Dubbed the "Night of Desecration", this merry bunch of bands descended on Antwerp to give the audience an evening full of black metal, sludge, brutal hardcore and everything in between. Located in the Central Station neighbourhood of Antwerp, the former church is now host to a wide range of socio-cultural activities. To have such an unholy line-up perform in a church might seem like irony, but as it was the backdrop of the church only added to the massive atmosphere all 5 bands already delivered. It was a bit of a shame the actual shows weren't in the nave of the church, but rather the chapel part. The nave would most likely be a perfect setting, but it would be hell (no pun intended) to ensure a proper sound setup. Oh well, who cares? It was a splendid evening nonetheless.
Organisers Ondergronds provided the opportunity for the attending audience to eat some nice freshly-made food (yummy!), Immortal Frost Productions was present with their huge array of quality underground vinyl, cds and tapes and all bands had a plethora of merchandise to spend some cash on. And instead of standing outside on the street the sparsely-lit church garden provided the opportunity for those of us needing a nicotine fix (remember kids, smoking is bad for you) or to hang out with friends. What could possibly make it better? Why, quality shows by all the bands of course. Well, I can say that none of the bands let us down in that aspect.
Up-and-coming black metal band Drawn Into Descent took the stage as the opening act and just like the last time I saw them it is clear that we will get to hear quite a bit more of these guys in the future. Still a bit shy in their stage performance but the band is growing in confidence which can be heard in the long, atmospheric tracks. This evening also marked the debut of a new song and it's always nice to be among the first hear it. It's a shame that the lead was lacking in volume a bit but we'll forgive them that. The songs still worked extremely well and the acoustics of the chapel gave them a nice 'washed out' sound that really suits them. They will be heading into the studio in February 2015 so keep your ears peeled for their debut album! If they will keep progressing at this rate that will certainly be something to look out for.
Next up was Wiegedood (Dutch for Crib Death), a side project of Amenra bassist Levy Seynaeve. Seeing as Amenra is dealing in sludgedoom and hardcore, and I hadn't actually heard anything by Wiegedood yet, I was expecting something along the same lines. And even though the line-up info said 'black metal' there's many ways to go with that description. As it turned out, Wiegedood went for furiously fast black metal, 'Cascadia' style, in the vein of Fauna, Ash Borer and Wolves In The Throne Room. I think I wasn't the only one in the room who had a serious 'Wow!' moment and I heard nothing but praise afterwards for their performance. Stripped to the essentials, with only 2 guitars, vocals and drums the band raged through an impressive set. There was no interaction at all with the audience and the only time to take a breath was in between the songs, which were marked with some very creepy atmospheric guitar ambient. After which the band exploded into the next song, with some of the most furious drumming I have heard in quite some time. Speaking of drums, apparantly there was an issue with feedback on the stage itself, which highly irritated Wiegedood's drummer and he frequently voiced this irritation before the issue was resolved. However, and this is very much to his credit, pretty much nothing of this soundissue was noticeable in the audience and the band sounded very, very tight indeed. Impressive! I am hugely looking forward to a physical release!
After a short while, which was spent eating a bowl of delicious vegetarian winter stew, it was time for Dutch black metallers Terzij De Horde to take the stage. Despite having done quite a bit of shows already I never had the opportunity to see them live before even though I was familiar with their EP 'A rage of rapture againt the dying of the light'. And, like the others before them, they did not dissapoint. Their varied sound takes influences from black metal, hardcore, sludge and postrock which, now that I think about it, provided a nice transition to the last 2 acts of the evening. Contrary to Drawn Into Descent and Wiegedood, there was a bit more interaction on stage in the form of singer Joost's energetic performance. The band performed a very solid set and I was definitely not the only one impressed by their energy. One of the things I like about Terzij De Horde and their EP is that, for some reason, it sounds like there is something 'wrong' with it. And I mean that in the best possible way. The riffs, the melodies, the rhythms and the vocals, all of it has this quality of sounding 'not quite right' which makes Terzij De Horde have a very distinct sound and it all adds up to a very interesting and enjoyable experience. And they managed to take this feeling and translate it to a live setting perfectly. Well done guys.
This review is becoming quite long already, but I'm going to make it even longer because I need to rant about something. For a while now, the hardcore scene is taking a big interest in black metal and it's various extreme metal offspring. A lot of bands even ditch the typical hardcore sound and go full-on black metal, albeit with obvious hardcore influences. While I feel that is absolutely fine and it yields some very interesting results (Tombs, Nails, Young And In The Way) there are some downsides to this. Downsides which were apparant in some audience members present on this evening. Audience members whose only apparant reason for coming was getting drunk on smuggled-in beer (smuggling beer when prices are very reasonable, for crying out loud..). Petty kids acting all, well, 'hardcore' or at least the closest approximation of what they think is 'hardcore'. Having fun is a good thing, just don't let your fun spoil the fun of others.. I'm not a sissy but I really could do without being showered with beer. Perhaps I am exaggerating a bit because there were no troubles at all but whenever I see kids like that I think to myself: 'go act like a clown on some crappy Suicidal Tendencies or Madball show, or start a moshpit on a metalcore/deathcore show if you really feel the need..'.
Right, now that I've made myself feel like an old bore, on with the review!
Sludge and doom are massively in vogue at the moment. We at Merchants Of Air notice that by the amount of sludge and doom related releases up for reviewing and by the sheer amount of gigs with sludge bands on the line-up. Most major metal labels already have one or more sludgedoom bands on their roster. The well-renowned UK label Candlelight Records brings us Opium Lord, from Birmingham. And it is everything a sludge fan could want. The deep low-end rumblings, the screeching feedback of the guitars, tortured screams and slow motion rhythms. Opium Lord brings us absolutely nothing new. We've heard it all before with Grief, Khanate, Iron Monkey, Eyehategod and the likes. However, what they do, is bring the typical sludge sound with a lot of conviction, energy and passion (especially the wild performance by drummer Bruce). And that more than makes up for the lack of originality. In the end, that's all that matters: the ability to captivate an audience with music that you are passionate about. It may not be my cup of tea, but there is no way I can fault their performance.
Which brings us to the final band of the evening, Hessian. Once again featuring members of Amenra but this time the focus is on furious hardcore, sometimes even bordering on grindcore, with a healthy dose of black metal thrown in. Hessian already made quite an impression because they landed themselves in the roster of the infamous Southern Lord, where they fall neatly between similar artists as Black Breath, Nails, etc.. Well, at least I know now for what the hardcore kids showed up. With the room pretty packed and exhaustion already setting in a bit (old, remember..) I witnessed the show from the back of the room. Even if I would've wanted to witness it from up front I'd have had to be quick because Hessian's show was very brief. As a hardcore show should be I'll add to that. Get on stage, unleash hell and get off again. The audience loved every minute of it and with this show they further cement their position in the top ranks of the ever-growing hardcore/black metal scene.
Thus ends this report of an excellent evening in the equally excellent venue. Let's hope that the future brings good things for Het Kievitsnest and De Ploeg because it would be a total shame if it would fall into the hands of some asshole project developer that doesn't recognize the need for this socio-cultural haven in the Kievit neighbourhood.
Report by Björn
Pictures by Serge