This was one impressive bill that should have had people crawling out the woodwork, into the venue and sniffing the heady scent of incense wafting off the stage. It was still quiet when Austrians Our Survival Depends On Us came on to a clashing of gongs and sounds of running water. We were lucky to get them as a bout of tour bus flu had them resting up and missing one date recently but they seemed in formidable shape tonight. Image wise they are as striking as their sound is eclectic, resembling a bunch of eco warriors and mystic shamans in front of microphone stands hewn out of gnarly branches and bones. Swinging into action with tracks from latest album ‘Scouts on the Borderline Between the Physical and Spiritual World’ everything formed suddenly with a billowing guitar assault, booming bass tones and a swaggering drum beat that cut through the venue like a hot knife through butter. We are told to ‘Keep the home fires burning’ and were more than happy to do so, people drawn to the front of the venue and caught firmly in the band’s grip. There’s a wealth of atmosphere from this genre-bending display and plenty of vocal variation too. A sudden swooning dramatic clamour added to the avant-garde theatricality of it all and at times we coasted along to the other-worldy mesmerising flow before being flung back into life by almighty roars and burgeoning tribal bombast. From dark-folk to protest songs straight out of bygone times, vocal harmonies and weighty musical backbone are enough to have me signing up to their campaign. There’s even stormy flashes of lightning and thunder and OSDOU provided a real deluge to the senses making this a really memorable performance.
The last lot may have confused but at least we knew exactly what we were going to get from Thulcandra, icy blasts and scything riffs and the Germans were quick to fling us into a cold dark, frosty storm. Unleashing their inner blizzard beasts they quickly got people flinging fists in support at the front with fast and furious pace and an unrelenting attack. The sound again was spot on and the crunch and clash of drums and snares at the back rang out loudly courtesy of Secrets Of The Moon sticks-man Erebor, while the three players at the front strummed away hell for leather. Vocals from Steffen Kummerer also of Obscura are guttural and rasping and the band are incredibly tight. ‘Ritual Of Sight’ momentarily takes on a slight doomy tinge before flurrying away into another decimating maelstrom and if you were here looking for some classic guitar riffing and ferocious uncompromising black metal you would not have been disappointed as they unleash ‘Demigod Imprisoned’ Compared to the other bands on the bill they play things straight with little in the way of surprises, hitting like a hammer to the face and suitably shattering our skulls. Last number ‘Spirit Of The Night’ was wholly done in the Spirit of Dissection, job done.
We have waited since 2007 to catch Dodheimsgard again in London when they played a memorable show in Brixton. I honestly thought they would have more people here for them but it was also a relief not to be crammed in like sardines and really be able to get into things comfortably. Plenty has changed since last visit and there was no crazy dressing up from the band who have had everyone who is anyone in the weird realms of the Norse black metal scene through their ranks at one time or another. Since last time Kvohst has gone on to the likes of Hexvessel and Grave Pleasures but the imposing Aldrahn takes centre stage seemingly towering above us and throwing flamboyant shapes with his hands. Last album A Umbra Omega can only be described as a complete and utter headfuck with long twisting songs all lasting well over ten minutes. I wondered just how these tracks would translate on stage but we were whipped back in the past to ‘Sonar Bliss’, not that it is easily distinguishable at first. Forget the tight rich sounding and produced style of many others on the bill tonight DHG went for choppy, turbulent and completely raw sound. Things were all over the place and it was like having walked into a squat punk gig as they flung stuff out in a wholly anarchic style. Still it works and there is something completely immediate and honest about the display, it also has people clamouring and bouncing away to it all and by the time the harsh sounding Vendetta Assassin takes aim and fires we are all in its grip. Aldrahn seems as though he is shadow boxing along whilst uncouthly hollering out his vocals and the electronics behind the song are sampled and as hectic sounding as anything on stage. Moving back a bit with a pint to take in the turbulence from a slightly safer angle I am at last rewarded with a new one ‘God Protocol Axiom.’ Guitars are savage and the vocals deranged and on the edge of pure lunacy, the words chaotic and messy keep coming back at me but there was also a fair bit of control to it all as it stewed our heads admirably. Fucked up sounding keyboards and bizarre electronic surges take us through some older stuff like ‘The Snuff That Dreams Are Made Of’ and we go right back to ‘Monumental Possession’ for a frantic furrowing ‘The Crystal Specter.’ Speaking of which I think memories of this performance are going to haunt and unsettle for some time to come.
With latest album ‘Sun’ still beaming very freshly it is time for Secrets Of The Moon to bathe us in its bright light. Theirs is a show lingering in dark tones though as expected and they hit things straight off with opening track ‘No More Colours’ going from brooding start into a massively layered assault. Dry ice sees the figures looming from the mist and there is also plenty of white light and a pulsating strobe light flickering in line with the artillery of drum beats. sG hollers strumming away and on our stage left Ar is too a blur of motion. As for the bass wielder Naamah Ash to our right her face is completely buried beneath layers of hair as she drives away with the deep bottom end. Sound is magnificent the gothic guitar tones glistening lushly and this new song translates perfectly to the stage although perhaps sounds even more urgent and venomous in the live environment. It’s not just songs from the last few albums tonight though as they drop back to open Stigmata Wounds of old in the form of the black clad ‘Miasma.’ It thunders in and gallops away Erebor giving it a real work out on the drums, precisely delivering a hellish and lethal dose of brutality.
The vocals on songs like ‘Dirty Black’ are again rawer than on album but that Bowie etched croon is noted as we are transfixed by their delirious tones. The clean vocals work perfectly as they airily waft around the venue and it seems like everything is going down well with the audience. I could have happily embraced the whole of ‘Seven Bells’ being played but it is left to ‘Worship’ as the sole offering from the album and the stomp of it commands as we make the most of it. The doomy intensity is heavy and crushing before the piano heralds in another new one ‘I Took The Sky Away,’ into its slow waltz. The time seems to go really quickly and the drink goes down with it along with a couple from ‘Antitheses.’ ‘Lucifer Speaks’ bringing cloying darkness with heads on stage bowed down by its weight. If I had one song to choose for a finale it would not have been easy but ‘Man Behind The Sun’ was a perfect choice, slightly lightening the mood before we are flung out in the cold and a rousing and triumphant end to an excellent night.
(Review and photos © Pete Woods)