Before true winter besets us and the deep darks of midwinters eve are upon us, in early December I visited a darkness even stranger and deeper than the longest night of the year. In Rotterdam, there was a delectable lineup, granted us mostly by the formidable Season of Mist. So of to the cold harbor, I went to see the dark strangeness that this eve on black metals fringes had to offer.
Wrang, their name means acrid or wryly in Dutch, a word signifying disharmony in flavor or sound, or even world events. The relatively young band don’t waste time and smash straight into things. Existential dread drips off the screamed vocals as their vocalist squirms and writhes. They seem to emerge from the violent din of the drums, the basslines with surprising swing and melancholy and cold guitar lines. They remind me somewhat of the Icelandic Nadra in both musical and performance style, with a remarkable amount of melody buried within the nihilistic, desperate and primal crash of sound.
Kjeld are an impressive presence. The vocalist Skier (ski-r) has a domineering and commanding vibe as he puts a melodramatic twinge into his vocals, a style which reminds a little of Urfaust. Sometimes though the vocals get strange, when repetitively crooning ooh and aah, it almost sounds like a couple of frost giants have a good evening of reacquainting after a long winter. The remarkably heavy bass end in the mix tonight means that the band pack an extra gut-punch and waltz right over the listener. I can’t quite put my finger on what sort of Black Metal this band makes, mostly because to seems like they have taken bits of every Black Metal band that has ever been and put them all in the blender. I hear bits of Celtic Frost and Darkthrone, and more modern influences of Mgla and Urfaust as occasional melodies rise out of the din. An impressive show, but a little fragmented.
Dutch Black Metal avantgardists Dodecahedron have always been an oddball in blackmetal land. Their highbrow, technical almost clinical approach sounds like a mathematics and new jazz enthusiast decided that this black metal thing must be tried and figured out. Where most black metal tends to have the ravenous beastly primality of youth and it’s excess at its core, Dodecahedron remind more of Hannibal Lector. A good dose of nihilistic, desperate vocals delivered with furore by William van de Voort, who also screams for ggu:ll, means the rest of the band can visually withdraw in the hoods and backlight that shroud them. William carries the show, but the complex web of guitar lines and counter lines, chaotic yet precise in ways you just can’t quite grasp or wrap your head around snares, is what ultimately you in.
Finally, we move on to the foreign bands on the bill, starting with Audn. Desperation, existential dread, a fair hint of anger and the cold, unwelcoming arctic frost. These things tend to define all Black Metal bands that come from the frozen rock in the Atlantic we call Iceland. Whilst Audn is no exception to these traits, they manage to bring them in a somewhat unique form, with a bit more wistful atmospherics and melodics, a slow, commanding and deliberate performance by frontman Hjalti and no corpsepaint or bulletbelts in sight. The stripped back loom lets you focus on the sheer intensity of feeling, ripping to the centre of you being and leaving you fully surrendered and subjugated to the onslaught of cold, painful and desperate blackmetal washing over you. Considered by some the oddball of their scene, they have been booming on the mainland Europe, and the road miles have only meant the band has grown to an impressive stature and intensity.
Next, we have The Great Old Ones. Murky and hard to peg down these Lovecraft-ian cultists baffle the mind. The robes, the green, and blue light, the copious amounts of smoke, all set the tone for this strange, complex and puzzling band. I always feel like seeing them live if you haven’t studied their work properly beforehand leaves you missing out sorely, and while the live experience is one that is immersive, with the band hiding behind tentacled metal logos in the murk of the stage and the shade of their cultist robes, the feeling of dread creeping over even a casual listener, unless you give them the time beforehand you will feel like a stranger walking into a religious sect ritual unprepared, in a way that no occult metal band ever has for me. I feel like there are secrets here, secrets I don’t know about and am not sure if I should be looking into. Who knows what may be looking back.
And with that strange foggy experience, we all venture out of the isolated venue back to nearby train stations and homes, in a cold, dark evening that, thankfully, wasn’t foggy or who knows what may have followed us out.
WORDS AND PHOTOS SUANNE A. MAATHUIS