(Andy Synn wrote this report on the recent live performances of Gorgoroth, Kampfar, Gehenna, De Profundis, and The Negation in Manchester, UK.)
Precisely one week ago today (or just over one week ago, depending on when this get published) I was lucky enough to see the legendary Gorgoroth, Kampfar, and Gehenna play as part of a triple-header of True Norwegian Black Metal, supported by rising progressive extremists De Profundis, and up-and-coming French nihilists The Negation (whose new album, Memento Mori, I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about).
To say this was a stacked line-up would be an understatement, particularly considering that both Kampfar and Gorgoroth are riding high on the back of a pair of killer new albums. The only downside to the evening was the early door time (5pm?!) to allow for sufficient time for all five bands to strut their metallic stuff.
But ultimately that was a small price to pay for an evening filled with such a smorgasbord of diabolical thrills!
I arrived at Sound Control (little fact: the venue used to be a large music store called, you guessed it, “Sound Control”, and was where I bought my first ever bass many, many moons ago) just as The Negation were hitting the stage, and thus immediately made my way upstairs to see what all the fuss was about!
Though it was early, there was still a crowd (small, but swelling) who’d turned up in time to catch the French fivesome, and all those who’d made the effort to come out were rewarded with a roiling cauldron of gnarled, grinding riffs, galloping blastbeats, and gruesomely infectious grooves.
The corpse-painted and leather-clad band (seriously, any band willing to play a full set in thick leather jackets is either a bunch of masochists or… no, just that…) ripped through their set with barely a pause for breath, clearly making the most of their allotted set-time, and although you could occasionally feel a bit of a disconnect between band and crowd, they most definitely left Manchester having won over a few more fans than they began with!
Despite most definitely being the odd band out on the evening’s bill, London-based extreme-prog metallers De Profundis still received a warm reception from the slowly growing crowd, and by the end of their set even the most reserved of the (now much swollen) audience seemed to have come around to the quintet’s cryptic blend of Death/Black/Trad Metal thrills and spills.
It helps of course that the five-piece are all stunningly talented musicians and, despite a few minor technical hitches along the way, were able to showcase their significant abilities by ripping through numerous songs from their latest album, Kingdom of the Blind, including blast-happy opener “Kult ov the Orthodox” and the contorted hyper-prog of “A Strange Awakening” (which you can see below), resulting in a set which can only be described as an unexpected – but well-deserved – triumph for the band!
Though they’ve (arguably) never quite reached the same level of infamy and acclaim as their countrymen on tonight’s bill, you’d be hard pressed to deny the importance of Gehenna’s place in the Norwegian scene.
This was definitely clear from how large an audience the band pulled in for their set (though this brought with it an unfortunate influx of bellowing knuckle-dragging troglodytes who seemed to be amused only by the sound of their own voices), and just how fanatical a reaction that each and every song received.
With little in the way of crowd interaction (vocalist Sanrabb largely communicating simply by growling the track-titles at the audience), the four-piece stuck to what they do best – bruising and bludgeoning the assembled masses with a torrent of wrenching, driving, blackened-thrash riffs and succinct, scorching songs pulled from across the length and breadth of their back catalogue.
Earlier this year I was lucky enough to see Kampfar stamp their authority on Inferno Festival like they were headlining the whole thing, and tonight’s performance was no different, with the four-piece performing again like they were the only band of the night who mattered.
Wielding a frankly monstrous guitar and bass tone, the band most definitely sounded the best of the night’s five acts, pounding through a majestically heavy set of tracks culled from almost all of their albums (though material from Mare was conspicuously absent), and providing the audience with their first taste of how material from this year’s fantastic Profan comes across in the live setting (spoiler: really fucking well).
As always, svelte frontman Dolk had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand from first song until last, and whether the band were cranking out new bruisers such as “Gloria Ablaze” or resolute classics like “Troll, Død Og Trolldom”, you could practically feel the intensity and integrity pouring off them in waves, building to a phenomenal closing rendition of “Our Hounds, Our Legions” and leaving yet another venue conquered in their wake.
The night’s headliners of course have been through their fair share of upheaval over the last decade or so, with the gossip and controversy surrounding them often threatening to overshadow the band’s well-earned and hard-fought legacy.
Thankfully, with a new album under their belt, the current incarnation of Gorgoroth (essentially main-man Infernus and his hand-picked death-squad of well-known, and less well-known, Black Metal mercenaries) seems to be back on form – although circumstances meant that neither drummer Tomas Asklund or new vocalist Atterigner could be present for this tour, with the vocalist spot instead being filled by the band’s long-time collaborator Hoest of Taake (though I’m not sure who was sitting behind the kit for them at this show, I’m afraid).
Weirdly, the band actually played surprisingly little from Instinctus Bestialis, with only a booming rendition of “Kala Brahman” actually getting an airing on the night (whereas, by contrast, three tracks from Quantos Possunt… were included in the set-list), though given the wealth of old-school material presented over the course of the evening I’m not necessarily complaining, as it just gives me another reason to catch the band live again in the future, when (hopefully) the new material will have been more integrated into their set!
One thing is clear though, tracks like “Bergtrollets Hevn”, “Destroyer”, and “Forces of Satan Storm” (all cherry-picked from the enviable battery of Gorgoroth anti-hits) each demonstrate just how good a riff-writer Infernus is, and by the time the night concluded with (if memory serves) a ravenous run-through of “Unchain My Heart!” the now packed-house of rabid Black Metal fans was fully headbanged out.
A triumph and… a rebirth?