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LIVE REVIEW: DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL, DONNINGTON PARK UK – 10TH-12TH JUNE 2022


Download Festival –LIVE REVIEW by Carina Lawrence / Dark Art Conspiracy

KISS – Photo credit:
 Matt Eachus

The UK’s biggest rock and metal festival returned to its full glory with its first full-scale event three years after the pandemic following the historic pilot event last year. It was a surreal and joyful feeling to be back at Donnington for festival goers and bands alike and was the sentiment of the weekend. We have all waited so long for live music to return, and it was worth the wait. The variety and calibre of music, the atmosphere and unusually stunning sunny weather made this anticipated return even better.

Continue reading LIVE REVIEW: DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL, DONNINGTON PARK UK – 10TH-12TH JUNE 2022

PHOTO REPORT: SWALLOW THE SUN, KAUNIS KUOLEMATON AND EDGE OF HAZE


Swallow the Sun played at Pakkahuone in Tampere on 27th of May. It was the second date of their Finnish tour promoting their new album Moonflowers which was released last year. Kaunis Kuolematon and Edge of Haze were the opening acts (for only two of the seven dates in Finland). It was a solid lineup. Edge of Haze opened with energy and heaviness, and Kaunis Kuolematon brought it down to a more melancholy yet powerful level. Then, Swallow the Sun hit all of the above, including songs from their first few albums that they haven’t played live in a while. From the more melodic “Stone Wings” to one of my personal favorites, and heaviest song off the new album “This House Has No Home”. So heavy in fact, that a mosh pit broke out! I don’t think I have ever seen a pit during a Swallow the Sun gig! It was great to see all three bands at a bigger venue. I don’t believe this gig was sold out but it was pretty well attended. I, like many others, cannot get enough of Moonflowers and it is just magic to see live. I wish I could say more, but this band always leaves me speechless. Let the photos speak for themselves…

EDGE OF HAZE:

KAUNIS KUOLEMATON:

SWALLOW THE SUN:

Photos and review by: Serena Solomon

PHOTO REPORT: Eivør and Lucky Lo


Eivør and Lucky Lo played not one but two magical shows in Tampere Finland 11-12.4 2022. The first show at G Livelab was a very special show for both acts. Lo excitedly mentioned that it was the only show on the tour she had a piano to play and looked like she was truely enjoying herself while playing! Both acts included the grand piano in their set, as well as Lo with her banjo and Eivør (accompanied by Mattias Kapnas on the piano) with her drum and guitar. They played unique renditions of songs as well as other songs not previously played on the tour. I was only at the second gig at Olympia on “official” business but since I also attended the G Livelab gig I want to include it in the report. I really loved the idea of these two shows together, very different venues and atmosphere that complimented each other well and gave us an opportunity to see, feel and hear these beautiful artists in unique contexts.

Eivør and Mathias at G Live Lab
Lucky Lo at G Live Lab

I have to admit, Lucky Lo‘s music is not something I would naturally listen to, but I thoroughly enjoyed both sets. She has such a humble charisma that delivers her music to the audience in such an honest and comforting way its entrancing. Although her music spans themes and sounds that are light, funky and uplifting as well melancholic and fragile, it all feels intimate and warm. In the state of the current world, it was a welcome feeling.

At the Olympia show, she explained how playing simply on the banjo is a glimpse of the core of her music and writing process, and that the recorded music might sound a bit different than what we were hearing then, since it includes a full band and much funkier vibe. One moment that gave me chills was when she was introducing the song “Sunrise/Sunset” explaining it was about life and death inspired by a good friend who had passed away.

As she struck the first notes of the song, a puff of smoke shot up behind her, illuminated by a light, like a ghost. I don’t think it was intentional or if many others noticed but it struck me.

She seemed to go with the flow of the gig, and at one point was openly pondering which song to play next. Someone from the audience suggested one of her songs and she bashfully admitted she could not play it on banjo, that she had tried but she just didn’t think it sounded right. She then remembered the previous night she had been inspired by Eivør when she played a Leonard Cohen cover (which she hadn’t done on the rest of the tour), and decided to also play a cover, and excitedly jumped into “Strawberry Fields Forever”.

