Date: April 23, 2016
Location: Gagarin Club, Athens
It was Lazarus Saturday and the foot walk from my home towards the club seemed like a short travel in time as the neighborhoods reeked of 80s and 90s scents; thus the destination, a Gagarin Club where we would see and hear MORTUARY DRAPE, VARATHRON, KAWIR, CHAOSBAPHOMET and also resurfacing DISHARMONY, wasn’t at all out of place. The second edition of Lords Of The Void festival, only three months after the first one was a tribute to the Mediterranean blackmetal that rose at the end of the 80s ad became huge during the next decade.
Newcomers THE UNCONFESSED made the kick-off of the evening and although they weren’t exactly fitting sound or image-wise with the rest of the bands, nonetheless held a strong connection with the 90s as their thrash/black/death amalgam leaned towards Scandinavian fields (AT THE GATES, very early IN FLAMES, a bit of DISSECTION and NAGLFAR etc). I admit that while they weren’t bad at all, I wasn’t really “persuaded” by their music since I was anyway in a different mood. And if one spells “mood” backwards, the word “doom” is formed and this is a perfect description of the feeling emerging from DISHARMONY, whose traces had been long lost (more than 20 years) until recently Iron Bonehead did a re-release of their material. Slow paced and mourning, using minimal keys as well as monolithic blackmetal riffing from the depths of Hellenic underground, they were the appropriate band to pour water to the mill of memories.
The baton was picked by CHAOSBAPHOMET and although this time the element of surprise of well they could perform their work on stage was missing (for those of us who had witnessed them in Kyttaro club somewhat two years ago), what we didn’t know was the evolution of their style which was instantly revealed in the tracks of their just arrived “Promethean Black Flame” full length. With devastating, uncompromising and in no way softened guitars (where R.W. Draconium was complemented by Nick Christogiannis from DEVISER), some death metal injections, Iapetos handling vocal duties with sinister greatness (Ravenlord delivering also some venomous words) as well as a thick yet identifiable bass guitar which blocked every crack of light, CHAOSBAPHOMET loudly stated that they proudly stand among the Hellenic underground, closing their set with “March Of Satan” and “Goat Messiah”, tracks from their outstanding “Black Communion” EP (although the former was initially released as part of the 4-way split of 2011).
The evening continued with KAWIR, whose great “Isotheos” album back in 2012 seems to have brought them back for good into the game, which is a bit odd since they never stopped releasing fine records before that such as “Ophiolatreia”. Anyway, these things are of little matter, as Cavirs may have had a shortened time that prevented them from presenting a full set, yet they had the best possible sound quality and excellent posture on stage with Porphyrion probably proving to be a more appropriate frontman than –otherwise very congenial– Phaesphoros. Withstanding time limitations, they managed to put into their set tracks from their new album, “Father Sun, Mother Moon” along older stuff from their recent (“Ophiolatreia”) as well as distant (“To Cavirs”, “Ekatis And Ianos”) past, before closing exactly the way it should be, namely with Necroabyssious allying in vocal duties of “Sinn (The Blazing Queen)”.
It was at this point where we had reached the main menu of that glorious night, because with all the respect towards the previous bands (and I have a great amount of it), a VARATHRON appearance in Athens after so many years could not but be highly anticipated. The recent “Untrodden Corridors Of Hades” may not have had on me the impact described by other people with whom I discussed about it, but the case here is a band without which, the history of Hellenic blackmetal would be extremely poorer. For these reasons, pieces like “Cassiopeia’s Ode”, “Tressrising…”, “Le Reine Noir”, “Descent Of A Prophetic Vision” (with Themis Tolis on drums) could not but bring some shivers to the spines. Having said that, I must admit that something was missing; maybe it was the rather mediocre sound quality in some cases which amplified the noise at atmosphere’s expense or maybe the many “let’s go Athens” promptings from Necroabyssious which, in my opinion, were incompatible with the stern music style. Even so, it seems that “Athens went” along which means that the audience, midway through their set and especially towards the end when the setlist focused on the honored past (with “Son Of The Moon” being the highlight I believe), made the appropriate frenzy and the 90+ minutes of VARATHRON were concluded in grandeur.
Only thing left now, was for MORTUARY DRAPE to remind to those who already knew and inform those that ignored it, that blackmetal would be in no way the same without them, their demos and their corpsepaint back in the late 80s. Moments of worship unraveled, mostly coming from the older aged audience and they were no surprise as a sequence of exquisite songs was given to us in the likes of “Mother/Crepuscolar Whisper”, “Obsessed By Necromancy”, “Mortuary Drape”, “Primordial” and of course the eternal “Tregenda (Dance In Shroud)”, one of the most spellbinding metal track of all times. MORTUARY DRAPE are the band who, alongside the Hellenic underground of that era and some central European comrades such as ROOT and MASTER’S HAMMER, defined a different “kind” of blackmetal, drier and more staccato, maybe not as revolutionary in sonic terms as Scandinavians, yet certainly deep, esoteric and definitely more honestly occult that the rather skin-deep satanic references of most Northeners.
A little bit after two o’ clock, the last notes were still floating threateningly in the air of Gagarin, as under the auspices of 3 Shades Of Black and Lords of The Void festival, an unholy alliance had just taken place among the holiest –for the orthodox majority of Greece– of days. The return home, now an upward slope, was painful enough after an engaging 7 hour ceremony, yet the feeling that such a special decade, even more for blackmetallers, as the 90s relived with this intensity could only bring sinister smiles…