Dark Easter Metal Meeting 2018

Dark Easter Metal Meeting

Backstage, Munich
31-March & 1-April 2018
Words: Wouter (WB), Laetitia (L) and contributions by Felix (F)
Pictures: Wouter (WB)

As someone wiser already mentioned, Easter is no longer the time to painstakingly pretend to have fun while spending time with the in-laws or searching for hidden Easter eggs. No, it’s time for the blackened unfaithful to travel to one of the many metal festivals around Europe (or beyond) and bask in the glow of Darkness, guitar tunes and blast-beats. Time to bang your head, have a dance and drink a beer. Who knows, you might even have fun! (WB)

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After a long drive in a car packed with people and (a slight overdose of) pasta, a short trip to the city centre and metal pub of Munich, yours truly found himself returning to the Backstage in Munich on Saturday afternoon, after two years of absence. One of the better in-door venues, featuring three venues (‘Werk’, the largest, Halle (medium size) and Club (armpit level cosy)). The area has outdoor seating places, shielded from rain, to rest, drink and talk. And, lest I forget, they serve best cheese burgers of any metal festival I have yet visited! (WB)

Unlight (De) was the first band that came across and boy was that a good starter. All though not much new in the black metal, their play sounded really pleasing. With a chugging, slaughtering bass and melody lines constantly intertwining and a very solid voice, they made for just the ‘wake the fuck up and listen to some quality black metal’ feeling. (WB)

The style of music next was slightly altered, although very similar in nature with Noctem (Spain); awesome, rocking black metal of great talent. Reminiscent of Darvaza at times, Noctem to managed to also convince a large part of the audience with their music. It’s been a while since I last saw a band with such a guitar and drummer directly striking home! (WB)

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After watching part of the ever mesmerizing Eïs (De), it was time for one of the bigger names of todays line up in Werk: Dark Fortress. Except for sounds problems with the bass guitar, they played a flawless and tight show. Which is exactly why, after listening to them for a bit, I got a bit bored (also: honesty obliges me to say Dark Fortress is not really my band). But the show itself was lively and made for a good spectacle nonetheless. (WB)

Talking to some fellow festival visitors, I was recommended to go see Sun of the Sleepless (De). And indeed, this was something elseentirely, in a good sense. Ulf Theodor Schwadorf (Empyrium, Eudaimony) has made his name again resonate with this wonderful ambient black metal (one man) project. Although one might expect this music more on a place like Prophecy Fest or Roadburn, I was really pleased to witness this wave of aggressive melancholy – at times even reminding me of Vemods atmospheric soundscaping. A thing to go listen to if you like Empyrium, Vemod or any of Schwadorfs other work. (WB)

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The next act, Bethlehem, who returned to DEMM for the first time since 2013, with a special premiere of a completely new line-up. The band can look back at an extensive history of roughly 25 years, having released nine studio albums, fueled by the contributions of about twenty different musicians. With the single constant position being that of Jürgen Bartsch as the only active musician and creative head of the band, Bethlehem’s latest musical chapter has also been pillowed by singer Yvonne “Onielar” Wilczynska (Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult). Aided by drummer Steve Wolz and guitarist Karzov since 2014, they have released their latest self-titled record in 2016 via Prohecy Records. Accordingly, the current style of Bethlehem’s latest setup means a return to their black metal roots charged with absurd and morbid lyrics about suicide, death and depression. Bethlehem’s appearance in Munich is dominated especially by Onielar’s performance who plays out Bartsch’s cosmos on stage captivatingly, an absolute highlight being “Kalt Ritt Durch Leicht Faltige Leere”. Next to tracks from the current album, Bethlehem also pleases old fans by playing “Aphel die Schwarze Schlange” from their 1996 release “Dictius te necare” that night. Indeed, the rife insanity emanating from the stage with the performance was weaved flawlessly into a very good and tight musical performance, that was both unnerving yet mesmerizing to witness.(F)

Before heading off to Ultha, I paid a visit to the exposition of Khristian Wåhlin (perhaps better known as Necrolord), the artist behind an impressive list of album art work items (Dark Funeral, Ensiferum, Dissection, At the Gates and Enisferum, to just name a few). Really impressive to see so many of the art work done by just one man, even if the bands are so un-a-like. And, as somebody remarked, I would also like to know ‘what Kristian dreams of at night’, given his talent for both the nightmarishly scary as well as beautiful sceneries. (WB)

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Ultha (De), playing in a packed in Halle, proved yet again to be a talent hard to ignore. Their technical, at times progressive, thundering warhorse heavy slab of black metal also proved an immersive listen. Maybe even a tad bit better than when I last saw them in the Netherlands, with their all-encompassing darkness served as a relentless progressive post-black metal stew. (WB)

