Live Show Review: Dark Funeral — May 30th, 2019
After attending last year's Ottawa stop on the Devastation On The Nation tour (review), I was easily persuaded to attend this year's edition when it was revealed that Dark Funeral would be part of the line-up. I believe they were co-headliners with Belphegor, as they were the last act of the night although all the advertising I saw for the show focused on Dark Funeral. Even the venue had the show listed as "Dark Funeral" (photo), not that it truly matters. For a band I'd never heard of, Belphegor had a lot of fans at the show, so maybe I'm just slipping...
One thing I quickly realised is that the venue has two stages, something I was oblivious to last year; in 2018, I thought I arrived too late for half of the bands, it turns out they were upstairs. I felt like a complete idiot, the door to the upper level is very obvious from the entrance. If I had read the details posted on the show's Facebook page, I would have figured this out. The second stage had one returning band from last year, a band I had seen at another show and a completely new project. I was able to arrive early enough to see every band this time, and avoided the self-sabotage I inflicted on myself en route to last week's Slayer show (review).
The first band of the night was simply called Hate. I was a little shocked that such an obvious metal band name hadn't been used by some defunct thrash outtfit from the early 1980s. (It turns out these guys grabbed it in 1990.) They were a three-piece black metal band that ripped through a quick 25-minute set of very traditional second-generation black metal. There were a few melodic riffs here and there, but for the most part this was a wall of buzzing guitars. The sound was a bit muddy, so I'd like to hear the group's recorded efforts and see if the music is a bit more nuanced than what I heard. No complaints here, it was just difficult to distinguish this band from the multitude of no-frills black metal projects out there.
Official website: hate-metal.com
It took me a while to place where I remembered the first band on the second tage from. I saw Serene Dark perform last September, at an Abigail Williams show (review) and I am pleased so say that they sounded a lot better this time out. The music was heavy black metal with some melodic elements, similar to the previous act, Hate. There was a more pronounced use of melody and some instances of shredding that distinguished them from Hate, though. Adding a second guitarist seems to have greatly improved the band's sound. They have a new album out and the improvements I saw at this show have me very intrigued to hear some new recordings.
Official Bandcamp: serenedark.bandcamp.com
The second act on the main stage was old school death metallers Incantation. This is a name I have heard for years and, for whatever reason, I've never gone out of my way to listen to. I think I've got a couple of random demos of unknown provenance somewhere in my archives, but I've never listened to an Incantation record. Anyway, their performance was awesome, just some efficient death metal from a bunch of talented veterans. I was impressed with the band's technical chops and, while I obviously did not recognise any of their material I'm going to be diving into their back catalogue in the near future. Everything was crushingly heavy, but the songs had the right mix of primal brutality and technicality without being excessive to either degree.
Official Bandcamp: incantation666.bandcamp.com
When I got back to the second stage and noted both the lack of a bassist and the fact there was an 8-string and a 7-string guitar on stage, I suspected deathcore. Nightmarer proved my assumption correct, and launched into an intense set of songs that felt like they were 90% breakdowns. The peformance was engaging and extremely heavy, but this was easily the least engaging band on the bill for me. I don't mind slower songs that focus on groove and — and I love a good breakdown as much as anyone — but this project felt like it was missing something. The drummer played some impressive patterns, providing most of what I remembered from the set. I didn't hate the performance, and even enjoyed a few sick grooves the band locked into, but overall I was reminded why I don't really listen to this kind of metal.
Official Bandcamp: nightmarer.bandcamp.com
Finally, I got to see the reason I bought my ticket. Dark Funeral wasted no time and launched into a furious set. Rhythm guitarist Chaq Mol broke a string right at the end of the first song, but quickly swapped out guitars and the show carried on without missing a beat. The band was on point, ripping through material from across their discography. I never saw the band live when Emperor Magnus Caligula was on vocals, so all I can say is that the new vocalist, Heljarmadr, did an excellent job. I had a few people criticise the band's current line-up, but I've never been a massive Dark Funeral fan so none of that mattered to me. What I can say is that this incarnation of the group put on an excellent show. Old school songs like "Arrival Of Satan's Empire," "My Dark Desires" and "The Secrets Of The Black Arts" sounded great, as did material from the band's latest record, Where Shadows Forever Reign, like "Nail Them To The Cross" and "Unchain My Soul."
It took me a long time to appreciate Dark Funeral, and I am glad I took the opportunity to see them when it arose. I quite enjoyed the new album, and the live show was even better than I expected. The band's combination of black and death metal was well received by the crowd, inciting a number of exceedingly violent mosh pits. I also got a nice chuckle when Heljarmadr ended the band's set by noting "all good things come to an end, which is why Christianity has lasted for so long." The visual of a man in corpsepaint and chainmail doing stand-up in a wretching voice just does it for me.
Official website: darkfuneral.se
The final act on the second stage, Vale Of Pnath were one of the bands from last year's Devastation On The Nation tour that I missed due to being an oblivious dope. The drummer was the same one from the prior second stage act, Nightmarer, and this was the only band I remember playing a bass that only had 4 strings — the black metal genre seems to have done a 180 on the whole instrument. These guys are billed as a melodic technical death metal band, and that sums it up nicely. I'm more disappointed in myself now, that I missed them last year, given how good their live performance was. Blisteringly heavy and just technical enough to appreciate the artform without descending into pure wankery. They have a new album out, Accursed, and the title track sounded absolutely crushing.
Official Bandcamp: valeofpnath.bandcamp.com
The closer was veteran black / death project Belphegor, a band that has apparently existed since 1991 and yet I have never run across their work. I may have seen their names listed on other tour bills, but I was initially shocked to see them closing instead of Dark Funeral. The crowd seemed equally familiar with both, so I chalked that up to a gap in my metal knowledge and vowed to do better. Regardless, Belphegor were phenomenal and turned in a performance absolutely worthy of closing the show. The band's blend of black and death metal with some tasteful soloing and melodic runs worked the crowd into a violent frenzy, and 60 minutes passed on what felt like half as much time.
Aside from the quality of the band's set, my other key memories were the guitarist / vocalist's facial expressions that looked like he was so satisfied with himself to the point of orgasm and that the drummer looked like the same one from Hate. I could be wrong about that last one, I don't know how many girthy dudes in corpsepaint this tour had on the roster. After knocking out a solid hour of material, it was 11:30pm — the band was done and so was I. The whole lineup was great and I came away from the show with a bunch of music-listening 'homework' to do.
Official website: belphegor.at
Another great live show in the books for me. I got to experience almost 5 hours of extreme metal and I have no real complaints. I'm already looking forward to next year's iteration of this tour — so far Devastation On The Nation is 2-for-2 in my books.
Published: May 31st, 2019.