(Andy Synn turns in this review of a show in Birmingham, England, last weekend, accompanied by videos he filmed of he performances.)
Here’s a fact, true believers — I’d never been to The Rainbow in Birmingham before this evening, but as it turns out it’s a cool little venue, with a nicely-sized band room in the back, equipped with a very powerful PA. And good thing too, because all three of tonight’s bands necessitate a system that can handle the raw power they put out.
I say “three bands” because, due to a.) having to practice with my own band, and b.) some semi-apocalyptic weather conditions on the drive over, I missed about 99% of the first band, and so can’t really tell you much about their gabba-infused industrial death-noise. Maybe next time.
However I did get to see the bands I really wanted to, starting with the UK’s own The Infernal Sea…
I’ve seen The Infernal Sea live on several occasions now, and they honestly just get better every time. Their raw, utterly anguished take on Black Metal – think Rebel Extravaganza-era Satyricon and you’ll be in the right sort of ballpark – positively pulsates with thick, grimy grooves and skin-shredding riffage, the vocals a distorted howl of despair and contempt, with the band’s monstrously talented drummer unleashing a veritable maelstrom of savage blasting and precision pounding.
Clad in black hoodies and with beaked plague masks on their faces, the four-piece ripped through a truly visceral set mostly drawn from their upcoming album The Great Mortality (which has quickly become one of my most anticipated albums of the year) along with a couple of cuts from their highly underrated debut (such as “A Prayer for Cleansing” below), leaving the steadily growing audience more than a little dazed by their display of sheer sonic terrorism.
Co-headliners Der Weg Einer Freiheit were up next, their distinctive mix of blackened energy and subtle nuance offering a well-placed contrast with their predecessors, whilst also being brilliantly complementary in its own way. Showcasing material off their stunning new album Stellar, they blazed their way through track after track of tightly-welded, gloriously atmospheric Black Metal that managed to be both blisteringly melodic and scathingly aggressive at the same time, packed with layer upon layer of bleak shades and haunting shadows.
Humble yet expressive, the quartet threw in a number of cuts off their previous albums (particularly material from 2012’s fantastic Unstille), despite having to cut their set marginally short due to time constraints. Still, they left a powerful and lasting impression on everyone there.
The final band of the night wasted little time, kicking straight into a truly overwhelming set of constricting, blackened doom-sludge, laced with ethereal, elemental melodies and claustrophobic Post-Metal atmospherics.
With the majority of the set culled from last year’s utterly phenomenal album Aeon Unveils the Throne of Decay, the assembled audience was treated (or maybe that should be subjected?) to almost an hour’s worth of crushing dynamic shifts and overpowering metallic force, the band’s three vocalists raging and roaring relentlessly in apoplectic fury.
Particular kudos should also go to their US-born drummer Michael Kadnar, who managed to blitz through the band’s overpowering set of extremity and dissonance whilst also acting like an absolute rock-star behind the kit, his flailing arms and ostentatious gestures belying the sheer sweat-soaked effort involved in his performance.
Over all-too-soon, Downfall of Gaia’s set actually felt like a marathon (in the best possible way), leaving both band-members and audience literally and figuratively exhausted by the time the final, climactic chord rang out.