North of the Wall in words; day one

Post-Festival Depression

Day One

The adventure started in December when me and my friend first thought about this festival. It seemed hard to get there but the line-up convinced me. It has often been a source of frustration for extreme  music lovers that bands don’t necessarily get the opportunities to tour often. So, at the beginning of the year I bought the tickets, booked the plane and settled the accommodation. The line-up was definitely mind-blowing.

North of the Wall was something bigger than the music and this was added to its magic. For one weekend in April, Glasgow was the perfect place on Earth; a comfortable space with heavy tunes, sweet riffs, chill vibes and good time. It’s always felt like an escape; a window into an authentic world, a utopian vision of what metal music could be if given the chance to grow and evolve.

For the mystery UK band Abyssal, North of the Wall was the first live appearance. And they were the first band to play at this festival. Abyssal was truly remarkable to watch on stage and proved to be not only a fantastic band, but an engaging one that had the crowd at his feet for the entire show. Taking no time to establish a connection with the Glasgow crowd, the voice of Abyssal created an impressive figurehead on stage and commanded that all eyes were on him. Vocally impressive, darker, creepier and more disorienting, there was so much to like in his performance. The combination of ambient / black / death / doom may be a challenging one for Abyssal to handle all at once but what I have heard so far is perfect; plenty of raw aggression and fury, moments of sinister  and dark atmosphere brimming with malice, all backed by a strong sound. The whole show was so intense and austere that I had to leave the concert hall for a few minutes to return into my senses.

We took a short break, but on the second stage, Spectral Apparition already plays. It was also their first live show, and it was a good one. The band combine death metal with black metal sounds. Spectral Apparition displays impressive musical creativity, mixing numerous vocal styles and subtle ambience with very unorthodox guitar work. The drumming is sort of a controlled chaos and only adds to the confusion. The songs themselves range from fast-paced passages to lengthy plodding instrumentals. They released “Manifestation” EP in 2016 which include three songs.

Finnish death/doom masters Hooded Menace have been conquering listeners for more than ten years now. They were the third band of the evening. They played on the main stage at “The Garage Club” and followed the schedule precisely. I was curious about them and It was one of the bands that I want to see the most. The Finnish band released their fifth full-length “Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed” in January 2018 and I was able to buy this new album at the merch stand. Historically, Hooded Menace has been a pretty straightforward band, delivering massive death/doom riffs with pretty Candlemass melodies interspersed, never afraid to speed up and start smashing skulls when their horror-themed music demands it. This show was even more interesting by the almost entirely new lineup, with only two members who played on a previous full length remaining after its recording. The band played songs like “Sempiternal Grotesqueries” and “Charnel Reflection”. I love how Hooded Menace combines heavy, doomy riffage with that gloomy, horror atmosphere and some melody. And of course their doom is strongly infected with old school death metal, so this is also why the music of Hooded Menace speaks to me so well.

But it was no time to lose because on the second stage Fides Inversa  already plays. With a new Ep released in 2017 and two well-greeted albums, the Italian band took the stage without hesitation. In Latin, Fides Inversa means “inverse faith” which I take to suggest that the band is interested in exploring satanic ideas and concepts as legit and superior to those of Christianity. The band’s first album also has a Latin title meaning “virtue alone withstands this blade” – I guess, in other words, whatever survives Fides Inversa‘s inquisitorial investigations is in itself authentic. And the means by which the Italian duo carry out their work is tough and aggressive old school black metal that keeps striking away without pity. The tremolo guitar attack is a relentless, backed up by frenzied blast-beat drumming and roaring guttural vocals. For this live session they were helped by the band members of Darvaza. Fides Inversa invested their very souls in the creation of the second opus , “Mysterium Tremendum et Fascinans”: exhaustive spiritual research and a total immersion inside the darkest manifestations of what the German theologist Rudolf Otto called “the numinous.” The divine, in its most terrifying forms, takes life from chaotic sounds and revealed words whose intent is to represent the mystic terror and the  fascination of Death, the human nullification. And my fascination  for them grow stronger when I heard some chords of Chopin`s “March Funebre” on the fourth song of this album.

The Ruins of Beverast covered the stage with atmospheric black/doom greatness. As usual for The Ruins of Beverast, much of this live show relies on soul-crushing riffs with a dark, thoughtful atmosphere. Probably my favorite thing about this band is that it manages to be both incredibly creepy and very musically interesting. There were songs from “Exuvia” (“Surtur Barbaar Maritime”) and “Blood Vaults”(“Daemon”). Their performance were  drawn from another dimension. Alexander von Meilenwald makes those ambient passages into predatory doses of psychedelic horror. The only other black metal musician I can think of which approaches this sort of ‘psychotic dark ambient’ as well is Leviathan’s Jef Whitehead, whose own project, Lurker of Chalice would probably make  the closest resemblance to Beverast. It amazes me that one man can create something so impressive.

The air was about to dilute because on the stage was Darvaza. Darvaza is a project involving two musicians who are active in other bands like Blut Aus Nord, Chaos Invocation, Behexen and One Tail One Head.

This live appearance offers a glimpse of the bands’ true power and devastation that has carried them thus far into their career.  Darvaza is loaded with swirling rhythms that carry a frantic sense of chaos that recalls the main patterns of the second-wave groups but carrying on with that intensity found more often in Swedish groups.

Cult Of Fire is an amazing band. The guitars are absolutely mind-melting and keep you craving for riff after riff, building the atmosphere. The scenography, all those candles and bones, incense smoke and pagan rituals created an atmosphere that is going to be unforgettable. This part of Europe has always had some bands that integrated rather strange elements in their music. They ended with the song “Satan Mentor”, the last song of the newest live-album “Kali Fire Puja”. I can`t say anything about this show except it was imposing. And I did not resist buying their newest live-album which was then signed.

Dool was next and I was in a hurry to see them.  They perform the music with such passion and power is always a joy to behold, every single time! They create magic up there, on the stage, and gladly share it with us all. After intensive touring across  Europe this spring, Dool was present on stage at North of The Wall. Dool is a Dutch rock band. Their music style is located between progressive rock and doom metal with influences from psychedelic rock and gothic rock.

Bölzer were next and also performed well; the band describes themselves as “a powerful force or blow or strike that has no regard for the a force of chaos, and a force of life and death and anything.”

Bölzer are a band that have always intrigued me; the sound is massive, the atmosphere is skull-crushing and only with two instruments. Well, I guess everyone should just listen to their music themselves to discover it, to find out how infectious and possessing these sounds are. the main secret, in my opinion, about Bölzer are the totally amazing riffs, which the band plays and which I think sound quite original. These riffs along with possessed, howling voices create an atmosphere of mysticism, epic and monumental but also dark and haunting. And you can probably call it a mixture of black and death metal, some reviewers throw into the description also sludge, even post metal. I think that this truly is one of the most original sounding bands of the recent years. This is certainly the best thing, which Switzerland has spawned since the 80’s, since the most glorious days of Celtic Frost and Samael.

After this first day, we rested at the bar across the street called Nice and Sleazy, a cozy place. And in a few hours, other amazing bands were about to play…

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