Cosmic Void Festival 2023 Review

Cosmic Void Festival (presented by Cult Of Parthenope and Cult Never Dies) is now regarded as one of the most niche Black Metal oriented gatherings in Europe. Based in...

Cosmic Void Festival (presented by Cult Of Parthenope and Cult Never Dies) is now regarded as one of the most niche Black Metal oriented gatherings in Europe. Based in London, United Kingdom, the festival became notorious in the Black Metal scene by featuring some of the finest and rarest black metal acts at the moment.

Being an exquisite underground gathering of the black metal enthusiasts from around the world, second edition of Cosmic Void Festival promised and delivered once again a lineup worth burning in the mind of its attendees for years to come.

Covering all spectrum of Black Metal subgenres, the festival became the go to place for a large variety of Black Metal consumers from around the scene, gathering yet again a large audience between 15-17 September 2023, the first night being sold-out.

This year saw the addition of an extra day following the success of the much-lauded 2022 event, accessible only for weekend ticket holders with no day-tickets available. Expanding to 3 days of black metal manifestations and other dark arts related happenings, the festival was also held in 4 different venues in Central London instead of 3.

After exchanging thoughts with a quite a few attendees, I can say for sure that Cosmic Void is already regarded as a meeting place for friends and bands from all around the world, as well as the fact that it has everything it needs to become a yearly tradition.

First day took place in Islington, London, where O2 ACADEMY ISLINGTON hosted the performances of Mare, Misthyrming, Mephorash and Trivax. O2 Academy was the weakest of all the venues, although I understand the need to secure another venue for Friday, the bars were positioned really poorly and the staircases to upstairs viewing areas were really narrow. Nonetheless, the night featured a great lineup of not just a few elite bands, but appreciated and successful musicians of the current underground scene.

First on stage were Trivax (Iran/UK), the “Eastern Death Magick” practitioners who made a name for themselves as a dominant force within the underground scene in England and Europe. The night also marked the band’s album launch show for the newest Trivax opus “Eloah Burns Out”.

Next were Mephorash (SWE), the Swedish cult group delivered a rich and ritualistic/occult vibe, manifested in the form of pure madness driven energy. The long and repetitive tracks created a powerful and sinister atmosphere, as we got immersed into the band’s maze-like sound. Featuring tracks from the last 2 albums (Rites of Nullification and Shem-Ha Mephorash), Mephorash setlist even included a track from the band’s new album – Krystl​-​Ah, yet to be out in November.

The energy that Misþyrming (ISL) unleashed on stage next was relentless, fierce and addictive. Organic and powerful drums, razor sharp guitars and pummeling bass undertones, alongside with feral and brutal vocals. Promoting the new album, Misþyrming’s setlist included a majority of tracks from Með Hamri, an absolute force of an album, like Engin Vorkunn and Með Harmi, but also tracks from the previous releases, like Ísland, steingelda krummaskuð (Algleymi) and Ég byggði dyr í eyðimörkinni (Söngvar elds og óreiðu).  As Misþyrming reinvents itself on every album and opportunity, the performance at Cosmic Void offered a broad spectrum of emotions: there was hatred, bitterness, melancholy and misery, but one of the foremost characteristics was the band’s relentless surge of energy that can be regarded as out of this world.

Headlining the first day of the festival was Mare (NOR), the Nidrosian black metal band that needs no introduction. In a very low stage lighting (almost only candelabra lit), the performance was raw black metal and the feeling created by the Norwegians was one of darkness and coldness, relatively normal in black metal, but mastered by the Trondheim band. The focus of the entire concert fell on the ritualistic atmosphere over technicality and breakneck riffage, Mare being a band that relies on a dark and disturbing sound more than anything else. Mare captivated the audience with their hypnotizing outlet coupled with the colossal devastation of the guitars. The Cosmic Void setlist included tracks from Spheres like Death / Throne of the Thirteenth Witch and Ebony Tower, like Blood Across the Firmament, Throne of the Thirteenth Witch, These Fountains of Darkness and Nidrosian Moon Sabbat. At the end of their ritual, we were left in a bewildered state, utterly in awe of the spell that has been cast on us.

