When someone mentions the term ‘black metal,’ images of burning churches in the fjords of Norway spring to mind along with corpse paint, spikes, inverted crosses, and shrill, fast, aggressive music. But dig a little deeper and you soon discover this extreme genre of music often has a rich musicality, richness and at times, even beauty.
In recent years Quebec has established itself as a significant player in the black metal scene. Beginning with bands such as Frozen Shadows and Tenebrae, the local scene continues to expand, in large part thanks to Montreal label, Sepulchral Productions (founded in 1999 by Frozen Shadows singer Myrkhaal) who are responsible for tonight’s show.
First up tonight are Catacombes, an old school French black metal band with influences from the northern Europe scene. Piranha Bar is already nicely busy and Catacombes’ no-nonsense ferocity quickly impresses those who have arrived early. Catacombes on record is the solo project of vocalist/guitarist Le Démoniaque but tonight the band plays as a three-piece. There are no real surprises in the music but it stays true to the sound and Le Démoniaque, face painted blood-red, is an engaging frontman.
Finland’s Blood Chalice are a respected name on the bestial black metal scene, although much of their sound also incorporates elements of death metal and even grindcore. Arriving on stage complete with hooded robes, corpse paint and spikes galore they absolutely look the part and waste no time in unleashing their pulverizing riffs. Unfortunately, this energy is constantly interrupted by long gaps between songs throughout their set which, along with their unusually shorts tracks, lessens the overall impact.
The cryptically named frontman P.H looks like he spends as much time lifting weights as he does behind the microphone and is certainly an imposing figure. His hooded bandmates thrash expertly through every song while VP.L thunders away behind the drums. The crowd laps it up, but for me, the repeated pauses between the tracks mean they never quite reach their full potential.
No such qualms for Ossuaire. Celebrating the release of their new record, Premiers Chants, the Montreal band raise the bar immediately with their atmospheric brand of black metal. They pump out dry ice for the duration of their set, adding to the mood but sometimes meaning they disappear from view!
The new material sounds fantastic, with the album’s title track sounding particularly immense. Hérésiarque’s hellish vocals are commanding and intimidating and the musicianship displayed is equally impressive. The lengthy songs, with lyrics covering the downfall of Christianity and the rise of heresy, are full of atmosphere and cinematic soundscapes. The melodic undertones never take away from the bleakness of the overall vibe and the music is never less than utterly engaging. Quebec black metal just added another significant band to its roster.
Following such a mesmerizing performance might be a challenge for many bands but One Master are clearly unfazed. There are a handful of bands that exist across the globe who expertly mix the occult with black metal and Connecticut/New York-based force, One Master is one such example. They may look more like a bar band than the other groups tonight but what they lack in visual theatrics they clearly make up for in sheer ferocity in the music. For almost two decades, this band has been crafting increasingly twisted and dark rage that has placed them in the most elite ranks of US black metal.
Guitarist/vocalist and mastermind of the band, Valder, has the kind of possessed shrill that elevates the sound to bewildering heights of intensity. Around him, his bandmates relentlessly hammer a driven and truly dark foundation of sounds. It’s undoubtedly impressive to behold.
Valder has previously commented that Montreal is his favourite city to perform in and tonight, Montreal returns the respect. As with all bands tonight, the interactions with the crowd are virtually non-existent. This is all about the music. And the music is impossible to ignore.
Sonically, One Master owe much to the second wave of black metal and are clearly influenced by the likes of Bathory and Darkthrone, but I also hear elements of Celtic Frost in the music. It can sometimes be somewhat predictable and it’s certainly archaic, as black metal tends to be, but there’s no denying the intensity of what One Master delivered her tonight.
Review & photos – Steve GerrardShare this :