What we learned at Buma Rocks! and FortaRock

Within Temptation performing live
Within Temptation
(Image: © Jake Owens)

With Download festival fast approaching, we decided to get in the mood with a trip to a metal fest in The Netherlands. Now in its fourth year, Buma Rocks! is a music industry conference in Nijmegen, about an hour from Amsterdam, with a showcase of bands at Forta Rock – a two-day festival that’s celebrating its eighth birthday. With dance music the dominant genre in the country, the event aims to celebrate metal, with an emphasis on homegrown talent. We learned there’s more to the country than windmills and weed.

There’s Going To Be A Metal Fest On A Plane…

As if Full Metal Cruise and Full Metal Mountain weren’t horn-throwingly insane enough, the Wacken team are planning to take metal to the skies. Speaking at the Buma Rocks! conference, co-founder Thomas Jensen revealed they’re “trying to do something with a plane”. He tells us: “We nicked it a bit off Maiden! We were thinking of chartering a plane and going round the world with fans, and having concerts everywhere. Ideally, fans can jump off and on, and the greatest thing would be if a band was travelling with them. You play a gig in Sao Paolo, and then shoot off to LA, and then to Hawaii.”

Thomas Jensen in conversation

Thomas Jensen in conversation
(Image: © Jake Owens)

…And Wacken’s Ibiza Event Could Happen As Early As Next Year

“We’re working on that!” Thomas tells us. “We want a resort, a bit like Hard Rock Hell.” A previous Wacken cruise stopped off at Ibiza and held a gig at a fort, where Germans U.D.O. and Spanish cult band Obús played. “It was cool, because certain bands like Sabaton or Saxon would fit in that castley vibe, so everyone could come in their Viking helmets!” Thomas says. “I like the combination of holiday and music. It’s a bit more dedicated, like a big festival. We’re doing everything as soon as possible.”

Hibakusha’s Frontman Has A Massive Pair Of Lungs

Formed four years ago in Haarlem, North Holland, Hibakusha mix modern metal and tech to make a crushing new sound. On the Buma Rocks! stage, singer Twan Driessen roars like a lion caught in a trap, windmilling with his long, blond mane, as his cheeks redden from a combination of sunshine and effort. Relentlessly screaming, he comes across uncannily like a young Randy Blythe. Their EP, Incarnation, is out now, with a full-length expected in the next couple of years.

Twan Driessen

Twan Driessen
(Image: © Jake Owens)

Johannes Eckerström Is The Ultimate Ringmaster

Getting bolder with every show, Avatar frontman Johannes is in fine freakish form today, using his cane to conduct the crowd through favourites such as Hail The Apocalypse and Smells Like A Freakshow. Opening his eyes wide and wiggling his tongue in his mouth like an eel, he rocks back and forth on his red-booted heels, beating his chest and making everyone clap. When they play Tooth, Beak & Claw and The Eagle Has Landed, from new album Feathers & Flesh, he proudly declares, “It comes with a book, ‘cause it’s deep as fuck!”

Johannes Eckerström

Johannes Eckerström
(Image: © Jake Owens)

Heidevolk Are Super Serious About Folk Metal

There are more people on the Buma Rock! stage for Heidevolk than there are members of Slipknot, with six metallers backed up by four classical musicians. After a flute intro, they break into a series of pagan folk metal paeans to Dutch folklore, leather-waistcoat-clad singer Lars Vogel constantly pumping the air like he’s fighting a giant dragon. When his vocals combine with Mark Splintervuyscht’s, it’s like being transported to an ancient funeral for a warrior. They’ve only made it over to England a couple of times, but Heidevolk are prime candidates for an afternoon at Bloodstock.

Heidevolk

Heidevolk
(Image: © Jake Owens)

Gojira Underestimate Themselves

Partway through Gojira’s set, after they’ve just played new song Silvera, Joe Duplantier looks out at the crowd. “I like the smiles, thank you!” he grins. “Are you having a good time? We’re a little rusty after 10 months in the studio…” But they sound stunning. Then they play new single Stranded, fans singing back its shrill guitar tones, which sound more human and less mechanical live on stage, but no less impressive. Their set hits with the force of a 10-ton whale, while the band make it looks scarily effortless. Headlining slots surely beckon.

Gojira

Gojira
(Image: © Jake Owens)

Within Temptation Make Summer Gothic

After temperatures soar so high it seems like even the grass is sweating, the sun dips as Within Temptation take to the stage for their headlining slot. Fresh from winning the Buma Rocks! Export Award for their success abroad, the hometown heroes are in high spirits, bringing their slick symphonic show to a two-level stage. Dressed in a red and black ballgown and framed by burst of flame and CO2, Sharon den Adel is in fine operatic form, while guest singer Caroline Westendorp from The Charm And The Fury lends a tough edge to Silver Moonlight.

Within Temptation

Within Temptation
(Image: © Jake Owens)

Fleshgod Apocalypse Are Kings Here

Perhaps the tent is full because the burnier-than-hell sun is threatening to scorch the flesh off people’s bodies, or perhaps it’s because metal fans from The Netherlands are hot for the Italians’ classical death metal sounds. Either way, it’s a far cry from a few hundred people down at London’s Underworld. Clad in their dusty suits, hair blown back in a haze of dry ice, with bemasked female vocalist Veronica Bordacchini stalking the stage, they get festival-goers chanting and moving even though it’s only lunchtime.

(Image: © Jake Owens)

Babymetal’s World Domination Continues Apace

Opening the main stage on Sunday morning, Architects’ Sam Carter proudly proclaims: “Who’s looking forward to seeing Babymetal? It’s the only reason we’re here… I’m not joking!” Several hours ago, he joined the likes of Judas Priest and Metallica by having his picture taken with Japan’s rising stars. Chatting to festival-goers, it’s clear they are a strong draw. “I’m here to see Babymetal, because they’re a little different, and a little edgy!” says red-Mohawked fan Robin, who looks surprisingly punk.

It’s An Inclusive Festival

Forta Rock showed its support for the community when they took Down off the bill in March, following Phil Anselmo’s controversial white power comments at Dimebash earlier this year. Set in large public space Goffertpark in Nijmegen, families are picnicking outside the perimeter while the festival is going on. Inside, there are fans of all ages, from guys in pink unicorn ‘death metal’ T-shirts, to Avatar lookalikes and someone in the most fluorescent orange Iron Maiden hockey jersey we’ve ever seen. See you next year…

(Image: © Jake Owens)