Plenty of gigs on in town yet again tonight, heavyweight thrash titans Exodus with Sodom and Death Angel having a Headbangers Ball as well as memories being invoked by Clawfinger. It’s off down the Holloway Road for us black clad legions for a couple of well-respected debut UK performances from Lithuania and Poland in the shape of  Au Dessus and Furia. Brexit is already having a knock on effect and more tours are being announced skipping our disenfranchised Isle so we best make the most of shows like this while we still can.

First up are Solleme, a fairly young looking trio from Brighton. This quickly establishes itself as sludgy and distempered noise with a singer throwing musical fits. It’s suitably loud and abrasive and anyone napping in the corner is unceremoniously woken up. The red lighting only intensifies the anger as the vocalist grips the microphone and yells his head off into it. The drummer may be using a side kit on the stage rather than the main one but he hits it hard making every slow percussive blast count. There are some occasional bleak tones giving things a bit of breathing space but on the whole this is slow torture or as their album title puts it “Infinite Violence.” The lack of bass player didn’t seem to hamper proceedings, drums and vocals on the whole ruled supreme in the mix, guitars chugging in when they got the chance. Solleme only seemed to have time to play about 4 songs but frankly that felt enough, they definitely left an ugly mark on us.

Au Dessus have come all the way from Vilnius and make an impressive entrance hooded up, backs turned and bathed in cold blue light. There’s a foggy shroud on the stage and suddenly a drum is bashed and they explode in a tumult of lethal incendiary power. This almost floors us at the front as they turn round to confront us silhouetted with vocalist / bassist Mantas behind an impressive arcane looking microphone stand. It’s hefty, dense and hellish, the cymbals are heavily relied on with the drummer making a sharp clattering sound akin to a bull in a china shop. The precision is faultless, this is a very well-oiled machine as the layered up shred intensifies, blackness at its very heart. Song titles are simply Roman numerals and seem somewhat superfluous. I had only given their debut album ‘End Of Chapter’ a cursory listen before passing it on for review and should have definitely given it a bit more attention; luckily it went down well. Nambucca may not be the biggest venue out there but the band filled up the stage and put on an incredible strobe-heavy light show, perfectly co-ordinated with the devastation their music created. I’m sure I wasn’t the only person flung into an acid-flashback at the front. Having been here for shows like Lifelover and Portal I seem to have picked particularly impressive displays at the venue and this was another to add to the list. The crowd seemed swept up by the intensity of it all too, flattened by the music which broke occasionally for brief glistening interludes, making them all the more effective. I got some fleeting post black vibes but this was definitely a lot heavier live than I remembered on album. Suddenly the band hit a groove with some unexpected bluesy riffs, when silence was restored it felt like a void had been left in its wake.

The last couple of Furia albums impressed me no end and had played them back to back this afternoon in anticipation for the show. I only discovered the Polish band whose country-folk were out in fine force tonight around the time of ‘Norcel’ and realised they were doing something a bit different that was not exactly easy to define; for the record they call it Nekrofolk so let’s go with that. There’s was a bare-chested display of bravado, no hoodies here and the cold is obviously not a concern for this hardened horde. I am dispensing with song titles again, as they are all Polish and many beginning with the letter Z, the music itself is easier to describe and I definitely recognised the majority of it from early playback session. I guess I was lucky in that as I am still to explore the earlier stuff. Slow, doomy, lurching riffs cut through and things are certainly a lot looser than the previous onslaught. We were getting the best of both worlds tonight. Atmosphere was particularly noticeable as were some slithering bat like guitar runs reminding a little of Bauhaus. The last album ‘Księżyc milczy luty’ was all about the moon and here its secrets were unveiled. When the band play fast it proves tempestuous, fiery and complex, vocalist Nihil drawing things down with guttural annunciations. Sudden bursts of rigorous activity gets necks snapping down the front and every bit of between song downtime is met with friendly (at least I think they were) catcalls from the now lubricated Polish audience which got the singer responding and trying his best not to smirk. It must have been a bit like a homecoming show for the band.

The rocking, rolling pitch black rhythms were impossible not to be gathered up and carried along by. By comparison we are occasionally mesmerised by near-gothic textures and I was kind of glad I was not hearing the band for the first time as it is music you have to work with due to its complex arrangements. At times it comes across as eccentric and at others completely hypnotic and unique. Instrumentally this is far beyond mere black metal and there are passages that are reminiscent of everything from Kraut rock with jazz like arrangements that make it all a bit of a spacey head-trip. I noted one particular moment from the album where the song stops and starts up again several times before ultimate conclusion and found this particularly effective too. Somehow the vibe here was quite warm rather than an expected coldness and I found myself basking in it, which was just as well as on leaving to endure what turned out to be a 2 hour journey home I needed all the heat available. Apart from that this was a top night courtesy of Chaos Theory promotions and hopefully the visiting bands will have enjoyed it enough to come back for a return visit in the future.

Review and Photos Pete Woods