For the tenth edition of the Darken the Moon Festival, the organization came up with a lineup that no self-respecting fan of doom metal should want to pass up. Even on a lazy Sunday afternoon in autumn. And it must be said, even though the venue was far from packed, a sizable amount of funerary aficionados had found their way to the Casino in Sint Niklaas.
First one to take the stage was a rather unknown band from Ukraine: Vin de Mia Trix (***). They put on a good show and were visibly grateful that so many people had already turned up. Especially the two vocalists deserved special notice. Although they were clearly just at the beginning of their path, they managed to convince with a solid and atmospheric set of songs where their proggy leanings reminded me a little of Albion’s The Prophecy. In case you glanced by their merch stand later on, you could see that they had poured a lot of effort in the packaging too, even creating a separate shirt design for each of the four songs on their album. Let’s hope we’ll here more of these guys in the future.
The second band of the night were anything but newcomers. As weathered death doom veterans Ophis (****) brought back the glory days of the nineties for those of us old enough to remember Officium Triste, Celestial Season and the like. They too remarked how peculiar it was to get any kind of crowd to show up for some day time doom on a Sunday.
Our very own Marche Funebre (****) essentially played a home game tonight. With a relatively new record under their belts, the third one since they started way back in 2009, they gleamed radiantly all the way through the set, giddy and excited as if it was their first day of school. They picked up the pace considerably compared to the slow mo of their fellow bands. The pallbearers from Mechelen had a sound that did not let itself be pinned down easily from the traditional Candlemass worship in Arne’s singing to My Dying Bride and pretty much every other style in between. The crown cheered along and sent them on their way with a thundering applaus.
As with any original artist, the opinions on Bell Witch (*****). are divided. As a relative newcomer to the scene their career had taken a steep flight with their latest records revered as modern classics. This evening they had something special in store for us, namely a full rendition of the Mirror Reaper album that consists of one massive song that spans no less than eighty minutes from start to finish. In today’s low attention span culture that alone already constitutes an undertaking worthy of Don Quichote. Expecting an audience then to actually go and want to see it performed live, well, you’re probably stand better chances actually fighting those windmills. Nevertheless, Bell Witch pulled it off, repeatedly. First on Roadburn last spring and now on a full tour. It is amazing that a crowd can actually stay quiet and mesmerized for almost an hour and a half to listen to a piece of extremely minimalistic music. It’s difficult to judge this as a regular metal show, it should instead be regarded more as an artistic performance that transcends the traditional gig rulebook.
The true headliner for tonight’s funerary festivities-at least in my eyes- was Australia’s Mournful Congregation (*****). Since the early nineties these guys from down under have crafted some of the most of beautiful pieces of funeral doom ever composed and continue to do so to this day. They opened the concert with the intro and first song of their newest masterpiece The Incubus of Karma, a treasure trove of morose, melodic leads that recalls the heyday of the Peaceville Three as much as it does Pink Floyd. Considering that their songs easily clock in over a quarter of an hour, deciding on the set would always be a challenging choice, but never the less they still took the time for a long trip down memory lane with Weeping of their first demo. Suicide Choir, one of their staple highlights closed off a fabulous performance.
The honor to draw a close to the night fell upon Green Carnation (****), a somewhat odd choice perhaps for an evening of gloom. Admittedly, the band formed by Emperor’s original bass player Tchort may have dabbled in doom in their earliest days, but they’ve always been more of a progressive rock band. Not surprising seeing that many in the original lineup have also been part of the equally genre bending In The Woods… Norse mountain, Kjetil Nordhus, without a doubt the most talented singer on stage tonight, towered over the audience and took them along for a ride along the band’s two decade spanning career.
May the Moon be darkened many more times..