Vreid

support Kampfar + Secrets of the Moon
author EW date 31/05/11 venue Underworld, London, UK

Having made my return from a weekend trip to Norway less than 24 hours earlier it came upon that the gig to herald my return to Blighty would be headlined by…two Norwegian bands. Take that not as a complaint but a mere observation of fact. I'm fast becoming to love that great (yet expensive) country.

Secrets of the Moon

The necessity to work and the desire for food meant I missed the entirety of openers Krakow, instead arriving shortly before Secrets of the Moon hit the stage. Such was the strength of this bill that it was effectively a triple-headliner with all three main acts getting a most generous hour timeslot each; with the greatest eclecticism to be found in their music of the three and easily the longest songs on offer SotM represented perhaps the logical choice of openers to the slightly more conventional sounds of Kampfar and Vreid.

The occultist Germans have on record often flattered to deceive, mixing a genuinely unique and complex songwriting style with more traditional black metal values, but in the presence of an ominously entrancing red light show punctuated by generous usage of the venue's smoke machine, all seemed to click in their set to leave a good deal of the audience in awe at the performance of tracks taken from the more recent end of their discography. Their albums "Antithesis" and "Privilegivm" have been combinations of artistic creativity in an often slow-mid paced black metal dirge where clean chanting and bleak riffing meets the passionate performance of lead guitarist and frontman SG, all the while offering great resistance to being the truly enticing affairs they could so be; however on an otherwise inconspicuous Tuesday night in London all seemed to come good and SotM showed the promise that has always followed their footsteps. Through "Lucifer Speaks", "Seraphim Is Dead" and "Queen Among Rats" the band were exquisite in replicating the album's technical arrangements before our eyes, albeit to the detriment of any serious showmanship. With such dark music however there's no need for a show equivalent to what Dragonforce might produce for you and in matching the mood of the albums with their show Secrets of the Moon set the bar higher than Kampfar or Vreid were ever likely to meet.

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Kampfar

If any Norwegian black metal band could be described as 'happy' Kampfar would be a prime candidate to fill that description. Their proudly Norse musings have nothing to do with a mainstream music fan's perception of 'happy' but there is something inherently catchy and uplifting about the likes of "Inferno" that sets the band apart from the pack, while never hinting at the likelihood of pushing the genre's boundaries. While in Dolk, they have a frontman as conventional in the jovial and engaging persona that is usually absent from any black metal act. After taking a couple of songs to warm up Kampfar effortlessly rolled into stride belting out tracks from across their now 5-album discography with the mailman himself, replete with a positively lethal spiked wristband, the dominant centre of attention. With a setlist so full of songs which immediately hit their stride and rarely last beyond 4-5 minutes, an hour was appropriately enough for Kampfar, by which point the crowd, having taken on every exhortation to becoming the swirling mass of hair and movement that Dolk himself was eulogising from above, had made clear their feelings of appreciation towards a band rarely highlighted for the recent contributions to the genre. Remaining a cut apart from more customary associated 'Viking' acts, Kampfar bring the serious back to the genre while somehow making it look great fun up on stage. Don't ask me how they do it…

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Vreid

Part III of the varied blackened trilogy this evening was to come from 'black 'n' rollers' Vreid, the band formed from the ashes of my most cherished and beloved, Windir. As journalistic preferences go, Windir are a near perfect act for this writer, with such high esteem do I hold their work that Vreid will always have it tough to match up, a position not dissimilar from where they found themselves in London following on from Secrets of the Moon and Kampfar.

Vreid as a live act pertain few of the typical black metal theatrics and conventions: the band are adorned in matching military style outfits but play with an air of freedom and simple enjoyment, unknown to much of the genre at large, which eases its way across to the crowd which by this point had reached a good three-quarters full. Their work these days may lack the majesty and might of Windir's material, but having their old colleague Strom back on lead guitars is a real boost to the intricacy of the songs that are aired tonight, with the expected "Speak, Goddamnit" and "Pitch Black Brigade" getting the most rapturous applause of the whole evening. The transition to a more melodic sound has highlighted the weakness of Sture's vocals which were better hidden in the shrieked days of past but in his inter-song banter with the crowd and the presence of giant bassist Hvall ensure plenty of effort is made to keep the interest of the punters high come the end of a long evening of music. Vreid unfortunately don't have enough songs of the quality of "Pitch Black Brigade" to sustain such an intensity for a full hour, in turn leaving their performance somewhat lacking against those that came before, but their show was a fine one with which to end a great mix of artists in one very tasty blackened package.

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