On a cold early December night I traveled to Leiden, to de Gebroeders nobel, a venue that regularly puts on decent black metal shows in the Netherlands. Located close to the central station, it’s a pretty easy trip, though as always, if you’re dependent on trains, remember to go home on time.
The night started relatively early, with Infernal Invocation (II), who deliver their pummeling take no prisoners War metal;, a face-pounding ear bone breaking mix of black and death metal, with fever. The band keeps a killer pace going, but the small crowd that is there seems pretty nonplussed about them. They’re definitely the odd duck of the lineup today and most people haven’t even bothered to turn out early to see them. A few watch the band stoically but most who trickle in seem involved in the social dance of saying hello to acquaintances and getting settled in for the main courses of the event.
After a short break the room has filled up to near capacity as Almyrkvi take the stage. Where most Icelandic black metal related bands remind us of the cold and fickle weather that plagues the island of their origins, it seems Almyrkvi have gone for a different sort of natural violence to make us feels small and insignificant. Deeper tones in both screams, and excellent rumbling drums remind more of an earthquake, and violent eruptions of vulcanos, as rocks rain down on the small huddled masses of humanity clinging to the sheer, cold, inhospitable walls of the mountains. The clean vocals and synths that cut through the violence, creating pockets of quiet in the music don’t take the pace of misery out of the music as they are wont to do with many other bands, but serve only as a lamentation for the suffering and destruction of those poor souls left in the ruins of the earlier violence, before another blow hits them. This in itself creates quite the intense experience, especially with all of it being expertly done and the vocalist really bringing the despair and misery in his stage presence as he laments and then screams out above the fray and rumble of the all-destroying music.
Right after Almyrkvi, Sinmara takes the stage. The band shares most of its members, so them playing two sets pretty much back to back is quite an impressive feat, but rigorous touring has forged this band into a pummeling machine. More death metally than most of the Icelandic bands, they have more crushing and forward momentum, but never get repetitive or samey, as Infernal Incantations struggled with. This may very well be down to the brilliant work by their drummer, who can keep up a relentless pace while adding plenty of variation catching you off guard. Stage presence is a given with the band, and Sinmara’s singer is a commanding presence, even with a cloth draped over his head and face. The slow deliberate movements and dispassionate growls grab you by the throat with no mercy, as the rest of the band just coolly disregards anything but the task at hand: striking the crowd down with their crushing and cold mix of momentous blackmetal. They make you feel small, puny and like you’re not worth even hearing this. Overarching flying guitar lines mix and mingle above the fray like soaring birds, still not deeming you worth any attention. The band utterly crush you, and you’re so glad they do.
Closing the night were Sortilegia, who were completely unknown to me. A mesmerizing shrine is slowly build up by the Canadian duo, with candles, incense, a human skull perched on a chalice and the aptly named Castiello del Diablo wine behind it. Consisting only of a drummer and vocalist/guitarist the band produces a mesmerizing sound and complexity with such little means. There is no margin of error for them, as any flaw in the music would painfully stand out with so few instruments, but they pull it off excellently well. The dark robes and blood covered face of their blonde singer add a certain almost Lovecraftian cultist feel to the presence, her eye-rolling only adding to the madness. For me, these were certainly an unexpected gem. I’d never seen Almyrkvi before either, but I had an inkling I’d like them. This took me by utter surprise. Sadly, the room was already emptying as they started, either with people needing to catch that last train, or not interested in this relatively unknown and mad that a band played after such a thunderous performance by Sinmara. However, if you like the occult side of things, and aren’t scared to be pulled into a whirlwind of screams, guitar layers and icy drums, I thoroughly recommend seeing these guys if they play nearby.
WRITTEN AND PHOTOGRAPHED BY SUSANNE A. MAATHUIS