- Words by Faye Coulman
DARK MATTER WEBZINE’S TOP 5 PICKS FOR INCINERATION 2023
With the absurd, cash-splurging pomp and ceremony of the Royal Coronation finally laid to rest after much ado this past weekend, it’s thankfully time to turn our attentions to the altogether more enticing prospect of Incineration Fest and its rich plethora of pulverising, delectably frostbitten metal talent. From the epic, civilisation-levelling carnage of Greek extreme metal gods Rotting Christ to the tortured, coldly entrancing throes of genre-smashing French aggressors Celeste, Team Dark Matter proudly presents our top five picks for what might just be the fest’s most incendiary outing yet…
Across a rich, inconceivably hostile wealth of weightily pulverising blasts, caustic screams and luxuriantly expansive riffage that abounds with audible anguish and despair, it’s fair to say that genre-smashing French metallers Celeste have more than succeeded in their goal of creating the darkest and most thoroughly disquieting audio of their entire career with 2022’s masterful 'Assassine(s)'. Having steadily honed and progressed their deliciously dark and visceral craft since starting out back in 2005, this most recent studio outing is set to form the foremost, eerily mesmerising focal point of their highly anticipated turn at Incineration 2023. “This set will definitely be focused on our latest release,” frontman Johan Girardeau confirms. “We’ve worked very hard on creating a true live experience based on these tracks. We now offer video projections and an enhanced light show, so expect for something very immersive. As you’re maybe aware, we play with red headlamps, a lot of smoke and frantic lights. For us a show is not only four guys on a stage, we also believe that you’ll enjoy our live experience more if you don’t think about who’s actually playing on stage. We’d like you to enjoy the performance as a whole. Hopefully you’ll just get fully immersed by the ambiance we build, lose yourself and wake up an hour later, quite shaken….”
As a towering, globally lauded institution of a band who’ve amassed a staggeringly expansive and prestigious body of work over the past three and a half decades, there’s a tendency to talk in terms of legacy and heritage where artists of a certain vintage are concerned. But for all the rich history and tradition attached to these inimitably blistering Greek icons, Rotting Christ’s more recent studio output and relentlessly industrious activity on the global touring circuit has also abundantly illustrated a freshness of creative vision that precious few can hope to rival. Forged back in 1987 by hell-raising brotherly duo Sakis and Themis Tolis out of a mutual passion for uncompromisingly vicious sonic extremity together with a vehement, burning hatred for the oppressive evils of organised religion, Rotting Christ witnessed an explosive critical reception back in 2013 following the release of genre-shattering studio masterwork ‘Κατά τον δαίμονα εαυτού’, setting in motion a fresh lease of relentless and viciously energised creative activity. Followed by monstrous 2016 smash ‘Rituals’ and 2019 follow-up ‘The Heretics’, this ingeniously orchestrated body of work translates to an electrifying and intensely absorbing live experience. From frenzied episodes of stomping, feverishly stirring tribal chants and civilisation-levelling slabs of crippling bass groove to dizzying crescendos of lacerating solo work, Rotting Christ are fearsome and truly unrivalled force to be reckoned with.