These two shows were also special because they were the last of the tour, at both shows they both deviated from the setlists they had stuck with for the tour, and graced us with songs they hadn’t played live in a long time or ever!

Eivør‘s set at G Livelab was quite different on many levels (an intended pun because I personally experienced the gig both from the balcony of the venue and standing in the crowd, and even that provided a different experience). Watching from the balcony felt a bit more like watching a show, still intimate with the ability to also watch the audience but a bit detached. When I went to the floor though, it was surreal. Eivør‘s voice was so ethereal and being closer to the stage and closer to the music was almost other worldly and yet made it all more real. She played a few songs there they didn’t play at the other show such as “Verð Mín”, “Silvitni”, and few covers from Leonard Cohen and Julee Cruise. As well as really interesting adaptions of the songs they had been playing, since it was a somewhat acoustic show, or at least “Duo”, minus the full band plus a grand piano. A few of the more melancholic slow songs had an almost old timey cabaret feel.

However, at Olympia, even the intro music took the night into a completely different atmosphere. It was intense. Epic yet melancholic low grumbles of orchestral, electronic music that slowly built up the anticipation. I think because it was the last show of the tour, the whole band also helped build that anticipation through out the night. As the end came closer, they all played harder, more passionately, more loose.
Eivør‘s music strings together such a wide spectrum of emotion and sound into a short space of time its really intense to see live! One moment you’re dancing to a light-hearted beat, the next you’re traveling into another time and place, something ancient and foreign yet nostalgic, and the next you’re almost in tears with a raw melancholic comfort. And of course those ethereal chants and throat singing she does with her drum are always an experience on their own. Although they are simply sounds and chants, her movements and facial expressions while she’s singing almost tell a story of their own, up for interpretation on a personal level yet clear somehow.

It was great to finally be able to see her “new” songs live, unfortunate that her latest album Segl had been released amidst the first year of the pandemic. Although I had seen her perform some of them during her live stream shows during the 2020 summer (I have to mention it was really great to kind of get to know her and her music during those weekly home recorded live streams that summer, and made me even more eager to see her live again!). And was also a treat to see, again, some songs they had not played during the rest of the tour, since it was the last show (I have a personal history with the song “Boxes” and that was one extra song they played, not to mention seeing that insane vocal magic live, gave me chills!).

To introduce the song “Gullspunnin” she recited a poem and explanation of the song and its meaning, with low atmospheric background sounds as accenting her words. It almost felt like a guided meditation, which, as I think now, isn’t such an unexpected thing to experience at her gig. Her spoken words, and sung words, chants, throat singing, growls, laughs and all the lows and highs of the music hit so many different themes and emotions its like acupuncture of the soul, in some ways providing a release that ends in peace and contentment. Even if you aren’t familiar with her music, or don’t have any personal history with her songs, it is such an intense and magical yet humble performance it will be an unforgettable experience for anyone.

Lucky Lo at Olympia

Eivør at Olympia

Eivør Live:

Eivør Pálsdóttir – Vocals / Guitar / frame drum

Mattias Kapnas – Keyboard /Piano and Synth

Mikael Blak – Synth / Bass

Per Ingvaldur Højgaard Petersen – Drums

Photos and report by Serena Solomon

LIVE REVIEW: DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL – DONNINGTON PARK UK – 8TH-10TH JUNE 2018


Download Festival –LIVE REVIEW by Carina Lawrence / Dark Art Conspiracy

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Photo credit:
 James Bridle
 

Download Festival is the UK’s biggest, friendliest and most diverse rock/metal festivals and it gets bigger and better each year. This year particularly had a strong theme of environmental sustainability, with their new recycling scheme for beer glasses, using plastic reusable cups which you could keep and reuse or give back and made for a nice memento along with the introduction of Greenpeace’s Eco Campsite. Viewing platforms for wheelchair-users were available across all stages and British Sign Language interpreters on two, again highlighting the festivals diversity and how it accommodates for everyone which is great to see.

