Witching Metal Webzine

Witching Metal Webzine

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Devil's Arcana festival live review

I have begun writing this review almost a week after the festival, in this time I have had opportunity to think things over but also i have had other rather stressing engagements and I have only just gotten over a bug I seem to have picked up over the weekend, so my memory is somewhat hazy. This review will not be free from bias and I certainly will not paint every band in the most positive light however I will try my best to illustrate each band as best I can for those that were not there or simply like reading reviews. The pictures included are my own shots, unless it is noted otherwise. None (of mine anyway) have been edited.

I arrived somewhat early to the event on the first night, so i spent the intervening time until the bands started, catching up with friends i had not seen for some weeks and checking out what was on offer at the distro stalls. I eventually picked up a Drowning the Light split 10” record I’d been meaning to get for some time.

By 7pm i realised that the first band, Tamerlan, a new symphonic black metal band whose first show was tonight, had started. Heading in I immediately noticed that this new band was headed by a, for lack of a better word, veteran of the black metal scene in NSW, having served in one capacity or another in Astaroth, Nuclear Winter and Vrag over the years. I could not find any particular fault with their music, their keyboardist had a patch at one stage which reminded me of Mindless Self Indulgence of all bands which was amusing and the sample that was played later on was unexpected, I hope to see more of Tamerlan in the future!

After their set someone pointed out the similarities in appearance between Varg Vikernes and Tamerlan’s guitarist in a negative light. As amusing as this similarity was, I’m not sure how intentional it was, or whether it was really important but nonetheless i felt it worth mentioning.

After Tamerlan was Nontinuum. Whilst their 2010 demo was rather good, if I wanted to listen to early Woods of Desolation (Towards the depths era in particular) i would do just that instead of listening to some guy who prior to this project played in death/grind bands in Orange and Melbourne, one of which I had seen some years before and had been left thoroughly unimpressed after the experience.

 I did hear later that Nontinuum had transformed their woods of desolation worshipping songs into post-rock songs and that of those who had witnessed them, only a handful had been impressed or appreciative. I on the other hand took the opportunity to catch up with people in the beer garden until Moon took the stage.

Moon is a project which has been around in some form or another for the past half decade however it has been only recently that Miasmyr, the entity performing on all instruments on the releases had assembled a live version of Moon. This was their first time in NSW, after the infamous debacle in late 2010 which resulted in their initial show being cancelled and then subsequently their pulling out of the replacement show.

Being a fan of Caduceus Chalice and previous works (But Chalice more so) I was looking forward to witnessing them in the flesh. It was at this point in the night that a vast number of bones had been spread across the stage, on equipment and strung up on the walls. Numerous candles had been lit as well.  Looking over the notes i made earlier in the week when my memory was fresher there had been 7 candles lit, which was to be a recurring theme for most of the acts in the next two nights.

 Moon’s set could be summed up as 30-40 minutes of screaming over fuzzy guitars and keyboards whilst wearing hooded cloaks with absolutely no crowd interaction, however to some, such as myself this was exactly what I was expecting and wanting to see. I hope to see this band live again someday.

Wardaemonic are a band i have known about since they played in 2010 for the gig that replaced Black Mass and as of this festival, witnessed thrice, however i still have not found the time (and to be honest, the interest) to listen to their albums. They have always had a good live show whenever they have made the trip over from Perth so I was looking forward to seeing them.

This performance made every other time i had seen them pale in comparison. Last year I had seen them at the factory theatre, and really their act translates better to the smaller stages. Their singer, Old was utterly possessed in this performance. Creeping about the stage, drinking beers handed to him, smashing the glass on the stage and jumping into the crowd, he was absolutely intense, as was the rest of the band. Being unfamiliar with their material, i did not catch the names of the songs played in their set, unfortunately.

 It is a shame that this performance was the last time Old and guitarist Regnator would be on stage with Wardaemonic, having opted to concentrate on their work in Pestilential Shadows. I hope the remaining members (Blitz, Maelstrom and Anharat) find suitable replacements for them, as Old proved to be a vocalist that was a hard act to follow. I do wish I had gotten some good shots of Old jumping into the crowd. I deleted the ones I did take as they were terrible shots.

Up next after Wardaemonic and closing the first night was Drowning the Light. I have always had mixed feelings about this band, Azgorh’s sizable discography in particular (personally i prefer material from 2009 onwards) however after witnessing them two times in the same number of nights last year (the first being a secret set which even included a brilliant and utterly unexpected cover of Darkthrone’s Transilvanian Hunger!) I knew to expect a live show that delivered the goods.

 The live band was exactly the same as last year’s shows, Azgorh was accompanied by Blackheart and Balam on guitars, Wraith on bass and Nihilifer on drums. Each individual functioned in various other (no less fantastic) projects; Atra, Nazxul, Pestilential Shadows, Erebus Enthroned and as such was perfectly comfortable on stage. I must admit I had been surprised last year in discovering Nihilifer was a competent live drummer as I have gotten used to him functioning solely as a vocalist in Erebus Enthroned, and many, many years ago I witnessed him demonstating his abilities on acoustic guitar rendering a faithful cover of a song by a Swedish band I won’t name in the context of this review.