Having to cut short (unfortunately) Ultha, I made it in time to Shining (Swe), the unfriendliest metal band of all of Sweden :) . This was made obvious from the song “Jag Är Din Fiende” (I am your Enemy), which Niklas Kvaforth (vocals and bourbon bottle wielder) wrote for everybody present. The entertaining but somewhat unpredictable (aided by an ample amount of Jack Daniels from said bottle) performance of front-man Niklas always makes for something to watch, whether you like them or not. And their guitarist (Peter Huss) is such a majestic talent that even non-fans (e.g. yours truly) cannot help but appreciate their music. Besides playing songs of their new album (“Han Som Lurar Inom”, “Jag Är Din Fiende”), they could obviously not part without performing “For the God Below”. (WB)

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The Italian Enisum was for me one of the reasons to love the 2018 line-up of DEMM; these atmospheric black metallers had me spin their tunes for quite some weeks in a row preceding the Easter days. Unfortunately, the sound was a bit bad at the (for a change not insanely packed) Club venue. Still the incense and overall play did well to convey the atmosphere they have in their recorded music. After the Intro feeding into “Balance of Insanity”, the mood was set and heads nodded. As much of their inspiration comes from the Italian Alps, the blasting “Alpine Peaks” could not go amiss either. The long stretched riffing and lofty sound scaping may not have been completely clear due to the sound issues, their convincing play made me watch just a little longer before heading off to see Agrypnie. (WB)

This was quite a special play for Agrypnie, as this was the last show with guitarist Eklantaz (Dave Conrad, Heretoir). Also special was of course Eviga (Dornenreich, live guitarist Sun of the Sleepless) performing “Aus Zeit erhebt sich Ewigkeit”, which he wrote and performs vocally as a guest musician on the forthcoming album of Agrypnie. Unfortunately, I had to miss this and saw only the last three songs, but the play was gripping as ever. (WB)

Time for some Swedish death metal, bathed in blood! Bloodbath is always a guarantee for a grand display of Scandinavian riffing that lifts the standards of death metal to unseen heights. Never yielding, their axe-grinding rhythm riffing and the brutal melody formations on top make this a band worth anyone’s attention, whether you like death metal or not. Although I have heard them perform better from a vocal point of view, they still managed to put down a convincing play. The decently long setlist featured favourites like “Cancer of the Soul”, “So You Die” and “Weak Aside”. And, after this long list of brutal songs, the audience was off course rewarded with being “Eaten”! A small portion of beer and and large portion of sleep deprivating activities later, I concluded my first day at DEMM – what a day!(WB)

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The second day of Dark Easter Metal Meeting opened with the Italian doom/gothic metal band Novembre for us. A fairly low amount of people had gathered around the main venue to watch the band, and most of the crowd were hanging out in the back, chatting and having their first drink. As a result, the dark tunes of Novembre did not leave a lot of impact and the atmosphere was not present. The vocals sounded a bit of key and a bit swamped under the rest of the instruments in the mix, so unfortunately, the show of Novembre today is a bit of a miss. (L)

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Next up in Werk were occult black metal wizards from Secrets of the Moon. Maybe not everybody’s favourite (yours truly is an un-abashed fan however), the sound of SotM is something unique. Kicking off with “No More Colours” and “Dirty Black” of their latest album (Sun, 2015) the stage was set and the show felt great in terms of (vocal) sound (which can be a hit miss with SotM). That there is a “Hole” in the world was shown with the likewise named (sing-along) song (“[…] four wounded angels – in the four corners of the world! […]”). Occult but also black to their roots, the show concluded with “Lucifer Speaks”. (WB)

As empty the main venue was during Novembre, as crowded is the second venue when the Austrian post black metal band Anomalie starts to play. One thing they have on their side, is the venue. The dark venue, a backdrop with trees/branches and ritualistic candlelight sets a good atmopshere for the dense black metal riffs of these musicians. It’s no wonder that most metalheads came out of their darkened dens of hangovers, as the band puts on a convincing show. It was a first introduction to Anomalie for yours truly, but hopefully not the last one. (L)

Playing at the same time as Anomalie, in the club, is German depressive black metal/rock band Freitodt(hailing from Bavaria). After all the blazing riffs we’ve heard so far, the ears are now calmed down a bit with more accessible melodies and more laid back music. Still the lyrics are darker and more devoid of hope than many of the bands playing at DEMM. Slowing down and letting the melancholic mood sink in for a while actually proved to be a welcome change before the festival madness continues. (L)

