Live Review : Carach Angren + Wolfheart + Thy Antichrist + Nevalra @ Rebellion, Manchester on July 3rd 2019

Black Metal was always about bringing the theatrics and the mysticism back to Heavy Metal. In many ways, it was a reaction to how the stripped back nature of Grunge temporarily took away our Music’s escapism and other-worldliness. The Norwegian founding fathers were brought up on KISS, Merciful Fate and Celtic Frost, they wanted to create something that was far more immersive and engaging than four guy in jeans and t-shirts playing instruments. This was about world building and atmospherics, sculpting an entire alternative reality that their music could exist within. Tonight in Rebellion, we have a tour package that presents the best in wide-screen Black Metal. This is the real deal, larger than life performances, corpse paint all over the shop and enough Satanism to put even Alex Crowley off. 

Nevalra are first up, even though they are now technically a band as opposed to Scott Eames’ vanity project, there is no doubt who is in charge and running the show. Scott (or The Wicked One to give him is proper title) is the only one in corpse paint and a number of the tracks aired tonight feel little more than excuses to show off his utterly incredible shredding skills. This is Black Metal filtered through Slayer. Scott’s stunning fret work sits high and mighty on top of all the usual scuzzy low-end noise. Mr Eames (or Mr. Wicked, not sure which one he prefers) is a bit of a Black Metal renaissance man who has kept the true American scene alive and the reverence that he is held in by Manchester’s true believers is evident. The tracks played are not bad at all, but overall the whole thing feels in the main like a huge excuse to see one of the modern legends of the genre in the (rotting) flesh. 

And we get a second dose of Scott as he has now joined forces with Andrés Vargas (known to his mum as Antichrist 666) and taken up the lead guitarist mantle within Thy Antichrist. Andres is another one of true American Black Metal’s leading lights and Thy Antichrist have been knocking about in some form or another for a couple of decades now, even if this is formally their first foray into the European market. According to Andres, Thy Antichrist exist to challenge humanity’s preconceptions and preoccupations. They do this by being as loud, shouty and nasty as possible. This is seriously intense stuff and is played at 200 beats per second. If the intent is shock and awe, then they very much succeed. I remember Nuclear Assault once being likened to putting your head in a blender, compared to Thy Antichrist that is nothing. This is a full frontal brutal attack on each and every one of your senses but I am pretty much sure that is actually the point. 

Wolfheart have been on my radar for quite a while. Their last few releases have slowly but surely worked their way into increasingly prominent positions on my infamous end of year list. Whereas Nevalra and Thy Antichrist were direct and in your face, this is much more ethereal and cinemati. The second track ‘Aeon of Cold‘ even has piano break. You see Wolfheart aren’t really technically Black Metal For one the vocals are low and guttural rather than high and squealing. This is actually much more Viking Death, think a harsher heavier version of Amon Amarth though without the simplistically sing-along able choruses. It is all very enjoyable and closer. ‘Ghost Of Karelia has a folk metal tinge to it that is really rather infectious. However in the light of Thy Antichrists brutal relentlessness, it all feels a little tame.

However it does provide a fitting final aperitif before the succulent main course, as Carach Angren are simply stunning. Yes, it is more Vaudeville than ancient evil, but it is by far the most entertaining show I have ever had the good fortune to witness at Rebellion. Tonight, Nevalra and Thy Antichrist used Black Metal to shock and to challenge. Carach Angren harness its majesty and its atmospherics to produce pure theatrical driven entertainment. Seregor (it says Dennis Droomers on his passport so a spooky stage-name is almost mandatory) is a consummate performer and the closest thing Black Metal has to Mick Jagger. This evening he is freed from his guitar by touring member Bastiaan Boh. Liberated from his instrument, he careers around the stage like a man possessed. What he is actually doing is working the crowd like an utter professional and within the space of opening track ‘The Sighting is a Portent of Doom he has the entire audience in the palm of his hands. He is such a magnetic and energetic performer that each and everyone here this evening are caught up in his hypnotic embrace.

As I said, this is pure and utter theatre and a joy to watch, they really are utterly amazing. Seregor acts out every lyric, making each and every track come alive, as if we were witnessing some very macabre musical production. There are invariably comparisons to be made with Alice Cooper. At one point, he cuts the throat of a mannequin to drink the blood from its neck before feeding to a willing (and obviously pre-warned) volunteer, but Carach Angren are actually much more than one stunning performer. You see Seregor is a ringmaster, rather than an all-consuming ego driven star act as he spends as much time dragging your attention to the other musicians on stage as he does hogging it for himself. This is Symphonic Black Metal with the emphasis very much on the Symphonic. It avoids this genre’ penchant for under production and claustrophobic sounds and instead this is big, bombastic and full of life and colour . As I have always said I love metal because of its spectacle and its ability to provide pure escapism. This is what we get in spades from Carach Angren tonight. Yes, it is all a highly choreographed show and yes, Mr. Droomers is very much playing a part, but when it is this good and this well staged, well whose complaining!

 

Words by Stewart Lucas
Photography by Johann Wierzbicki