As I sit home precisely two weeks after the first edition of North Dissonant Voices (NDV) there are two immediate things that spur to mind: that I’d qualify it as a success and that it had some unusual features, at least for what I was used to back in Portugal. The success qualifier must be seen in light of the festival’s aim, which goes somewhere in the direction of presenting “fresh, clear and uncompromising artists (…) promoting the exchange of ideas (…) and creating something new and unique far behind the music itself”, all while neither booking “big” bands nor striving for huge crowds. In that regard, the intimate setting provided by the basement of Cave 45 couldn’t have been better picked. Moving on to the unusual features, the lineup consisted of five rather young and promising acts whose best work one cannot help feeling still lies ahead of them. Moreover, they all had the same allotted time to perform, thus completely removing all notion of headliner from the event.
The first and last performances consisted respectively of Örök and Atila, two projects of the exclusive responsibility of Miguel de Almeida, at least in terms of the compositions. The first, whose studio incarnation delves in the atmospheric black metal that should make the mouths of Darkspace fans water in anticipation for its next record, accomplished the role of getting one into the night’s mood, although done in a surprisingly warm way given the coldness of this year’s “Übermensch”. The reason for this aesthetical shift lies in the fact that the live band does not attempt to reproduce the songs as they exist on the record, rather reinterpreting them. The result, clearly positive was not as consistent as it will surely become as the band bags more and more live apparitions. For now, sometimes it’s neither possible to get the excellence of the record’s riffs nor something to write home about with regards to the changes made or the stage presence of the collective. Despite those few lukewarm points, praise must be given to the drum work of Névoa‘s João Freire and to the overall performance of Örök‘s main man, both in terms of presence and delivery of harrowing screams.
If Örök forcefully dragged us away from the Sporting-Porto match happening then, Atila was indeed the right choice to release us by means of immersive and dark electronics after the four metal acts preceding it. It’s interesting to note how different this felt from the Amplifest show, as the lack of live visuals turn it into a much more cerebral experience and the almost diametrically opposite position in the bill implies one’s state of mind going into the show is also completely different. A much more raw experience in NDV, but one equally successful in its role.
After Örök and before Atila, the two sets with post-rock influences during the night, Nevoa and Memoirs Of A Secret Empire (MOASE). First, the post black metal of the authors of last year’s “The Absence Of Void” took the stage with a similarly augmented live lineup including Örök’s Miguel and MOASE’s Ivo Madeira, both of whom must have finished the night exhausted after three shows each. The band’s performance was tight although slightly underwhelming, in part due to the placement of “Alma” in the middle of the show. Don’t get us wrong, it’s a good song and Cláudia Andrade‘s rendition of her guest appearance in the record was all that we could’ve hoped for in terms of its beauty, but had it been a set closer and the problem of how to move on from it would not have been posed, one that the self-titled final track of the band’s first full-length didn’t solve in a satisfactory manner.
As for MOASE, we got what we would have expected for a proper appearance of the band after having caught them live during Amplifest last year, then sharing the stage with Juseph. Regardless of our thoughts on the validity of “standard” post-metal in 2016, their instrumental songs are undoubtedly well written and on top of a stage the trio has the sort of intensity and urgency that makes them stand out. We are left with the belief that, like every single act on this fest, a promising future awaits them, one that hopefully will see them carve a more personalised sound for themselves. They were, however, the unluckiest of the bunch with their placement on the lineup: right after Vaee Solis, who in the middle of it all unleashed the sort of performance bound to have left a long lasting mark in those who witnessed it.
Just before what was for us the undisputed highlight of the evening and a bloody strong way to start our year with regards to concerts, a surprise awaited those in Cave 45, as the two other artists associated with the event had a short unannounced performance. With “Suspended In Light” introducing Pedro Esteves and João Filipe Pais to the stage, the former read passages from his then released book “Fogo Adverso” while the latter provided a droning backdrop with his self built cymbals. As for Vaee Solis, the same way we criticised Nevoa for the placement of their guest-sung piece, we are compelled to praise the now quintet for having gone with “Feral Isolation” right off the bat. Pedro Roque‘s theatrical screams and unsettling presence worked wonders in setting the tone just right for Sophia to take over from then on, thankfully in an uninterrupted fashion as that allowed for a more cohesive experience for all those involved.
Ever since the release of “Adversarial Light” (which was played almost in its entirety), the band has been honing their stage presence with high frequency, moreover seeing its own ranks increase with the addition of Filipe Correia from Concealment as a second guitar player, a change whose results are as drastic as they are positive, giving the band’s sound an extra layer that does more than merely making the sound fuller. Granted, our comparison stems from one of their earliest shows at Side B, but it was like watching two completely different bands that just happen to play the same songs. Taking advantage of a venue whose atmosphere fits their ritualistic blackened doom like a glove, the quintet’s performance was tense from beginning to end, not in the “they felt nervous” kind of way but in the sense of feeling like the musicians were as into what they were doing as humanly possible and that tends to rub off on the audience, which it did. Intense, as these things should always be.