Armstrong Metalfest 2019

Armstrong Metalfest 2019 has come and gone for another year AND IT WAS AMAZING! Shamefully this was my first time out to AMF. I had considered it in the past especially with bands like Cattle Decapitation, Suffocation, Kataklysm, Archspire, and Cryptopsy on the pill in past years.

nekrogoblikon armstrong metalfest
Nekrogoblikon by Chris Geistlinger

Actually holy fuck. Looking at that short list of bands along with the amazing local acts we have… what have I been thinking all this time?! Being caught up in the European scene (In the 90’s and 00’s that is arguably where the best metal was) I had been to Tuska festival three times and others in Finland. The bands I had spent my time listening to didn’t make their way to the Okanagan so there wasn’t much interest for me to attend.

Now though equipped with my dialed-in blogging skills and attempt to bring the Okanagan scene to a wider audience I just knew I had to see AMF for myself.

The first day

Friday morning I arrived without trouble getting to the band camp area and scoping out an area to set up my equipment for podcasting with some of the bands I had lined up to meet with throughout the weekend. After identifying a prime location with access to electricity (where would we be without that?!) I took to the general camp area to find anyone I might know.

Unsurprisingly I had discovered mostly everyone to be hungover from the night before. See Thursday is generally a huge party for the people who arrive early to setup, prepare, drink, or whatever reason they have for showing up early. You most likely don’t need one.

After getting familiar with my surroundings, finding my dude Matt Depper of Apollyon and saying hi to all the familiar and friendly faces I made my way back to the arena.

Things go a little sour

See, I had my media pass with me and was told I would have access to the backstage and camp area. This wasn’t a problem the fist go around when I staked out the area at 1000 but an hour or so later and it’s a huge deal. Now having said that I should have already set up my shit when I first got there but being ten in the morning I didn’t want to have my stuff out in the open all day long while I am cruising around visiting and seeing the bands play.

The second time I try to get to the band camp area to claim my place this jacked security guard wasn’t allowing it. No media. I explain that it has already been approved and that I kinda need to setup my podcasting equipment for my interviews I had lined up. That didn’t matter. This guy wasn’t budging.

I tried again from the side of the stage inside Hassen Arena. No go. No media. That wouldn’t have worked anyways because I needed my car back there and security wouldn’t allow it.

Armstrong metalfest camp tesla
Camp Tesla?

So I decided, fuck it. We are setting up the podcast in the general camp and we will capture what it is like to be at the festival from a peasant standpoint. Because you know? Fuck internet radio, fuck trying to spread our amazing community and fuck media.

Oh yeah, bands are playing too

Armstrong Metalfest merch table

Armstrong Metalfest 2019 is truly about the bands and showcasing what they can do and offer. It gives a chance for metalheads to come together and experience the amazing talent we have here.

Conniver was up first followed and was one I had never listened to before but was informed to check out. With that I was damn glad that I did. They surprised me with their djent Meshuggah like sound. Still of its own and not a rip off. Damn it was fine and now at the time of writing this I really wish I got some footage of them. From Kamloops! Insane. I didn’t even know about this. It’s always a great surprise to find something like this.

Liberatia from Courtenay, BC slapped hard with their thrashy melodeath sound. It was a great pleasure to see these guys on stage and meet up with them later on.

AFAIR Conniver began late and set back the times by about 20-30 mins. Eventually they did catch up.

After this I spent some time outside in the camp area where I recorded the first of two podcast episodes related to Armstrong Metalfest 2019. There were tons of great guests on both episodes and they turned out much better than I had expected. It really captured the atmosphere of being at a metal festival.

nomad podcast
Podcasting with Conniver and Nomad

So we did. It was not what I expected but it was fun as hell and I had a great time there. The first day podcast is available to listen here.

Tech death metal just because

Two bands I had been looking forward to seeing took stage one after the other. Exterminatus and Widow’s Peak. Both destroy on their recorded material but did they ever show us what they got on stage!

widow's peak armstrong metalfest
Widow’s Peak by Chris Geistlinger

I met up with the boys of Widow’s Peak on Sunday. Actually one of them was in on the day 1 podcast and I don’t think I even realized it. We had drawn a small crowd of people and it’s quite hard to jump into a scene and learn who everyone is let alone get a ton of them in one group!

widow's peak armstrong metalfest
Widow’s Peak by Chris Geistlinger

Both bands were absolutely fitting back to back. The stage intensity and blasting sound made for a great experience and it’s like the two acts go hand in hand.

I didn’t get a chance to podcast with Exterminatus but they were kind enough to do a written interview with me which can be read here.

Power Metal Rangers

ArkenFire armstrong metalfest 2019
Photo by Chris Geistlinger

ArkenFire always puts on a sweet set. They are about the only power metal band in the area so that gives them a lot of room to do pretty much what they like. I’ll always say about because you never know what will spring up out of the bowels of a region. There could be more power metal out there that I just haven’t found yet!

These guys rock. Totally dedicated to metal and bringing that much needed super nerdy aspect it. Believe me, us metalheads are huge nerds too. Frodo Baggins would totally be a metalhead. Funny enough every time I see these guys play I always end up recording the same damn song.

I think two and almost three times I have recorded their new song Night Sister. So FINALLY I got some different footage of them. I made sure to get a couple songs this time though the other will be kept for later!

