Dark Bombastic Evening – the 5th ritual

Dark Bombastic Evening 5

During my first visit at Dark Bombastic Evening event, in 2012, in the heart of Transylvania – the fortress of Alba Iulia, I decided that this festival has to become a yearly tradition. Mainly because of its simplicity and friendliness, two features that almost no other musical event have offered with such generosity. Both the 2012 and 2013 rituals of Dark Bombastic Evening have treated me with insane doses of good music, good mood and great company. In a location that might be the size of your backyard, if you have room for an ok sized stage, a couple of equipment boxes around it and then about 3-4 hundred people in front of it, then you have the festival area. Alba Iulia FortressA bit further away there’s some space for tents and for the bricks oven where big pots filled with local specialties are most likely to provoke an instant hunger and an unforgettable orgasm for your taste buds. But what you will surely lack in your backyard are the 300 years old fortress walls that were built in a Roman style and that add a very special charm to the whole experience.

Life at DBE5I am not sure whether to focus more on the musical events at the festival or on each of the small details that made it all so special. But starting with the latter, I think the detail that should be ranked way high is the fact that for three days you feel peaceful. There’s hardly any human behavior originating from Pandora’s box. I’ve never seen a festival where the security team is so invisible despite the flashy yellow/orange colors on their vests. And despite the fact that they rarely bother to be around the stage, the artists are much safer than if you put them in a glass box. Not to mention the overall safety feeling, so rare at public events, but here it felt like you could misplace anything of value and there’d be high chances you got it back. There’s so much respect and politeness on square meter that it’s almost surreal. People are more preoccupied with being happy and headbanging like crazy on the rhythms of some music that many of them never dared to dream to see live. Everyone has the chance to go and stuck their nose on the stage if they want. All these things are never offered by any of the bigger size events I attended, so, if it sounds unreal to you, it’s simply because you haven’t witnessed it live. Bonus: you get local food. No ‘everything tastes the same’ fast food. It’s all being mixed and packed and spread and baked in front of you. It might be a tad odd for foreigners at first, but I only heard good feedback about it. There’s a local cheese pastry, eggplant salad, gulas and can’t recall what else…As for drinks, there’s nobody ripping you off with festival prices. The area already has a bar that is functioning within a room inside the fortress walls, so the drinks menu (printed in the shape of a vinyl) is pretty complex and the beers had such a price that a Norwegian declared they are too cheap. Everything is cheap compared to a 10 EUR beer in a bar up North though, but the point I’m insisting on is that the alcohol price was not raised by 100% just because it is served at a festival. Yet, I hardly saw anyone dead drunk at the concerts. This doesn’t mean they weren’t lingering somewhere out of sight though.

Crowd at DBE5The ‘actual’ festival lasts for 3 days now (compared to last year when there were only two), but there’s some sort of a day 0, which took place on Wednesday and it offered a big fire around which people gathered to tell a story, play some guitars and watch a documentary. I missed this opening night as I only left Bucharest on Thursday morning and I drove for about 6 and a half hours to get to Alba Iulia. That meant I also missed the trip organised that morning to the Rosia Montana, a mineral rich area which is subject to a big environmental issue surrounding gold(?) mining. I recall I was so dead when we arrived at the hotel that I instantly fell asleep and woke up when the first band was supposed to begin. After eating and preparing everything, I left for the RYMA area (the name of the festival location) and I actually managed to get there in the middle of the first act, since everything seemed to have been delayed. And so the musical journey started.

The Serbians from Ana Never were the festival openers, and while the post-rock style flowing from their instruments was pretty pleasant (and it was cool to watch the drummer’s own way of living the show), I didn’t stop to pay attention for more than few minutes. But it was also because I was starting to spot familiar faces and went round hugging people and saying some hellos, shaking some hands and making new acquaintances. Another cool thing about this festival is that, by the end of the last evening, you more or less had the chance to speak to everyone in the area as everyone is a friend of a friend of a friend you already know. I even got to meet a guy who biked all the many kilometers from Bucharest to Alba Iulia, a road that forces you to cross the Carpathians. That was pretty brave.

