The small city of Speyer, in western Germany hosted one of the darkest band bills of recent years. Underground and dedicated performers, allied with convict and extreme headbangers erected an event forged in three words: Obscurantism, Satanism and Death. The organisers, known by more than a dozen of prior extreme underground events (under the name “Drohende Schatten”), held the event at the well equipped Halle 101 room, with capacity for more than 500 people, with a sufficient metal market and a revitalizing outside arena.
The ceremonies were open by the only German band present at the festival: NAWAHARJAN. Covered faces and ritual vests gave shape to a performance in which the band presented their EP “Into the Void”, where “Purification of the Nine Worlds” was the main highlight. As a significant part of the audience was still entering, they battled to outcast the “first band syndrome”, and the unusual violoncello accompanying the guitars was definitely one of the weapons whose success they profited, even if the sound was sometimes wrapped. They are in the first line of the breaking new German obscure black metal bands, and they didn’t defraud live those who are following them.
Continuing the ritual, Swedish IRKALLIAN ORACLE started soon their black mass, with their dark and frightening approach of obscure death/black metal. They began with “Ekstasis”, repeating continuously a black doom demonstration, followed by the not less scary “Iconoclasm”, in a performance where the frontman, dressed as a black priest, used several traditional instruments, such as a large timbrel and a tambourine. It was not a surprise to us, but the Swedish collective did made a very impressive first live approach to our minds.
With a different sound orientation, RAVENCULT was more distant from the occultism conditions that the stage was offering. Their black/thrash went directly to our ears, creating the first agitation in the crowd, (almost) forming a mosh pit. These Greeks are not usually easy to find live, and so they motivated great curiosity from the audience, even if we couldn’t stop missing the second guitar, once they sounded more “thrashy” than on studio albums.
The second Swedish ambassador was dark OFERMOD, a band rather difficult to catch live. Being a cult band, even if in a more different “own” black metal approach, the curiosity was immense to see how they sound on stage. Good presentation, with competent and dedicated performance, benefiting from “Pralayic” and “Dead Cantata”’s strength to firstly grab the audience’s attention. But the new album proved not to be at the same level than its predecessor, and live it became somewhat repetitive. And that’s why the concert became less appealing towards its end.
Continuing with bands usually not that often at the festivals circuit, DIABOLICUM went on stage with their industrial approach to black metal. So, as a trve industrial band, the drums were programmed, and some keyboards (also computer ones) appeared several times. The band didn’t try to impress anyone, and maybe that uncompromised attitude was the reason why we turned out to like their concert. In some songs, invited singer V-Kaos appeared to increase the cosmic feelings.
Then, highly recognized band ACHERONTAS presented us with a true occult performance, touching the limits of reality, once their commitment to the dark arts seemed to be unstoppable. From recent songs taken out of the “Amenti” album, to older ones such as “Beyond The Mazeways To Ophidian Gnosis” or “Tat Tvam Asi”, the band destroyed the frontiers between what was real and what laid spiritually under us. They counted with two different second vocalists (including Nightbringer’s Ra’d al-Iblis), and were able to face a technical problem, staying on stage, and joining forces for two final songs that impelled us to raise the chalice with pride in His honour. Could you imagine “Wampyric Metamorphosis” (from old Stutthof) played live? We didn’t imagine it. We simply felt it.
After this intense performance, the main headliner of the night had just one way out: to deliver direct and punishing black metal. And so they did. Impeccable concert by ARCHGOAT, with fast drums and cavernous guitars leading a destructive death / black metal execution. “Apotheosis of Lucifer” and “Goddess of the Abyss of Graves” were two of the main responsible for the general neck head of the next day.
For the final act, not so often NEFANDUS ended the Swedish contingent of the festival. Led by Michayah Belfagor (Ofermod) the band closed the first night with a somewhat psychological damaged performance, presenting some themes of their future album “Reality Cleaver”. They play an intimate form of paranoid black metal, which was difficult to absorb from the most tired audience. It’s always difficult to play after the headliner, even if the Swedish group was able to maintain a significant part of the audience still inside Halle 101.
The second day promised a full house ambience, and the result turned out not to be different, even though VERBUM VERUS cancelled, following an accident on the road to Speyer. So, obscure Italians FIDES INVERSA opened the ceremonies, allowing us to finally assist to their show. Their repetitive riffs kept echoing in our heads during the presentation of their three songs. The sound improved during the concert, creating the ideal conditions to appreciate two of their better tracks: “Homicidium” and mostly the awesome “Algolagnia Divine”. With Omega A.D. taking control of the drums and vocals, they proved live the potential of their furious obscure songs, leaving us waiting for a future studio effort.
Now playing death metal, TEMPLE OF BAAL had their first live experience in German soil, on a very competent performance, with the bassist and second guitarist filling the whole stage. Even though they naturally intent to present their more modern black/death themes, it was still with the older ones that they achieved the better reaction from the crowd, namely with “Slaves to the Beast”, “Traitors to Mankind” and especially “Living Fleshthrone”.
