Dark Bombastic Evening has become over the years a strong underground tradition, slowly transforming from a local event held in Bucharest into a 3 days festival taking place in the middle of Transylvania, inside the beautiful citadel in Alba Iulia. This year was no exception and the festival celebrated its 7th episode, with 3 days (18th-20th of August) full of good music and fun. Since we have never been to Alba Iulia before, we decided to take this chance and be a part of this.
Many good bands were listed on the final bill, some of them with a strong activity behind them, some of them just having released an album, so the interest was high. Among the bands present at RYMA, I can mention Jess and the Ancient Ones, Batushka, Vemod, DHG, Hamferd, King Dude etc.
After a long trip from Bucharest, we arrived at RYMA on Thursday in the afternoon, just in time for the opening band, JATAO from Finland. This was a band I really wanted to see live for a very long time, since I am very fond of their music. From what I saw earlier on YouTube, Jess‘s voice was not that good live but this was not the case on Thursday. I honestly have to say this band was for us one of the biggest surprises of the festival. Everything sounded perfect, the voice and the instruments fit perfectly together and for almost one hour the extremely energetic Jess created a beautiful atmosphere.
I knew the band recently parted ways with their second guitarist Thomas Fiend, but that did not made a difference since Corpse‘s guitar was amazing. I saw him 11 years ago live in Bucharest with Deathchain and the man is a little guitar prodigy, playing psychedelic rock as easy as playing death/thrash metal.
JATAO played 10 songs, most of them from the last album “Second Psychedelic Coming:The Aquarius Tapes” (The Equinox Death Trip, The Flying Man, In Levitating Secret Dreams, Samhain, Crossroad Lightning, Wolves Inside My Head, The Lovers) and 3 older songs, The Astral Sabbat, Castaneda and Prayer for Death and Fire. Personally I would have loved to see JATAO a bit later than at 5 o’clock in the afternoon, I think it would have suited their music and message better, but anyway, I am really glad we finally saw this amazing Finnish band that we like so much. Perfect musicians, a Jess in top form, with a magic voice, that really rocked the place. Hope they’ll come back some day again.
Next band on stage was Barren Earth, some sort of a super Finnish group, containing members of well known bands like Moonsorrow, Kreator, Thy Serpent, October Falls etc. Even though Barren Earth was formed by Olli-Pekka Laine (ex Amorphis) and has 3 albums in its bag, I was never fond of their music, since I find it quite boring. Some sort of very 90’s influenced doom/death metal, with some touches of 70’s prog, definitely not my cup of tea. But nevertheless, the band had its supporters in front of the stage who cheered after every song. The best part of these kind of festivals is that whenever you do not like a band, you can leave and wander through the area, in search of a drink, some merchandise, or even stumble across a band member or a whole band itself, as it was the case with us and JATAO. Of course we could not miss the opportunity to take a picture with them and take some autographs.
Once Barren Earth finished their set, it was time for Hemelbestormer to hit the stage. I didn’t know much about this band before, besides that they are signed on Debemur Morti, but I have to admit I was quite impressed by their music. I have to be in the mood for post-metal as it’s not something that I listen on a regular basis, but these guys really shook the shit out of me. Extremely heavy, with a bit of melody squeezed between those riffs and the angry blast beats, these 4 Belgians created an oppressive atmosphere that resonated perfectly between the old walls of the RYMA fortress. Something between Aluk Todolo, Russian Circles and Year of No Light, Hemelbestormer is definitely a new discovery and I will pay more attention to this band in the future. Excellent show!
Universe 217 is band that is on a hype these days. Signed with Van Records, these Greeks are a constant presence at the majority of summer festivals in Europe and I was really curious to see them live in Romania. I was a bit disappointed, besides Tanya‘s voice I could not resonate with the music nor the atmosphere. Do not get me wrong, the band is really good at what they do and their latest album “Change” is interesting, just it doesn’t fit my musical tastes. The best point is that we finally have the opportunity to see bands that are very appreciated in the West playing in Romania at their full career peak. For this we have to thank these promoters who do a really good job, even if this doesn’t always bring them the much deserved financial gain.
After another change over, nature’s included as the night fell over the place, Hamferd went up on stage. It seems this band has a strong connection with the moon, since a beautiful, round full moon rose on the firmament and watched as the 6 musicians delivered one of the most depressing set I’ve listened to lately. Everybody knows their performance during the full moon eclipse, but what these guys performed on Thursday night was far more intense than that. Elegantly dressed, the sextet tore the audience apart with their oppressive metal, crushing all the hopes and dreams one might have had at some point during the evening. Jon Aldara‘s vocal range is absolutely impressive and “scarry”, the easiness with which he switches from growl to clean and even opera makes him one of the best front men of this genre. With absolutely no stage presence, the band compensates with its depressing music, casting a spell over the audience. I listened in awe to songs taken from their 2 releases, the EP “Vilst er síðsta fet” and the album “Evst” ( Vrain, Við teimum kvirru gráu, Deyðir varðar and Harra Guð, títt dýra navn og æra), thinking how easy is to sing when you have both the talent and the expertise. Definitely a band to see live, not for the show, but for the atmosphere. Great choice.
One of the highlights of this festival was Batushka, the Polish band that popped out of nowhere last year and managed to split the extreme scene apart with its album “Litourgiya” and its orthodox outfits. The fact that they headlined the 1st day of the festival did not surprise me, as many people came especially to see them and their show needed to take place under the cover of darkness, so all the pyrotechnics and lights can be displayed.
Since they did not have time to do the soundcheck early in the evening, the show was delayed with an hour. No problem at all, that only increased our excitement, in spite of the fatigue that we had to struggle with.
After the stage was set and the soundcheck finished, Batushka went up on stage and hell broke loose. On stage the band has besides the regular 5 musicians a chorus of 3 males which recreates, even if not with the same accuracy, the horrific atmosphere like the one that’s present on the disc.
The stage looked amazing, with an altar on which an icon of a faceless Virgin Mary was resting, candles, incense and of course the outfits of the musicians created a fucking eerie sensation of an inverted ceremony.
The show was great, even though the band doesn’t sound the same as on disc, which is somewhat understandable. Nevertheless, they played the whole “Litorugiya” album in full and even if at some point some small mistakes were made, I totally enjoyed the mass. The vocalist, Bartholomew, the owner of the Polish label Witching Hour, is quite a skilled frontman and his imposing stature helped him a lot during his theatrical gestures of blessing the audience with the thurible and the holy water.
I like “Litourgiya” a lot and I think these outfits/concepts and imagery are perfectly suiting the music and the ideology. As I’ve said in the review I made for “Litorugiya” here, this band has done what many other have tried to do before, but the result is much more blasphemic and powerful.
Of course at some point this can be considered kitschy, but I like it very much since I find blasphemy and mockery in all this performance and that’s the beauty of it. I think this is what black metal is all about and Batushka has found the perfect way to do it. It’s only up to them if and how they will continue on this path, but until now they did a very good job.
The big surprise came just before the show, when we found out that Batushka will play at Doom Over Bucharest II in November, so I am very curious how they will sound like in a club, instead of an open air festival.
This is how the first day of the festival ended, in a solemn and religious way. A perfect day, with good and diverse bands, each with some audience of its own.
To be continued…