Hymns to the Dead
Odeon Theatre, Hobart TAS
20th June, 2018
Featuring: Blasphemy, Portal, Batushka, Numenorean & Spire.
I couldn’t think of a more fitting title for this event than Hymns to the Dead. Not saying we, as people, are dead, but the bands sure as fuck tried to make it so. Walking into the Odeon, I couldn’t help but feel like I was walking into a tomb; the press of bodies, the pressing fog, the susurrus of whispers, it had all the elements of a night that was sure to leave a mark forever branded in my conscious.
Spire were first up, standing stock still in Mayhemesque robes for about three minutes before doing a single thing. As I was confusedly looking to the guest next to me, the lights flared and the vocalist’s voice vomited out of the amps in a torrent so violent I lost my sense of direction. Mixing foreboding chants in the background while the vocalisations range from the deepest growls to maniacal ravings was a good choice, layering complexity upon the drumming that had me already straining my neck. As far as setting the tone for the night, Spire did a frankly astounding job; never has a pink light ever seemed so ominous. Their brand of black metal had me yearning for more even after the last discordant note rang out.
Numenorean were by far the outliers of the night. As you may (or not) know they sound similar to Deafheaven but a history of hardcore influences seep into their musical construction, resulting in a darkness that is far less crushing than the bands on tonights bill, but much more poignant. The battle vested horde seemed none too impressed, but the small circle of fans at the front seemed to e enjoying themselves immensely. The triplicate of agonised shrieks recalls loss of the highest order. However it is moderately cushioned by the higher register of their guitar playing that says maybe, just maybe there can be hope one day. Then their drummer kicks into gear and dashes those hopes in a flurry of toms and a ride cymbal. Listening to Numenorean is always a journey, but seeing them live… That’s cathartic.
Batushka are a band I never thought I would see in this life. and to be honest, as their introduction dragged on, I had begun to thing again that I still would never see them: fifteen minutes of chanting is a bit much! However, once they mounted the stage, the whole spectacle was intoxicating. Adorned in heavy occult robes and enough smoke to put an apartment inferno to shame, first few notes of ‘Yekteniya I’ were plucked and the band arrayed themselves on stage, placing the image of Mary on the pulpit. Due to mind bending luck the next song was ‘Yekteniya II’ and before I knew it, they were playing Litourgiya in full. As the album progressed and the chanting grew fervent, it was time for possibly the best minute and half of music in the world. The end of ‘Yekteniya VII.’ Seeing a small moshpit break out in front of a stage covered in candles and skulls was surreal to say the least. However, all sermons comes to an end. The image was removed, the candles snuffed out, but the amazement remained.
Portal are… one of the scariest bands in existence. Even their soundcheck terrified me. Yet nothing was more unnerving than seeing The Curator brought onstage by a handler, and proceeding to move about like his body is nothing more than a clockwork shell from which the mutterings and masochistic tongues of demons unknown emanate forth. The speed at which every member plays their instrument is beyond me; I am entirely convinced that they wear those hoods and nooses to keep whatever they are from our eyes, we would probably go insane if we ever witnessed their true forms. As an aside, congratulations to the person who can discern all of Portal’s songs, but, I did pick out ‘Kilter’ and ‘Swarth’ through the seething mess.
Guitarist Horror Illogium writhes around his guitar as if his bones are made of crude oil, all the while fluidly manoeuvring his fingers (tentacles in gloves?!) over every possible inch of the guitar to elicit the most tortured and otherworldly sounds this side of the Void. It’s a shame the drummer was so wreathed in smoke because the way that man (beast, whatever) moves is surreal; lightning fast one second and disjointedly stoic the next. It’s all quite an inexplicable experience to behold. Even as one closes their eyes and escapes from the visual terror of the stage and the chaotic lights, one is trapped in paroxysms of dread that this musical experience just might be their last.
Given a few minutes to process what I just saw helped bring me out of my stupor so I could understand that now, Blasphemy were about to begin. A relative unknown to me, probably because I wasn’t alive when the universe was created, the only album I had even remotely heard of was 1990’s Fallen Angel of Doom, and only in passing conversation. So colour me surprised when what sounded like first wave black metal dunked in a hefty coat of grind spewed out of the speakers. Almost immediately I was overjoyed with the speed of the drumming and the frontman Nocturnal Grave Desecrator and Black Winds, as he just vocalised what seemed like sonic, nihilistic filth.
As the set wore on, I noticed the songs were very short, which was actually a blessing, because after the theatrics of Portal, this straight up performance seemed to be lacking something. The songs themselves were inaccessible, which I love, but the lack of diversity or stage presence really hindered the shows progression into something amazing. The riffs galloped, and the drums thundered but, after everything finished, the galloping had gone nowhere and the thunder brought no storm. I’m not implying that every band needs a theatrical aspect; Beherit are still fucking amazing and all they do is stand still and shred their asses off. Possibly due to the make up of the bill, some of the energy was lost by the time Blasphemy took to the stage.
Overall, Hymns to the Dead was a wondrously terrifying and emotive experience. Even though the experience may have dimmed a bit near the close, it was still one of the most shocking experiences of the entire year.
Review by – Dylonov Tomasivich
Photo Gallery supplied by Dark Mofo Media
Dark Mofo 2018
15-24 June @ Hobart, Tasmania