I Went To SteelChaos 2019 And Wrote Some Words About It
I went to a thing. Our cupboards are bare and such indecency and nudity is against our strict moral guidelines, so in an effort to cover this blog up – you are going to read about it. And look at my terrible, shaky, cell phone pictures.
Knowing we had a long night, and by extension, an extensive weekend, ahead of us – myself and my cohorts, in our negotiations, came to the conclusion that we would not arrive much before it was time for True Black Dawn to take stage. I was primarily interested to see the band because they advertised their show as the long planned Meathook Mystery Theater. In preparation, I took their latest opus – Come the Colorless Dawn – back into rotation, and found myself liking it quite a bit more than I had before, as a result I was fairly well excited to see them. The Meathook -element turned out to be a a living, breathing, defecating man (though there was no defecation onstage). A man hung, in the pose of a crucified, from meathooks piercing his flesh. While he did remain a largely static element throughout – only being interacted with a couple of times, first being painted on with blood, then raised higher – as not to distract all attention from the band, he was a rather impressive visual addition to the show, and slightly disturbing as well. While he did remain the most imminent, and formidable element of the show, there were others – such as vocalist Wrath, known for his peculiar stage antics, putting out two lit candles against the sides of his face. Easily the highlight of the day, and one of the best acts musically as well – from my part, SteelChaos was off to a good start. Even though, I should say , that the rest of Friday night feels in retrospect, like a personal check list of bands that I should see, instead of ones that I was passionate about.
Armour is, or was, a heavy metal side-project of several more or less notable black metal musicians, exhumed for a “once more from the grave” gig. Average in both style and quality they’ve never quite been able to escape the stigma of a joke band, despite never actually having been a humorous band. Now, nobody likes a good laugh more than I do (except perhaps my wife and some of her friends), but after the immersive experience that was True Black dawn, I felt rum & coke, not like a joke, so I only returned to see the band close with BlackGoat and “Heavy Metal Drinkers”. And I can’t say that I would have longed to see more of it, as fun as it was.
Over the years, I’ve had tickets for several Bölzer gigs, each of which has ended up being cancelled. As a result of this, and my lacking enthusiasm towards their latest recorded work, I’ve found myself less and less interested in the band in general. So when I saw them added to the line-up of SteelChaos, I figured I should give them one more chance – if I didn’t, I might not care the next they rolled into town. Their unique sound had no trouble filling the hall better than many a band with a bigger lineup and as KzR proved a kinetic frontman with little trouble to seize the stage their performance was perhaps, in every way, as good as it could have been, yet I can’t help but to feel that it may have already been a little too late for me (or perhaps the show had in fact been lacking in passion, something several of my associates who had witnessed them before were remarking) and by the end I had already retreated towards the bar.
Marduk is a rather frequent visitor in Finland, which means I’ve seen them a few times as well. Now, I do enjoy their body of work and while their blast-happy, power chord black metal differs greatly from, say, Bölzer’s or True Black Dawn’s, I’ve rarely found them outright exhilarating. If something, I’m drawn to their earlier work, which means special sets like Heaven Shall Burn… When We Are Gathered playthrough in Steelfest a couple of years back, or Those of The Unlight special some years before that have been far more to my liking than usual sets like tonight’s. Especially, since I was not a huge fan of Viktoria (though I appreciate the changes in direction, slight as they may be). It needs to be said that Mortuus is easily the most capable and diverse vocalist the band has ever had, and a very capable frontman as well and largely responsible for the shows entertainment, and today he pulled his duty off well, even if the band seemed to be running on routine.
For me, Arcturus doesn’t have the mythical glow of nostalgia that it does for my compatriots, but I was not much less enthusiastic to see the band than they were. Not the least because their set was to focus on the two first albums exclusively. by the time they went on (closer to 01:00), tiredness and rum & coke were proving a mighty enemy that I had to constantly battle, though in the end, they derided my enjoyment only little. A good show, if uneventual show – that may not have felt so empty, were TBD still not freshly etched on my mind, and a good set, despite ICS’ voice – which I have no trouble with – making the old songs seem newer than they were. As my companions seemed especially pleased with their performance, we felt it was a good time to head home and call it a day.