Bang your head Armstrong

Ahh yes, Apollyon. Kelowna’s blackened death metal act with stellar atmosphere and banging tracks. These guys are working hard on bringing fresh new material even if their album False Light was released not even a year ago. The album is a banger and has stellar atmosphere and brings together elements and ideas from a range of influences.

They’re slowly bringing more new songs to the stage including this new one called Night Maker.

This one feels like a natural progression from the material on their debut album. Very atmospheric riffs (especially that intro) but super intense too. Much similar to their other new track Wretched Grandiose.

BTW Matt is one crazy ass motherfucker.

Evening of Goblins

nekrogoblikon armstrong metalfest
Nekrogoblikon by Chris Geistlinger

Terence joined me some time around 5-6pm and I do believe during the Apollyon set. See, during a festival things become a blur as you meet new people, have beers, get sun, watch bands. Time doesn’t exist at a festival.

nekrogoblikon armstrong metalfest
Nekrogoblikon by Chris Geistlinger

He wanted to see Nekrogoblikon because, much like others may have been, he was surprised they were on the bill and willing to come up and do this show. It was definitely a great set! The crowd was large, the music was intense but very melodic, and the night ended on a very high note.

A few songs into the set and after a few videos I decided to take Mjolnir with me into the pit. Survival was a must and that it was. Not without a few bumps, no bruising and always lifting people up as they lose balance and fall.

This is a staple in the metal community. We love to get rowdy and mosh in the put but never do we attempt to put any person into risk of harm. If someone falls over we put out a helping hand and lift them back up, make sure they are okay and continue moshing.

Day 2: Hangovers and Farmer’s Market

I couldn’t stay the night on Saturday. I did have to work at 0630. What a damper to the festival mood. So I laid low on this day, got to connect with a lot of new people I hadn’t had the chance to yet.

Yes, I had a bit of a hangover. No it didn’t kill me nor last as long as I thought it would. Breakfast at The Brown Derby Cafe was cheap and actually really good. So good that I went back for lunch with some friends! It really must be the busiest weekend of the year for them. The staff were super friendly and loved the fact that we were in town. It is commonly known that the small town of Armstrong has embraced the metal festival and love that it draws so many unique and amazing people to the area.

On the way back to the festival grounds I took a stroll through the farmer’s market that was open at the time. There was some great folk music being played by song young people. Which sounded amazing and I am kicking myself now for not taking any footage. I was, in fact, on a mission for fresh coffee. Which I found though I still don’t know if it was local. It probably was. Or at least I believe it was!

The people of the market offered fresh fruit and vegetables along with arts and crafts made by locals. There was a great mix of metalheads roaming the market along with the locals who come out and pick up their local produce.

Beer Helmet March

at 1000 the annual Beer Helmet March took place. Basically hungover metalheads either construct a helmet from beer cases (or just simply wear an empty beer case on their heads) and march through camp and the farmer’s market.

The entire time through the market people took photos, clapped and cheered the metalheads on. It’s really an amazing scene to watch play out. We are truly the friendliest people in the world!

This video I put together follows the beer helmet march to Hassen Arena where the top three helmets were selected for prizes. Top prize was tickets to next year’s festival and the winner of the Vinny Cup. Of course that went to the fire breathing helmet which unfortunately broke part way through the march.

No stage just friends

Wow, I must say I kinda dropped the ball here. More time was spent by me out in the camp grounds meeting new people and bands instead of actually watching the performances. Aside from the fact that I should have been getting footage for the bands there is nothing wrong with being outside with friends and band members!

For example, we were recording a second podcast episode to help capture the essence of the festival and low and behold we were dropped in by Sentinels‘ guitarist Thomas Cardone. Yes, the band from New Jersey. They were just chilling at the tent when we came back and after setting up the podcast equipment and talking for a bit Thomas just jumped in and joined.

It was a great experience having him jump in and discuss local beer, metal and hockey. You never know where a podcast is ever going to go! Widow’s Peak found us as well and jumped in to talk a little about the band and festival. Thanks to both groups for joining us! We are hard working to spread our amazing community and every little bit helps!

Missing some of the bands

It really hurts my whole heart to have missed some of the bands I really wanted to see on the second day. Arctos, Truent, Roadrash, Apprentice, Sentinels, Gross Misconduct, Origin, and Odinfist. They all played sets either around the podcasting time or after I had left. So much love to all those bands they are amazing and one day they’ll all be on the podcast!

widow's peak armstrong
Widow’s Peak drops in on the podcast recording

Betraying the Martyrs were to play Armstrong Metalfest 2019 but unfortunately their bus caught fire and were forced to cancel their tour. It’s such as tragic event. The band has a GoFundMe running to help replace their equipment. They lost practically everything. So please consider donating some money to help them out! Every little bit helps.

Roundup and final thoughts

Not having a background in any kind of production (besides what I dabble with at home) or putting on a live experience that leaves me with very little knowledge as to what happens in the background. As a lifelong fan of metal it was a great time watching the bands even if there was the odd hiccup.

The sound seemed to get better as the night went on and even if there was a little trouble here and there nothing took away from the spirit of the metal festival.

The festival grounds were fantastic. The people amazing, set up was great and easy to navigate and the events going on were a lot of fun. Metal as Medicine will definitely be back next year and hopefully with a bigger and better setup to help broadcast the event through podcasting and more!

Support the artists

There were many bands present (both performing and not) and they need our support! Please consider coming out to the shows and purchasing merchandise as well as their releases. Take pics and videos, share it on social media and lets help get these bands more exposure!

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