Zero live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5Up next it’s time for French melancholy performed by Zero. A very uninspired name if you want to lookup some info about the band (at least more than it’s provided on their facebook page, called, obviously, killhimplease). It was interesting to see none other than Alcest’s Niege behind the drum kit with some gigantic drum sticks and doing a rather good job. He even kept silent for the whole show, allowing the singer to present us his very pleasant harsh vocal skills. Once the French trio was done, another trio took its place on stage, this time a German one – Electric Moon -who brought with them a wave of psychadelic sounds that I initially disliked (or didn’t understand), but by the end of each song I realised I was stuck in one place staring at the stage. Even if they were only three on stage, it felt like they would be able to convince the fortress walls to break into pieces due to the explosions in their music. Hats off for their skills and I should queue as much of their stuff as possible in my playlists. The only minus from my point of view was that the band members (except the drummer, who didn’t have much of a choice) rarely faced the crowd. But then again, you must really be into your own world to produce those sounds.

Aluk Todolo live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5Aluk Todolo‘s concert took place around a light-bulb hanging in the middle of the stage, light-bulb emitting a light whose intensity fluctuated according to the intensity of the guitar sounds. Overall it built an occult atmosphere to match the ‘style’ associated with their music. A music that would have been a good prelude to any malefic scene in a dark movie which is about to summon some demons. They did obsessively repeat their stuff and I couldn’t really digest the whole concert until the end. Maybe since there was a complete lack of evilness in the air and it didn’t feel right that they tried to change that. But whatever was in the air at that hour, it probably froze in agony during the last performance of the evening, another French band by the name of Dale Cooper Quartet. Their dark jazz that seriously transposed you in a Twin Peaks like set of images, wondering what giant would jump from behind the stage, was like a trip in time. Dale Cooper Quartet live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5 But a mysterious trip constantly backed up by a saxophone that was about to rip your soul apart with its sounds. I admitted the beauty of their dark music, but I sincerely was not at all in he mood for it, so I spent a lot of their concert catching up with some friends. I realise now that the music would have been perfect if me and my friends would have stayed in some big red armchairs with glasses of whiskeys in a hand and a nicely flavored cigar in the other. Those would have been some serious talks.

Alba Iulia Fortress gate

Friday started rather early with the beloved sounds of construction workers moving iron bars and starting cars whose engines make more noise than all the drummers at the festival. But that at least allowed for an early breakfast and another sleep reprise as I had difficulties being alive at 9AM. Later on I took a trip with my mum and we crossed through the main alley of the fortress, took photos, went further on to a big street full of outdoors bars, had lunch and a lemonade, then off again to to festival area. The second day of the festival was baptised ‘experimental evening’ (the previous one was ‘instrumental evening’). I admit I love experiments. I fell in love with a lot of the ones from last year, and, by the end of the evening, new passions emerged. The first one was in the shape of three pretty Swedish ladies by the name of Promise and the Monster. Promise and the Monster live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5Three heavenly voices supporting eachother in beautiful harmony, surrounded by a bunch of microphones in order to capture the soft sounds of the acoustic guitars, of the clapping and of the various types of bells. The girls convinced almost everyone to sit on the grass and let them lead their dreams under the hot afternoon sun, giving everything a hippie like feeling. It was the kind of sound that, whatever dictionary you use, you end up picking the word ‘beautiful’ to describe it.

Sieben live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5Once the Swedes received their dose of applauses and left the stage, one elegant man and his violin took over. Apparently he was called Sieben. Apparently he’s been around for a while and to my biggest shame I never heard his music before. I was seriously mind blown after a couple of seconds. I think one of the things I love most about live concerts is when musicians put passion into what they do. This guy put his own passion, transmitted it to you, made you feel passionate about his performance and then fed on your passion, only to return it to you in this vicious circle. He would wave his bow out in the air like crazy while he’d madly sing into the microphone. He would dance around with the violin in order to reach all his pedals and buttons used to record small pieces that he would loop on the background in order to build a rhythm section for each song. He would sing (and what a lovely voice) and scream and whisper into the violin microphone in order to obtain the background choirs of each song. And he would talk to us so nicely in between songs and keep us entertained. He would even play a Joy Division cover. He was simply amazing and, even if I seen this kind of ‘live song building’ using recorded loops, I’ve never seen it done with so much passion and dedication. Hats off to Matt Howden and his talent.

