Sunday, 28 July 2013



Strictly in order of apparition, I present you with my personal highlights of a sensational PRAGUE DEATH MASS vol.II (for a full line-up review, please refer to my live report on, from Grand Magi of the Inquisition to satanic skinheads, sexy servants of , philosophers of the cosmos and androgynous high priests...


Cult of Fire, as perfect hosts, kicked off the event, and they were the best opening band one could wish for, boasting one of the strongest, most impressive performing acts around, as well as a solid repertoire of occult/majestic black metal (do check out their extremely captivating, well recorded debut album “Triumvirát”). When the black curtain obscuring the stage was finally drawn, our eyes were met by a jaw-dropping display of esoteric: human and animal skulls were beautifully arranged on two round ceremonial tables, alongside black candle-topped candelabra and esoteric symbols from various cultures. Impressive was the old book resting on the floor, at the very center of the summoning display, half burnt and suggestive of the precious ancient knowledge that the Christian faith destroyed during its 2000 old reign. The haunting call of a Tibetan horn summoned the band members, an evocative touch in more ways than one for a follower of the darkest forms of Tantric practices since forever. Under dim red lights the band members walked on stage robed in the typically fierce costumes of the Spanish Catholic penitents. This was truly an awesome sight and one of the most memorable moments of the festival. As a fierce anti-catholic, I find these archaic costumes culminating with the tall, sharply pointed hats inclusive of full-faced mask with eyeholes (adopted later by the KKK) particularly unsettling, reminders of the fanatic sadism of a bastion of reactionary power which relentlessly repressed all physical expression of life and spiritual freedom towards self-empowerment. Full marks for choosing them (and affording what seemed to be originals), and kudos to drummer Tomáš (the fest organizer) for performing under such constraint: now that is true repentance, Sir! It was difficult to snap out of such a mesmerizing situation, in fact CoF’s 45 minute-long performance seemed to fly: the singer’s deep chants and suggestive, slow-motioned genuflections did not feel as mere theatrics but rather very realistic and powerful ritual, just as intended. In my eyes, the potency and brutality of one of the most desecrating genres of music destroyed all what the costumes symbolize, throwing historical contexts into almighty chaos, and it felt good. As one of the most darkly intense, visually stimulating and engaging exhibitions of the entire fest, the level was set very high from the word go.



SVARTIDAUDI had the (effortless) task to restore the face of EVIL after alcoholic intoxication had previously provided the comedy moment of the fest. On the strength of one of the most uncompromising releases of 2012, “Flesh Cathedral” on the equally uncompromising Terratur Possessions, the Icelandic skinheads were one of the most anticipated acts, especially for the many of us who had not yet crossed path with their live force. The ritual began with the apparition of four hooded and masked figures in black leather jackets, who then stood waiting, immersed in thick blood-red smoke, like devils on the rim of the Abyss, eager to plunge us all in by way of terrifying chaos and sonic torment. The music exploded, densely sublime and unsettling, and even though the fat string of vocalist/bass-player Sturla Viðar broke quite early on, they managed to conjure up a very realistic non-human, depraved atmosphere to be fully savored. I believe they could provide even more impact and venom by tweaking the blurriness of their chaotic, disturbingly vicious sound, but they certainly offered one hell of a sonic experience.


