This is a story of how a kiwi Metal promoter and reviewer, on holiday in the UK ended up seeing three of the best black metal bands in the world, 3 times in 3 different countries. The story begins in Glasgow, where I was officially reviewing the show and ends in Dublin, where I ended up with an Access all Areas pass. Most of this review is based on the Glasgow show, but some of it is from Dublin too.
Glasgow had put on the perfect weather for a Black Metal Ritual, grim steel coloured clouds, icy wind that froze you to the bones, and driving rain pushed sideways from the wind. I was running a bit late to the show as I had only landed in Scotland a few hours before hand, and was still getting my bearings, on where everything was, and was fatigued from reviewing Mammothfest the weekend before this show, with only a night’s break in-between (and four hours sleep – so much for a holiday!).
I was so excited for this show, because Belphegor was one of the first brutal bands I heard way back when, but I was also excited for all of the bands, as I had got the chance to check out Enthroned and NervoChaos before I arrived, knowing I was going to review them. I actually only saw one song of NervoChaos in Glasgow, so I reviewed their show in Dublin, as that was the only time at the 3 shows, I saw their whole set (oh the joys of traveling and flight delays! I spent SO much time at airports the week of these shows) I arrived half way through their second to last song in Glasgow and my fatigue was blasted out of me, as soon as I opened the door to the venue. I remember feeling so disappointed when they announced the next song would be their last one, as what I saw in that one song was AMAZING! I missed their entire set in Belfast, because of flight delays and got to the show when they were literally playing their last note. I FINALLY got to see their whole set in Dublin, which was a special treat because they had so many people there from back home – friends and family who had come to see them perform, so I got the sense that I was watching a performance that would be similar to what they would do back in their home town. As I was in Glasgow, I was immediately impressed by their power, if I loved their recordings, NervoChaos are a band that NEEDS to be experienced live. Immediately I wanted to get up the front and headbang, but I refrained myself for a few songs, to take some proper notes then made my way up to the front later. No two songs are the same, each song brings different elements of metal, so their set takes you on a journey, from early thrash metal, on through doom to straight up Blackened Death Metal. I also love how they have multiple vocalists which allow for layering and more range. They made great use of the space available to them, and put on a performance as good as their music. NervoChaos are still on tour, they are currently touring Russia until the 19th of November then they head to Brazil and Colombia, where they finish up a year that has seen them play over 120 shows in a year all across the globe!
Next up, were the mighty Enthroned. I knew that this show would be dark, in the extreme, but I wasn’t prepared for how evil Enthroned would be. They started off slow, and teasing, almost ambient. They built up the crowd’s anticipation by the string players all facing the back of the stage. I’m still not sure where to start, as putting the physical and emotional feelings this ritual evoked in me, will be a difficult process. I found myself standing transfixed for most of the set, when I pulled my self back into reality and looked around the room, it appeared as if everyone else in that room was also experiencing their own rituals. Their music live, is filled with singing soaring guitars, the grimmest black metal vocals I’ve heard (I had shivers multiple times during their set) but those DRUMS! Extreme, full on continuous blast beats. I also thought it was a real treat, for Enthroned to have two guitars, as so often in really heavy music, the guitars can get lost in the mix, but with two they were able to amplify, layer and really make those guitars pop in the mix. Unfortunately in Glasgow, they had some technical issues, not being able to hear each other on stage, yet from the front of the house, you couldn’t tell anything was amiss. It was a seamless progression getting darker and darker with the crowd coming out of their trances between songs to chant ‘SATAN’. This was pure evil savagery at its best, this was not ‘just another band I’ve seen this year’ Enthroned were there to steal souls, or at the very least, corrupt any uncorrupted souls in that room. All three of their performances that I saw in this week were the same – pure evil savagery. An Enthroned performance is not something you will ever forget, I know I won’t. Enthroned will be back on the road soon – You can catch them in Canada at ‘Messe Des Morts,’ and then on tour in South America from the 29th of November – all their tour dates are on their Facebook page.
