Raismes Festival, 22nd September 2001
Chateau de la Princess, Raismes, France
By Charlie Farrell
Raismes is a small suburb of Valenciennes in northern France and is the home of this small festival ≠ now in its fourth year. Bringing together both local bands and successful international acts, it is an extremely reasonably priced event and the organizers deserve further success. This was an outdoor event in the enclosed grounds of Le Chateau de la Princess, and though the rain threatened on several occasions, the day remained fine and the event passed off successfully.
Opening the show were local outfit Soundcheck who played a 30-minute set of loud nu-metal. They were followed by Lille-based prog-metal outfit Syrens Call, who suffered from a poor mix during their opening number Bravehearts which made the bass much louder than everything else. With this corrected, the rain clouds gathered and vocalist, Valerie Paul, pointed out the appropriateness of the following number The Storm. One of the stronger tracks on their debut disk Fantasea, this was followed by my favorite cut Aquatic Coma, a stunning instrumental number which showcases the talents of lead guitarist Thibaut Coisne. The set closed with Far Away as the crowd showed their appreciation.
Next on Stage were Dutch band Mennen who performed a set full of tunes featuring many a crushingly heavy riff. While the vocalist has a good powerful voice and the other musicians were clearly very capable, they lacked great songs and they received their biggest cheer when they incorporated a snippet of Van Halenís Hot for Teacher into one of their tunes. They were followed by French Stoner outfit, Blackstone, whose performance I largely missed as I took the opportunity to enjoy the catering on offer.
As twilight approached, I was rather surprised to see Threshold arrive on stage, but they opened up on all cylinders and really kicked some life into the event with a set which was controlled, powerful and clearly well tuned after 2 weeks on the road. Largely axed around material from their most recent disk, Hypothetical they still managed to include a gem or two from most of the earlier disks. Vocalist Mac sang perfectly from the powerful opener Freaks through to the set closer Paradox, exhuding his usual cheeky charm yet never going over the top. While keys player Richard West was hidden at the back of the stage, drummer Johanne James was a powerhouse sat behind a kit that was half the size of that used by similar bands, guitarists Nick Midson and Karl Groom were as steady and as heavy as ever and Karl executed his solos with ease. Bassist Jon Jeary laying down an excellent rhythm and generally lurked in the shadows other than when called forward to add backup vocals on tunes such as the show-stealing Ravages of Time. As a fan of the band for several years now I was really pleased to finally see a performance which lived up to and indeed, exceeded my expectations. The crowd appeared to be similarly impressed.
Swedish trio Freak Kitchen, playing their first gig in France, followed them on stage, by which time, night had well and truly fallen. Having tried yet failed to understand the appeal of the bandís music, despite the obvious outstanding talents of guitarist Mattias Eklund, I wasnít sure what to expect, but they certainly turned on a show. Besides his talents as a guitarist, Mattias could also probably make a living as a comedian and when he didnít have the crowd in the palm of his hand with his amazing guitar playing, he was entertaining them with stories and his elementary command of French, which only endeared him to the crowd even more. Standout tracks were Walls of Ignorance and Gun God, but these were mixed in with other stranger tunes such as Iím A Jerk, Iím So Proud Of My Haircut and Taste My Fist ≠ a song about hooligans. There is certainly bags of talent in the band and a great eye for the absurd, which makes for a unique band, though perhaps one with limited appeal.
The rain which had threatened at the start of the day had held off and the sky had cleared, making the evening air a little chilly, so it was with a great deal of enthusiasm that, just after 10:30PM, the crowd welcomed the headliners, Ark onto the stage. With their second disk Burn the Sun well positioned to be declared my disk of the year, theirs was a performance that I was very much looking forward to. The powerful Heal The Waters made an excellent opener and with singer Jorn Lande sporting the make-up from some of the bandís stranger publicity photos, the band made a huge impact visually as well as musically. The set included a good deal of material from their self-titled debut, with Singer at the Worlds Dawn keeping up the momentum and Randy Covenís bass playing, making a particularly strong impression though, from my position in the crowd, both John Macalusoís drums and Tore Ostbyís guitars sounded less powerful than on disk, being rather too far back in the mix for my liking.
Not all of their complex compositions made a successful transition to the live environment and though Randy Coven continued to impress with some stunning fretless bass during Torn and Resurrection, some of the intimacy of certain numbers was lost. Tore Ostbyís flamenco guitar playing is superb on disk and The Hunchback of Notre Dame showcased it perfectly in the live environment, while Where The Wind Blows didnít make as successful a transition. An imposing performance from Jorn on Noose and a great bass solo from Randy led to the set closer of Burning Down from the self-titled debut disk.
With the clock edging towards midnight, the crowd chanted for an encore and so they returned to play two further excellent cuts; Absolute Zero and the stunning title track which brought their set and the event to a great climax. All in all a very pleasant way to check out some excellent acts at an unbeatable price ≠ roll on Raismes Fest ≠ 2002!
Turn on Tune in
Long Way Home
Light and Space
Ravages of Time
Heal the Waters
Singer at the Worlds's Dawn
Hunchback of Notre Dame
Where The Wind Blows
Randy Coven bass solo
Just a Little
Burn The Sun