The Dutch festival has come to be one of the main winter appointments, very popular also outside the Netherlands due to efficient organization, terrific lineups and the ease to reach the Effenaar theatre, in the very centre of the city and just a few steps from the station. Notwithstanding the chaos created by a last-minute airport strike that had all the flights from Italy cancelled on Friday, first day of the festival, we make it to Eindhoven more or less in due time.
Needless to say, the lineup is not entirely devoted to black metal, but no matter their “genre” most of the bands on the bill deserve a mention on this page. Our Dutch weekend anyway is kickstarted in the blackest possible fashion by The Committee. The international project by Igor Mortis offers a remarkable (although criminally short, due to timetable) set of fine black-doom accompanied by a wartime video editing that further clarifies their interest in the darkest side of historical facts. They have been tagged as an ideological band on account of the core subjects of their music, but the feeling they put in the execution of “The Last Goodbye, Katherine’s Chant” and “Not Our Revolution”, is unmistakably gloomy and desperate, with an in-depth that any political band could not even dream of. So be it.
Local deathsters Funeral Whore make no prisoner with a straightforward and essential set, that includes a brilliant “Wasteland of Corpses”. Female-fronted Cripper from Germany also make a good job: their thrashy sound might not be the most original thing you’ve ever heard , but singer Britta Görtz has guts and stage presence. And, must be said, the ladies’ invasion onstage, when Lucie from Suborned and amazing Marloes Voskuil from Izegrim join in for a sizzling execution of FAQU, is indeed a very smart – and appreciated – move. Swedes Morbus Chron play an even tighter and more vibrant show, maybe one of the best shots of the day. Their set is dynamic and interactive, and the highlights from their Sleepers in the Rift, pulsing and well executed, certainly gather attention on them.
Further into the falling dusk, Carach Angren get onstage for one of the most visually powerful and theatrical performances of the fest. Later in the evening, we will have the chance of a chat with keyboardist Ardek, who will confirm us they are getting even deeper into concepts and macro-stories. Their upcoming album This Is No Fairytale, due in February 2015, will move further in this direction, this time developing a story around the familiar violence and abuse that go on behind closed doors, anticipated by the ominous single There Is No Place Like Home, also included in the Eindhoven setlist. But Carach Angren’s solid storytelling career is also displayed by “The Carriage Wheel Murder”, “The Sighting is a Portent of Doom, Lingering in an Imprint Haunting”, “Bloodstains on the Captain's Log” and other powerful chapters. Frontman Seregor is the anchorman of the day, performing the whole story like he’s actually an actor on a theatre stage and visibly having tons of fun while he plays ALL the characters in the story. That’s what I mean for having global vision in a play: Carach Angren are not there just to play a song, they enrich their music with everything they have, including physical interpretation and grisly gothic imagery. Great show, in the universal sense of the word.
Attic also dwell a lot in the occult and the imaginative, and their stage is the quintessence of Mercyful Fate-esque iconography: upside-down crucifixes, ghostly candlesticks, corpse-paint, and the high-pitched vocals of Meister Cagliostro. King Diamond would be an all-too-obvious comparison, nonetheless Attic are not a mere clone, but a young band with personality, and songs such as “Satan’s Bride” and “Edlyn” have a refreshing touch that proves that good old heavy metal is an inexhaustible well.
Here comes trouble, as the problem with such festivals is always the same: you can’t possibly time-travel between the stages and see all the bands you would really like to see. Giving up Asphyx is no easy choice, but Belgian symphonic black metallers Saille have aroused my curiosity, all the more after talking at length in the afternoon with Dries Gaerdelen, keyboardist and the mind behind the project, about their latest release Eldritch (literally “eerie, ghostly”). Their evolution into a proper live-performing band is impressive. Their rich and complex sound is an array of grave and damned atmospheres, jet-black accelerations and momentous slow-downs, symphonic taste and the signature of Dennie Grondelaers’s gruesome scream. Simply excellent.
Again, it’s Urfaust VS At the Gates, and we decide to favour the latter after a few first, bit disappointing and too mechanical notes from the former. Wise choice, because Tomas Lindberg &Co. put on a helluva show, reviving their own historical moments (one above all, “Terminal Spirit Disease”) along with some new shots from their recent At War with Reality, and they find a surprising and pleasant continuity with the sound they pioneered and defined back in the 90s.
Primordial is our last treat for tonight and their strong, somehow intimidating personality is all in a quote: “Do we look like a band who takes requests?”. No, they don’t. The visual impact with a majestic and almost threatening image is strong, and their epic Celtic-influenced sound is captivating and engaging. “Empire Falls” roars the hell out of Effenaar, and four tracks of the new, blasting Where Greater Men Have Fallen follow for the best possible closure of our first day here. Let’s save some energies for Saturday.
Text and photos by Arianna