18th November, 2016
Bald Faced Stag, Sydney NSW
Supported by NO HAVEN, Gvrlls, Rise of Avernus & Lo!
Black metal has come a long way in the last few decades, a lot of the genre has wholeheartedly departed from the church burning, corpse paint wearing, relentlessly shredding ways of their Burzum or 1349 brethren, but this is not to say they have lost their brutality, nor their roots. All the bands tonight effectively highlight just how varied and inventive the genre has become in its latter life and how much it has to offer.
NO HAVEN, a four piece black metal outfit from Melbourne have been on my radar ever since I heard their Colours of Nothing EP earlier in the year, so it is with great pleasure that I got to attend their first ever show in Sydney. It was everything I thought it’d be. Showing their hardcore influences, the band dominated the stage; frenetic riffing and explosive screams were to be the norm. Heavy hits of distortion and feedback only made the experience more raw and wrenching if anything, as all the sounds coalesced above the crowd into a smothering carapace of emotion and oppression. I am eternally happy that NO HAVEN accompanied the other bands on this tour, as their screeching, haunting sound ripped through my body in the best way possible before lodging itself deep in my skull; I doubt I will get them out of my head any time soon.
A similarly amazing show was put on by sludgy hardcore band Grvlls, who seemed to want to lull the crowd into a false sense of security before almost literally blowing the minds of every member of the crowd. An eerie introduction punctuated by feedback and tinkling guitars exploded into the masterwork that is Grvlls. Sounding a lot like the most brutal facets of Old Man Gloom, vocalist Dominic Lewis delivers a truly throat tearing performance, writhing about on stage like one trying to evade the noose, while the members seemingly behind torture their instruments with shards of broken glass to elicit some of the most chaotic, yet well executed music I’ve heard all year. Every member of Grvlls injects their passion into the music and it is clear just by watching them perform that they’ll continue to convert followers with every show.
A slight shift in tone from the previous two bands saw more melody and more dramatic flair take to the stage in the form of Rise of Avernus, who are nothing if not relentless in their touring efforts. Thick doom riffs and melodious keys are their trademarks and in these fields, the crowd was not left wanting. A layer of black paint and even more layers of leather covered the band, creating quite a spectacle but unfortunately a plethora of sound problems marred the first half of their set, microphone crackles and static invading the aura that they were trying to construct. However, after all of this was resolved, Rise of Avernus fully came into their own; Ben van Vollenhoven’s growls and roars shredding the air between the band and the audience while Andrew Craig’s percussive precision punctuated every vocal shift. Rise of Avernus were a welcome addition to the setlist and are a pleasure to watch every single time.
Unlike Rise of Avernus, whom I’ve seen more times than I can count on my hand, Lo! has slipped out of my grasp every time they’ve played shows in Sydney, so I was elated that I finally got to see them. Let me tell you, the wait was worth it. Their brand of manic blackened hardcore was delivered with the most energy I had seen so far. Vocalist Sam Dillion delivering a brutal performance, performing as if possessed by Gene Simmons and Greg Pucciato simultaneously. Screeching and howling like a werewolf under bloodlust, he parades around the stage as Carl Whitbread pounds the strings of his guitar, calling forth images of a herd of elephants being massacred with rusty nails. Lo! are one of the tightest bands on the bill, able to flail about and sound like blackened Trash Talk while still hitting every note perfectly, they are definitely worth your time.
After the wide range of black metal that has been on range tonight, the slower drones of Départe will be the blackened, twisted cherry on the wondrous metal cake that is the entire night. Ensconced in darkness, Départe stand behind a roiling, seething mass of smoky tendrils and the opening bars of ‘Seas of Glass’ begins to filter over the gloom. The dissonant clanging evokes feeling of crushing despair and I can only begin to imagine what the rest of the set will be like. Artful, precise and dark, ‘Ashes in Bloom’ continues the set and bleeds into the ten minutes masterpiece that is ‘Wither’. Everything about Départe is wondrously devastating, from the droning guitars and thundering, pulsing drums to the horrific strobing and oppressive red/black light that makes up their entire lighting set.
Sonically, Départe are one of the heaviest bands out there, rivalling even ISIS and Neurosis. Massive riffs of unrelenting, doom laden guitars and bass lines pummel your chest and travel along the floor, blasting my clothes back from my body. However, when the guitars slow down, the virtuosity of the drums never stop, experimental and error free, Michael Rankine appears to be a god amongst mortals. The most astounding aspect of Départe’s show is oddly enough, the clean vocals. Every time they kick in, strobe lights would flash, hypnotising me and making me feel as if I was exiting my body experiencing the ethereal plane, before plunging me back into what felt like eternal, crushing darkness. Set closers ‘Vessel’ and ‘Ruin’ are the key songs to represent Départe as a whole, implementing the ascendant clean vocals and the mesmerising guitar drones that make up the climactic explosion that capped off the whole night.
Watching Départe, all I could think about was “this is what church should feel like.” The feeling of being torn from your body and experiencing a crushing despair is all the more sweet and emotional when experiencing it with the entire crowd.
- Seas of Glass
- Ashes in Bloom
- Grief Echoes (Golden Scars)
- Mara’s Choir
Photographer Mick Goddard shot the action for you below.
Rise of Avernus