This first month of 2020 was an interesting one for Akelei. Competing in the Metal Battle meant a South Holland lineup had to be formed and rehearsals needed to be planned. It was a short notice for everyone involved but we were looking forward to getting back on stage again. For most of us, it had been years. It got even more interesting when I contracted a cold and couldn’t sing well during rehearsals. However, I made some pretty decent recordings of our set run throughs with a Zoom recorder. It’s helpful in reviewing the session and finding out what needs attention. The audio quality in fact is good enough that you can do simple demo recordings with it. Needless to say that I love this thing. One thing I noticed is how much heavier the songs are sounding. That’s partly due to the lower tuning; one step down to A. The other reason is the equipment that Johan and Jeroen bring to the fray. Their instruments and amps pack serious punch and together with Josha’s effective drumming style form a solid base to work with. Matthijs also puts his mark on the mix with tasteful guitar effects that are both new and perfectly suited to the parts he plays. As for me, I do what I’ve always done, albeit with the help of a second reverb pedal.
So, the actual day of the gig came around. Baroeg provided the bands with hot meals from their kitchen and I was happy to find out that the Akelei crew counted the most vegetarians. That’s a win in itself, haha! The atmosphere was very nice and relaxed and we chatted with the other bands. One of them Josha and I have known since the 90’s, Acrid. They’re a melodic death metal band with riffs that always remind me of the legendary Death from Florida. Acrid has a new singer and I was pretty stoked to see them live again after so many years. I also enjoyed watching the other bands perform, The Great Hurricane Escape and No More Heroes. The best thing about a contest like this is that it can bring wildly different types of bands together. This programme featured hillbilly hardcore, death metal, metalcore and of course Akelei’s own brew of atmospheric doom metal. Each band was there to play the music that they believe in and give it their all and that’s an exciting thing to be a part of. Especially after being away from it all for so long, I might add.
Our performance went smoothly and according to plan and we managed to stay just within the 30-minute limit of our set. That was pretty important as failure to do so would have meant disqualification! I had good monitor sound on stage and that was important too. Hearing myself back is very reassuring and takes away some of the pressure that is inherent to performing live. I screwed up my first part of the double lead section in De zwaarte, when I accidentally hit the footswitch and got a clean sound. I discovered it a few seconds in and kicked the distortion back on. That’s the sort of thing that can always happen and it’s not the end of the world since not a lot of people will actually notice if you just keep on playing like nothing’s happened. It’s a pretty heavy song and it was cool to see the band rocking out on stage to it. Everyone sounded great to my ears too. My voice was still affected by the lingering cold and didn’t sound as clear as normal. I concentrated on pronunciation and putting some vigour in my verses. Akelei is not the world’s hardest band but I hope people recognise the passion that goes into making this music. We didn’t provide only sound, by the way: Wouter’s visuals provided a beautiful and moving backdrop to our stage presence. We were the only band to do that.
In the end of the evening the jury declared Acrid winners of the battle and we all agreed it was a deserved win. They played an inspired and professional set. It seemed almost effortless, which is quite impressive because their music is far from easy to play. We thanked the Baroeg crew and jury members and chatted with some of them. It’s always interesting to hear how they look at different bands’ qualities and what comments they want to share about a gig. There were definitely some tips that I’m going to work with. All in all, we were very happy with the show and not just that but also the hours at the rehearsal room and the relaxed atmosphere that we were able to work in. We’re going to meet shortly to see if, how and when we can continue our collaboration. It has been an absolute pleasure so far!
Video by Vitus Frank, cheers for uploading!
Video by Veronika, edit by Wouter with audio from Zoom H1n.