Veterans ONE TAIL, ONE HEAD from Trondheim (or Nidaros if you like) have pedigree in abundance and mightily carry forth the subterranean old-school tradition with intent and purpose. Having missed them repetitively, even at Aurora Infernalis (my father had passed away a couple of weeks earlier) I knew of their fame as live performers, but still wasn’t expecting them to kick off like complete maniacs! The stage had been cleared from all the ritualistic adornments to make room for THE testosterone-fuelled, impressively deranged, performance of the festival. Dripping in blood and grimacing like lunatics, frontman Luctus and the bass player attacked the audience by launching themselves right towards the edge of the stage, spurring on one of the most aggressive and demolishing sounds we were to enjoy, raising a true blaze of choral madness. Luctus, the only man (and possibly person) in spandex trousers to be seen within the radius of a good few miles, was in a sadomasochistic mood for mischief.  Arm wounds bleeding, eyes like burning coal and teeth that could effortlessly bite off a walrus’ head in one go, he seemed to feel the urge to share some of the self-harm with the audience, but he managed very well the levels of his aggression. The hyped up, facially expressive singer (and multi-instrumentalist involved with Behexen and Mare and, once upon a time, Clestial Bloodshed) moved around like a possessed soul, letting himself drop onto the floor only to launch himself again towards the very edge of the stage. At all times he made sure that we all knew who was in charge, subjugating us with his controlled violence and tangible charisma. Resting his booted foot over the shoulder of a guy while leaning over the crazed fans, was the gesture of a commander in chief relishing the worship of his troops. A nicely placed caress all over my face with his blood-soaked, fingerless leather glove was - I guess - motive of satisfaction for the master of ceremonies, and I was only too glad to be “marked”, looking forward to seeing the faces of the polite hotel staff upon my return at the end of the night (yes, I am still THAT childish). This was a top rock’n’roll display through and through: the self-harming, wild and erotically charged grandfather of rebellious rock, Iggy Pop, would be proud of this pupil, were his faculties still intact. The Swede did in fact express a level of sexuality which, in spite of it being the most powerful expression of the eternal dance between Life & Death, oddly enough is rarely found in black metal, except for the more mainstream attention-seekers of course, but that’s another thing completely. What I like to see is not the Guns & Roses attire of a Hoest, but rather something coming from within as part of individual natural charisma: if you’ve got it, it’s perfect for representing and channeling the mysterious forces that us explorers are so keen to know. Luctus showed that facet implicitly by letting himself loose in raising the primordial beast within, and the Tantric shamans in the audience felt it. To cap up a brilliant performance by the entire band, the bass player tried hard to smash his instrument into smithereens, only managing to chip it on one side… In the meanwhile Luctus was meandering – looking ferociously deranged (probably thinking “I told you it won’t break…”) – with a tin of lighter fuel in his hand, ready for some ritualistic pyrotechnics. It was time to remove myself from the front of the stage, as I intended to keep whatever was left of my recently chopped hair intact. Satisfied aplenty with the great show, I went to the ladies to admire the symbolic markings left on my face, while I was beginning to feel the powerful effects of the blood osmosis on my skin: no more caffeine was needed for the rest of Friday night.


The arrival of the mighty ACHERONTAS put a big smile on my face! What a magnificent and skilful band this is: the Greeks, now with Gionata Potenti on drums (the list of names he has played for is like the content of the entire Book of the Dead) are a dark and exotic force to be reckoned with. I am a big fan, no question.  With albums searching through the folds of man’s deepest occult past, by turning on - at their discretion - the alchemic powers of both avantgarde and tradition (imbued with and guided by the wisdom of a culture that goes beyond the notion of “world heritage”), Acherontas are one of those legendary bands that seem to deal with archaeology, while bestowing upon themselves the task to open our eyes on the cyclical nature of civilization’s downfall, but there is far more to that. Without going into this complex subject, this band is like a live wire in reconnecting our subconscious to the primordial, archaic forces mankind was once part of in its infancy and their live show is indeed highly charged with a superior kind of energy. Of course the red light, the candles, the smoke & incense, the black robes, the masks marked by esoteric symbols, have a suggestive impact, but you could easily close your eyes and still feel the stirring impact of the music running thorough the veins and, ultimately, taking you to an exhilarating, magik place of instinctive, almost implicit, worship. Easily the show that resonated the most, as the fitting apotheosis of Friday night; and I crave for more, as I feel as I have only grasped the mere surface of the live dimension of Acherontas.



Saturday’s shot of pure evil was about to come from Polish satanic panzer MGLA. Destructive and cynical like a surgeon’s knife, their cold, brutal, ferocious sonic assault was visually aided by means of a simple yet menacing combat uniform made of black trousers, black hooded top and leather coat. Hoods up and fully masked (even the eyes were hidden), they appeared similar to their brothers-in-evil Svartidauði, only far more ominous. The bleak, malevolent power emanating from this band, albeit only recently appearing on stage following from on the success of their excellent latest album, is blood-chilling. The drumming and the stark vocals are crucial elements to their venomous live potion, all the more striking since the band members don’t move around much at all, hardly ever leaving their battlefield position. The frosty melody of the guitars truly wraps up the sound of pure, hateful, modern BM supporting the obliteration of mankind. And so the show, exactly because it came so evidently from a totally different place from the r’n’r roots of the more “classic” bands, was able to provide another level of power, a saturation of negative energy that was palpable and had its own function.  There are other bands who are capable of conjuring up evil by using visuals and eerie sounds (Urfaust comes to mind, in fact their drummer and mastermind Jimmy was shooting his memento Mgla video from the side of the stage, looking particularly pleased), but veteran M. and his contingent truly mastered their intent by simply appearing like a faceless, impending menace of blind violence.


