After a well deserved rest, the second day, the non-metal day of the festival was about to begin. A terrible, heavy heat was suffocating the city and the festival area. I was hoping for a little rain, but what followed surpassed all my expectations.
The first group to open Day 2 was Fjord, a post rock band from Bucharest whom I saw live a couple of times so we did not hurry to watch the show. Instead we spent some time to check out the 2 exhibitions that were held inside the festival area, “There is a Place Called Home” by Costin Chioreanu and “Outerlights” by Miluta Flueras. Both of them were really interesting, Costin with his specific trademark succeeded once again to create a strange, dreamy atmosphere while Miluta managed to compose some very interesting portraits that attracted lots of visitors.
Just after Fjord, King Dude was supposed to play on the little friendly stage, but due to some traditional Romanian traffic issues, he was late so the band that replaced them was Spurv from Norway. As I said in the first part of the review, I don’t listen to post rock/metal that often, but when I do, I like the bands to be like Spurv. Energetic, a bit heavy, with lot of nerve and balls, the Norwegians quickly won the hearts of those present and the day promised to be just fine.
But you can never mess with Mother Nature and the oppressing heat was in a fact a sign that something major was cooking in the halls up high. Indeed, after just 3 songs, a powerful storm fell upon the festival grounds, the water and the hail making it impossible for the band to continue, for fear of electrocuting themselves on stage. The show was cut off abruptly, everybody ran for cover and everything was delayed for almost 45 minutes. After the thunderstorm passed, Spurv played one last song and King Dude prepared for a quick soundcheck before his performance.
We saw King Dude solo twice last year, during the “In Flesh and Blood Tour“, when he performed songs from his latest album, Songs of Flesh and Blood – In the Key of Light. This was the first time for us seeing him with his band, his Demon Brothers, so we were more than excited for this show.
King Dude is extremely charismatic, he knows exactly how to introduce the listener into the dark atmosphere his music and lyrics emanate, so the crowd was more than responsive. The Dude is really impressive, the older he gets, the better he plays and I enjoyed every song he played that evening to the full. Due to the unfortunate events, his show was shortened and that was a bit sad, but everybody understood it. He played most of the songs from the latest album, (Butterfly Wings, Deal With the Devil, Death Won’t Take Me, Rosemary, I Don’t Want to Dream Anymore, Desolate Hour) and 2 from “Fear” (Fear and Miss September). I really hope he’ll come back again, to perform some new songs from the album he’ll release on the 28th of October, “Sex“.
After King Dude, Italy’s Spiritual Front was the next band to walk on that stage. Again, apart King Dude, none of the other bands were my cup of tea, but as it already turned out with Spurv, I felt an instant connection to Spirtual Front and I must admit I enjoyed their show very much. The fact they played right after King Dude was very fortunate, because in a way they are quite similar and it kept that connection alive. Even if the band played several times in Romania before, I never had the chance to see them so this was a first and I enjoyed it very much. Simone Salvatori is a great singer and showman, the resemblance with TJ Cowgill is very big and that made the show even more enjoyable. Excellent performance by this Italian trio and I could recognize Bastard Angel, Jesus Died in Las Vegas and Dear Lucifer.
Next band on display was Death in Rome, a band that mainly covers popular dance/pop songs in a very bizarre, twisted way. I am definitely not a fan of this and I don’t get the reason they do it, but that’s not up to me to judge. Many people in the audience were very excited by this show and this means the band reached its goal. Some of the songs they covered were from Rihanna (Diamonds), Lana Del Rey (Summertime Sadness), George Michael (Careless Whisper).
The rest of the evening was a bit fuzzy for us, so we did not catch Crippled Black Phoenix and Theodore Bastard, we preferred to retire to the coziness of our pension because the next day promised to be twice that interesting.
So, Saturday afternoon, the last day of the festival eventually arrived. After visiting the beautiful Alba Iulia Fortress we arrived at the festival grounds just after Sylvaine finished her set. We were not sorry we missed it, cause the main attractions were DHG and Vemod, so as the other bands played, we killed the time with some wine.