Parzival live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5Luckily, a friend of mine stopped beside me before the next concert and told me I’m about to see what Dark and Bombastic really meant. Else I would have probably been shocked by the Russian-Danish-German combination that goes by the name Parzival. They are described as playing ‘epic martial’, and I still have no clue what martial actually means when it comes to music, but it certainly has a military/medieval touch to it. And it sent me back to a lot of the Russian choirs and songs we had on the radio when I was little. I admit I was a tad shocked by the style of music. Especially since I associate it with about 100 people who must play together in order to pull it off. But they did it with two percussionists (wearing black masks with red towels like on top of their heads), a keyboard player, a guitarist and a vocalist. Oh, and what vocals skills that man had. He really is the definition of epic considering the deepness and the intensity of the sounds of his voice. Once again, he, alone, sounds like an entire male choir. Another mind blowing moment. Besides, I love percussion parts in music, and considering this band only had two big ass percussion sets with some cymbals attached, I was in a musical heaven.

Electric Orange live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5They were followed by another psychedelic electric band, this time Electric Orange from Germany, but I seriously couldn’t focus much on that concert, as I didn’t really figure out much of the funky decorations laid on the drum set and on the percussion set. My brain was stuck at the previous two ones and was eagerly anticipating the upcoming concert Besides, I needed food so I took a break to taste some of the local goodies. Yumm! Then I planted myself in front of the stage in order to get a good angle for the photos. To my surprise, my mum showed up at the festival area and I was really happy to finally show have her seeing me ‘in action’ with my camera. And seeing the performance of the Russians from Theodor Bastard. I learned about this band because of 2012 edition of DBE and I fell in love with their stage presence and the voice of their singer, the beautiful Yana. Even if there seemed to be some tiny issues during the soundcheck and some nerves arose on stage, by the time the show started this was professionally left aside and good mood took over from the first second. Fedor, switching between playing his body-less guitar, the percussion drum or hitting the gong, is constantly smiling and jumping around as often as the rhythm allows. One of the guys on stage is responsible to play some sort of wooden xylophone,Theodor Bastard live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5
a long wind instrument and plenty of smaller percussion elements, while Yana herself plays few different types of flutes. The whole combination of sounds is some of the freshest things I heard lately. Including the fact that when Yana’s beautiful voice stays silent, it happens we hear Fedor rapping. The crowd loves them so much that they were not allowed to leave the stage and had to perform an encore. I can’t see why anyone wouldn’t be under the spell of the genuine music that didn’t really allow your body to stand still.

Turning Golem live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5Turning Golem live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5Turning Golem live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5

Right after the show, on the wall behind the stage I saw the shadow of a woman that was dancing and I went running there to take some photos. It turned out that the crazy gang of Vulture Industries together with the even crazier gang of Happy Gorilla Dance Company needed to film shadows moving on the walls. So they sat two big light sources on the grass and decided that everyone should move backwards as they’d pass between the lights and the wall. But it would have been too boring to just walk backwards. So they used their imagination. And I swear by any gods that those people don’t lack imagination. I had always liked them, but now it was another moment of that evening of falling in love with beautiful madness. Little Vader Also with the mini Darth Vader who ran around the festival area the whole day and was photographed by everyone. He also participated in the shadow dance on the walls and was a really sweet addition to the whole deal.

And also the trees live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5Once the Russian spell was broken by the silence between two concerts and the shadows on the walls dance, it felt like the night was over. Even if the stage was taken over by the British post punkers from And Also the Trees. They were elegant on stage and they performed elegant music. As British as it could get. Poetic and polite, but unfortunately too calm after the cozy and pretty rhythms from before. The singer had also the kind of voice I’m deeply impressed by and, had they performed in another context, I’m sure they would have gotten more of my attention. As you can see, this little festival has almost too many goodies to offer for a mortal to digest them all. Especially when most of them are novelties to you.

Glaciation live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5Saturday started so lazy that I even managed to miss the first band of the day, Heretoir. I heard their blast beats from outside the fortress walls, while passing by a wedding ceremony that tried to entertain the participants with sax and trumpet. I should have told them to come to the festival for better music. But then I realised it’s the metal evening and Romanian culture is too scared of things that are easily labeled as satanists. But that only leaves more place for the rest of us. The first act I witnessed was also from France, was called Glaciation and it contained members of the first day project, Zero, including a guest appearance of Niege from Alcest. This time on vocals. A raw style of black metal which, despite the passion and the intensity of the singer, didn’t convince me to stay around the stage for longer than I needed to take some photos. But I did come back and didn’t move too far from the front area of the stage for the duration of the next two concerts.

