REVIEWED: Bloodstock Open Air - Part III

Despite the glaring expanse of empty space on a stage occupied by a mere two musicians, the sheer enormity of MANTAR’s dusky, crushingly distorted presence is an eardrum-pulverising wonder to behold. And between the sizeable gulf separating flawlessly synchronised drummer Erinç Sakarya and guitarist Hanno Klänhard flows a sense of chemistry so fluid and instinctive that these pummelling, darkly churning exchanges seem to audibly crackle with adrenaline. Impeccably aligned through every reverberating blast and sleekly muscular line of distortion, the pounding beats and rasping, rousingly anthemic vocal hooks of ‘Era Borealis’ instantly stir the crowd into a delighted frenzy of balled-up fists and frantic motion. Splicing multiple layers of tombstone-heavy groove with a gritty plethora of bone-scraping licks and raggedly abrasive thrash, the pair hold listeners endlessly rapt until their final, echoing throes die away beneath a deafening collective roar of applause. (FC)

 

As Bloodstock '18 neared its final, twilight hours, a new kind of black metal beast was being violently birthed over at the New Blood stage. The few stragglers who’d drifted in to escape the temperamental weather were assaulted by an unforgiving wall of pure, diabolical rage as Slovenian band SRD made their first UK appearance. 

 

Barely two years old, newly hatched Srd ripped through the sticky membrane of obscurity to emerge kicking and screaming onto the UK scene. With their unique brand of black ’n’ roll, these undaunted, gore-streaked newborns were a brutal injection of fresh, primitive energy into a genre that can feel choked by the customary satanic paraphernalia of devil worship and corpse paint. As promised earlier this month by Dark Matter, this was an inferno of a show.

 

Srd take their name from the Slovenian word for wrath, and their intent is to capture the divine rage that flung our race from Eden into never-ending agony. The raw, heady tumult they have created as a result is far from heavenly and harkens to the darker side of their Alpine homeland, the God-forsaken mountain passes and treacherous gulfs besieged by rabid snowstorms. As frontman Goran Slekovic spread blackened, fallen angel wings over New Blood, every song had its own nuanced, biting flavour, impressive for such a new band. Their explosive stage presence made heartbeats quicken in time to the insane drum-work, and as they blended the atmospheric dread of black metal with crushing beats and rock ’n’ roll style interludes they immersed their enraptured audience in a pandemonium that was pure, unadulterated Srd. (SS)

Through murky wisps of feebly illuminated fog, WATAIN are little more than fleeting shadows half-shrouded in restless pools and flickers of meagre stage lighting. But then it’s in a blinding implosion of scalding fire and eye-watering fumes that the Swedes finally materialise, conjurer-like, before legions of ecstatic fans as cool night air is violently consumed in a Hades-worthy blast of scorching heat. Yet still more brilliant and incandescent are the bristling, tautly agile feats of aggression that follow, with the three-piece wasting little time in instantly pummelling eardrums into submission.

 

Ink-black against against a white-hot backdrop of flaming tridents, frontman Erik Danielsson writhes and snarls like the proverbial man possessed, his vocal cords contorting violently with unearthly, grave-scented malice. Displaying ripping precision across a blackened wealth of lacerating licks and luxuriantly expansive distortion, ‘Malfeitor’ audibly bristles with aggression before its bone-scraping thrash accents unravel into a densely layered array of snaking, darkly sumptuous fretwork. All breakneck, hyperblasting speed and intensely visceral riffing, the madly accelerative ‘Nuclear Alchemy’ leaves listeners instantly drunk on adrenaline while ‘Sacred Damnation’s’ gargantuan whorls of distortion positively ooze frostbitten majesty.

 

But with its breathtaking melding of unbridled aggression and exquisitely orchestrated melody, deathly epic ‘Waters of Ain’ can be the only fitting conclusion to this incendiary headlining set. “Let it cleanse and consume you,” urges Danielsson as deathly lashings of tremolo flood and infuse its pummelling throes with an aura of desolation so strong as to seep into the very fibre of the soul. Across intricate layerings of scalding textures, sleekly luxuriant flourishes and extended episodes of crushingly melancholic fretwork, the final refrains of this progressive masterpiece make for a grand finale that’s explosive in every imaginable sense of the word. (FC)

 

 

 

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