Full Metal Mountain at Sonnenalpe Nessfeld, Austria - live review

Amon Amarth and Parkway Drive elevate the masses

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THURSDAY

The holidaying metalhead now has a vast selection of summer getaways to choose from, with many cruises popping up, as well as countless European festivals offering better weather than the UK, but what about the fans of a winter break? They are now catered for with Austria’s Full Metal Mountain. Put on by the people who have been bringing us Wacken since 1990, Full Metal Mountain teams up the best acts in metal with winter sports (skiing and snowboarding for the lowlifers), all nestled in the beautiful Austrian Alps.

ASKING ALEXANDRIA [7] recently reclaimed their vocalist Danny Worsnop from his self-inflicted metalcore banishment, and it’s safe to say that his presence has been sorely missed. The band sound better than they ever have before while they blast through a selection of songs from their first three albums, with 2016’s The Black being noticeable by its absence. Songs such as Moving On and fan favouriteThe Final Episode go down a treat, and really benefit from Danny’s more gravelly tones. While the band are sonically hitting their stride, the stage patter is as immature as it is tedious and falls flat on a crowd where English is a definite minority. If the band can stop relying on this, and almost every song ending in a show tune-esque vocal a cappella, they could quite easily return to major heights.

No such problems for Thursday’s headliners PARKWAY DRIVE [8], who are far happier to let the music do the talking. Their headline run promises some truly special production values, and it’s a real shame that the confines of tonight’s venue stops them from having any of it with them. This doesn’t detract from a band who are amongst the best to emerge from their scene this century, and who continue to grow, deserving of much higher festival slots than they currently receive. The band are clearly thrilled to be at such a unique festival, with vocalist Winston McCall noting on more than one occasion how lucky the band feel to be here, at “one of the coolest festivals I’ve ever been at in my life”. Even in a set this chock-full of great songs and moments, the simplistic yet powerful stomp of Writings On The Wall stands proudly as one of the band’s most successful experiments, and a cover of RATM’s Bulls On Parade is every bit as much fun as it sounds. Parkway Drive are starting to sell out arenas globally now, and you would have to have a heart of stone and no sense of fun to say they don’t deserve it.

FRIDAY

Friday morning is spent on the mountain itself, watching some novelty bands covering rock and metal classics on ukuleles or in an oompah style, and hitting the slopes. The 2,000 people in attendance are all in high spirits as they head down the slopes or ski lifts to the main stage to see Finland’s ENSIFERUM [6]. The main problem here, is that certain members of the band, namely lead guitarist and vocalist Petri Lindroos seems to be quite unconvinced with the band’s music today. Perhaps it’s the relatively small crowd that the band are playing to, but his face registers no joy, which stands out a great deal when compared to tonight’s headliners. On a technical level, the band are tight and don’t sound bad at all, and bassist Sami Hinkka is a real livewire, dashing around the stage, kilt and hair flying.

In stark contrast to Ensiferum, AMON AMARTH [9] could not look more pleased to be here tonight, and are greeted by the biggest crowd of the weekend. With many clad in the band’s merch, and one wielding a giant foam battleaxe, this set is all about fun. Given their punishing melodic death metal sound, Amon Amarth raise almost constant smiles from everyone in attendance, with an impressive stageshow and a performance to match. There’s everything from the giant Viking helm drum riser, to CO2 cannons, to an assortment of Viking characters appearing with the band onstage to do battle or add a visual aid to the storytelling in the songs. As ever, Johan Hegg is the star of the show, equal parts hair, smiles and metal charisma, all rolled into one package. “Are you ready to party like Vikings?” he bellows, and judging by the emphatic reaction to Raise Your Horns, Death In Fire and thunderous closer Twilight Of The Thunder God, the Full Metal Mountaineers are more than ready to lap up everything thrown at them tonight. The ever-increasing profile of Amon Amarth, not to mention their technical proficiency and lavish stage show, means that they can only be destined for even greater heights.