Complexity Fest 2020 became for me some sort of race against the clock. After Monday's tour of Diabolical hitting town I managed to catch a cold. This cold culminated on Thursday in a day of weakness, heavy coughing followed by a lousy night. So on Friday there was no way I could stand three hours for Arkhangelsk'CD release party in Musicon and Saturday became doubtful. Now Complexity Fest is this musical event for those liking their music heavy but most of alll challenging. On previous editions I attended I saw many bands I knew in advance and liked a lot: Disillusion, Gorod, Zeal & Ardor, Ihsahn, the Ocean to mention but a few. Further I always discovered new bands I liked, so I had my ticket bought some time ago already. Now at the same time I feel my musical preference is a constantly moving animal. This year in Q1 my musical high definitely shall be Up the Hammers in Athens next month, so pretty far from the technical instrumental masturbation we had on offer in Haarlem. Further this year's line-up was so that I only knew the opening band in advance and had on CD already. So long story short on Saturday morning I decided to go to Haarlem, by car staying far from alcoholic temptations and I would see how long I would last fit. This meant an early departure. Upon arrival at Haarlem I ran into a large group of PPE regulars who were just saying goodbye to PPE partners who were not bothered for this trip of musical madness. I guess that sums up Complexity Fest pretty well. Where Progpower is about bands who play songs Complexity is not. From my last year's 12 friends joining to PPE, I guess maximum two or three would enjoy Complexity Fest.
But I do enjoy the festival and in I went just in time to take a good place for openers Our Oceans, the band that made me drive down to Haarlem in the end. Our Oceans is a band build around Dutch ex members of Cynic and Exivious. With the recent sad passing away of Sean Reinert (Cynic's drummer) I was silently hoping to see a tribute by a song from Traced in Air. After all Tymon played on that album and Robin toured this album wth Cynic. Unfortunately this was not to be and I guess these guys were rather modest to do such thing. When after a few songs Tymon asked if he should speak English or Dutch as he thought it prententious to speak English to a Dutch audience he won sympathy points with me. But let the music do the talking. They started with some songs from the self titled debut album. Now those reading Cynic expecting technical Death Metal could not be further away really. Our Oceans plays calm music to start with, guided by high angelic humming and as a reference that other Cynic offspring Aeon Spoke at times comes close. Now Tymon's vocals were not for everyone, but did not disturb me at all. One new song was clearly heavier than the rest of the set, did hold a beautiful guitar solo at the end and made me sure I shalll pick up the second album as well. Overall the now trio met my expectations and made me already pleased I decided to go to Patronaat today. Tangled from the debut album closed the 45 minute set and now the discovery of new bands could begin for me.
Well the first discovery was for me one to forget. Goat from Japan in the mainhal were drumming minimalistically yet fast through their set, but I was still recovering from something I liked. Later on Marcel explained they played without in-ears and it was amazing what they did. Can be, but not my thing really so I was out roaming through Patronaat pretty fast. Another nice thing about Complexity is the large amount of known people from PPE walking around. Say the more open minded experimental dutch part of PPE would be here and even some foreigners normally walking Baarlo roads begin October were present. From now on during breaks in the main hall there would be paralel sets in the small hall and at the bar stage. My first choice fell on the small hall where Danish Cold Night For Alligators would play. This technical metalcore band were the first nice surprise of the day. For starters they were one of the few bands today with actually a good strong vocalist. Second their presentation was enthusiastic with bandmembers waving at us constantly. This contagious set of metal did create an atmosphere and had enough variation between the screaming bits and well sung cleaner parts. Good band that I will keep an eye on for when they return .Moving back to the main hall meant Herod from Switzerland. I saw them last year opening a tour with The Ocean. What I remembered was the highlight being latter band's vocalist joining during one song. Now he was not there and we got mainly heaviness. Nice for a few songs, but not enough happening to keep me interested for 45 minutes. So time for a Vegan Chilli burger. Yes Complexity Fest's best food stand is vegan and I would almost say obviously as it fits the atmosphere of the whole event really, so do beards by the way so I did not shave in the morning.
Next choice was to be made between Ni and Pijn. I started with Ni, but where I liked Pliniol last year I had issues getting into Ni fast and went to other instrumental option Pijn. This was much more to my liking. This UK post metal outfit played songs based upon a heavy groove which made things way more accessible. Centre stage a violin was played, although many people confirmed same could be a bit louder in the mix. This was another nice surprise for me. Stilll feeling more or less fit I decided to hang on and see one of the bigger names Thank You Scientist. Unknown to me apart from internet bits I let myself be surprised. First song was dixieland with Sax, trumpet and violin turning out to be in the band. Yet it did hold some interesting vibe and obviously this band could play. Before the set started the vocalist made an insider joke that his butt still did hurt. When he opened his mouth I guessed his balls also suffered some heavy kicking as this was one that required a specific taste. Coheed and Cambria blended with cartoons came to mind. Pity as the band played obvously well, but it was hard to overcome. So in a final attempt I moved up to the balcony seeing if that would help by any means, but I never really managed to get into this band. Don't blame the vocalist alone, the trumpet buzzed unpleasant in my ears at times as well. Still I could see they were a good band, but probably not for me. Slowly my lack of condition was picking up, but I would try to stay and see Night Verses for a bit, as they sounded good on clips. This first meant an intermezzo with two of the weirdest bands of the day. In the bar I saw the start of Zalm. The festivalsite called this noisy one man grind punk. In reality this meant dutch samples (often funny) followed by loud screaming. Average song time some 15-20 seconds. After some hilarious laughing around it became rather quick enough to most. Then in the other hall Stuff did their thing. Well at least they played instruments, but this was also not for me.
So I did manage to see a bit of Night Verses in the end, but also did listen to my body and enough was enough. So after a while I went back to the car and home. Passing a day of not easy listening music is never easy. When you then start half fit only you tend to become more conservative. Yet I was pleased to have come over to Haarlem. Our Oceans. Cold Night for Alligators and Pijn were great and catching up with many friends you hardly see is always nice. On the program I had the impression some changes were made this year. Normally there would be technical death metal bands as well, a big name in the main hall and a smaller band on anothet stage. If you like great vocalists you were this year definitely at the wrong festival with the huge amount of instrumental acts and dubious voices. Yet it is not up to me to criticize a festival setup that obviously serves their own niche. And yes I will be back in 2021 (health allowing).