w/Agvirre, Underdark and Gospelheim
The Factory, Manchester
Review by Rob Sutton
Back in Manchester for the first time since we were grounded and boy oh boy has this place changed, so many more skyscrapers and my usual car park is no longer 24/7, but wasn’t a problem with this gig finishing early. So anyway, The Factory! This venue is clearly a nightclub, very obvious by the improvised stage which, for a gig other than black metal, perhaps would have been a bit restrictive for bands, but it was fine for this evening. Sadly, the toilets do feel like prison toilets but they are functional and clean so it is what it is.
First band up tonight is Gospelheim, this was their debut show and, all things aside, this is a solid set. The mix of depressing singing with black metal is something very different but it works and is very nice to listen to. You could almost describe it as Placebo with blast beats. It did feel like the band lacked confidence at the beginning of the set. Ricardo and Lenore’s vocals did get a bit lost in the mix but this was soon rectified as they gained confidence through the set. This was for me, at its peak during the 4th song where they were both beautifully in sync and gave this eerie dark ambience which was spine tinglingly good. For me the end of this set highlights why these guys will go far. Musically, the whole sound was out of this world, John’s drums really drive each of the songs fantastically and the lack of crowd interaction replaced with samples between songs also fully threw you into the atmosphere Gospelheim were creating. Honestly, this set was a fantastic insight into what these guys will be capable of with a few more gigs under their belt.
Next up were Nottingham based band Underdark who brought a lot more noise to proceedings. These guys really did step things up to another level. The sheer precision in their execution was phenomenal and the passion the vocalist was showing on stage really did suck you into their performance. When the in your-face wall of noise relents the melodies that take its place are surreal, it really does feel out of this world. I was left wanting a lot more songs in this set and will really have to check them out at a headline show if they come back. Another massive prop to these guys is, when one of the guitarists did have an issue, they continued through and it was barely noticeable. Vocally in Black Metal we are used to high pitched shrieks but Underdark add a very unusual low growl to the mix. It is used sparingly but really adds another layer to their sound. Honestly, you can see why they have played Bloodstock before and I think other festivals really should look at Underdark seriously!
Agvirre, another Manchester band with some familiar faces, both John (drums) and Ricardo (guitar) from Gospelheim are back on stage again and straight from the off they look much more comfortable playing here. Probably because Agvirre have gigged before and the pressure of their first gig has now passed. Agvirre are a very interesting blend of different styles. They go from very atmospheric and fast paced to almost rock in sound. For me the Keyboards did become a bit over powering in places but when the levels were right it pieced together fantastically and did send shivers down your spine. Using a Ghost Bath style voice isn’t really something I am a fan of but, in all fairness, it is well executed and when it was used it did fit. There was also a lot of silence between songs, something the previous two bands filled with either backing tracks or engaging with the audience. I’m not one for silence between songs, especially in this genre, as I end up feeling like I’m back in reality, something I don’t want in a Post Black Metal band. By the crowd reaction, these guys do strike the right chord in the scene and on recording I enjoy them a lot, it just didn’t work for me live.
Lastly its Liverpool/Leeds heavyweights Dawn Ray’d and boy do things take another odd turn. Firstly, we have a violin, which completely steals the show. The folk element that’s added here is just sublime, you really are taken out of this reality and end up closing your eyes and feel completely tranquil. The fact that he is also the vocalist as well is a testament to this guy’s talent; his voice is up there with some of the best in the genre. It’s punchy and unrelenting! This set is by far and away the most polished of the night, there wasn’t a single noticeable mistake in the whole performance. Speaking of performance, my god the drummer here is a beast! Such speed and precision in his technique is a pleasure to not only watch but to hear as well. From what I could see the same can be said guitar wise, however, they were completely lost in the mix. I found myself wandering around the venue trying to pick them out. Only when they switched to clean were they audible. Now this is not a fault of the band, they were flawless but with the lack of guitars it did feel empty. I was in awe over the talent these guys showed tonight the set itself was sublime and this means Dawn Ray’d are another band on my list to watch again.
So, this was something different for me. While I am a fan of Black Metal and Post Black Metal it is not a genre I know that much about aside from the odd band here and there. After watching these four bands I want to know more and find more. The mix of brutality and beauty is something that really hits me in a good way. Hats off to Badgerfest Promotions for this gig as it was very well organised and attended, I can’t wait for the next one!
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