Waking up after roughly 3 hours of sleep, at 12, proved easy. Getting up not so much and hangover was a reality. For my compatriots, I do not get hangovers. It is a kid’s decease. And vegan’s. Men do not suffer from it. So, after chugging approximately eight beers to recover my balance, that I had not lost, because I am very tuff, we hastily set off for the venue. Arriving fashionably late, barely in time for Azaghal (at around 19:45) I immediately realized I had never needed a rum & coke so bad in my life, for at least a week (am I an alcoholic?) Last time I saw Azaghal, they shot straight to top 3 worst shows I’ve ever had the displeasure of suffering through. Though admittedly the short notice had caught them unrehearsed, in the middle of a quiet period – and in a difficult chain of guitarist issues, having recently let go of Ruho, who had briefly replaced JL Nokturnal who had been forced to retirement by hearing issues, and being left without a second guitarist. Though by far the largest issue was guitarist Narqath, who could barely stand from his drunkenness, much less play.
All of those issues were luckily corrected this time – the band was hot on the heels of an European tour, former Sawhill Sacrifice primus motor (and the chief promoter of this festival), Agares, had been hired for to fill in live as a second guitarist and the whole band just seemed to be in a generally far better shape – despite Barshasketh / Devouring Star drummer Nagh having to pull double duty, as Azaghal’s own Lima was touring with his day job, Amberian Dawn. Despite being billed as an album release show for Valo Pohjoisesta, Azaghal played a fair bit of other material well, and considering they weren’t on the stage for 30 minutes (even if they had started exactly as the schedule stated) it seemed a bit off. But all in all, a pleasant experience that rectified previous issues.
A pleasantly opened Saturday continued well as Thy Darkened Shade prepared to take the stage. One of the bands I had been most interested in seeing, and one I suspect I shan’t have another opportunity to witness anytime soon. I was most pleased to find out not only is their music great, but they are charismatic performers as well, especially the lead guitarist seemed almost psychotic in his flailing around. In contrast, The Ruins of Beverast – another band who’s performance I had been looking forward to, was a disappointment. Though their music is perhaps not the kind that is best enjoyed tired and drunk, I couldn’t help but to feel bored through most of their set. While their latest wasn’t exactly Rain Upon The Impure or Foulest Semen of A Sheltered Elite, I still enjoyed it, so that shouldn’t have been an obstacle to my enjoyment. Sometimes good bands just don’t work in a live environment, although some of my compadres, that were only familiar with their latest found the show endearing, and for me Ruins of Beverast has become one of them.
Impaled Nazarene’s set was well placed, re-injecting some lost energy into my hardening arteries. These guys never disappoint live and I could stand to check them out a little more often. You also always know what you’re getting – no special shows, no theatrics of charades, just some grinding black metal. So far it’s never been exactly the same either, and this time made no difference – even if it only meant avoiding a bunch of the most obvious choices in the setlist. And by the time the famous last words “We are Impaled Nazarene, and you are not” rolled around, I had forgotten that my body was crying for sleep.
And so Primordial entered. It seemed a gamble to appoint them as the headliner, as they have been visiting Finland somewhat frequently in recent years, but a sold out Nosturi spoke out loud and clear. And not without a good reason, Primordial in an extremely impassioned and intense live band, with an ability to whip the audience to a frenzy with the flick of a wrist, and Nemtheanga is an eminent frontman with nary a rival. I was afraid they would play another marathon set, as they are wont to (which I would normally enjoy, but as tired as I was, I doubt I could have stood through it), but the constraints of a festival held their set -to my fortune – shorter. Though it brought a predictable ending to the fest, I could not imagine a more fitting one. For as all myths must end and all heroes die, so must all chaos cease and empires fall.
Additional photography by @Paivimh, used with permission, because apparently taking an unshaken picture is too arduous a task. Also, I’m sorry Root, I don’t hate you, I saw your set, I loved it, I just couldn’t figure what to say. Please don’t hate me.