Continue reading LIVE REVIEW: DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL – DONNINGTON PARK UK – 8TH-10TH JUNE 2018

Steelfest Open Air 2018


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May 18-19, 2018 in Hyvinkää, Finland

Report and photos by Serena Solomon

 

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Steelfest Open Air is known as the metal festival to commence festival season in Finland, more so by those who are fans of extreme metal (black,death, thrash, etc.). As a first timer to Steelfest, it took a little time once there, to get into the festival mindset as a photographer and attendee, since I’m used to the season starting later in the summer.  However, the atmosphere and mood, not to mention music and location made it easy to get into the swing of things. I heard from people who had attended Steelfest regularly, that this year the weather was the best it had been in years.  Festival goers were able to lounge on the grass and enjoy the rare interminable sun and warmth  while also having the option to relax in the cool darkness of the indoor stage area. There was a lot of praise for how accommodating the festival was from the amount of seating and food/drink options available to the accessibility of the location and available accommodations not to mention how smoothly the festival ran in general. The few downsides were the compactness of the schedule; people found themselves running from stage to stage with not much time in between sets to catch a breath let alone eat or socialize. The schedule could have been a bit less hectic, specially Friday, with Havukruunu starting just a half hour after doors opened and shortened sets of more prominent bands. And, although the acts themselves catered to various music tastes, the lineup and order of bands seemed to slightly lack the diversity to keep things interesting through out the day, although ending the first day with Mortiis was probably enough diversity to carry the entire festival.

Overall there wasn’t as much bones, blood and ritual as I anticipated (basing my experience as a Turku Saatanalle regular) and a lot more color (Cult of Fire, Dødheimsgard and Mortiis). My personal most anticipated acts were Nokturnal Mortum, Necrophobic, Alghazanth and Skogen. I was also interested to see Watain, Saor, Havukurrunu, Tomentor and Dødheimsgard. Some of them were a disappointment, some delivered and there were a few performances that impressed me unexpectedly.

 

DAY 1 

Havukruunu kicked off the festival on Friday with a powerful set. However, the fact that they started so soon after doors meant there was a small crowd despite the fact that it seemed many people were eager to see their show. It all felt a bit rushed and not as solid as the performance earlier in the year at Turku Saatanalle VI.

 

Cohol was one band I started to get into weeks before the festival, I know I liked what I heard but had no expectations for their show. I was pleasantly surprised. They put on a memorable performance full of a unique kind of energy and stage presence that fit their music style. It caught the attention of many concert goers and personally left me wanting more.  Hailing all the way from Japan, their journey was well worth it.

I was honestly not familiar with One Master. I listened to their music and felt I might have been able to get more into it if they stood out more live, but for me, there wasn’t much that was memorable about their performance.

Baise Ma Hache was another band I started listening to weeks before. They seemed to have a powerful sound which was conveyed well on their live performance. They had a strong stage presence and kept the attention and participation of the crowd.  The stage presence of some of the other bands was hindered a bit by playing on the outdoor stage. Certain atmosphere was lost with the relentless sunshine, small stage area and lack of visible stage lighting. However, Baise Ma Hache’s set did not suffer one bit.

Another powerful performance was from homegrown Archgoat. Though they are not personally high on my “much anticipated” list, I respect their position within the Finnish metal scene and the fact that they are a much anticipated band to many other festival goers. Every time I have seen them live, they always deliver and never fail to get the crowd going.

Malokarpatan was another band I was not personally so into, however, their performance and sound put a bit of diversity in the lineup thus far. Their stage presence reflected on the crowd and seemed to switch the mood all together just a bit, maybe a bit lighter, maybe a bit thrashier, maybe people were simply becoming more visibly drunk. I’m not sure, but it was a positive thing either way.

I was not initially particularly interested in Satanic Warmaster. The last few times I had seen them live, it was a bit of a let down. However, their performance at Steelfest was an unexpectedly impressive show. Their energy was spot on and they, themselves, seemed more into the music than I had remembered which, in turn, got the crowd more into it as well. I personally had a hard time tearing myself away from the indoor stage to rush to the next band

Deströyer 666 was also a much anticipated band for many festival goers. They were another a band who’s energy and presence was not hindered by playing on the outdoor stage. They definitely rose up to the expectations and anticipation of the crowd as well as gave yet another twist of something different with their sound and stage presence.

