Words by: Didrik
Photo credits: thanks to Črna Loka
A magical fairy land in the local woods where children come to see dwarves and smurfs and little mushroom-shaped houses; a tiny little magical place, was infested by evil in late August as the Gorajte woods, next to the medieval town of Škofja Loka, Slovenia, were overtaken by Črna Loka – a new festival promising to deliver some much needed blackness and evil to this wondrous land, just as the Grimm brothers would have wanted.
The first show of the festival was also the last for Sober Assault, who are, as I’m writing this now, no longer a band. I’ve missed about ten minutes of their set due to time being relative and unpredictable, and when I arrived the lads already seemed comfortable on stage. Unfortunately, the relatively large area in front of the stage was still very empty with only a few dozen people dispersed throughout it during the set. Sober Assault’s sound is a somewhat thrash-influenced death metal that’s quite easy to listen to and the band’s vocalist, Enej Lamovšek, does a solid job vocally, but is slightly hindered with his double duty on guitars and thus unable to move and bring more energy to their performance. The sound overall seemed really solid (and it stayed that way throughout all of the festival’s two day length). The band’s bassist is the one that actually spoke a few words in between the songs played and got a few laughs from the crowd with his rather awkward humour, which was a welcome addition. With the electronic-sounding intro that announced the final track, the band descended into the final song, “Crossing the Rubicon” and concluded their chapter, which seems somewhat unfortunate as they appeared to have potential for something more.
A late cancellation from Siderean due to a band member falling ill meant the organisers had to find a back up on short notice, and with only a few days left before the festival Ways of a Heretic was announced to be the second band to perform on Thursday. If I mentioned the vocalist earlier not having the chance to really seize the stage, the complete opposite can be said of Sven Kneževič, who on stage looks every bit a man possessed and in profound agony. This is also apparent in their bleak black metal sound and a clear misanthropic view that their music represents. Sadly, the rest of the band falls short of the vocalist’s passion and I would love some costumes and a generally more evil/hateful/disgusting look from the entire band. As much as black metal fans will deny it, they all absolutely adore drama and shows are called shows for a reason. While a few more people stood under the stage for their performance the band also really suffered from their show still happening in complete daylight, which hindered the feeling the band intended to get across a bit. With their fairly modern black metal approach and a decent amount of melody and, of course, the aforementioned passion of the vocalist, Ways of a Heretic, proved to be a welcome and interesting addition to the festival and a band I would recommend people to go and see.
Something that became apparent throughout the first two bands is that the sound – while really well mixed – was rather quiet for a metal show – and when I say quiet I mean not as intensely deafening as I’m used to and I would have liked it a bit louder. But nevertheless, the first foreign band of the festival, the German Firtan, was getting ready to perform. As I came back from a quick trip to the car park I was rather excited to see a violin on stage warming up for their show because, as we all know, metal rules (which I may or may not have came up with myself) say that a violin equals a good band. Firtan was unfortunately without their second guitarist who has gotten sick and thus it’s admirable that they performed anyway, although the band seemed a bit inexperienced or perhaps shaken due to them being a member down. The band’s violinist was the one who seemed most energetic, but her bits were scarce and she wasn’t on the stage as much as I would have perhaps wanted her to be to spice up the band’s pagan black metal that lacked a real front(wo)man on stage. Still, the festival’s second biggest band played well, presented some songs from their upcoming album, “Marter,” such as “Amor Fati” and were the first to really attract a few more people closer to the stage as darkness slowly descended and brought the right atmosphere with it to what was otherwise an event, that due to its low amount of visitors given the size, lacked proper energy.
Have you ever wondered what metal girls do instead of watching romantic comedies? Listen to the band with the edgiest name in the world and the festival’s only true headliner, Harakiri for the Sky, of course! Despite their style being rather divisive the band undoubtedly has a far larger appeal than any of the other performers over these two days and from the first soft, romantic notes of “Sing for the Damage We’ve Done” the Austrians attracted a crowd of a few hundred, which almost gave that real feeling of a proper show atmosphere. The band’s sound is a bit of a departure from the rest of the festival’s selection due to their post-(black)metal being a bit lighter, yet still fittingly depressing and miserable to not be a bad fit. An important distinction, however, is that in HFTS’s music the misery and potential suicidal ideation is mourned over in a style that is professionally (trust me) referred to as The Big Sads, while a lot of the other black metal bands view it as a power move and celebrate it. With the glowing acronym of the band’s name on stage the performance had a sorrowful tinge, while a man yelling song titles at the band made it slightly humorous. Harakiri for the Sky’s set was met well by the crowd, but it was their arguably most famous track, “Fire, Walk with Me” that was the highlight of the night as I found myself growling along to the admittedly cringy lyrics, “I wish I was kerosene, just to set myself on fire.” Without a word spoken the band’s set was slowly coming to an end and the time for goodbye was met with the fittingly titled “Song to Say Goodbye” whose first few notes would linger in my head all the way back home.
Thus ended day one of Črna Loka, without a clean word sung, and to the relief of the organisers seemingly without any major problems as organisation seemed solid on all levels. As some retreated to their tents, the more broken amongst us needed a real bed to prepare for day two which would offer another five bands and more darkness, sonic violence and words screamed that for some reason feed metalheads.