Although Monday is not a good day for a show, with the weekend just behind you and a whole week of getting up early before you, quite a few people decided that seeing White Ward and Ultha play at Zagreb’s Mochvara was worth a bit of sleep deprivation. And I am sure that those who came out didn’t regret their decision in the slightest, because they were in for a treat.

Intrigued by the promise of black metal and jazz with a noire note that I had found in my colleague Andrew’s great review for White Ward’s new album Love Exchange Failure, I checked out the album and liked it a lot. Love Exchange Failure offers quite a unique combination of sounds, as well as a peculiar blend of moods. The fact that the band were from a slightly off-the-grid place like Odessa, Ukraine on the shores of the Black Sea, made them even more interesting.

White Ward started their show the same way their new album starts. To a background of ambulance or police sirens, a piano and brushed drums later joined by a saxophone set a melancholy, sad, but not depressive mood. While the piano player apparently stayed at home in Odessa, the saxophonist was right there, on stage. The jazzy tunes and mood carried on for a short while and were then abruptly and unexpectedly (well, if you didn’t know what was coming) interrupted by screams and furious, merciless, double kick drumming. And this is how the show continued. Lounge jazz alternated with black metal and hardcore with screamed, shrieky vocals, and everything fit amazingly well together.

The band’s bass player doubles as vocalist and was definitely the most distinctive presence on stage, screaming his lungs out. The drummer did an excellent job, too, but in the dimly lit room he could hardly be seen behind his four other bandmates.

The audience was visibly impressed straight from the beginning and showed their appreciation and enthusiasm with applause and cheers. When the band, after roughly 45 minutes, played their last song, one of their oldest, and said their thank-you’s, the audience wanted an encore. The band was very grateful and said so, but the encore didn’t happen. It was Monday, after all, and the club had to close on time.

Ultha came on after a little break. The change in atmosphere was visible, audible, and almost palpable – the latter because the fog was so thick. The band, lit in red light only, had asked the person operating the fog machine for “Fog. All the time. A lot of fog.” And that is what they got. Which is why my photos of the band look the way they do.

Ultha were a completely different kind of animal compared to White Ward – less playful, less experimental, but instead darker, more sinister, more serious, and maybe riper. The noticeable age difference between the two bands could also be heard in the sound.

I had never seen Ultha before, nor was I particularly familiar with their back catalogue. I had, however, given their last album The Inextricable Wandering a listen prior to the show.

The show started with the band members quietly standing to the intro, and then plunging straight into an assault of blackened death. The band’s sound was intricate and detailed, but with noticeably less variation compared to White Ward.

With the audience pretty much smitten with White Ward and still in awe, Ultha had a somewhat difficult job to do. They were, however, absolutely up to the task, and with German efficiency and a bit of Stoic determination they impressed in their own way. And I must say that although I didn’t warm to their album straight away, I quite liked the show.

I left the club towards the end of the show, while Ultha were still playing, in order to avoid the crowd and to get home faster. It had started dawning on me that getting up at half past five the next day would be no joke.

Review and Photos Slavica