Review by Paul Castles, Photos by Rich Thompson
An eclectic four-band bill persuaded a healthy number of extreme metal fanatics to dispense with the comforts of the armchair on a Sunday evening and instead head to The Rainbow in Birmingham.
If any needed convincing that they had made the right judgement call then it was quickly confirmed by the formidable force of opening act Denigrata. Making the relatively short hike to Brum from Northampton, this newly formed five-piece made a big impression on the Rainbow crowd with their self proclaimed brand of noir concrete. This is not a reference to a tarmac gang but to avante garde black metal inspired in part by assorted musical intellectual grandfathers such as Arnold Schoenberg and Pierre Schaeffer. Denigrata’s interpretation of these aural and intellectual giants is an apocalyptic assault on your senses, led by commanding frontwoman Denigrata Herself. With the band’s other female member Manea supplying frequent high octane injections of opera, the overall effect is close to mindnumbing.
Denigrata Herself releases such scorching heat you almost fear the fire brigade are going to have to be called in to quell her flames that threaten to scorch the paint off the walls. For a band still in their embryonic stage, Denigrata are already a commanding bunch and their debut album, when released later this year, promises to be a serious piece of work.
Thanks to the likes of American Headcharge, From the Bogs of Aughiska and Slipknot not to mention the ubiquitous Milking The Goat Machine, a band opting to conceal their faces is almost de rigueur in some quarters. As far as facial coverings go though, The Infernal Sea’s outrageous masks are up there with the best. These fellas have got bigger beaks than Emu. Although at first glance simultaneously disconcerting and hilarious, The Infernal Sea’s demonstrative delivery ensures that they are taken much more seriously than some kind of weird Victorian freak show.
After opening with ‘Way Of The Wolf’, singer Dean Lettice whipped off his own mask, leaving the rhythm duo to continue with the facial accompaniment for the rest of their set. The Infernal Sea sent sonic tidal waves smashing through the Rainbow with deftly executed songs such as ‘Purification By Fire’ and ‘Plague Herald’. For the final number, ‘Brethren Of The Cross’, Lettice put the mask back on his sweat soaked head leaving only drummer James Burke mask free. This gave him the freedom to pound his way through their set closer while at the same time propelling his neck at breakneck speed, his long hair flailing like a windmill on the Norfolk Broads trapped in the eye of a tornado.
Songs over, masks off, for a well merited breath of almost fresh air.
Der Weg Einer Freiheit, making their first UK appearance, were not as relentlessly psychotic as the first two acts although the suffocating sound from the German crew was no less intense. While at times exploding into hellfire Satanic surges, this was married to more sympathetic passages with haunting melodies taking the captivated Rainbow crowd onto a different plain entirely. The vocals reflected this interplay with some cleanly sung harmonies competing for airtime alongside the more brutal barks. The teutonic triumvirate of guitarists massaged out a constant stream of riffs and power charges.
While black metal is at the core of Der Weg Einer Freiheit’s fearsome barrage, they also unleash a cascade of sound that at times immerses the crowd as sweetly as custard covering every crumb of a treacle pudding.
With a set constructed around material from new album Stellar (almost certainly inspired by the galaxy, moon and stars rather than a certain lager), Der Weg Einer Freiheit’s smothering sound certainly rolls off the tongue easier than their clunky band name.
Fortunately very few of the crowd bailed out early and there was still a healthy smattering of faces across the floor to welcome headliners Downfall Of Gaia.
While the Germans’ latest album, Aeon Unveils The Throne Of Decay, is an absolute standout, live the songs bare more teeth and the riffs come crashing down from even greater heights. Its ethereal edginess is at its best with tumultuous songs such as the sprawling ‘Carved Into Shadows’. The layers are piled up so high at times the peak is almost lost in the mist. When it breaks, your knees almost buckle with the beautifully blackened tones.
Not surprisingly with a four-band showcase, things slightly ran over, forcing Downfall Of Gaia to curtail their set by one song. By then though, no-one left at the Rainbow could claim they’d not had their moneys’ worth. Indeed, a staggering night of extreme metal action, presented by Worth the Weight Promotions, and much appreciated by the faithful.