Manchester’s Rebellion venue is rapidly becoming something of a second home for me and on this occasion I trekked across the Pennines once more, this time to bear witness to Skyforger and their raid upon our fair shores.

Unfortunately an accident on the M62 meant that I only caught the last few songs of Cadence Noir and their intriguing gothic laced, violin heavy, folk ’n roll. The first thing that struck me was that they didn’t seem able to decide on their image with goth gear uncomfortably rubbing shoulders with sports wear. I usually don’t care what a band wears but on this occasion I found it to be a little distracting which was a shame as musically the band were on form.

The crowd was fairly modest but stood captivated as Mr Noir asked whether the crowd wanted a sing along……Two people responded while the rest of the crowd stood by politely as the band led into the anthemic # FFBB. The band looked to be having a good time, as were the ever expanding crowd who quickly picked up the words to the sing along chorus! One more track and their set was over leaving me rueing the delays and wishing I could have heard more.

A quick turnaround left just enough time for a pint before Old Corpse Road and their undeniably British brand of black metal. Taking to a stage swathed in dry ice with subtle backlighting, the band appeared as spectral silhouettes while their trademark triple pronged vocal attack was unleashed, swinging from short high pitched jabs to dulcet spoken word interludes on tracks such as ‘The Whispers Of Long Meg Through the Solstice’. Although undeniably black metal, their sound is less abrasive then many of their peers with haunting keyboard melodies adding extra depth creating a sound that envelops rather than assaults. Towards the latter portion of the set, unreleased track ‘Harbingers of Death’ was played with both the band and crowd looking to be enjoying themselves. This was typically Old Corpse Road, powerful, abrasive and yet refined boding well for the next album.

Of late, their set has been brought to a close with the immense ‘Pendle (Daughters Of The Black Moon)’ and its pounding black metal and atmospheric interludes, and although this was played tonight it was followed by an exhumed old favourite ‘The Old Corpse Road’ which got the best reaction of the night and had most of the crowd singing along the chorus.

Their set flew by and I reflected that a support slot is never going to be anything like enough for a band with such long tracks but as much as I rue the absence of classics such as ‘The Witch of Wookey Hole’ or ‘The Oakmen of Naddle Forest’ I also enjoy hearing the newer material. I guess a headline slot is long overdue…..

Talking of headliners, after a brief changeover it was time for the Latvian pagan metal horde (of four!) to take to the stage looking resplendent in their traditional garb. A respectable, crowd (and an impressive selection of beards!) had gathered as Skyforger opened with ‘Kauja Pie Saules’ creating a party atmosphere from the off as their melodic pagan, folk metal got heads bobbing. As the set moved on the crowd got more and more lively with tracks like ‘Akmens Sargs’ and ‘Herkus Monte’ providing the soundtrack for the festivities before guitarist Alvis left the stage and continued playing from the crowd. A two track encore was opened with ‘Svētais Ugunskrusts’ getting a rousing response and keeping those at the front moving and all too soon the set was brought to a close.

Skyforger achieve that fine balance of dealing with challenging, serious topics while keeping the music upbeat and enjoyable. They are a live force to be reckoned with and were a fitting finale to an great night.

(Review and Photos Andy Pountney)