 Photo of Nihilifer taken from the DTL facebook page. Used with permission from Azgorh. 


The setlist was composed of the following songs; Oceans of Eternity, Night of Never ending Turmoil, The Key Still Not Found, The Cult of Shadows (a personal favourite), As Plague Upon the Sheep, This Darkest Hour, Entrance to Illumination,The Poison Kiss, Of Celtic Blood and Satanic Pride and one more song, the name of which presently escapes me. It was a fantastic performance, made more memorable by Azgorh’s barbwire crown and coat with coyote stole and fantastic musicianship.

I have just realised that DTL’s performance last week was a week off of precisely half a decade since the albums A world long dead, To the end of time and Through the noose of existance were all released in limited numbers on tape by winterreich productions on the same day. I’m more set on finishing this entire review by Good Friday now. It certainly has been quite an interesting journey for Drowning the Light through the intervening years

The next day of the festival started at 4pm, two hours earlier than the first night so despite my lack of sleep and travelling somewhat immense distances just for a shower and some food i still managed to arrive early. Before the bands started i bought a record from The Coffins Slave’s stall that i had been looking forward to buying for some time, a couple of t-shirts from the Séance Records stall and hung out with mates until the bands started.

Sorathian Dawn opened the second night. Like Tamerlan, they are a “new” band, despite having been in existence for three years this was their first time on stage (at least under their current name) however unlike Tamerlan their stage presence was very impressive. Composed of members of Bane of Isildur and Ouroborus, this was a much more blackened, far less technical (but no less ferocious), far less melodic mixture of the two bands.

Aaron, the singer/guitarist of Bane of Isildur was only on vocals in this performance. His presence was demanding, with bones strung up on his person, commanding attention through his intense performance, Michael Conti of Ouroborus had much more subdued bass lines here, which was good to see and Shea Cramer, (apparently now formerly) of Bane of Isildur was also much less relaxed than his role in Bane of Isildur, playing his guitar fiercely and looking very intense, the other members were no less great, I seem to remember being impressed by the drumming patterns on display, but my memory has faded in the last few days.

Their songcraft was amazing, and personally i came away thinking this collaboration was far greater than the two bands of which the members came from.
Next up were the enigmatic entity known as Crowned. An atmospheric black metal band from Toowoomba, now Brisbane, this trio had come down last August to open another Séance  Records show to a great reception. This time around they walked on stage wearing cloaks to conceal their identities.

 I enjoyed their show last time around however, having seen Moon just the day before i knew precisely what 30-40 minutes of fuzzy guitars accompanied by screams whilst wearing hooded cloaks sounded like and catching up with friends was more important at that stage of the night, plus Ill Omen were on next and I was looking forward to witnessing them much more. Crowned have a debut album coming out via Séance Records in a few months which i am looking forward to hearing very much.

So finally Ill Omen were up. I had been a fan of this one man band formed by Desolate/IV (Whose credits include, but are certainly not limited to Nazxul, Pestilential Shadows and Austere) since September 2010 when I got my hands on the compilation of the first three demos. Since then they they’d released two more demos and a debut album, all of which I found to be incredible material, mixing cathartic black metal riffs with dark ambient and chants.

The live lineup included Desolate/IV decked out in ceremonial garments accompanied by members of Nazxul and Sorathian Dawn, plus two (fantastic) guitarists who I did not recognise. They played primarily from the debut album Divinity through un-creation (Sins of the flesh, Decrepit Heart Of the Shadow-sun, Sentinels Beneath a Heaving Earth and Gnosis) plus the title track off the wrath of a thousand suns demo and a great Bathory cover; The return of Darkness and Evil.

 If anything, I was a little disappointed that the first four demos were  left untouched but overall it was a great performance and every bit worth the 19 month wait. I can only hope that Ill Omen may manifest on the live arena once more in the future.

After ill Omen was Erebus Enthroned. I had seen this band a handful of times last year (and regrettably missed their rituals in previous years when I could have easily seen them) so I thought I knew what to expect. I was wrong. Before their set had begun, the lights were dimmed, seven candles and incense had been lit on a bone altar, filling the room with heavy smoke. Then Erebus Enthroned took to the stage, having completed their pre-performance rituals.

Wasting no time in beginning their set with an as yet unreleased (brilliant) track I can only assume will be on an upcoming split 7”, Nihilifer is usually a commanding frontman, and this time was no exception. Singing without relent as the music surged forth remorselessly, his lanky frame no hindrance for his powerful screams. After the first song, they dug out old favourites from their previous releases.