The layout for the second and third day of festival was similar to last year (ELECTRIC BALLROOM, THE UNDERWORLD and THE BLACK HEART), although with the addition of the Black Heart (the UK bands). The running order was also almost perfect, with no actual clashes between bands like last year. Perhaps one of the only real complaints with the organization was regarding the opening of the venue doors and the start of Nordjevel’s set at Electric Ballroom happening at the same time, which led to an immense queue to get in, by the time the band was probably playing without audience for a time.

Second day featured also a photographic exhibition by NecrosHorns, a respected photographer within the black metal community.

Nordjevel (NOR) delivered some raw Norwegian Black Metal set, and their appearance was no less than grim (inverted crosses, spiked bracers, corpse paint), as it should be. The band is relatively new to the scene, being formed in 2015 but already making a name to themselves, having released a lot of material already and quite a fanbase.

Over to the Underworld next, we saw Karg (AUT), who delivered a different genre – post black metal with plenty of ambience. Although not a fan of post black metal, I enjoyed Karg, as they offered a very professional and atmospheric set.

Next was maybe one of the most awaited performances of this year’s edition: Midnight Odyssey (AUS), one of my all-time favorites in this genre (Atmospheric Black Metal) for years. When Midnight Odyssey were announced on the roster as a secret band, everyone was expecting this to be truly unique and mind-blowing, especially since this was a worldwide debut show. Sadly, in spite of the excitement, Midnight Odyssey turned out to be one of the most disappointing live performances I have ever seen. Alongside the loud/bad sound, the band seemed underprepared and sometimes messy, leading to the conclusion that probably this is not a band for live shows. Perhaps I, like many others, put Midnight Odyssey on a plinth and expected too much and maybe I’ll stick to being a fan of the music on record.

Having unfortunately missed Slagmaur (NOR)‘s performance at the Underworld, next at the Electric Ballroom we finally saw Urgehal (NOR), doing a special set for former guitarist/vocalist Trondr Nefas. The Norwegians’ performance was proper old-school, nasty Black Metal, absolutely vicious and relentless. The setlist included much awaited tracks as Goatcraft Torment, Antireligiøs, Dødsmarsj Til Helvete and of course the all-time audience’s favorite – Satanic Black Metal in Hell.

Back to the Underworld for Thy Light (BRA)‘s Atmospheric/Depressive Black Metal set. Having seen them live last year in Austria, where they made their debut appearance, I wasn’t as excited as back then, but still I couldn’t have missed the band’s performance for the world, as I regard myself as a big fan of Thy Light’s music.  A plethora of emotions was cast on the audience, leaving everyone in a dream-like state, closing our eyes and feeling the heavy, gloomy and dreadful lines and melodies. It was maybe just very unfortunate that they could not use any candles to properly set the stage, as the club’s restrictions were clear.  The setlist included almost exclusively songs from Suici.De.pression, like A Crawling Worm in a World of Lies, I Am the Bitter Taste of Gall and of course In My Last Mourning…, alongside a track from the band’s latest material – Infinite Stars Thereof.

Having missed Naglfar and Ancient, the next and final performance of the day was the mighty Darkspace (CHE), a band with a reputation to be respected amongst the Atmospheric Black Metal/Ambient fanbase and the entire Black Metal scene. Having seen them live 2 times before, I can probably say I miss the Zorgh-era (especially her voice and presence), but the new format is also pretty good.  During Darkspace’s performance at Cosmic Void, we were absolutely in thrall, addicted, mesmerized. Probably the highlight of the festival. There was a dark, overwhelming sense of melancholy and urgency to their music, we were left in a feeling of desperation and awe. I think Darkspace’s music is, by definition, undying like the blackness of space.

