De Qubus, Oudenaarde, Belgium (12-11-2022)
Last Saturday it was time to visit Belgium again for the yearly held Unholy Congregation Festival. Travelling to Oudenaarde (Belgium) proved to be challenging since there was a big traffic jam in Antwerp. We arrived in Oudenaarde, quickly checked in at our hotel and swiftly to De Qubus. This year’s excellent and diverse line-up, including Cult of Fire, Aeternus, Afsky and many more, accompanied with a welcoming dose of Belgium hospitality (and beer) made it more than worth attending.
The day should have started with Dudsekop. Hailing from Belgium (Ieper) this fledgling has previously released “Liksems.” I was eager to look and hear what they had to offer on the stage. But unfortunately, the traffic problems saw to it that we arrived just after their show. Better luck next time.
It’s good to see that Unholy Congregation has a lot of variety in the line-up. While considered as a black metal festival, organisers always throw some affiliated acts in the mix. Rituals of the Dead is one of those bands. Cleverly combining black metal with doom and delving into themes such as folklore, superstition and witchcraft in combination with twowell-received albums, namely “Blood Oath” (2018) and “With Hoof and Horn” (2021), they thirst for blood on the stage. They did not disappoint at all. A no-nonsense, straight-forward and relentless performance is the result. The music is mostly threatening and sinister, which reflects the doom element in their music, and makes their more aggressive outbursts very powerful. And with this band we’re off to a good start for the remainder of the day that makes me hungry for more.
Unfortunately I had to miss Imha Tarikat because my belly was growling. So I went for a beer and burger to get fuelled up for Silver Knife who consists of musicians of acclaimed acts such as Laster (just listen to the vocals and you will notice some resemblances), Saturnian Temple and other acts coming from the Netherlands, Belgium and France. With their full length “Unyielding/Unseeing” (2020) and EP “Ring” (2022) in their pockets they are ready to conquer the stage with their post-black metal. Songs such as “Recalcitrant” and “Sundown” were a treat for your ears and when you close your eyes you can dream away on the haunted melodies of this act. The only things which, in my humble opinion, are lacking, are some proper visuals and a podium presence which does more justice to the atmosphere presented in their music. But hey, when it comes to crafting haunting songs these guys, kicked ass and that’s what counts.
I have never had the chance to witness a live performance of Alkerdeel. Luckily, Unholy Congregation changed that. Without any remorse these three Belgium lads conquered the stage with their sludge/black metal. The sound was messy, but one way or the other it really fits with the music and atmosphere they create. This band is quite popular in Belgium and the response of the audience was superb. Deservedly so because live interpretations of “Vier,” “Trok” (and many more) from their excellent album “Slonk” (2021) were executed in a lush and dirty manner, and that is the way I like it. Alkerdeel managed to give an enthralling yet brutal performance and was a great addition to the fourth edition of this festival.
After Alkerdeel it even gets better with Afsky which is the project of Ole Pederson Luk. I didn’t expect to see this project live since it is a solo project, and that is a pity because Ole manages to release some excellent black metal where despair, Danish history and death go hand in hand. Just listen to the superb “Ofte jeg drømmer mig død” album. Frankly, seeing Asfky live was one of the reasons to visit Unholy Congregation, and by Satan’s nutsack, this performance was spot on! Aided with three young musicians Ole created a performance worth remembering. Almost executed flawlessly the songs “Tyende Sang,” “Bondeplage”, and closing track “Angst” managed to mesmerise me and the rest of the audience with their eerie, darkly drifting passages. I saw a lot of T-shirts and merch being sold, and rightfully so, they definitely deserve it. If you have the chance to see these guys live do not hesitate!
After Afsky it was time to enjoy mighty Aeternus! I didn’t know that Aeternus was still up and running! Hailing from the beginning of the nineties they were quite popular with albums such as “…and So the Night Became” and “Ascension of Terror”. After the “Ascension” album and a compilation “Burning the Shroud” I figured that this band was history. But I was dead wrong. In fact there is even a new album in the making. The dark metal, or in this case death metal with a pinch of black in its veins, this band creates has always flown a little under the radar. That’s a shame since this band really can craft some cool songs. On stage Aeternus is a force to be reckoned with. You take four experienced musicians and a bunch of songs with a lot of punch and you have a recipe for a great live set. With songs such as “Burning the Shrouds,” “The Hand that Severs the Bonds of Creation,” a few songs from their upcoming album, and many more they managed to give a spot on performance. Aided with excellent sound they offered an hour of dark metal magic. The audience loved it, I loved, so next time be there!
With all these great bands on stage is it possible to surpass the quality of music already displayed at this festival? The answer is: yes! Maybe it is because I have a soft spot for this year’s closing act Cult of Fire. On the other hand they have released a few excellent albums and give really interesting live performances. In my opinion this band deserves more recognition and respect. While bands as Batushka are highly influenced by this act and have a broader audience Cult of Fire remained underground. As said before, having released quite a few excellent releases and giving some really cool live shows, or better said rituals, I really looked forward to seeing this band on stage. Their live rituals are exquisite, containing great songs where darkness, esoterica, Buddhism and epic black metal meet each other. The visual approach is a lust for your dark soul since they are so majestically blended with their sound that it sucks you right in. Also this time in De Qubus. I underwent songs such as “(ne)Cisty”, “Har Har Mahadev”, “Moksa” and “Buddha 1” in trance until the curtains were closed. The sound was superb and you can smell the incense fuming from the altar. It is hard to explain how enthralling this performance was if you weren’t there. It was almost exalting. Unholy Congregation has made the right decision making this act the headliner of the festival.
So reader you can conclude that I’ve really enjoyed myself this time. Is there anything to complain about? Well, there could be a little more variety in food and it was a pity that you couldn’t pay with your payment card due to a system failure which was resolved later that day (luckily I had cash). Otherwise, there’s absolutely nothing to complain about. Let’s hope that next year the organisers continue treating us with such splendid music. Support the underground and attend!