Black metal was king during the second take on the North Dissonant Voices‘ liturgy, this time with a little help from abroad.

With the growing numbers of cancelled festivals throughout Europe, it’s refreshing to see a festival grow bigger after a successful first edition without losing a bit of its essence. Keeping it underground to the core, with multimedia presentations to complement the musical tempest, the dark arts were once again celebrated in a black mass, proposing its audience to question the notions of genre borders and “purity”. [ES]

If you ask me about the events in North Dissonant Voices, in Porto, I’ll have a less enlightened interpretation to share than someone who actually attended the festival out of passion and sheer interest for its music and black metal. Don’t take this wrong: I do like black metal, but what I know about it can be rather superficial and not up to date.

I’ll state the festival fulfilled its purpose, even when it failed to do so, but it also missed that George Michael song between shows that goes so perfectly with dim light and candles. Having said it, you’re aware of what MY context is. The first day definitely paid off. From the nice foreigner who dared to dance, to some unmerciful industrial blacksmithing, it went beyond black metal and still provided some pretty awesome tremolo picking and blast beating. I’m really picky and annoying, but I can hardly say something besides the lack of sub-bass was wrong.

Fortunately, it wasn’t a problem for the first acts. Starting with Tendagruta and what it seemed to be a literal approach to ambient and space, they transformed land with sound and closed the venue with claustrophobic explosions of power electronics and syncopated industrial violence, only to open a small gap and stretch it with modulated, near-ritualistic voices. It was pure noise and it transformed the surrounding space, much more than most of the other bands accomplished. [André Forte]

Turia showed us why the Netherlands are considered by many as the new Iceland. T‘s vocals are a thing to behold, lending a desolated texture to the sparseness of the band’s  minimalist black metal. With their follow up «Dode Kondre» set to release a few days after and the mini-tour nearing its end, they proved to be on top of their game despite the uneven sound noted at times in the room. [ES]

They staged one of the best black metal renditions of the festival, remind us all that atmospheric is more about rawness than it is about melody. One guitar and one drum kit provided enough of it for the voice to echo around the audience hauntingly.

Dolentia was technically the most immaculate band of the bunch, but it just didn’t work to me, specially when I clearly rather have it on the rough side. [AF]

The only (?) Portuguese black metal act of the festival, were decidedly average. Not lacking in intensity, their orthodox black metal nevertheless went by without much of a fuss, providing a breather from the overall ritualistic experimentation that took place for most of the day, but little else besides.

And as the Dutch brigade was set to invade, it was also set to conquer. Sharing Turia‘s drummer and guitarist, Lubbert Das ripped our souls and crashed our skulls in what was the best performance of the festival. Without any wrappings or need for “ambiance”, their black metal sounded harsh, punk and pleasingly immediate, proving that sometimes less is indeed more. [ES]

Speaking of the rough side, then came Atila vs. Sinter. The first with the new LP «Body» out, and the second having played around to gather some (well deserved) attention; this was a combo to take seriously – and they performed like they ought to be with musical scrapper and power electronics guru André Coelho taking the stand as a frontman, screaming his lungs out and hammering metal pieces to tinier pieces.

He ended up being a small distraction to all that was going on in his back: the percussionist João Filipe, the other half of Sinter, dedicated to avoid the dull rhythms that ended up coining the rest of the night and pulling the weirdest, rightest sounds to fill all layers of Atila’s soundsystem. Atila himself is no stranger to darker sounds, and as soon as the technical problems on the early part of the set were solved, ventured beyond his typical industrial and minimal techno approach to include some dubstep – and goddamn that lack of sub-bass; these guys would’ve killed it completely if it wasn’t for that PA system.

The first day took the most risks but reaped the most profit, artistically speaking, and ended up making amends for the second, which wasn’t nearly as exciting to say the least. And yup, not even Gnaw Their Tongues saved the lot that I dare resume as a simplistic dissection of what black metal can be, without ever being it. Even their set that was far from what I’ve seen in the past – it was violent and it had its loud moments, but why have a bass when you don’t have its punch, and why do it loud when you don’t bring dynamics to the table, nor make me go through a near-deaf experience? I would’ve been surprised by the performance, but I’ve seen better from Maurice and it felt rather underwhelming, which made me believe the venue’s conditions were not ideal for a real torturous experience in his hands. [AF]

Paean fell a bit short when compared to their Haeresis Noviomagi counterparts. Their drone/dark ambient felt too circular and flat at times but gained a second breath when Turia‘s T (vocals) went on stage for a few minutes and wrapped the showcase on a high note

The following act, DE · TA · US · TO · AS, left us hesitating in what to make out of their performance. Barefoot and with what resembled Hindu prayer beads, bloody body paint, human skulls, candles and silver bowls, they operated a live ritual (as they describe it) capable of putting many “ritualistic” bands to shame. The theatrical part of their equation was indeed mesmerizing, perfectly coordinated with the shrieks and electronics. But when our eyes shut and we forgot everything happening around us, the dark ambient/industrial black felt dull and we wished the set was shorter.

Also a bit underwhelming were the “anonymous” Gaerea. Being a fairly recent band and this their first show, it is a bit dishonest to cast any kind of expectation – but that’s the problem with hyping new bands (within the underground press that is). Keeping their hooded aesthetics, their black metal wandered between a less eerie Secrets Of The Moon and older Behemoth but lost some of the intensity that is present on their recent debut EP. [ES]

They didn’t participate in the said dissection of black metal, instrument by instrument, but their drummer did keep the “single part” concept going with the same rhythm for the whole show – ok, there was a gear in between his blast beats that made him play slower without ever changing pace. All in all, everything turned out perfectly for LVTHN, who came through as band of the night, solely because they actually brought all the interesting parts of black metal into their performance. Still, not even the blood they threw around made me feel excited, although that might be due to my vegetarian diet and lack of those tough metal proteins. [AF]

With closing honours, the Belgians gathered what seemed to be the most enthusiastic crowd of the festival, with headbanging and fists aplenty. Objectively, their Watain-esque approach to the black arts isn’t anything to write home about, but the live setting is where they thrive, injecting a whole new dose of intensity into their 2016 debut, i.e., they know how to put on a show. Raising cups filled with blood, ready to bathe in the guts of their enemies, they captivated every tired body for that one final push, and deserve full praise for that. [ES]

Now for my “out of context” part: why would one want to keep listening to metal after hours of, say, METAL? I don’t know. That’s why I say there was some George Michael missing. Or something that just goes well with candles, since nobody really gives a shit about religious rituals anyway. I’d be down with it. [AF]

This report must end with a heartfelt thank you to the DJ posse for keeping us all safe from the usual “I grew up in the 90s” playlist, sweetening our ears with tunes from Virus to Khanate.
See you all next year. [ES]