(We present Andy Synn’s review of the performances in London on March 12 by Der Weg Einer Freiheit, Harakiri For the Sky, and The Great Old Ones — with videos recorded by Mr. Synn himself.)
Look at that line-up. Just look at it. That is one hell of a triple-header, if I do say so myself.
As a matter of fact, two of those bands, Der Weg Einer Freiheit and The Great Old Ones, were (separately) responsible for two of the best gigs I went to last year, whilst Harakiri For The Sky are one of those bands I’ve been itching to see live for years now, though the timing has just never quite worked out. So to say I was a little excited when this show was announced would be something of an understatement.
If anything, tonight’s performance by The Great Old Ones was quite possibly even better than the previous time I saw them, when they headlined this very same venue. Obviously, since they weren’t headlining this time around their set was somewhat more truncated, though they were still given a solid 40-minute slot in which to weave their inhuman magic, and the French sextet took full advantage of every single second of the time allotted to them to drag the audience ever deeper into the harrowing shadows of their hypnotic, R’’lyehian mindscape.
True, the experience was marred to an extent by the small group of drunken meatheads near the front who spent more time yelling and groping at each other than they did actually watching the band, but it is well known that the eldritch power of The Great Old Ones transcends such mundane earthly concerns, and even though it later transpired that the morons weren’t just drunken assholes, but drunken white power assholes, their idiotic antics were but a momentary distraction from the musical conjurations being enacted onstage.
Still, fuck those guys. May their minds and bodies be raped into an endless oblivion by the feeding tendrils of Shub-Niggurath.
In the end, 40 minutes still seemed too short – despite the band doing their best efforts to warp and stretch their allotted time towards its breaking point – but the overall impression was just as powerful as ever. The Great Old Ones are one of the best live acts on the scene today. Miss them at your peril.
The night’s second band, Harakiri For The Sky, occupy a shared niche with bands such as Agrypnie, Todtgelichter, and the night’s headliners (to name but a few), bands whose sound falls generally under the overarching banner of “Black Metal”, yet who seem to conduct their business at something of a tangent to the rest of the scene, not quite “Post”, not quite “Atmospheric”, all slightly different and yet united by a certain je ne sais quoi.
The Austrian exports are arguably, in relative terms anyway, the most melodic, and least blackened, of their various brethren and sistren, their music often seeming to have more in common with someone like Ghost Brigade than with someone like Gorgoroth, however that doesn’t mean they don’t deliver the goods with all the raw and naked passion you could ever ask for.
With an undeniable ear for bleak, evocative melody, an impressive array of gleaming lead guitar refrains, and a keen grasp of stellar songcraft, on record the group are a truly immersive experience, though tonight this effect was slightly lessened by a (relatively) thin live sound that didn’t quite match the sheer power of either the openers or the headliners.
Still, you can’t fault the band’s delivery (though the vocalist’s strange refusal to face the crowd, spending 90% of the set standing down by the front of his stage with his back to the audience, was certainly a confusing decision), as they were clearly giving it everything they had up there, switching seamlessly from dark, haunting riff work to razor-edged torrents of blistering blastbeats and seething tremolo without missing a beat, leaving the packed crowd practically eating out of their hand by the end of the set.
One of the big reasons for coming to tonight’s show, truth be told, was to see whether or not my previous experience with the headliners was just a fluke, as last time I saw them they were utterly phenomenal from start to finish (as was every other band on that show, barring the truly terrible opening act), and a big part of me needed to know if they could reproduce that sheer propulsive power and intensity of that performance again.
And boy, could they ever.
Giving out enough energy to light up an entire city block, the German foursome once again demonstrated why they’re currently (in my opinion at least) one of the most electrifying and emotionally thrilling acts on the Metal scene, with every track a veritable hailstorm of stunning blastbeats, wrenching vocals, scything guitar work, and undeniably scorching hooks.
Culling songs from across their catalogue – though with a heavy emphasis on material from last year’s utterly stellar… erm… Stellar — the quartet treated the assembled throng to an absolute masterclass in atmosphere and emotion, culminating in a stunning one-two finale of “Repulsion” and “Requiem” that practically peeled the paint from the walls and sucked the air out of your lungs.
Phenomenal, in every sense of the word.