Direct Underground Festival
Crowbar, Sydney NSW
6th September, 2019
Featuring: Dark Funeral, Immolation, Abramelin, Christ Dismembered & Reaper
Another year, another mini-festival devoted to darkness, destruction and decay. And decayed it all was. The international acts that Direct Underground Festival attracts are always stellar; to think that the show had Dark Funeral and Immolation on the same bill!
However, before the jewels in the black crown were to take to the stage, Australia’s homegrown acts were first. Melbourne based thrash band Reaper had the honour of warming up the coals of the raging inferno that would be later. Revelling in the old school sounds of Exodus and Testament, the band played their set looking as if they were indeed from the 1980s, if a bit tired and weary from the travelling it took to get to the present. I can’t say it was compelling, or creative, but it was competent.
Under the sickly green and red light, the painted forms of Christ Dismembered look like actual corpses. A good start for a black metal band. Continuing the theme of sounding old school, Bathory-esque repeating riffs reeking of winter were woven over the crowd. Sounding much like Quorthon himself, the vocalist’s screeches and snarls pushed the music into the darkness and into all present; evoking the first sign of life tonight from the huddled masses. As the drums hammered away, so too did the heads of the crowd.
I’ve been told that Abramelin were the pioneers of Australian death metal, and with the applause from (the definitely older sections of) the crowd, you could convince me. Bringing the heavy walls of noise and the machine gun fire of blast beats, Abramelin swept the crowd up in an every enlarging well of energy and movement. Sound problems aside; when the band is doing death metal, they’re doing it very well. But when they’re not, and transitioning to other influences it’s rather janky and awkward. Nonetheless, the crowd loved the performance and cheered every song as if it were an encore; especially new tracks off the upcoming album.
Red curtains hid the stage from sight after this. The comings and goings behind it a mystery, an entreating secret. But as the hour struck, and the curtains opened, the flames of Immolation were unleashed. Newer tracks dripped molten iron from the stage. ‘Destructive Currents’ opened the set in typical fashion; Robert Vigna torturing the guitar like a mad marionette magician, creating some of the most disharmonious conflicting guitar lines. Ross Dolan’s monstrous growl shaking the foundations of the very venue as he lopes along the stage, mane swinging, fingers dancing. The older songs on display were undoubtedly popular, but there was not so much movement as there was on set closer ‘When the Jackals Come’. As the lights strobed and flashed, at least a third of the packed bodies in the room flung themselves at each other in a desperate attempt to keep the fires burning, But alas, songs end, flames die out and bands exit stage left.
After someone has burned to death, the only logical conclusion is to have a funeral right?
Dark Funeral, even in a smaller venue like this waste no effort. Taking to the smoky stage fully garbed in hardened leather battle attire, the light casts jagged silhouettes on their painted faces. Heljarmadr’s eerie scratchy voice slithers out of the speakers like a snake shedding its skin, before exploding in the first song. As Dark Funeral are a true second wave band, the intensity of Mayhem is carved into their flesh. The crowd wastes no time in certifying the speed and intensity of the music, moshpits opening like the maws of the underworld in the darkened room. The tracks from Diabolis Interium were by far the most entrancing. ‘Goddess of Sodomy’ sees a whip brought out, flagellating the wailing horde into orgasmic ecstasy.
The breakneck introduction of ‘The Arrival of Satan’s Empire’ is one of the greatest moments of the night; Heljarmadr’s almost eternal screaming accompanies the feverish, unending chaos of the song, erasing any doubts in the imperiousness of a god above. The dynamics of the frenetic instrumentation is definitely enhanced in a live setting; the speed at which Lord Ahriman picks at the guitar is both invigorating and hellish. Alas, even funerals must end, and this one does with ‘Where Shadows Forever Reign’. A classic Dark Funeral song if there ever was one, and the only way to end a night such as this.
Review by — Dylonov Tomasivich
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