and quieter passages, often building their songs to envelop you like a hurricane. The pace grows overwhelmingly faster, frequently culminating in a desperate explosion of death and/or black metal that feels cathartic. MONOSPHERE turned out to be one of our highlights on the second day of Euroblast.

SEXTROW brought day two of Euroblast to a close, igniting a party on the cellar stage with their hard rock sound. It was a perfect way to end the evening. Unfortunately, due to the infamous leg incident during day one and the fact that one can only take so many milligrams of analgesics a day, we once again found ourselves compelled to cut our visit short on the second evening.

Text and photos by Michelle Rosales