VEMOD not only constituted a stark contrast from the previous act, Mgla, but also from the other group its mastermind and creator Jan E. Åsli is closely involved with: One Tail, One Head. Well sometimes you have very high expectations with regards to a band, and in the case of VEMOD mine was particularly steep because of the stunning beauty of their debut album (a recommendation from a Mr Vlemmings of Aurora Infernalis, someone whose taste I trust) and the touching qualities of the sparse previously released material, which came with an all important bonus for this demanding Flame: an artistic concept shrouded in cosmic stupor and spirituality. Those who had been lucky spectators at their Nidrosian show in February had unanimously commented on how mind-blowing they had been, so tonight they were all mine to savour and appreciate at long last! The black curtains withdrew, revealing a stage stripped from all ritualistic paraphernalia, only a music stand by the central microphone and a screen behind the drums stood out. Jan walked in solemnly, no face smeared with earth, no chest stained in blood: dressed elegantly, hair up in a ponytail, he reached the edge of the stage and showed us the beautiful, old key that is pictured hanging from his waist on “Venter på stormene”. That was an invite to approach the doors of his inner universe… and I just let myself slip into the arms of the experience. Those who read me more frequently know by now that my approach to writing about music these days is almost solely focused on the emotional side of an artistic proposition and its conceptual layers so, as I entered into full mesmerized mode, taking the odd photo meant to capture a mysterious essence, a fleeting energy, a spiritual sign (which was to remain, image-wise, engulfed in inscrutable bluish darkness). I could not take my eyes off Jan, in spite of the imposing figure of the dapper-looking singer positioned in the center of the stage, because it was so clear that this was his music, his soul, we were let into. He sang every word of the lyrics to himself, fully transported by sounds and words he knew as his own heartbeat, which was wonderful to see, as this is exactly what I expect from an artist. But this was only a fragment of a conceptual performance that, in its brilliantly simple approach, offered in fact to each of us individually the key to an inward journey transcending into the depths of the universe. Each instant, whether it was the touchingly ethereal atmospherics or the majestic, cold BM melodies, I was traveling amongst the celestial wonders that appeared on the projections, a backward journey that started from the Northern lights and ended to the farthest nebulae. Detaching myself from such touching cosmic experience was not easy, as it left me with an acute sense of nostalgia, so to say that I am looking forward to expanding my Vemod understanding further at Aurora Infernalis V in the Autumn, is an understatement.
Expect an in-depth interview with Jan E. Åsli on these pages soon.


I wasn’t too happy to have missed NEGATIVE PLANE last year when they played in beautiful Scotland, as I am a big, albeit perhaps unusual, fan of theirs. I have no idea how Ed Miller would take this, but part of the appeal that the American band has for me comes from the strong influence of one of the most revered souls to have graced the extreme satanic metal world: Mike Browning. His legacy is as underestimated as it is enormous, starting from creating the concept of early Morbid Angel, then the groundbreaking Nocturnus, which he left to play pure black metal. This was when the Norwegians were beginning to land in the glossy music mags because of the killings, the arson and the drug abuse (certainly not for the music, which – at least in the UK - was for a long time ridiculed for being so primitive and lo-fi), so Earache (Nocturnus’ label) was not exactly interested in supporting him. Well, it’s a long story, but my old friend Mike struggled to follow his (truly left hand) path, while his ex-chums in Morbid Angel kept becoming richer and progressively more ridiculous. The point is that when Mike Browning, whose drumming and singing were/is 100% trademark and unmistakably unique, put together After Death as bridging band while he was sorting out problems with the ownership of the Nocturnus name, our Ed (being from Florida) was at one point one of his guitarists. As a Mike Browning connoisseur and estimator, I can clearly see and hear how much Ed learnt from the legendary master, and the fact that everybody seems to consider Negative Plane as totally distinctive and uncategorizable really shows how criminally underrated his direct font of inspiration really is. Having appreciated Negative Plane’s albums and having found in them a lot of classic Browning-style music and vocals amongst the darkly eerie and spaced-out experimentation, I found their live performance to be a contemporary incarnation of the old master’s music through and through. The cadenced singing style in particular is almost identical, and the guitar riffery is very reminiscent of Nocturnus live: Ed’s sound is purposely dirtier than golden-fingered Mike Davies’, but the style and technique is definitely often evocative of the unlucky but seminal 80/90s band. All this to say: fucking awesome! And Hailz Mike Browning.