As a genre whose every weightily pulverising blast and coldly abrasive lashing of tremolo will be forever entrenched in the perilously craggy, snow-capped peaks and sweepingly majestic fjords of its iconic birthplace of Norway, it’s all too easy to forget the rich array of supremely blackened metal talent residing considerably closer to home. And despite hailing from the prettily picturesque, rolling hills of Suffolk, England, rest assured that this thoroughly hostile UK collective is more than adept at raising hell in the most viciously caustic manner imaginable. Having spent the past decade tirelessly honing their craft and forging a prestigious reputation as a vicious and highly skilled live entity, Stahlsarg’s rapidly approaching stint at Incineration 2023 promises explosive levels of synapse-scorching carnage and blackly entrancing atmosphere. Headed up by the tantalising trio of tracks comprising newly-unleashed EP, ‘Suicide of God’, fans can expect to hear this viciously energised yet intensely atmospheric new smash in its entirety. And from the battering, frantically energised pacing of face-melting title track ‘Suicide of God’ to epic closer ‘Darkness, My Accomplice’s’ luxuriant layers of malevolent, distortion-drenched fretwork, fans can be assured of a fearsome and thoroughly absorbing experience over at the Black Heart this weekend. Of the band's rapidly approaching performance, guitarist and founder Krieg enthuses: "There is a lot of excitement as it's a whole new line-up from when we played London last time supporting Darkend Nocturn Slaughtercult at Nambucca just before lockdown started. We will only be playing one song from the previous albums so this will provide an opportunity to deliver a very fresh presentation of the band and the new EP 'Suicide of God'. Having a dedicated vocalist without the restrictions of playing an instrument produces a greater live energy and we have backing vocals too that add greater depth to the sound. We have stopped using drum triggers to derive a more organic cohesive sound, so prepare for a full onslaught!"
Having ruthlessly decimated just about every imaginable dive bar, venue and festival slot on the global extreme scene since their unrelenting reign of chaos first began back in 1990, precious few can begin to rival the sheer, face-melting ferocity that’s long underlined these monstrously iconic, Swedish aggressors. With their supremely hostile blend of battering blasts, raggedly bristling tremolo and ghoulishly contorted screams audibly teeming with the innumerable atrocities of war, Marduk's finely engineered fusion of death and black metal makes for a brutally arresting live spectacle. Pairing countless strains of bone-scraping tremolo and intensely corrosive screams together with a bludgeoning hail of machine gun-paced hyperblasts, Marduk’s veritable war-zone of a live show is guaranteed to steamroll listeners into submission from the get-go. Take, for instance, the ghoulishly echoing air-raid sirens and frantically accelerating blasts of 'Werwolf', or the darkly elongated lines of lacerating tremolo that preside over the pure, pulverising carnage of ‘Frontschwein’. Together with these brain-liquefying levels of aggression, theirs is an onslaught that’s also heavily laden with more than its share of bloodcurdling horror and desolate atmospherics. From monstrously reverberating passages of frost-stricken riffage to gloriously infernal screams that palpably reek of pestilence, welcome, one and all, to the utterly ruinous audial assault that is Marduk’s monstrous forthcoming set at Incineration 2023.
While this deliciously sinister collective may broadly define themselves as ‘atmospheric black metal’, such sweeping and overly simplistic genre tags barely scratch the surface of the coldly harrowing wealth of musical dynamics contained within. Having first coalesced into being in back in 2016, these compositionally intrepid players have already manifested an array of different influences and energies within a seamlessly assembled formula that’s audibly guided by instinct and feeling. Exemplifying a sound that’s long studiously eschewed restrictive genre norms and narrow-minded convention, mesmerising 2022 single ‘Instinct’ comprises one such staggeringly grandiose slab of extremity. Here, barely tangible wisps of echoing distortion take ample time to entrance the unsuspecting listener before finally imploding in a bludgeoning onslaught of crippling bass groove and intricately forged riffery capped off with some of the most wondrously desolate vocal contortions known to the genre. From adrenaline-fuelled episodes of wolvish, tremolo-stricken riffage to cinematic atmospheres and crushing slabs of bass whose ghoulish, distortion-drenched throes palpably reek of the grave, it’s with eager anticipation that we await Crimson Throne's uniquely disquieting live spectacle. "This performance represents a lot for us, coming at the same time as the final days of recording our latest offering near," comments drummer Dave Moulding. "We will be leaving the studio soon after a period of concentrated creativity, expanding old ideas and embracing new ones. The witnesses to the experience we bring to Incineration will be given new material from this recording that highlights the direction of our next phase. It will be immersive, powerful, intense and dynamic."
For further info on the fest, band line-up and stage times, check out www.incinerationfest.com