The first one to proclaim that black metal is dead in Belgium has either been living under a heavy rock for the last few years, or could be just ignorant. The fact is that the Belgian (and the Dutch one even more) black metal scene is thriving nowadays. Gigs are spawning everywhere, especially in Antwerp (Ondergronds!), Liège and West-Flanders. In that last region, we’re lucky to have a venue such as De Verlichte Geest where a lot of concerts are organised in collaboration with Feed The Fire. For this one they managed to get an exclusive Belgian club show of Enthroned, and it was sure as hell we couldn’t miss it out…
First up was Panzerfaust (*****). The Canadian band is active since 2005, yet I never heard of them until they released their last EP. It almost made me forget that Deatsphell Omega dropped a new one at the same time, since The Lucifer Principle was mindblowing. Since then I was eager to see them perform live, so it was a pleasant surprise when Panzerfaust was added to the bill a few weeks before the gig. After setting up an altar table and burning some incense, the band came on stage. The first thing to strike everyone was this: it’s virtually impossible that this vocalist does not originate from the Nephilim.
Panzerfaust plays uncompromising, mostly fast-paced dissonant black metal in the vein of aforementioned Deathspell Omega. The slower passages create an unsettling atmosphere before the blastbeat-brutality kicks in. The vocals the hooded frontman brings us are at times deep and gurgling and sometimes almost chants. The guitarist provides the more typical shrieking vocals. It’s also noteworthy how the band manages to create a wall of sound and play intricate riffs with only one guitar player. Despite the fact that the club wasn’t even half full, Panzerfaust certainly delivered the most interesting show of the evening!
A bit later it was time for the first Belgian band: Coldborn (****). With Coldborn being a solo project, mastermind Norgaath (Nightbringer, Grimfaug) gathered some live musicians to bring the music to the stage. In spite of existing for ten years, it was only in 2016 the debut album Lingering Voidwards saw daylight. Taking up the vocal duties instead of playing the bass like in his other bands, Norgaath leads his band through 45 minutes of fuzzy distortion and atmospheric keyboard parts. While Coldborn‘s music is versatile, ranging from explosive black metal to more gloomy, doomy, atmospheric parts, the band never ceases to create an atmosphere of darkness and despair. With the pretty clear sound in De Verlichte Geest, Coldborn made sure to take us on an enthralling and at times transcendent trip. It would surprise me if we don’t hear from this band again. Voidwards!
When I first saw Panchrysia (***) in 2011 they didn’t leave a great impression on me. Now, six years later, I can say that unfortunately nothing changed over the years. In the meantime they didn’t release any new material, nor have they played a lot of live shows. In fact, everything stayed pretty much the same. While the black metal they play isn’t particularly bad, to me it has a a bit of a ‘same old story, same old song‘ feeling. There’s nothing really original about Panchrysia, but it’s well-executed within the bounds of the more classical approach to the genre. The same goes for their live show. It’s not disastrous, it’s just that they can’t hold my attention for more than a few songs. This in spite of some catchy riffs and a lot of enthusiasm from the band and despite my criticism, I have to admit they created some serious headbang-passages throughout their show.
At long last it was time for Enthroned (****) then. The longest-running and biggest black metal band of Belgium hasn’t played a club show in our country for ages, so it is needless to say that the venue was quite packed when they came on stage. Enthroned played a bit of a ‘best of’ set instead of putting the complete focus on the last album, Sovereigns. Some songs of Tetra Karcist were also recognized by my ears (Through the Vortex and Tellvm Scorpionis) as well as Ha Shaitan from one of their best efforts, Towards the Skullthrone of Satan from 1997. The band didn’t use a lot of stage attire and let the music speak.
Let that be exactly what happened. First and foremost, it’s incredibly impressive to see drummer Menthor (Nightbringer, Lvcifyre, Corpus Christii and a ton of other bands) play live. Menthor is probably one of the most prolific and highly acclaimed drummers in black metal, and after seeing him perform live I can totally understand why. Guitarwise Enthroned sounded a little bit sloppy at times, but this was mostly due to the sound not being clear all the time. Vocalist Nornagest did a splendid job, albeit maybe a bit static. Overall Enthroned played a really solid set which made me wonder why I hadn’t seen them live before.