The ninth annual gathering of Female Fronted Metal took place again at Oktoberhallen in the pretty Belgian town of Wieze. The festival kicked off on the Friday night with a three band lineup to ease everyone into the packed weekend ahead.
First up were Greek power metallers BARE INFINITY (7/10), led by the aptly named Angel on vocals, who subtly blew away the jet lag and cobwebs with an excellent set, closing with the fantastic ‘Awakening Moonlight’. Things were notched up a gear when German symphonic five piece XANDRIA (8/10) took to the stage, rounding off a great year for them, which saw the band sign to Napalm Records and gain rave reviews following their recent trek around Europe on the ‘Out Of The Dark’ tour. However, the opening night belonged heart and soul to BATTLELORE (9/10), who gave everything they had to make the night a special show. This was made even more poignant as we found out that the band are to take an ‘indefinite’ break. Sad news indeed.
Day One started the proper festivities at just after 10:30am, with Birmingham’s own HANGING DOLL (7/10), who’s brand of Gothic tinged metal fronted by the very talented voice of Sally Holliday acquired a warm and appreciative response from the crowd. When speaking with the band later in the day, they seemed genuinely pleased with the set, which ended with the superb ‘Forlorn’.
Next up were London’s NEMHAIN (8/10), who gave a storming set of downright dirty blues tinged punk-rock fronted by Amber Erlandersson, that really should see them grab everyone’s attention during the next 12 months because the band really are poised on the edge of making it big.
Austria’s COMA DIVINE (8/10) keep proceedings going nicely, opening with the excellent ‘Burn Sister’, Sonja Kraushofer (also ‘L’ame Immortelle’ and ‘Persephone’) is in total command of a strong set, which closes with ‘Dead End’. Great stuff indeed.
Finnish folk metallers KIVIMETSAN DRUIDI (9/10) are on top form from start to finish, with vocalist Leeni-Maria getting all assembled in the party mood, no more so than on the 100mph headbanger ‘Blacksmith’  fairly reduces the crowd to mush!
AMARANTHE (10/10) are nothing short of stunning the 3 way vocal onslaught of growl, female and clean working exceptionally well, delivering strong melodic metal at its best with tracks like ‘Automatic’ and ‘It’s All About Me’ bringing well deserved applause.
Germany’s DEADLOCK (8/10) bring a more extreme edge to the day with their melodic death metal with the occasional techno beat thrown in for good measure. Sadly a few days later founder member Johannes Prem announced his departure from the band, so it will be interesting to see how the band progresses.
America’s BENEDICTUM (9/10) never fail to deliver and in Veronica Freeman, have the ultimate frontwoman to belt out Heavy Metal at its best, the set drawing from all three of their albums before closing with a slightly shortened ‘Beast In The Field’.
DYLATH-LEEN (7/10) may not be the easiest band in the world to get into with their mix of death, black and melodic metal, but vocalist Kathy Coupez certainly knows how to perform on stage, and from the opener ‘Never Rising Sun’ through to set closer ‘I Dreamt’ not a single person in the crowd can say they weren’t captivated by this refreshingly different band.
Norwegian Gothic/symphonic band TRAIL OF TEARS (8/10) deliver a superb set with tracks like ‘Deceptive Mirrors,’ getting the crowd jumping and baying for more. This is surely one of the best sets the band has played for a long time.
Spain’s DIABULUS IN MUSICA (7/10) with vocalist Zuberoa Aznarez tear the place apart with their symphonic based sound and great stage show. This band should be a lot bigger than they are, but with performances like this surely the big time beckons sooner rather than later.
LEAVES’ EYES (9/10) are again on top form and whilst they seem to be struggling at present to find to find a stable lineup, the core members remain and when your stood in the crowd listening to the stunning tracks, such as ‘Ocean’s Way’, ‘Take The Devil In Me’ and ‘Froya’s Theme’ you realise that the band have more than enough talent and skill to ensure the future remains bright.
How else can you end a night of pure female fronted metal than with DORO (10/10), who always gives 100% in everything she does and always with the biggest of smiles on her face, and with a career not far short of 30 years strong the back catalogue is immense, from ‘Burning The Witches’ to ‘Night Of The Warlock’ the assault is relentless. A well deserved bouquet of roses closes a near 90 minute set which will stay in the memory for a long time yet.
Opening the 2nd day’s events is never going to be easy but Germany’s DIARY ABOUT MY NIGHTMARES (10/10) play an absolute blinder, with Toni’s Death Metal growl vocals blowing everyone away in one of the best 30 minute sets heard in a long time, more please!
U.S.A.’s OPERATIKA (8/10) have in founder member Bill Visser surely one of the fastest jaw dropping guitarists on the planet. How this guy’s fingers weren’t torn to shreds is beyond belief, and with Slava’s melodic vocals on ‘Tears Of The Sun’ in particular the applause was richly deserved.
Hungary’s VELVETSEAL (7/10) bring a Symphonic / Gothic set led by Gabriella on vocals which is warmly received by all  and cements their growing reputation.
Norway’s TRIOSPHERE (8/10) follow with vocalist/bassist Ida Haukland at the helm and deliver an excellent set of Power Metal with tracks like ‘Onward Pt 11’ and set closer ‘Sunriser’ standing out in particular.
SYSTEM DIVIDE (9/10) deliver big time, with 45 minutes of Extreme Metal led by Miri Milman that is near faultless. ‘Hollow’ amongst many other tracks seals a very impressive set.
MIDNATTSOL (9/10) produce Folk Metal that is way above many others in that particular genre, and tonight they were firing on all cylinders with Carmen’s vocals sounding stronger than ever, the set drawing heavily from latest release ‘The Metamorphis Melody’.
Next up STREAM OF PASSION (8/10), who put in a fine 50 minute set with the superb Marcela Bovio on vocals and have the crowd in total awe. Marcela was obviously so pleased with the performance that she went off and got married the following day.
DRACONIAN (10/10) are nothing short of awesome from opening track ‘The Drowning Age’ to set closer ‘Elysian Night’ and all others in between this set is pure musical perfection. Anders Jacobsson’s doom laden vocals mixed with the haunting sounds of Lisa Johansson have the whole venue mesmerized for each and every one of the 50 minutes that they were on stage.
VISIONS OF ATLANTIS (7/10) have had to adapt a lot these last few years with line up changes, but now seem settled and back on form and draw an ecstatic welcome. Listening to tracks such as ‘Wing Shaped Heart’, ‘Lost’ and ‘New Dawn’, it’s easy to understand why.
Headliners THERION (9/10) bring the festival to a close in a way only they can, with an unbelievably good 90 minutes of Metal and showmanship which few can rival. Not many bands could get away with finishing a show with a cover of ABBA’s ‘Summer Night City’ but they certainly do.
A superb weekend at one of if not the best organised festivals in Europe which continues to grow year on year whilst maintaining its unique feel. And with next year’s 10th anniversary edition taking place on the 19/20/21 of October with ARCH ENEMY, SKEPTICAL MINDS, 69 CHAMBERS, MORTAD and LAHANNYA already announced I for one of many can’t wait.

About Simon Bower

Rock/Metal junkie living in beautiful Anglesey.Love live music and have a musical taste which can go from Cannibal Corpse to Kate Bush in the blink of an eye.