Nokturnal Mortum was initially the band that made me say “sold” when contemplating whether or not I would attend Steelfest this year. Which didn’t take long, since they were one of the first bands announced. They were one of the bands I was most familiar with and had never seen live. For me, their energy was spot on, but their setlist could have been improved upon. However, I heard a rumor that their set was cut short due to the hectic schedule (specially since Watain was up next). I personally thought their energy and presence was great and reflected in the audience as well, however, some people I spoke to who had seen them before said this was one of their least favorite performances. Either way, it was a great experience to finally see (and shoot) them.

Finally, Watain. I was quite surprised that they were playing on the smaller stage, however, it made sense once they started lighting up. Though they seemed a bit cramped among the pitchforks and flames, their performance did not suffer. Again, they were not personally one of my most anticipated bands but I was eager to see their set, since I had never seen them before.  I heard they had some technical difficulties and their sound was not as up to par with other gigs they had previously done. I also heard mixed reviews of how the guitarist did taking up playing guitar as well as singing. Some people were impressed, specially since he played the solos as well, and others said his vocals suffered from it.

Then there was Mortiis. Not everyones cup of …whatever. For me it was an odd placement all together, in the festival itself,  its placement in the schedule and the fact that it was specifically a show dedicated to the “Ånden som gjorde opprør” album. This did, however pique my interest to see how the performance would pan out and what people would think about it. From what I heard, people were either really into it or really confused and uninterested by it. Some felt it was a great ending to the first day, some couldn’t bare to stay more than five minutes.  For me personally, it was a unique opportunity to see this character and the atmosphere he creates on stage live,  but it was near impossible to photograph (though the cloak of low light, fog, and a stage prop that made it hard to see him was part of the mysticism and appeal of the show) and after maybe ten minutes, the music lost me. It seemed one had to be a fan and familiar with that particular album to truly enjoy the show, or simply in the right mental space for that kind of atmosphere after a day of extreme metal. One could have likened it to the “get the fuck out” music at closing time, or a more chill way to end the night.

 

DAY 2

Starting even earlier but an hour after doors this time, Hin Onde opened the small stage for the day. They had good sound but this was one occasion I believe being on the outdoor stage detracted from their show. I personally felt it might have been more fitting for them to be inside, and again, possibly have played later in the day since it seemed many were interested to see the band.

 

Nattfog had great sound that filled the indoor area but their stage presence did not convey the power and command their sound provided. They seemed a bit stagnant and not so connected with the fact that they were performing live on stage. The drummer helped bridge the gap between the band and crowd at times but otherwise they seemed like they were not simply rehearsing rather than performing live.

Skogen, on the other hand, had no problem connecting with their own music as well as the audience and provided a visual to support the solid sound that emanated from the stage. They had no problem creating a powerful ambience and getting the crowd enthralled with their performance.

Next up on the indoor stage, Asagraum. Of course, I was curious to see how an all female black metal band would do live, though their music was not one of the most memorable sounds in the lineup. They commanded the stage quite well and brought some of the black metal vibe and aesthetic that I had felt some of the other bands were lacking. Each member had their own performance style but it melded together well and they interacted with the audience directly and indirectly which made them stand out for me more than their music.

Demilich was a much anticipated band for many people, specially since just coming off a headlining US tour. They delivered with their performance and were not hindered by they lack of atmosphere on the outdoor stage. They brought the vibe in the festival up a notch and got the crowd on their feet.

I was quite eager (as many) to see Alghazanth. They had impressed me with thier live show before, and since Steelfest 2018 marked the end of their live career, it was a must see for me and many of the other festival goers. They did not disappoint. For a mid day band, they had one of the bigger crowds filling the indoor stage area. They were well respected within the Finnish black metal scene and could not have said farewell in a better way.

Saor was a favorite for many, from what I heard. I was also eager to see them, since I had been listening to them for a long time and had never seen them live. They had a solid performance but I felt it did not convey the distinct mood their music provides. I cannot put my finger on exactly what it was, whether it was again being on the outdoor stage or the band themselves, but I felt it was missing something. However, the diversity of their music was much needed within the lineup on day 2 and provided a nice change of pace.

Necrophobic. Possibly the best performance of the entire festival. I was looking forward to see them but did not have any expectations. I was incredibly and pleasantly surprised by their sound and energy and everything about it.  They took control of the stage and commanded the entire indoor area with their presence visually and sonically. This was another band I had trouble tearing myself away from to run to the next stage, and one of the few bands that left me wanting more and eager to see again.

