If a band like SVARTIDAUÐI had been booked to play at Airwaves a few years ago, they would likely have played to only a few people, with curious onlookers holding their ears and running a mile when their nasty black metal sound smashed their souls. But these days, extreme metal sounds have slowly but surely entered the collective musical consciousness of our cool youth through bands such as Liturgy, Wolves In The Throne Room, and Krallice. This meant that Amsterdam was more than half full, and the audience are really getting into Svartidauði’s sound. For their part, Svartidauði resisted going for the usual black metal clichés, foregoing things such as crucifixes and corpsepaint, and instead cleverly using dry ice, a single orange light and some shawls to mask their faces and giving the look of threatening silhouettes on stage.
It was probably the best I’ve heard these guys play (thanks in part to nearly all the sound problems from last year at Amsterdam being resolved). They made a furious, but highly controlled breeze-blocked wall of noise that was slightly reminiscent of the likes of Portal. It created a truly menacing atmosphere for all those who watched and was one hell of a marker placed for all the other bands to follow.
The first to follow this was ATRUM, and these guys certainly didn’t disappoint. Atrum’s punishing death metal sound is always tight and furious, mixing elements of black metal and thrash, but you saw tonight that these guys were really up for it, and it gave their songs an extra edge. When guitarist Úlfar screamed his parts, his eyes were angry, wide, and full of murder and venom that burned its way into your face. It was also the first piece of crowd moshing for that evening. Oof!
The night’s events took a bit of a musical turn with the next band (and the only foreign act on tonight’s line up), HEAVY MEDICAL. While the bands on tonight’s bill ranged from metalcore to black metal, HM played loud, fast, crusty noise rock/hardcore along the lines of Botch or Iron Lung. They also had the nice difference in that although they’re usually billed as a bass/drum duo; they actually had an extra drummer on board, alá Kylesa and Melvins, that gave their music that extra bit of noise and intensity. Their set piqued the curiosity of the metalheads who were listening throughout as they made full use of the reverb and feedback. It was short, sweet, and the crowd were totally responsive to the change in sound. Good job fellas.
For over a month now, I’ve been bigging up ANGIST, to the point where you probably thought I was their no.1 fan. But it wasn’t always the case. When I reviewed them a few years ago for example, I thought they were bloody awful. But contempt for a band shouldn’t be set in stone, and their performances over the last 12 months have been brilliant, leading up to tonight’s set. Having drummer Tumi on board has given their hardened death metal sound the tightness and confidence to enable the band to start relaxing and enjoying their gigs. And their set tonight was probably the first time I’d seen the band truly come out of their shell, especially vocalist Edda. She was on TOP form with her arresting stagecraft and the power of her vocals shaving the edges off your eardrums. When she hit those high screams, her mouth was agape and her eyes were wide and bulging, looking more primal and banshee driven than human. It made moments, such as the lead in and intro to“Circle Of Suffering,” make your blood pressure rise and your fists involuntary pumping. And the now nearly full (and also good to see, gender mixed) crowd at Amsterdam were really going for it as well. Heads were banging, arms were flailing. It was all righteous!
Three and a half hours into the deemed “metal night” and the crowd is rich in a marinade of beer, sweat and feasibly a little blood from the ensuing chaos that pursued during Angist’s set. Heads are bobbing, as if giving a nod of a approval, again, again and again… You know how head banging works.
Next up were WISTARIA, oh but wait, let’s let this dickhole drunkard standing next to me empty half of his beer on my shoes first… (splash)… Takk fyrir man! It all began with that appropriate foreshadowing of what was to come. A scoff followed by a shrug. My auditory meatus was met with barrages of watered-down metalcore caught with its hands in the proverbial cookie jar of the “progressive” tag. Had my eyes not been open and directed at the singer, I would have no inkling that vocals were even supposed to be present. Alas, it was swallowed up within its surrounding instrumentation. When dealing within the realms of this ilk, you either stand out through creative experimentation, or you fall short and sound like everything else. The energy levels were there, they were engaging, and it was gratifying to see those dudes play with such tenacity and enthusiasm, but in the end I was left yearning for something more gripping. Not everyone seemed to share my sentiment though, as the crowd banged to and fro throughout the fuzzed out riffs that would careen into what the kids call a “breakdown,” a cordial invitation to CUT THE SHIT, START THE PIT. Cue the scoff, and… shrug.
On come BENEATH, Iceland’s exalted brutal death metal giants. Sonically, it’s the same genre-requisite innards-slogging vocal belch by burly Gísli Sigmundsson confronted by the high-megaton shelling of Ragnar Sverrisson (also drummer for Atrum, who played a couple sets back). The dude is a fucking eight-armed octopus, smashing and mincing his symbols and skins into precise and intricate blasts. The guitars were duelling and chock full with that gritty old-school tone that eviscerated its way into your ears like a frenzied-centaur gone rogue. Their set was an unrelenting onslaught of pummelling death metal met with slight nuances of grind and black metal, causing the crowd to thrash about like one of those bobble-heads you find in peoples cars… and this car apparently is heading down treacherously bumpy terrain! Rad.
CELESTINE took to the stage after Beneath, and I can’t help but notice the significant turnout. I saw members of Icelandic bands such as Momentum, Kiriyama Family, Muck, Plastic Gods and Ophidian I all there in support. One song in and the energy was bubbling inside the cauldron of Amsterdam, nearing its inevitable overflow. It sounded groovy and heavy in one fell swoop, cackling on like a fenced-in wild beast, a wild beast that is the ancestor of a woolly mammoth. Their performance was tight, high in vitality and demanding of some movement, which is exactly what they got – one of the first “proper” mosh pits of the night swelled in the tiny venue of Amsterdam. A modest pit, but shortly after I witnessed a dude awkwardly punch the wall four or five times with great zeal (Take that foundation from hell!). Before you could even get a foreigner to say “Eyjafjallajökull” the set came to its imminent end, but the crowd wanted more, chanting “one more song!” It went unanswered.
Last but not least were GONE POSTAL, and right off the bat they did something that stood out to me – the air was ripe with aromas of patchouli and other various fragrances. They had lit incense (see the pic below), which is fucking incredible as it played on one of our six senses that are normally left out from musical acts, the sense of smell (Albeit the usual B.O.). Vocalist Tobbi had this sort of crazy-eyed prophet gaze as he unleashed cavernous howls into the room while the guitars weave and screech like a pterodactyl honing in on its prey. The atmosphere is dense, aphotic and dismal invoking an equally dreary vibe, but at the same sapping some of the zeal out of the performance. Musically powerful, visceral and fit for a summoning between ancient druids of old. Invoke, they have Gone Postal!
Were you at the show and reading this? If you can tell me the band on my t-shirt that night I will by thee a beer, or two hotdogs!