In Vain live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5Both Norwegian bands, In Vain and Solefald. Since the bands share a lot of musicians and played right after eachother, it almost felt like the same band with two different styles. First, In Vain with their progressive sound and a fantastic skill at building songs that are so rich and varied it’s almost confusing. They have clean vocals, they have mad and mean melodic growls that demand your respect, they have riffs, In Vain live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5they have sick drumming, they have peaceful bits and ballad like sections. And despite the big differences that seem to arise even within the same song, they have a fantastic skill at building unitary pieces that in the end make perfect sense. Even if they already had two skilled singers on the stage, they felt the need to invite a third one, for one song. Of course, he is another member of Solefald.

Solefald live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5Speaking of sense, there’s way less of it in the Solefald appearance. I think you need to know a bit about the band’s background and ideas in order to comprehend their show: the uniform worn by Cornelius Jakhelln at the beginning of the show; the political references in the songs (why would anyone state that the USA don’t exist?); the salmon dance combined with black metal growls; the ballad to the sun and the mythological references; the fact that the band formed many years ago in Romania, in Constanta. And the fact that before their last song, Cornelius said there’s gonna be a surprise at the end of it and we should think about our location. And they ended with a cover of Darkthrone’s Transylvanian Hunger. That brought them some big dose of applauses. I have mixed feelings about the show. And it’s not at all tht I didn’t like it. I just didn’t know how serious to take them. When I saw them live at Inferno festival, they had a person painting mountains live as the show went on. That added a touch of seriousness. And Cornelius jumped way less from one end of the stage to another. But here, at Alba Iulia, they seemed in another dimension. Alas, it was fun to watch and I can rarely complain about people having fun (up to a certain limit). Plus, they had a certain cuteness that contributed to ignoring the wtf factor of the show.

Solefald live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5

Dog Show at Alba Iulia

Altar of Plagues live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5Apparently, this cuteness was contagious as it made me leave the festival area and go on the other side of the wall (I wished it was as cold as your mind makes you think it might have been) and visited a dog show. It had a lot of sweet puppies and never seen before dog breeds, so I ended up spending most of the Altar of Plagues playing with dogs. Then I realised that someone told me it’s the band’s last show so I hurried back to catch some of it and to see how a guitar can make history by being broken to pieces in the middle of musical passion. There was also a lot of passion in the intensity of the headbangers gathered in front of the stage. Maybe if I ever come to appreciate the music of this band, I’m gonna regret not being into the right black metal mood at this last show of theirs. I was a tad melancholic at that point I guess. The dark doom of Esoteric didn’t help much with the mood at the beginning of their show as all I recorded was the slowness of the rhythm. And then, after talking to some friends about the skills needed to keep such a slow pace, I actually started appreciating the process that took place on stage. Even if the music had some sort of slow motion feeling, it was impressive that the band made you live it at a very high intensity. Esoteric live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5I didn’t figure out the magick behind this, but I certainly enjoyed trying to figure it out. As soon as they stopped singing, I installed myself in front of the stage as it was time for the main reason I came to the festival: the Turning Golem project (aka Vulture Industries together with the Happy Gorilla Dance Project). Another fast change over (I think DBE is working with the fastest stage technicians on the planet)…then darkness and some background tunes…

Turning Golem live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5And so the madness starts. Vulture Industries members, wearing the same blueish uniform top, enter the stage, as the singer is being accessorised with his own…chained golem that got pulled all the way to the front of the stage and had to stand there enslaved for the duration of the first song. His ‘master’ climbed on a box so that he appeared even more impressive that he usually does during a performance. The first song ended by forcing the golem to get his well paint-coated body to good use and break the bricks laid on a table on the side of the drumkit. The stage is then invaded by a person dressed in an orange suit, carrying a small video camera and a big flashlight that is annoyingly directed into everyone’s eyes while the results are filmed and played on the backdrop (in a somewhat distorted way). Once the orange alien is gone, the attention shifts towards the white robe standing on the left side of the drum kit as it slowly starts moving and points to the text projected on the backdrop. It might be that she’s showing us the lyrics to the songs, who knows. But we surely know she’s absolutely amazing on stage after she gets in the middle of it and starts dancing. For a while, she faces the crowd with her left side, depicting another golem with very dry skin. And then she turns around…and there you have a lovely lady in a white dress. DSC_2655This was such a wow effect. And she kept on doing it until the end of the song when she started trembling like jelly until she collapsed on stage. After this, she started laughing madly while following the singer around and imitating his moves. And the crowd was also asked to imitate some of his moves for the duration of the next song. Then the bricks-breaking golem decided to rebel and moved closer to the center of the stage. Then everyone made a circle and started moving around the singer (everyone means the two golems and the three other movable musicians on stage). Then the woman climbed on the bricks table and started screaming, after releasing the golem from his chains. The golem picked up the heavy chains and, after a terrific dance, he got control over his previous ‘master’ and chained him. Then the chained Bjørnar crawled to the front of the stage and performed the end of the dramatic song while stretching his arms to the crowd and showing us all the suffering and pain he’s going through. Then he collapsed on the stage and everyone else left. Then they came back. This time the guitarists had no shirts and they stood on each side of the stage while a blinking eye was projected on each of their naked backs. Then the singer stood up and delivered the last epic part of the show, while the male golem went to the side of the stage and started dancing around a barrel that was set on fire. I have no clue what happened to the woman at that point. Turning Golem live@Dark Bombastic Evening 5I was somewhat exhausted myself from trying to watch everything as well as taking pics of it. Then it was over and they took a low bow and gathered countless amounts of aplauses from a thrilled crowd. The magic was over. What an honor for us to be offered the chance to see it for the first time. And to actually listen to a lot of songs from the band’s upcoming album, songs that have never before been performed live. Nor heard by anyone for that matter.