The Chilean/Swedish act came on stage well into the small hours of Sunday morning: I was shattered physically not to mention emotionally drained, but I was 100% determined to see these much talked about performers of the magik arts fulfilling the well-crafted design of this Death Mass with one last, memorable ritual. The stage revealed itself bearing a large inverted 5-pointed star suspended in the air; on the far left side of the stage stood a huge, wonderful looking gong, while on the right side stood a table carrying symbolic ritual objects, amongst which chalices full of wine, a vajira and a dagger. Singer Kæffel, a convincing and enthralling master of ceremonies, entered the stage to bestow the power of the Serpent over his fellow-priests and vessels, who all drank from the golden cups.  The performance turned out to be the most theatrical, well thought-out, credible and striking of the festival, alongside that of openers Cult of Fire, only much more complex and eccentric. While the more impersonal ceremonies (like those of Cult of Fire and Acherontas, where all human traits were thoroughly hidden by the long robes, hoods and masks) had a more supernatural impact, the night before One Tail, One Head had summoned stirring energies from within which inherently included a sexual component. Hetroertzen offered yet another twist. Kæffel is a strange and fascinating creature, dark eyed and strikingly androgynous; he reminds me physically of a younger, taller Chris Corner (IAMX), and his love for costume-changing to enhance the symbolic meaning of his performance, sustained my instinctive impressions. The appearance of the singer/performer (adorned with sparkling, fake long nails and elegant beady mask over the made-up eyes) is, as far as I know, a first within the black metal aesthetics. On the interesting subject of sexuality within the explorers of the multifaceted left hand path through extreme music, one can say that traditionally homophobia and machismo has prevailed at least on behalf of those who followed on from the heavy metal heritage. The black metal fan-base has always been largely (and proudly) formed by intellectual "nerds” and outcasts interested in mind-expanding alternative culture, and this has progressively brought forth non-sexist, a-sexual and even ascetic aesthetics, welcoming on stage not only the male nerd but female artists who are able to express their art through a self-empowering genderless perspective, beginning from the choice of unisex monikers. From this point of view Hetroertzen are a very modern expression of a shifting perception across underground black metal: the band’s riffery comes from a girl, Åskväder (Thunderstorm in Swedish), while the aesthetics are in the hands of an individual who deliberately plays an ambiguous role. This should not surprise at all; first of all because it follows on from a very long tradition that ties the world of the occult with subversive music. Going back in time, if Iggy Pop and Michael Monroe (not to mention the first proper androgynous rockstar, Ziggy Stardust/Bowie) might appear too far removed from the BM world, how about nail varnish, eyeliner and lipstick wearer Ozzy? More importantly, the esoteric initiated must be conscious of how mankind’s most primordial gods and goddesses (from Freya to Baal, Mithras and Dyonisus) were in fact represented as hermaphrodites, myth that treacled down across many occult traditions, sects and rituals (example: Baphomet represents a well known androgynous union of opposites for Templars, Crowley, etc.). It is therefore about time that someone steps out of the treadmill within the occult metal manifold to represent this important aspect of the esoteric doctrines. And I do wish to reiterate that it was bold and exciting to see the conclusion of this extreme fest, where various ideologies, symbologies and aesthetics were represented, in the hands of a brave, new and carefully orchestrated performance of very high quality and meaning.
Do not miss Hetroertzen in October on the Incantations for the World's End European tour, with the awesome DHG and Troll, and at a truly fantastic 5th edition of Aurora Infernalis festival in NL (see posters below). 

NOTE: You will find excellent videos from various PDM performances on the youtube channel of Dufaq- Mortem Zine, whom I salute!

1 comment:

  1. Un tel parti merveilleux dans vol prague pour profiter des vacances ..
    Merci pour le partage ....!


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