Metal music and Scandinavia have and always will be synonymous. The northern regions which have been hardened by ice, stone and relentless Winters birthed a second wave of Black Metal and in the 1980’s spat out incongruous and ill-famed bands like Mayhem, Darkthrone and Burzum. Corpse paint and shrieks rose from the Swedish and Norwegian mountains while cassettes and records coined the raw recording styles of Death Metal and its disciples.
Festivals like Eindhoven Metal Meeting (EMM) celebrate this metal heritage. Drawing over 2000 patrons to the two-day event, EMM celebrates offbeat frontrunners and memorialises metal fathers in the legendary Effenaar Stadium and its two looming stages.
It had only been my second time at a legitimate metal music festival. I attended Black Conjuration, a niche metal music festival in Adelaide, but use the term ‘attend’ loosely. After watching the headlining act, Portal, my heart wound so tightly I had a panic attack in the mosh pit. The band’s rigorous progressions sounded like a swarm of bees and I felt like putty in the gloves of their vocalist, The Curator. I’m a novice in the world of metal music but my boyfriend whom I attended EMM with, is not. He insisted on the festival because an event like this, so proximally in-situ to Scandinavia, is pivotal to my understanding of metal.
So, we found ourselves in a remote town bordering Amsterdam and Brussels and in a throng of metal heads. EMM had already been raging throughout the previous day, and the pre-party and after-party, so the afternoon turnout trickled. The hair however, was in full force as the one degree wind tried to pierce the punters in front but their glorious locks moved through it instead.
Heavy boots crunched through the foyer and we met a bouncer who began to scrutinize my possessions. “It’s a salad,” my boyfriend explained. “A truffle salad,” I corrected him.
A 30-year-old fan came bouldering through with a bouncer’s guiding influence. His sweat spoke of a day already spent and his wobbly hands told us how many beers he had, but behind him the Viking army collected. Tall and broad, they amiably stood clutching their beers, peering into the stacks of band merch or jamming their coats into the last remaining lockers. Hoards of patches were sutured onto their denim jackets while bullet belts ran around their bellies.
The primary hall was the centre for merch distribution, crawling with cotton skulls and bloodied script. Punters donned their purchased black shirts to assimilate with the masses while they rifled through records. The adjoining gallery looked like a convention centre where ring-licked fingers of Dutch men traded AC/DC iPhone cases while investigating mountains of studded belts.
People have assumptions about metal fans: they are as terrifying as the music they listen to. Aggressive distortion, volume and a pounding pace identify the genre while fans personify the audible aggression with loud-looking appearances.
This dichotomy was visual in the performance of Necrophobic, an original Swedish death metal band from the 90’s. The four-piece dominated the Large Stage with blackened snarls and angered expressions as the crowd contentedly punched to blasphemous Revelation 666. Fans thrashed to the rapidity of Joakim Sterner, the band’s original and only drummer, and politely apologised if they pushed their way into your drink. They would almost always look around with shrugged shoulders and a gawking apology while vocalist Anders Storkik screamed on.
I saw niceties amplified in other halls. The official EMM advertisement screens warned of theft by saying, “it isn’t metal to pickpocket” and we were asked because of our outwardly Australian accents how far we’d travelled to see the show. The only episode we encountered over seven hours at the festival was a 60-year-old drunken stray whom air-guitared over to us, but after offering nothing, moved onto someone else who happily reciprocated.
Marduk was on at 10:30pm and they’re a four-piece cult band from the 90’s with a brutally offensive reputation to straight-line the stereotype. At EMM they performed Black Metal tracks so fast and so furiously that as the lead singer, Daniel “Mortuus” Rosten, sung about Satanism the stage began to smell like burning coal. The crowd wore identical corpse paint and stood trapped in Mortuus’ dragon-like growls and Widigs’ double-kicked drums.
Taking a breath from the aggression estuary, I went downstairs. I thought I’d seen every face of EMM and enough blasphemy to set the Bible on fire, but downstairs I witnessed more than twenty boot stomping, merry metal heads butchering Gloria Jones’ Tainted Love over the PA system.
While Marduk was blaring profanities only a staircase away and Gama Bomb commanding their crowds not far off, these fans were slipping over themselves and the lyrics to cheesy 90’s pop and 70’s soul. They bumbled through Cher, Prince and Alice Cooper lyrics while dabbling in corny dance moves that likened them less to Vikings and more like uncles at a barbeque.
These fans didn’t sing about chthonic slayings but instead they bleated through disco. Metal music and Scandinavia are synonymous, but the assumptions hard-lining the fans aren’t. Fervently passionate about bands and die-hard in their paraphernalia collection methods, metal heads love the music and anyone who shares this appreciation. They’ll look like an idiot air-guitaring with you or belting out Cher lyrics, and they’re symbolic of what you should take away from this article.
You would never assume all rap buffs are gangstas, so don’t assume someone who listens to any offshoot of metal worships Satan and wants to sacrifice your cat. Sit them down for a conversation or save them a dance – overcome your cultural relativism.
Words and Image by Angela Skujins