REVIEW: Vemod, Hetroertzen, Cult of Fire, Sortilegia @ Magasin 4, Brussels, 06/12/2014

A Thousand Lost Civilisations have gained a thoroughly well deserved reputation for curating some of the best lineups in the world when it comes to underground Black & Death Metal, and with a quick glance at this bill it was no wonder why. After the mundane chores of low-cost flying we arrived in Brussels for a few well deserved beers before heading to Magasin 4; a disused warehouse in an industrial area of the Belgian capital which stands in the shadow of the very impressive and ornate Tour et Taxis complex. A small flock of some of Europe’s most dedicated fans gathered. With Belgium's own LVTHN dropping out (whilst their merch booth remained present) the opening hours were filled with two German acts: Essenz, who provided a doomier approach and Khthoniik Cerviiks, whose blend of primitive Black/Death Metal proved a hit with the crowd who resisted hugging the bar in favour of the incredibly cheap and widely varied beer on offer at the venue.

The smell of incense filled the air whilst candles burned as two-piece Canadian troupe Sortilegia made their way to the stage. The night served as the release show for their excellent new album Arcane Death Ritual, aptly titled as only candlelight remained surrounded by human remains placed in front of guitarist and vocalist Koldovstvo. Sortilegia brought an intensely ritualistic atmosphere to the show, drawing from their new album for the bulk of the set with an intensity that was crushing. With every screech from the blood covered, demented front woman out into the crowd nailing a truly special performance and one that will be etched into my memory for years to come. No crowd interaction. No bullshit. No encores; the way Black Metal should be played.

Next up were Czech band Cult of Fire, who were performing following much acclaim for their last two full-length releases, chiefly the wonderfully titled मृत्यु का तापसी अनुध्यान , the band were also using this show to highlight their brilliant new Čtvrtá symfonie ohně EP. Entering to the same candlelit scene, albeit more illuminated than the previous performers, The Cult of Fire took to the stage donned in full robes adorned with a mirage of occult symbols before proceeding to deliver a set deserving of said elaborate get up. Frontman Devilish somberly paraded around the stage, only returning to deliver his demented chants at the gathered throng of devotees that had now filled Magasin 4. With such a theatrical performance given in the perfect locale and utilising the aforementioned stage presentation to their advantage, Cult of Fire were a band that I’ve wanted to see live for years and one that far from disappointed. Delivering a mesmerising performance, they displayed rich organ harmonies and wailing guitars. With more than enough bite to strain the neck muscles, these Czech occultists certainly came, saw and conquered.

With the smell of incense still heavily burnt into my nose and the taste of Grimbergen on my lips, Chile/Sweden’s own orthodox crowd from Hetroertzen piled onto the stage, parading what seemed to be about 8 members through the thick smoke that had encompassed the room.

Using this as the release for their new album Ain Soph Aur, Hetroertzen delivered a melodic and more polished take on the genre whilst the ongoing theatrical theme of the night’s bands remained. Unfortunately though, whilst a great band on record, something in their performance just seemed to be lacking and whether it was the sharpness of the guitars or the band’s overall chemistry something just didn’t quite ‘click’ for me. What was still a competent and enjoyable performance overall , I must admit I was expecting more from a band with such a solid discography. However, following that slight disappointment it was onto the main event and the reason Denim and Leather had come all this way. Vemod are most certainly one of my absolute favourite bands from the last few years and with live appearances such a rarity for them it was an opportunity I couldn’t afford to miss, and one I’m thankful I didn’t...

Entering the stage to complete darkness with only the astral projections onto the band for light, they put in an absolutely mesmerising and emotive performance that drew you in from the first note until the final rings of feedback had sailed down the Charleroi Canal. Utilising songs from the bands brief career with the addition of clean vocals adding an interesting twist to the bands dense and heavily atmospheric and transcendental brand of Black Metal.

Overall a performance that will stick with me for years to come as some nights are great, good fun or an excuse to drink beer and chat but very few performances touch you spiritually, grab you by the scruff of the neck and strip you down to your bare parts and build you back up again a better man than when you walked through the door, Vemod possess this ability and maybe it’s the beer or maybe it’s the excessive incense burning in my nose but I left Brussels a more enlightened and better man than when I entered.

Twitter: @drewemk
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