Madrid Is The Dark Fest
|Event:||Madrid Is The Dark Fest|
|Written by:||Marcel Hubregtse|
Madrid Is The Dark Fest by Marcel Hubregtse (6)
Doom over the world, forever will be our mission. These are the immortal words as laid down by the revered Reverend Bizarre. Words that have never been more true than at the Madrid Is The Dark Fest. Spain's first ever all doom festival showed that doom isn't solely confined to the colder climes of this world. Spread over two days and featuring some of doom's finest bands this first edition was held at the intimate Ritmo Y Compas club in sweltering hot Madrid on September 11 and 12.
And as first editions of festivals go this one was a resounding success. Selling out to people from all over Europe and even as far as the US and Canada.
But then again, what would you expect with such a line-up? Both days being headlined by a band that barely plays live and the rest of the bands representing a good cross section of the international doom scene featuring some long running bands as well as upcoming talent, both local and international.
Friday, September 11
Starting at 19.35 precisely and kicking off proceedings are Spanish band Helevorn. A band that had already impressed me live two years earlier at Dutch Doom Days but that somehow fails to impress me in a studio setting with their brand of gothic doom.
Once again they played a flawless live set thus proving they are indeed a live band and not so much a studio one. Great vocal delivery by Josep backed up by a steaming band. Within their allotted forty minutes they played 'From Our Glorious Days', 'Descent', 'Two Voices Surrounding', 'Nobody Is Waiting', 'Sequences'.
All in all a great set which was received warmly by all those present.
Up next were one of my favorites, beforehand, of the weekend, the French extreme doomsters of Ataraxie. How would they fare? And would their almost suicidal black version of doom be appreciated by the crowd.
What Ataraxie delivered was once again a flawless set of maniacal depressive doom. As always Marquis' vocals were the focal point of the set. Time and time again he proves that he should have been the one to have sung, scream, grunted on Bethlehem's re-release of S.U.I.Z.I.D. and not mister Kvarfoth.
Strangely enough, or maybe not considering the sort of doom the headliners this weekend played, Ataraxie didn't go down as well as I expected.
It seems like this sort of suicidal extreme doom isn't for everyone.
Although I was in a minority all I can say is that Ataraxie once again delivered the good with a set consisting of just three of their own songs (which clocked in just over forty minutes) 'L'Ataraxie', 'Walking Through The Land Of Falsity' and 'Anhédonie' and a totally unexpected cover of Saint Vitus's 'Dark world' which took me quite a while to recognize due to the insane vocals.
Great set for the lovers of this sort of doom.
Hailing all the way from cold and icy Sweden and over to play a 45-minute set of epic doom were workhorses Isole. Seeing that they are performing on the strength of a new and, once again, well-received album called Silent Ruins the anticipation was great. The band were hailed as long lost sons and could do no wrong in the eyes of the audience. Well, the band did play well, but I have seen them do better in the past. Was it the heat that got to them a bit?
Isole Started off with 'Hollow Shrine' and 'From The Dark' off their most recent offering Silent Ruins. What followed was a song each off their other albums, going back in their history chronologically with the likes of 'By Blood', my personal favorite 'Autumn Leaves' to finish the set off with 'Deceiver' from their debut Forevermore.
All of it played to near perfection, but somehow I missed that little spark, that youthful exuberance they show from time to time. But who am I to complain when the rest of the audience were clearly mesmerized by it all?
Another contender from up north was of course Denmark's own Saturnus. A band I somehow always overlook but when I see them perform live they always captivate me. And once again that was the case. So, now I really must buy their albums. There is no excuse whatsoever not to.
With just 45 minutes to prove themselves they immediately kicked off with one of their strongest tracks, 'Pretend', grabbing the audience by the throat only to let go when the last notes of their short but mesmerizing set subtly faded away. In the meantime a good cross section of their three albums passed in review.
Much has been said on the internet about the line-up changes within Saturnus, but did it really show? A simple and resounding two-letter word answer an be given in this contextů no.
What we got was a great set of melodic death doom delivered by a band that sounded like they ahd been playing together for years.
As headliner for the Friday the organization of Madrid Is The Dark had managed to get hold of Novembers Doom hailing from across the pond, all the way from the U. S. of A.
Personally, I have lost most of my interest in this band after To Welcome The Fade. After that modest doom classic the band shifted more towards a melodic death metal sound culminating in this year's Into Night's Requiem Infernal. So, as one can expect I came into this 70-minute set a bit, to say the least, skeptical.
But thank God, as it turned out, I needn't have been skeptical at all. Although not a single song was played off To Welcome The Fade and only one, 'Silent Tomorrow' off The Knowing Novembers Doom managed to keep me interested from start to finish. Especially all three songs off I.N.R.I. that were played came across really well live. Sounding way more doomy than on album.
All in all Novembers Doom went home with the prize for most surprising gig of the day for me personally.
Judging from the reactions in the crowd all bands went down a storm, except for Ataraxie who were a bit too extreme for most people present, I think.
At 00.40, as planned, the first night of Madrid Is The Dark fest came to end and the satisfied crowd dispersed into the sultry night looking forward to the upcoming nght of more doom.
Saturday, September 12
The day I was looking forward to most, since this day would bring Process Of Guilt, the band that has released this year's best metal album, and a totally unknown entity by the name of Aathma.
Spanish band Aathma hail from Madrid and feature Autumnal's Ricardo on drums. Their claim to fame up to now have been a self-released album called The Call Of Shiva in August and a track which featured on a compilation of unsigned bands by Terrorrizer Magazine.
