This gig had been in my diary for months and I was really looking forward to another opportunity to experience Der Weg Einer Freiheit in the live arena. When the undercard was announced it further added to my anticipation, but unfortunately work commitments and Manchester traffic conspired against me such that as I walked through the door of Rebellion, Ante-Inferno were walking off the stage. I was gutted as I have always been impressed with the Scarborough quartet’s grim black metal onslaught and I had been keen to catch them again.

However, it fell to Caïna to open the evening for me and I have to admit that I didn’t know what to expect from Manchester’s ‘cinematic black noise’ outfit, and neither did most of the crowd who stood back intrigued as the stage was set up with a table, laptops and other gadgets in readiness for the one man show. Backing tapes and electronic effects were heavily used including spoken word passages serving as a foundation for growled spoken outbursts and anguished howls. Most of the lyrics were unintelligible to me but it’s fair to say those that I could hear were not cheerful! I’m not sure whether it was the sparse crowd or the early hour, but the intensity on the stage never really cascaded to the floor, leaving it all feeling a little sterile. This was a shame as I understood what Caïna are about and I think that in a different setting this could have been a different story.

After a brief changeover, the room had filled nicely and Fen were greeted like headliners as they proceeded to deliver a masterclass in progressive, atmospheric black metal. The first few tracks flew past in an intense yet brooding maelstrom which swirled around the room, getting heads moving from front to back. As expected, the band were airing material from the brand new ‘The Dead Light’ release, and having only picked up a copy a few minutes earlier at the merch stand I have to admit that I was unfamiliar with these tracks but they sounded immense. I couldn’t wait to get home and put the vinyl on!

The set was brought to a close with the monumental ‘Menhir – Supplicant’ which was intricate and complex, conjuring up images of windswept desolate landscapes. The set was over in the blink of an eye, and I was left desperately wanting more. Over the years I have seen Fen many times, and indeed this was my third encounter in the space of a month, yet I can honestly say that this was the best I have seen them. Bring on a full headline set.

After such a triumphant performance, Der Weg Einer Freiheit had their work cut out. However, as this was a UK exclusive show for 2019, the room was full of hardcore fans, many of whom had travelled a fair distance for this rare opportunity to see them on UK soil, the band were guaranteed a warm reception.

The crowd gathered in front of the stage which saw the microphone stand adorned with the Finisterre Logo and standard bearers either side of the drums with the DWEF logo. The anticipation in the air was palpable as the lights finally went down, but the crowd were left hanging for a few minutes longer until the band appeared and launched into a pulverising ‘Aufbruch’. The band effortlessly morphed from the pummelling to the sublime during the set, melancholic and introspective but still aggressive, drawing heavily from ‘Finisterre’ and ‘Stellar’, and as I was drawn into the evocative melodies I pondered how this show wasn’t completely sold out.

After ‘Letzte Sonne’, Nikita took a few minutes to address the crowd, including (pre) announcing a date for the UK next summer. The transcendent acoustic intro to ‘Ein Letzer Tanz’ followed before the main body of the track took hold and shook the foundations of the building. The band then left the stage but returned soon after with ‘Lichtmensch’ for a triumphant end to the set.

This really was a fantastic evening with atmospheric, progressive black metal of the highest order. I will be jumping at the opportunity to catch these bands again, and urge you to do the same.

(Review and Photos Andy Pountney)