Decay busted out a few excellent guitar solos and the rhythm section (Darash, Versipellis) never lost a beat despite the minimal lighting.  At the end of the ritual Nihilifer grabbed a chalice which turned out to be filled with blood and drank heavily, spilling blood all over himself and the stage before tracing a sigil in the smoky air. This was the fourth time I had had the opportunity to witness this band in action and it was in my opinion their best performance so far.

Erebus Enthroned was a hard act to follow, and this was all too obvious with Order of Orias. No doubt a great band, their debut being deemed worthy enough for World Terror Committee to release(who have in past released gems such as the Chaos Invocation Lp) so it was obvious these guys weren’t kidding around


Decked out in corpse paint and their stage props limited to two Order of Orias banners, they were rather visually bare compared to Erebus Enthroned and I must admit, despite catching these guys two years ago at the Black Mass replacement show (where they replaced Moon at the last minute) and receiving a promo version of their Birth ep at last year’s festival I was (and still am) wholly unfamiliar with their material so i had no reason to catch their entire set. For what i did stay for, Order of Orias were very intense and abrasive, definitely a band to see live if possible.

Spire were next, yet another fuzzy cloaked atmospheric black metal band from Queensland .(is there something specifically grim in that state’s water supply that makes people form atmospheric black metal bands?) I had first seen these guys at the black mass replacement gig where they blew me away.

This time was no different. I had picked up their second ep some weeks beforehand and the only disappointing thing about it was that it was too short. The songs were incredible and leading towards something higher and greater, when suddenly the cd finished the final track and I almost cried out of sadness.

Presuming you’d have read my reviews for Moon and Crowned, then you would know what to expect. Fuzzy guitars, fervent drumming, and a vocalist who mixed things up a little. I hope this project releases an album someday, it would devestate.

Pestilential Shadows were one of the bands i had been looking towards very much. I had the pleasure to witness them last year when Desolate was still in the band and they were fantastic. Despite being rather prolific on the live front last year, more than any other year of their existence, playing two shows in Sydney and one in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth I had still only been able to see them that one time on the first night of Armageddon festival. 

Pestilential Shadows set was fantastic. Opening with a yet unreleased track; Mill of Discord which i can only presume is either a track off their album coming out later this year or their side of the split 7” with Corvus, also coming out later this year.

The rest of the set was composed of some of their greatest hits; Plague eclipse, depths, With serpents I lay, amongst famine and beautiful demise off of equally chart topping albums Embrace after death, Depths and In memoriam, ill omen which is my personal favourite album by Pestilential Shadows. I even found myself singing along to With Serpents I Lay.

 I was a little disappointed that nothing off Cursed was played live this year and after Azgorh, their former vocalist did guest vocals on Depths i’ve always hoped that he might appear for at least one song onstage but nonetheless this incarnation of Pestilential Shadows played fantastically and without any fault.

After Pestilential Shadows, Vassafor took the stage. Perhaps they had lent out all the bones on night 1, as they had made use of all the space onstage by stringing bones everywhere and lighting candles and incense on their bone altar. The lights were also dimmed for atmosphere. The rest of the band were ready long before V.K, as he spent a good 10-15 minutes making sure his guitar tone was just right. This did not go to waste as despite the overwhelming volume (My ears were still ringing the next day) Vassafor retained perfect clarity.

Their setlist was composed of songs (Rites of ascension, Obsidian King, Sunya, Craft of dissolution and Archeonaut’s return) selected from Demo II, Southern Vassaforian Hell ep and promo MMX/Obsidian Codex which were played extremely well and without fault.

One disappointing thing was that at one point I looked around the room from the front and realised that there was roughly half the number of people present for Vassafor than there was for Pestilential Shadows. Fools, they did not understand what they were missing out as this was Vassafor’s first venture into Australia. Their loss I suppose. I seriously cannot wait to get my hands on the Obsidian Codex LP. The two songs i heard on the Promo MMX tape were almost too much to handle at the time for me.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my rather long (At least 3008 words!) review of the recent two night black metal festival “The Devil’s Arcana”. I certainly enjoyed writing it in less than a day whilst still suffering headaches, a sore back and a nasty cold. I have also just realised that i’ve put much more effort into this article in minimal time than anything i’ve done at university in the last three years.

In closing, this festival was a fantastic experience, I wish all the best to the folks at Séance records and their future releases, congratulate them wholeheartedly for putting on such a spectacular event and hope that an equally fantastic event (and smaller ones along the way) occurs next year as I get the impression that the black metal live scene in New South Wales was somewhat poor until Séance records stepped in. To the bands i hope they continue in their excellence and hope to see them live again someday in the weeks, months and years to come.

If any individuals or bands wish to receive full sets of any particular band, feel free to email me at prmtvltrs@hotmail.com and I'll get back to you when I have the time. I took almost 200 shots over the course of two nights and I only could justify putting 34 here.

I suppose I should rate this festival too, as every other article here has ratings


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