On the 11th of February, a small bar venue was the location for the start of the first round of the Olensfest 2017 Metal Battles. The prize: a spot in the finals, and thus a step closer to playing the local Belgian festival, renowned for its unique and diverse bills across the years. That night, 4 of the 8 hand-picked metal bands competed for either a jury or crowd ticket into the finals. It’s on!

On the 11th of February, Circle Unbroken, Oknos, Megasonic and Drive By Suicide took the stage by storm.

First up were the Belgians of CIRCLE UNBROKEN. Their set was off to a bombastic start, but soon, peril descended unto their fiery sound: while their frontwoman performed with all her heart and soul, the lead guitarist encountered recurring monitor troubles, which would not let him go for the remainder of their set. What followed was a band attempting to puzzle its way out of a crippling choke-hold, with many of their songs, especially the fantastic ‘Dark Fyre’ (what an amazing touch of Disneyvillain resonance that was!), losing a lot of their bombast and great appeal to the crowd. Needless to say, while the band tried to play it off with the guitarist handling the technical difficulties to his best skills, their show was a damaged one, and when the lead guitar finally kicked in during their swansong ‘The Call’, it was indeed a raw, dying note to a set that could have been so much more for Circle Unbroken. Nonetheless, their frontwoman was keen on keeping the back straight: “The world keeps on turning,” as she so spoke.

Next up were the Germans of OKNOS. With the mood swiftly set via a fantastical tape to start the set, they focused heavily on an energetic, focused atmosphere with a sweet blend of traditional female-fronted gothic metal and more straightforward hardrock. Their frontwoman, bringing in vulnerability in her singing style and enthusiasm in her crowd interaction, the band showed how well everyone fit into the band. Indeed, Oknos made a real display of how mature a band they were that night, and such was shown in their equally fantastical, dreamy gothic hard rock, that kept its balance well and its sound tight across the entire set. While not a set without its own technical issues – lead guitarist Johann suffering the same troubles at given moments – theirs was definitely less plagued and thus, Oknos was able to show what they have in stock, especially with their debut full-length coming out in April/May.

Definitely the band to bring a lot of experience to the show were MEGASONIC. Added to that: what a show! Their old school trash vibes with a sniff of rock ‘n’ roll and a lick of hardrock transpired to your author best as ‘Iron Maiden on speed’, and how Megasonic agree: their show felt like an adrenaline-fueled party trip across all heavy metal. The complementary skills at every instrument, well fitted into a proper sound mix (the first without real issues!) was even more of a delight as the smiles shined straight of the faces of everyone on stage. The sheer playjoy turned into a band never overplaying their hand, but going straight for direct crowd interaction and pure, unrefined heavy metal.