Third day started for us with Anomalie (AUS)’s set, who delivered a thrilling show. The post-Black metal band are taking a more modern approach to the genre, being unexpectedly creative and melodic. The setlist included songs from Refugium, Visions as well as the last release, Tranceformation. Making their UK debut, the Austrians delivered big time, judging as well by the reactions we saw in the audience.

Next on stage at the Electric Ballroom were the legendary Ved Buens Ende (NOR), early contributors to the genre, although unfortunately, I only managed to see 1 or 2 songs, having already seen them a few times before at other festivals around Europe.

Sol Sistere (CHI) made their UK debut at the Underworld, where they delivered a really strong yet sullen and cohesive show. The band has a decade of activity and three full-lengths under their belt, being at this point serious contenders in the Latin American black metal scene. Their melancholic/atmospheric approach to Black metal was a real nice surprise to us, even though having listened to their material prior to Cosmic Void, their performance being no short on moving and emotive passages.  Sol Sistere proved to be for me a great example of real talent from further afield, as well as great musicians, so I’m looking forward to seeing this band perform again soon.

Then back at the Electric Ballroom, Cult of Fire (CZE) made their long-awaited entrance. The band needs no introduction, the great musicianship the members possess, the visuals (giant hooded serpents, enormous horns and masks, some other items on an “altar”) and aesthetics (Hindu deities inspired) paired with this band are just otherworldly. Too bad they didn’t get to use incense (I remember them doing so many years ago) or similar due to venue restrictions, that would’ve added a lot to the whole show.  Their ritual-like performance was probably one of the most intricate performances we’ve seen in a long while. Cult of Fire delivered a mesmerizing show, with powerful riffs, alongside with really atmospheric and occult passages. It was, in my opinion, one of the highlights of the festival and the act that has gathered the biggest crowd.

Back at the Underworld, Helleruin (NLD), a one man band that recently decided to go live, went a more primitive approach, playing a pretty old school black metal, with fast riffs, but somehow  still quite melodic passages. During their performance, there were a lot of catchy parts in the songs, but the aftertaste is that Helleruin spreads a very cold and sinister atmosphere nevertheless.

Unfortunately, I had to miss Norway’s prolific Keep Of Kalessin (NOR), although I have a big respect for their early releases like Armada, the music they made today is just not for me anymore and of course Cosmic Void having such an amazing line-up, it’s hard not to miss some of the bands over talks and drinks with friends.

So next we were absolutely crushed by Sinmara (ISL), both literally and figuratively (the club was packed). Bathed in a quite dim red light, the Icelanders’ live performance at Cosmic Void (at least the tiny part we managed to stay to, as being absolutely on the verge to faint out of lack of air) featured really dissonant tones, powerful and hollow vocals, but also sometimes monotonous passages. Maybe at times it was a little noisy to me, but the spot I had maybe was not ideal for an overcrowded Underworld. Nonetheless, alongside with Misþyrming, Sinmara proves to be one of Iceland’s top tier bands, due to their unique interpretations of the genre.

We ventured back to Electric Ballroom one last time to see Borknagar (NOR), the Saturday headliner, though not the final band playing. Not a big fan of the band, but we had to at least see ICS Vortex (famous for his time in Dimmu Borgir) and give our respects to this emblematic band. And this is how we ended the festival, alongside friends, in a pretty much crowded venue, listening to some really appealing riffs and vocals, enjoying ourselves but also being a bit sad that it all came to an “almost” end.

To conclude with, the impeccable organization of this year’s edition and the attention to details led to an absolute success of the festival. We are already looking forward to the next edition and of course, band confirmations.

The echo of Cosmic Void allowed Cult of Parthenope to expand the concept furthermore, by creating another similar type of festival in the Spring of 2024, called Celestial Darkness, with a more Doom genre focus, alongside Black Metal. Keep an eye on that one too, as the lineup already is top tier.

All pics featured in this review were taken by our friend Alecs Enciu.

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