The last band of the festival were the Irish doom act Mourning Beloveth. And with all the respect to everyone who loves their music, my brain could hardly understand any musical combination that would enter my ears at that point in time. I only saw golems and only heard the Vulture Industries theatrical dramatic sound. It was like trying to figure out what hit me. So I decided instead to start saying goodbyes and go towards the hotel as I would have had to wake up in some 4-5 hours to drive back to Bucharest and then to catch flights back to Oslo. It was a rather good moment to return as I witnessed some funny off-festival band moments, but I’d much rather respect people’s privacy and not say a word about them.

Short or long, this is my side of the story about Dark Bombastic Evening 5. For now, I only managed a short set of pics with Turning Golem and it can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151510092936734.1073741837.641126733&type=1
There’s plenty of photos to come and probably they will all end up on http://andreutza.biz/zenphoto
But until then, in the hope that you enjoyed what you have read, I invite you to witness at least one of the events organised by Donis Art. Especially any future editions of Dark Bombastic Evening.

In a classical style, I end my story with the biggest thanks that can be expressed on a PC screen and address them to Doru who amazes everyone with his level of energy and dedication to make everything work perfectly for everyone. The same goes to each of the people involved in making DBE a reality and to the security team who should give lessons to each security agency that works with concerts. Thumbs up. Hats off. Peace out!

A later edit: here’s a short clip with moving images from the festival, and after watching it, I feel that I should add up few more thousand words. But I’d best stop here and let you enjoy this:


Dark Bombastic Evening – review of the 4th Ritual

Photo gallery for the below review is available here.

The number of festivals held in Romania is slowly increasing every year, but as far as I notice on the web or through news from my friends, they follow the same pattern: rent a huge space, bring ‘big’ bands that sell your tickets, cage the participants within some fences and tell them to have fun there, there’s hardly any interaction between fans and artists, the crowd is offered the classical piss draught beer, everything is on the run and so on. I was ‘warned’ by my friends that DonisArt events build up to a different kind of experience, but my imagination was way far from what I was about to experience during the three August days spent in Alba Iulia, with the occasion of Dark Bombastic Evening festival and its fourth ritual.

We arrived there Thursday afternoon after an interesting start of the day, involving some pigeon shit and few hours spent with the car in a service. But driving through Romania through Valea Oltului can be rewarding as it offers some pretty landscapes and cool, narrow and/or steep driving sections. The hotel we stayed at, Transilvania, besides missing a letter in the name and some basic comfort related details, offered us a friendly stuff and comfortable beds for a good rest. It was also located pretty close to the Ryma area, the place where DBE took place. This Ryma area is a part of the Alba Iulia fortress, a place that played some important roles throughout Romania’s history. As I am not writing the review with the purpose to give a history lesson, for those of you interested, you can maybe start reading a bit here – http://www.uab.ro/sesiuni_2008/limbi_moderne/pagini/venue.htm – and then use the search engines’ power in order to find out more. Overall, it is a fantastic location for such a festival as it contributes to the authenticity and the coziness of the atmosphere.