Then, one of the leaders of the actual black metal movement was coming: SVARTIDAUDI had an easy task trying to impress us, once we were already conquered by their sound. And it couldn’t start better with the impressive new track “Venus Illegitima” fulminating our ears and neck, with a strong kick on the stomach. Then “Flesh Cathedral” and “The Perpetual Nothing” tried to increase even more the performance, but they failed to improve it, once the first guitar was covered by the snare drum. No one can say they had a bad show, but the impressiveness of their complex black metal has to be worth a complete black journey. We look forward to embark on that trip soon.
To increase the potency of the noise came Russians PSEUDOGOD, presenting their cavernous death metal. If you know them from the studio work you won’t be impressed to hear that they performed like a demolishing machine. But, even better, the sound quality gave their music a touch of rottenness much more intense than expected. The Antaeus cover “Blood War III” and the mighty “Azazel” were the main highlights of the show, which evidenced a very convinced quartet.
Then came FUNERAL WINDS to unleash the fastest concert of the festival. Like usual, they do not communicate with the audience. Their only way of expression is to deliver fast, furious and raw black metal. The candles on the table were not enough for them, and so some other ones, bigger, were put into fire, like announcing the devastation that this performance was going to be. Infamous tracks such as “The Old serpent Stirs”, “Koude Haat” or the final “The Cursed Bloodline” unleashed pure evil into Halle 101, in one of the main highlights of this event. We’ve been told that they are getting back to studio work. And that is something to take in mind for the next months.
When ONE TAIL ONE HEAD entered the stage it became clear that Saturday grabbed a larger crowd than the prior day, and the Norwegian band was able to keep quite a permanent audience during their performance. In fact, this band has generated quite a sudden hype after only two Ep’s, justified by the fact that they seem to practice a “non traditional Norwegian” sound. But live, despite the competence and agitated presence of the quartet, we couldn’t stop feeling that something was missing. Maybe we were influenced by the somewhat rock star attitude. Well, but besides us, the majority of the audience seemed to have like the show. And it is still, without doubts, a recommendable one.
As the night was getting darker, SARGEIST found the perfect opportunity to invade Speyer with a clinic misanthropic performance. As usual, one should not expect loads of communication from the stage, because from there you will only get depressive anthems of pure Evil invocation. Still with the latest “Let the Devil In” work on their back, “Empire of Suffering” was again one of the lessons taken, keeping company to the old “Black Fucking Murder”, before the first presentation of the the new “Feeding the Crawling Shadows”, showing to be a clear new great effort from this cult band. And the superb closure came with “Returning to Misery & Comfort”, making us feel that concert as a true expression of a dark and deep way of being.
NIGHTBRINGER came to Europe to embark on a tour with Sargeist, Irkallian Oracle and Pseudogod, and they benefitted from an almost headliner status at Speyer. We soon understood that we were about to whiteness one hour of occultism and black devotion. Maintaining the red lights of the prior concert, these Americans were able to express their frightening feelings with some well chosen songs, including some old ones like “To Will” and “Womb of Nyx”. We believe they even presented a new song called “Et Nox Illuminatio Mea”. They kept two vocalists on stage, always with raw shouts, while the guitars were pushing the decibels limits in some sharpest parts. We believe no own felt defrauded with that show.
Then, Polish MGLA had to do their headline job. It was the first time we saw them, and, even if we were waiting for something good, the band pushed all the limits of reasonable. First with the indiscribable anthems “Mdlosci I” and “Further Down the Nest I”, and then with the better tracks from “With Hearts Towards None”, Mgla played an unforgettable show, to which the audience largely contributed, once everybody formed a compact mass of people in front of the stage, just letting their souls fly towards the abyss. If the sound was sometimes not that good in other shows, for the Polish act in turned out to be the opposite, because even the tracks from “With Hearts Towards None” felt much more fast and heavier. And that’s why this was such an awesome spectacle by the hooded man from Krakow. One of the most intense we’ve seen in recent years.
And so the festival was done, most of the public thought. As for us, there were still two more bands to see. Yes, two, because the organisers thought well, replacing Verbum Verus by French black metalers OSCULUM INFAME, a band rather difficult to see live. As their career kept going, the stage adornments became less, and so they presented to the Speyer audience without any remarkable artefact. Except for their music, off course. It seemed a less underground sound than on their studio works, but, despite the hard task of playing after one overwhelming headliner, the band delivered a competent and explicit show, and showed sufficient rotation to grab the audience still inside. “Kein Entkommen” and “Whisper of the Witch” were their best moments.
And for the final act, SEKTARISM. Yes, the festival ended with one of the most demented funeral doom bands ever created. And, with this rare opportunity to assist to the French psychotic Luciferian mass, we became totally lethargic, feeling our souls being pushed away by the schizophrenic anthems of Sektarism. The stage was transformed into an altar of madness, where the frontman Eklezjas’Tik Berzerk trully incarnated the role of a Devil’s disciple, to create the most dragged and antihumanitarian ending possible to be expected from this festival.
And that’s why we left Halle 101 completely empty, because all our emotions where spend there; our expectations were fully corresponded and so our souls could finally rest.
The competence of the organisation; the facilities of the venue and the good crowd adhesion turned out to be the best helpers the festival could have. Even if the sound was not particularly good in some moments, the aggression and dark intensity of the bands marked this as one of the events of the year. On contrary to the organisers appeal, we sure wish that this was not a “once in a lifetime event”. Because a second edition is demanded. Starting now!