|The Crawling / Drakonis / Valpurga – Belfast, Limelight 2 – 3rd September 2016|
|Written by Mark Ashby|
|Thursday, 08 September 2016 03:20|
Summer is officially over and darkness once again has descended upon the fair city of Belfast – at least temporarily, as this unholy triple bill tempts the local metallians out of the ever shortening sunlight and into the hallowed environs of the venue which, for the past 30 years has served as both their sanctuary and their sanctum.
There is certainly the feel of a full-on dark metal ritual taking place, from the candles and red stage lights to the cowls and combination of cowls, face paint and masks adorning openers Valpurga. But, right from the off, there are problems. The band are using computerized drums – not a problem in itself, as there are many, especially in the BM mien, who do so; no, the issue is the sound mix, which sees the live bass of Bryn Mills is drowned out by the recorded patters.
Ader Black’s guitar mix is also very muddy, resulting in only his rhythm work being audible, and any harmonies lost in the resultant chugfest. With high priestess Ruby Black doing her best to summon her acolytes to bow before her and her cohorts, but most just standing there seemingly perplexed, their problems mount when Ader’s guitar jack falls out of his instrument, revealing that they’re using more than drum tracks, and he then misses his cue at the beginning of the next track.
However, the trio make up for most of these faults with a suitably dense and hypnotic stage show, with Ruby’s make up particularly impressive in helping her to convey her expressions and emotions.
It’s never hard to tell when Drakonis are on a bill, as the toilets generally look like a scene from one of the lesser ‘Saw’ movies beforehand, and tonight is no exception with one of the urinals looking like it was the scene of a pretty horrific mutilation. Thankfully though, there is no risk of a similar experience when the quintet take to the stage.
Their melodic black metal is underpinned by a taut mix of precision and furious blastbeats from drummer Lee McCartney, demonstrating their emphasis is on building layers of sound and their use of harmonies rather bombarding their audience with indistinct walls of noise. Having said that, the sound mix is still muddy, with the rhythm guitar and bass suffering the most – although, with a wee bit of concentration, you can still hear how Stephenie Dickey perfectly counterpointes the dark vibration of the main percussive rumble.
They introduce a new song, ‘The Abundance Of Sin’, which is somewhat faster and thrashier than we expect in a set which is, as always, underpinned by a sense of foreboding hypnotism.
Dense billowing smoke and the sound of Gregorian chant fill the air, marking the arrival of The Crawling, fresh from their decimation of Bloodstock just a few short weeks earlier, before the first power chord from Gary’s guitar proves more than enough to rip the heads off the under-dressed smiks queuing for the nightclub next door – never mind those of us just a few feet away in the confines of the same room!
The trio’s massive trainwreck-inducing rhythms hit harder than thon so-called hurricane that was supposedly bothering Florida around the same time, and clearly demonstrates just how effectively they levelled the aforementioned New Blood stage with their absolutely titanic performance at Catton Park. They’re so brutally tight that the only crack of light they display between their constituent parts is induced by their strobes… it’s a thoughtfully and tautly created and presented set which delivers a genuine feel of malice stalking the venue while at the same time generating that feeling of genuinely fearful excitement that metal, at its most visceral level, evokes every time it is performed.
They unveil a brand new song, 'Acid On My Skin', which posseses an edifying magnetism and epitomizes a performance that is majestic in every regard.
PHOTO CREDIT: Marc Leach.