Since Necrophobic left such a lasting impression on me and I was not so familiar with Forteresse, their performance was a bit lost on me. I didn’t hear much spoken about them amongst the festival goers before or after the show and was not impressed nor let down by their performance. They had a solid presence but the music just wasn’t captivating for me.. but it was probably a welcome thing since they were between two of the strongest acts of the festival.

After listening to Cult of Fire for a while before the festival and seeing some photos from their previous live shows, I was a bit skeptical since I am a fan of Batushka, and felt they seemed quite similar in their aesthetic and visual appearance. However, aside from the candles/alters and ceremonial ambiance, their live show was something much different than I was expecting (not as Batushka-esque). They brought to the table the ritual aspect I had expected more of which had been absent for most of the festival thus far, but despite the fact that they were all cloaked head to toe and were not easy to see beyond the inferno presented in front of each musician, they had an intoxicating energy. While waiting in the photo pit, I was already enthralled by their presence standing on the side of the stage. The mixture of their intro track and seeing these dark figures in ethereal costumes moving in the shadows off stage sent a chill through me in a good way and, once they started playing, the chill did not subside.  The smallest details of their aesthetic contributed greatly to their haunting presence and their sound provided an energy all of its own that greatly differed from Batushka. They were yet another band that I could not tear myself away from and left me slightly unsettled in a good way and wanting more.

I noticed a lot of discourse about Necros Christos and was curious what all the hype was about. It was their first live gig after two years which included new material from their final album “Domedon Doxomedon”released the day before their show. Their sound was much bigger than the stage they were performing on but somehow it did not hinder their presence. I could feel the power in their music and how it resonated through the crowd with the praises I heard before hand sticking at the back of my mind, it was easy to understand why this band was highly anticipated and a definite unexpected highlight of the day.

 

Dødheimsgard was another unexpected and pleasant surprise for me. Their music caught my ear when listening to Steelfest bands in the weeks before the festival and I was interested to see how their sound and unique aesthetic would translate live. They definitely brought a substantially diverse act to the Steelfest lineup in the best way possible. It’s not a difficult observation to make that their sound, presence and visual aesthetics were unlike any other band, but were easily one of the strongest performances at the festival.

 

My familiarity with Moonsorrow made them one of the acts I was certain I would enjoy. However, it was quite unexpected and a bit of a breath of fresh air to see Ville Sorvali roaming freely around the stage and Henri Sorvali taking up the role as Bassist (a.k.a. Moonsorrow ft. Trollhorn from Finntroll, as the joke goes). Immediately, my mind was brought to none other than Wintersun and their recent transition of Jari becoming only a frontman sans instrument as well. I’m still not sure how I feel about this new setup with Moonsorrow but I have a few more festivals to see to make my mind up. Either way, the performance at least did not suffer at all from the recent transition. The crowd was possibly the most active and engaged I had seen through out the festival thus far, and the band was in no way hindered by the small outdoor stage. Not only was their energy spot on, as always, they played a perfect balance of old and new. Also, their use of smoke struck me as an interesting contrast to Watain’s use of fire the previous day during the same time slot.

And the finale of Steelfest 2018, Tormentor. In my opinion, a much stronger final act than the previous day and a strong enough act to provide a satisfying ending to an amazing start to festival season. Tormentor did not disappoint one bit. They played an exclusive set which coincided with the 30th anniversary of the “unrelease” of their first full length recording “Anno Domini”. It was hard to not get into the show even if one wasn’t a fan of theirs. They took off at full force and didn’t slow down one bit until the end, and managed to look like they were enjoying themselves as well. It was a flawless act to wrap up Steelfest 2018.

 

 

 

PHOTO REPORT: SikTh + Press To Meco, Devil Sold His Soul – December 7, 2017 @ Concorde 2 , Brighton


PHOTO REPORT: SikTH + Press To Meco and Devil Sold His Soul  – December 7, 2017 @Concorde 2  , Brighton

Photography by Luke Bateman / Dark Art Conspiracy

Continue reading PHOTO REPORT: SikTh + Press To Meco, Devil Sold His Soul – December 7, 2017 @ Concorde 2 , Brighton