Next, it was the band we were all there to see – BELPHEGOR! I was actually feeling sick with excitement to see them, and I was very torn at the start of their set, as to whether I should push up to the front, or stay back to the side and observe. Before they had even taken to the stage they set the scene with animal skulls on stage, and the room slowly filled with smoke and people. Belphegor’s set was a mixed one of newer songs from their latest release ‘Totenritual’ (which if you don’t have, you NEED it’s so good- you can read my review of the album HERE, and older songs from ‘Conjuring the Dead’ and their other earlier albums. They played all of my favourite songs and it was like going on a memory trip in my mind, reminiscing on the first time’s I had heard the songs and the people I was with. The crowd finally started to move but Helmuth had to work to get them to move! I’ve found myself thinking a lot, while I’ve been traveling around the last few weeks, how that, regardless of what genre the show is, there’s not many people that move as much as my New Zealand family do. I found myself wishing that my NZ metal family was there or I could move the moshpits we had for Kreator or King Parrot to a lot of these shows I attended around the UK on my travels. The best crowd interaction that all three bands had was in Dublin, although in Glasgow, they were enthusiastically headbanging and a few people tried to start a mosh pit. In Dublin I got thrown into the mosh pit and lifted out by a sea of arms as I was falling, then pulled back in. That Dublin mosh pit for Belphegor would definitely be one of the best I’ve been in (I obviously wasn’t reviewing them in Dublin!) But it was AMAZING to finally let loose, and be part of the crowd as I often can’t do that while writing reviews.
In Glasgow, I made myself stand back for the first few songs, in order to observe and absorb the evil, satanic conjuring occurring all around me, but as soon as they started playing ‘The Conjuring’ I had to push my way to the front. For me ‘The Conjuring’ and ‘Rex Tremendae Majestatis’ from the ‘Conjuring the Dead’ Album were my favourites from that release. From their new album ‘Totenritual’ the stand out live track was ‘The Devils Son,’ which I loved on the recording, but found it was even more punishing live. Like ‘Enthroned’ a ‘Belphegor’ show is a full body immersive experience. You are transported in your mind to hell. The musicians performances, their facial expressions, use of the stage, their stage presence, their pure evil energy possesses you and draws you in and spits you out at the end, dirty, corrupted and changed.
I’m so grateful I got to see these bands in 3 different cities, and for me, leaving the bands in Dublin was leaving them on a high point, as I felt the bands had to work hard to try and get the response they deserved in Glasgow. This could be because a lot of people where disappointed about Destroyer 666 pulling out, only a few days before this show, and I heard their name a lot more in Glasgow than I did in Belfast and Dublin. Belphegor are on the road again in America and Canada from the 6thof November, kicking off in New York and ending in Rouyn-Noranda on the 9th of December.
At the end of the night in Glasgow, I was able to stay back and talk to the bands about their experiences on tour, and after only being in the city a few hours, it was so good to straight away feel like I was at home with this group of musicians, especially after coming straight from a 3 day festival. I felt like I was at home, like at any of the shows I’ve reviewed, ran or attended in New Zealand and Australia, with the same caliber of friendly, grounded, talented brothers. At some of the shows I attended while I was traveling, I have to say that while I missed a good NZ mosh pit, I’ve never felt more welcome by bands I was reviewing. When I was asked to join the bands in Belfast, so I could actually relax and enjoy the show, and not work, I jumped at the chance because while I was traveling, I knew this opportunity couldn’t be one I could turn down. It was one of the best decisions I made while traveling. Thank you to the tour manager, road crew, local promoters and of course the bands for everything, especially for both being so generous with your time, hospitality and once again thank you for your music. I look forward to seeing you all again, maybe closer to home or maybe in a new part of the world. I know our paths will cross again. To my metal brethren reading this in all the corners of the world, do yourselves a favour and get out to see these bands if they come near you, you will not be disappointed! HAIL SATAN!