Dawn of Disease had to cancel Dark Easter Metal Meeting at a late notice. However, the organisation found a replacement in the form of the Austrian black metal formation Asphagor. With a no-bullshit attitude when it comes to performing and playing, the Austrians release their uncompromising, heavy music upon the audience. With war machine-like sounding drums, a mix of a melodic and an Immortal-esque guitar sound and vocals resounding from the depths of hell, Asphagor plays a convincing show.(L)

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Second time in one weekend, lucky me: the Swedes of Naglfar are up next, after having just seen them at Inferno Festival. Having called the band a ‘solid black metal machine on stage’ before, I was surprised to find out that today’s show was even better. The machine had returned, yet spewing the riffs and songs even more convincingly. Perhaps it had to do with the adrenaline of playing a couple of gigs in a row, or it was the interaction between a Naglfar starving crowd and the band, this performance had an unbeatable atmosphere! (L)

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Dutchies in the house, DOOL, is here to represent our country. And in what a way! As a kid coming too late to class, I only recently fell head over heels in love with the debut record ‘Here Now, There Then’ and damn have I missed out in the meantime. It’s not just the album that is flawless: playing live, the musicians play their tunes without mistakes, and also do it with a lot more energy and power. Among the songs of the album, “Vantablack”, “The Alpha” and “Oweynagat” are played and the audience takes it in like treat it is. Definitely one of the highlights of Dark Easter Metal Meeting. (L)

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Hurrying back to Werk to witness the Totenritual performance of Belphegor, I was treated with an enthusiastic Helmuth welcoming Bavaria to his and Belphegors’ Sathanic display of goats, blood and black metal. Always a good live show, enraptured in the Darkness of Baphomet, Lucifer and, lest I forget to mention, goats? From start to finish, the melodic relentless avalanche kept heads nodding and grins grimm and evil. Old favourites “Stigma Diabolicum”, “Lucifer Incestus” and “Belphegor – Hell’s Ambassador” had the audience enraptured and stamping their respective hooves, while the newer material (“Totenkult”, “Baphomet“, “The Devil’s Son“) kept the ritual amply supplied by recent additions of the repertoire. Somehow, the Austrian accent and the guttural, harsh vocals make this band something special, even after a couple of shows that I was privileged to witness these last 12 months. (WB)

Something very high on my list to watch for a while now is UADA (US). And man, was I treated with a brutally, perfectly played blasting portion of death/black metal. Given, with their 2016 release ‘Devoid of Light’, they have shaken the metal audience with a debut of such an outstanding quality. But playing this live just as good (or better?!) was quite a nice surprise! Indeed, measured by the shoulder-to-shoulder packed Halle, they have indeed quickly gained massive popularity. The show could be compared to one of Mgla; tight, fast, no mistakes and no discernible faces. The only thing I could bring against UADA is their limited repertoire (just one album), I can’t wait for more! (WB)

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All things come to an end, and Paradise Lost was a good (pen-)ultimate band to close off the Dark Easter Metal Meeting 2018. Maybe Nick’s vocals sounded a bit flat (as with Bloodbath), Paradise Lost is a band that radiates so much experience and talent, it’s hard not to like. Although I haven’t listened enough to their new release (Medusa), of which they played most songs, I could help but bang my head like crazy when “No Hope in Sight” (The Plague Within) hit the stage. These guys may be getting old, but they still play a monstrously heavy and tight show. (WB)

Not all was lost: the party refused to die just yet during the infective, dancing, punching and headbanging show of Desaster at the Halle venue. Although earlier stating they would cancel as ‘they were too drunk to play’ the April Fools joke was made up for big time during their brilliant play. Some beers and an epic bus drive later brought the official end to Dark Easter Metal 2018. (WB)

Returning to Munich to witness another episode of the Dark Easter Metal Meeting was a struggle well worth the effort. The festival is friendly, nicely located and the venue, if packed at times, is nicely accommodating. For both the music addict as well as the the beer drinking social ones and everything in between. Easter is better spent on a festival, without looking for eggs. Hell, I even had loads of fun! I will be back, and so should you! (WB).

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About Wouter.B

I am a Dutch metal and festival enthusiast. My interests, besides Metal, are in the realm of cats, cars, carbon and Process and/or Mechanical Engineering (and some photography). I have a specific adoration for Scandinavia, especially Finland and Norway. Wake me for instant coffee and vodka before noon, but only when abroad. Maybe you will find me finetuning my stone age dance ritual to keep warm, during sausage grilling in a snowstorm.