They kicked off, and, damn, what a whirlwind of Neurosis inspired stoner sludge was poured out over unsuspecting listeners, like yours truly.
I was so immersed by the unrelenting heaviness and bludgeoning of the band that the forty minutes they were allotted were over before I noticed it, leaving me in a pulp caused by this human tornado of noise.
Aathma a truly rough gem waiting to be discovered by the people that frequent festivals such as Roadburn and are open to all sorts of doom, sludge, stoner, noise, alternative. Not for the faint-hearted. But, crap, what a discovery for me.
And now the reason I flew all the way to Madridů Process Of Guilt from Portugal. Anyone who has read my raving review of the band's latest release Erosion knows what I think about this band. A breath of fresh air in the world of death doom.
But how will they hold up live? Especially considering the blistering set Aathma had just delivered. Right from the first notes of 'Waves' it became all too clear. I needn't have worried. The intensity and conviction with which the songs were delivered during this set matched, and even surpassed, that of Aathma. By the power of Christ, the audience was truly eroded by the music which hit us like waves of lava.
Of course the main part of the set was dedicated to playing songs off Erosion but also debut album Renounce wasn't forgotten in the form of the outstanding 'Becoming Light' track. Unfortunately due to the fact the playing time was limited to 45 minutes only four songs were delivered. Namely in the following order 'Waves', 'Becoming Light' and then 'Corrosion' which flowed, just as naturally as on the album, into 'Lava'. Once the last notes of 'Lava' had faded away I was left behind gasping for air thinking: "How can such brutality and beauty be matched today? And how will this affect my appreciation of the the bands still to come?"
Just like Helevorn I had seen Autumnal at Dutch Doom Days 2007 where they had impressed, albeit back then without Maria on cello. Now as the chance to see them complete. But how would I perceive them this time around, just after having been blown into a shivering pulp by Process Of Guilt?
Somehow they failed to leave the impression they had made two years earlier. Okay, the death doom dirges, which reference Paradise Lost quite a bit, such as 'As Soon As You Die, Kill Me' and 'Today, Tonight' came across proficiently, but something was missing. The indescribable magic moments weren't there.
I guess it had to do with the fact that I had just been treated to two absolutely stunning performances.
And how did the band fare with Maria up there on stage? Mmm, on album the cello works much better. Most of the time the instrument was hardly audible, so adding nothing to the overall sound in a live setting. I would say, a missed chance.
All in all a proficient gig but, alas, nothing more.than that..
It's always funny to see a band from your home country perform abroad. Seeing Officium Triste perform in front of a very appreciative crowd it becomes clear how underappreciated they are back home in The Netherlands. Why would that be? Anyone who knows the answer please tell me.
Seeing the band perform here at Madrid Is The Dark Fest would be the first time for me seeing them perform as six-piece, so with Martin Kwakernaak now fulfilling keyboard duties.
As six-piece in a live setting they have gained a lot of spontaneity coming across a lot looser than usual. Pim delivered in his usual heart wrenching almost casual ways with both Bram and Lawrence headbanging like mad. They keyboard parts were performed with a natural flow by Martin and added a lot of dynamics to the proceedings. The crowd lapped the melodic death doom up like thirsty dogs and truly showed their appreciation. This clearly reflected on the band's performance. So both the crowd and the band fed off each other. Pim showing the band's appreciation by thanking the crowd in Spanish, English, German and Dutch. Except for a couple of standards such as 'My Charcoal Heart', 'Pathway (Of Broken Glass)', 'On The Crossroad Of Souls', also new song 'No Hope' was played. This new song showing that the band as asix-piece has even more potential than was the case up to now.
A great show, making me proud to be Dutch.
Up last was the moment, or to be more precise, band I had dreaded seeing this weekend most. Namely, Draconian. To be perfectly honest I have never ever liked anything this band has done. But then again that is most probably due to the fact female vocals are incorporated and the fact they play gothic doom. Maybe Draconian could convince me more in a live setting, just like Helevorn had done.
Unfortunately, that was not to be the case. Musically it went down quite well, to be honest, but the female vocals were also live the main obstacle for me. Lisa's vocals were a lot of the time off-key and she missed the power needed to complement the music and Anders' harsher vocals. I think I will stick to Johan's Doom:VS project instead.
Asking around it became clear I wasn't the only person present who wasn't impressed by Draconian. A lot of, even long-time, fans also had major problems with Lisa's vocals.
A shame that the worst band of the two days closed a great festival. But then again, we can't win them all, now can we?
In conclusion, it was a great two day festival showcasing a nice cross section of what the world of doom has to offer. The Ritmo Y Compas location was a perfect club for this first edition, selling out easily, and sporting a great sound. All the bands had a clear definable sound with lots of bottom end to it.
José and Adrian had organized it brilliantly and saw to it that all the bands started on time and ended on time as well (although on Saturday it all ended about 20 minutes late, but what's 20 minutes in total?). I won't be surprised if a next edition of Madrid Is The Dark Fest will be hosted at a bigger venue cause the turn-out clearly showed there is a market for an all-doom festival in Spain, not only attracting Spanish people but also people from all over Europe and even further abroad.
Thanks go out to: José and Adrian of Madrid Is The Dark Fest, Rodrigo of Mar De Grises, all the people present for making it a great experience and also to Stijn Henderick a.k.a. kingofinsania of Insania Events for the pictures.
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