Next on stage after Sylvaine was Ghost Bath that has just come from Budapest were they played together with Svoid the night before. I tried to listen to their latest work Moonlover before coming to Alba Iulia, but I realized that despite some very good instrumental parts I am not able to resonate with the insane, shrieking voice that pierced my head constantly. I definitely do not like this kind of Silencer black metal, it makes me extremely nervous and it may ruin my mood for good. I gave up Ghost Bath, hoping they will end their show quickly, time for my brain and ears to recover from the useless, wordless screams. I couldn’t understand a bit of what that dude was trying to say, besides that he was in a profound state of pain.
The next band, Throes of Dawn, came from Finland and I used to like its first 2 albums (Pakkashera and Dreams of the Black Earth) back when they played some sort of melodic black metal, with keyboards and shit. After “Binding of the Spirit” (2000), the band split up and I was quite surprised to hear they reformed in 2004, with a different line up. I was curious to check out their releases but I was soon very disappointed. The old magic was gone and they replaced it with some “funny” progressive gothic metal (sic) that would definitely not attract their previous fans. So, to cut it short, Throes of Dawn were for me a total failure, the exact type of band which proves it just doesn’t know when to stop. Apparently some people in the audience enjoyed their new music, and I cannot be but happy for them.
Taking the ferry from Finland to Norway, it was time for Virus to hit the stage. As it’s the trend today, Virus is that type of group made of musicians that gained their respect and fame in the underground, playing 20 years ago in death/black metal bands that under no circumstance were paying their bills, like Ved Buens Ende, Aura Noir, Lamented Souls, Beyond Dawn, Bomberos, Inferno etc. Virus plays this trendy avant-garde metal that I don’t know for what reason captivates people so much, but I have to admit that their show did not move at all. Of course I am not denying the true musicianship/prowess these guys possess, but this doesn’t fit my tastes, no matter how open minded I am.
Not the same can be said about the other group, another veteran of the Norwegian extreme metal scene, namely Dodheimsgard. 20 years ago I was a huge fan of their satanic black metal, back when they played with Fenriz and displayed pentagrams on the album covers. In time they evolved to a more mature style of extreme metal, one that I don’t like that much, but I can appreciate the talent and the music.
To my surprise, the band came without Aldrahn, who decided to leave the group some months ago, so the quartet consisted of Vikotnik (vocals and guitars), Thunberg (guitars), L.E. Malloy Bass) and Sekaran (drums). Another surprise was that they played most of their songs from the early releases, instead from “A Umbra Omega“.
We had the chance to hear Midnattskogens Sorte Kjerne, En krig a Seire and Nar vi Har Dolket Guds Hjerte from the debut Kronet Til Konge, The Crystal Specter and Fluency from Monumental Possession and even two tracks, Traces of Reality and Paramount Empire from the Satanic Art EP.
The band sounded very very good, like a true Norwegian black metal should sound like, reminding me why black metal was shaped and crafted in the cold North. A very nice show with a legend of extreme metal and I am really happy we were able to see this on Romanian soil.
After Dodheimsgard, another band from Norway was supposed to take the stage, Vemod from Trondheim. Who knows Vemod a bit is aware that this group is affiliated with the Nidrosian movement in Trondheim and some of its members share the duties in some of the local bands that are all signed on Terratur Possessions, one the best underground labels these days. (Dark Sonority, Mare, One Tail, One Head).
With only 2 demos, 1 split EP and 1 full length released until now, Vemod has certainly imposed itself as one of the bands that surpassed the boundaries of traditional black metal, adding some ethereal, eerie elements to its music that really make it special.
On disc the sound is a bit flat, a bit dull, but what we witnessed last Saturday was beyond my wildest imagination. Same as Hamferd, without a stage show, the 4 guys created such a powerful atmosphere that at some point I had the impression I was floating through space and time. The sound was just perfect so Eskil Blix could use his voice to the full, giving the music that aura of melancholy which can make you dream with open eyes.
Add to this the very interesting visuals that were ever changing in the background and you get the perfect picture of what happened on that stage.
This concert completely exceeded my expectations I had of Vemod and made me want to see them again. Fantastic performance.
The headliners were another band from Norway, In The Woods, but I could only watch 2 song of their show, as I was under the spell Vemod put on me earlier and I did not want to spoil it.
Bottom line: this was a great festival, with many great bands and a fantastic atmosphere. We have enjoyed every second of it, even if at some points fatigue was messing with us. The food was great, the merch stand was impressive, the people were very friendly. Congratulations to Daiana, Doru and the DBE team that made this possible. Cheers!!