What better way to end the week with a black metal gig? And not just any gig, but the Northern Ghosts Tour on which embarked newcomers Idle Hands, the greats from Uada, the Swedish Tribulation and the one and only Gaahls Wyrd. Anyway, I had nothing better to do, and even if I did that line-up was reason enough for me to cancel a possible dinner at granny’s. I threw on my battle jacket, jumped into my metalmobile and took off for Utrecht’s De Helling for a Sunday night of dark music.
Idle Hands (***1/2)
The gothic hard rock quartet from Portland, Oregon are the opener for the night. As I didn’t check these guys out before I had no idea what to expect, but I was immediately sold. They sort of stick out on an almost all-black metal bill with their more lighthearted sound. Don’t be fooled though. Their music has a dark new wave tone to it, thanks to which they manage to avoid being the ugly duckling of the night. The sorrowful yet strangely uplifting hard rock tunes reminded me a lot of Danzig. Throw in some The Cure and you’ve got Idle Hands. The Singer Gabriel Franco had me completely hypnotized with his 80’s melancholy pop voice. However I may have sensed that I was one of only a few people to enjoy their show to such extent. To my deepest regret and irritation, they experienced quite a few technical issues. Franco had to completely give up on his guitar for some reason, as mere stutters came out to almost no sound at all. I can’t believe the techies from the venue weren’t able to fix it. Nevertheless they managed to finish their set which I’m reluctantly only going to give three and a half stars out of five. As thorough as my enjoyment was, I couldn’t grant them a higher score because I feel I didn’t get the full experience due to the sound issues. Next time they play close to home you can definitely expect me to be there. I’ll be more than eagerly awaiting their album Mana, out later this year in May. People, check out Idle Hands! They deserve your attention and support.
If you’ve seen my picks for the top albums of 2018 you’ll know that I am a huge fan of this band, since their Cult of a Dying Sun holds the sixth spot in my list. I won’t hide the fact that I was attending this show because Uada was on the bill. I am crazy about this band. Both their releases are black metal gold in my book. I saw them in Brussels earlier in 2018 with Zuriaake and I’m still talking about that show. Why am I telling you this? So you can share in my indescribable disappointment in their set. Not because they didn’t play well. The caped quartet were as heavy as could be: shreds hitting my every emotion paired with monstrous howls and shrieks and blast beats as fast and as tight as you could possibly get, making even the die-hard grindcore and death metal fans shit their pants. Come on, of course they were awesome. But they suffered THE SAME BLOODY SOUND ISSUES as Idle Hands. The vocalist’s guitar was again stuttering up to almost no sound coming out due to the shitty wireless system. Had I come all this way to sit though this crap for the entire night? Thus: three an a half stars. Goddammit…
I’d seen Tribulation at Party San last Summer already and did not know what to think because they played in full daylight with a lot of wind taking off with most of the sound. Let’s just say conditions weren’t optimal. Here on the other hand, with the sound issues finally gone, the vibe was most appropriate and their set went smoothly. And smooth it was. These Swedes deliver some eerie occult metal with black metal touches (vocals mainly). Guitarist Jonathan Hultén steals the show with his swaying and swerving movements and his gypsy witch presence. A fitting display for a stage that was set up like a witches sabbath with burning candles as the only source of light and the smell of incense that gave the show an extra dimension. I really dig the whole Suspiria thing Tribulation have got going. Yes, the movie. I couldn’t get it out of my mind as I was watching and letting myself be swept away by the music. All in all an entrancing performance. If you’re a fan of occult metal and you haven’t checked them out already, I don’t know what you’re doing with your life.
The Motherhood of God
Suspiria De Profundis
Cries from the Underworld
Strange Gateways Beckon
Gaahls Wyrd (****1/2)
Forward came Gaahls Wyrd. Gaahl‘s stage presence is undeniably epic. He sang effortlessly in all possible vocal ranges that you hear in black metal while strolling around on stage in between his musicians, who moved aside at once without even looking at him directly. This is rehearsed to some extent I guess, but it felt as though Gaahl exerted some kind of supernatural influence on them, like a ghost gliding through cemetery graves. The man is awesome. At one point one of his musicians accidentally stepped on the cable of his mic. Gaahl looked at him with such fury I though it would all end right then and there. As scary as that was, I though it only added to the ambiance.
Gaahls Wyrd mostly played covers from Trelldom, Gaahl‘s first band, but we were also treated to a few tracks from Gorgoroth and God Seed. Strangely enough, we only got Ghosts Invited as a song from Gaahls Wyrd. It is also the title track from their upcoming album GastiR – Ghosts Invited, which is due for release in May. All in all I expected the show to be much more static, but I was wrong. While Gaahl‘s only real interaction with the crowd limited itself to naming the song titles, the band didn’t hold back on a good time. Headbanging along with us, requesting those horns, inciting us to yell out whenever they halted the music before a drop, etc. The crowd was very much into it. Dare I say, more so than during the previous three concerts. What’s more, I thought the band’s spot on delivery was outstanding since, if it is to be believed, Gaahl picks the setlist only a few hours before the show. Imagine being told what songs you’re going to play only a few hours before hitting the stage.
Steg (Trelldom cover)
Carving a Giant (Gorgoroth cover)
From the Running of Blood (God Seed cover)
Aldrande Tre (God Seed cover)
Høyt opp i dypet (Trelldorn cover)
Til Minne… (Trelldom cover)
Sannhet, Smerte og Død (Trelldom cover)
Incipit Satan (Gorgoroth cover)
Exit – Through Carved Stones (Gorgoroth cover)
Alt Liv (God Seed cover)
Prosperity and Beauty (Gorgoroth cover)
Despite some sound issues at the start, and the ensuing letdown that was Uada’s set, tonight turned out rather fun. Always good to see a new band on the rise like Idle Hands, followed by tireless contemporaries Uada and Tribulation, and closing off with black metal veterans Gaahls Wyrd who ruled the stage. Heads were banged, beers were spilled, merch was bought, but most importantly: Satan.