I have no idea how many participants the festival had. I noticed an impressive number of people who came from abroad. But my amazement was quite obvious when I realised how ‘big’ the stage and the festival designated area were. Yet, it worked perfectly I’d say. There was place for tents all the way in the back, a place for the ‘kitchen’ where we would be served some really tasty authentic foods (I so had enough of festival fast foods prior to this event), a climbing wall, an outdoor bar, a bunch of tables, a stage, a merch stand and even few parked cars. Inside the fortress walls at the Ryma spaces there was place for another bar, an artists area and an art gallery that I personally forgot to visit. Yet everything was reachable within thirty seconds of walking. It was that small and I hope you can imagine how special the two evenings become under such circumstances. Wherever you walk you most likely run into a familiar face. And if not, after few hours of moving around, every face becomes familiar. Old acquaintances blend with new ones, there’s a certain friendliness floating all over the place and most of all, a lack of stress that I rarely felt in Romania. Even the guards somewhat managed to ‘hide’ their presence, meaning that I never felt them threatening in any way like it might happen at concerts. I actually didn’t notice any of them in front of the stage, another thing that I never experienced before.

Besides the multitude of bipeds in the area, we had the company of some local(?) stray dogs who occasionally added their barks as effects to whatever was performed on stage. Plus, next to these performances that I will try to summarise below, we could admire all sorts of acrobatic performances (jugglers, slackline, one wheeled bikes), kids fighting with wooden swords or brave folks trying to reach the top of the climbing wall. The best thing was that you didn’t need to relocate at all in order to admire the show. When it would be dark enough, some small balloons carrying candles would be sent out in the air, hopefully offering some entertainment to the Alba Iulia citizens who filed complaints about the noise in the fortress. I was really sad to hear that one of the only two events hosted by the fortress and that must generate a lot of income for some of the locals, is treated with so much hate. Oh well, let’s focus on the nice memories of the weekend, mainly the music on stage. And the friendliness of the staff who always had a good joke to tell and a smile on their faces. Which is a big plus for a festival in this country.

The ‘noise’ would start each day at four PM, each band getting around forty five minutes on stage then fifteen minutes for the instruments change and set up and all. The fourth DBE ritual was opened by the Scottish band Falloch and their Folk, Atmospheric and Post Rock mix, but due some previous running back and forth to/from the fortress, I missed a part of their show so I only got to notice little of the atmosphere they might try to build, but I must say that the music was, occasionally, way too badass for the softer and clean vocals. But then again, I heard too little of it to fully remember what happened on stage. After a short while, the stage was taken over by one of the many Swedish bands in the festival’s schedule: Isole. They brought along over twenty years of experience and music and a very dark/doom metal that felt like perfectly belonging to the fortress walls. Slow tempos and very long songs, whose depressiveness was quite ruined by daylight, yet it allowed you to focus more on the skills of each musician (one of them being a member in Loch Vostok, a band that will visit many European places pretty soon on their tour). All in all, I found it to be a pretty direct and fanciness free doom that’s worth checking out.

I only recently discovered the Finns from Oranssi Pazuzu and their psychedelic black metal (one of the band members called it cosmic metal, but since that description is taken, we left it to psychedelic cosmic metal). But they are rather catchy, for me at least. They have such odd songs and riffs (one guitar player occasionally uses a lightbulb over the chords) that simply get stuck to your brain. I dare you to fully listen to the song ‘Komeetta’ and take it out of your head afterwards. The band’s name seems to translate into the expression ‘exorcist cosmos’, which suits pretty well the evilness transmitted through their music, a music that at times felt able to even darken the sunlight. I believe the band regretted a lot their stage uniforms involving very thick black coats/hoods, considering everyone in the crowd was boiling and wearing only tshirts. But they did offer an intense performance and probably made some new fans right away. Another small break and time for Alcest, a French band that is ‘on the wave’ right now, playing countless of concerts and festivals and gaining more and more attention in the press. They had played DBE the previous year and, despite their busy schedule, they decided to make the effort to play Alba Iulia once more. They were very loved by the crowd as far as I noticed, and I was glad to finally experience live the interesting mix of black metal and some soft, cozy harmonies, that I lately found described as dreamy post-romantic blackgaze.

Next, we would be taken towards a more atmospheric and post black metal music, spiced up with jazzy influences, with the help of the Germans from Lantlôs. As far as I understood, it was their first live show. It started feeling like the music would get darker and darker, impression enforced by the two bands that followed. The music was not easy to digest at all, as it certainly has a genuine way of combining elements that end up sounding so ‘noir’ and heavy and like nothing you (or maybe I) heard before. It has a certain melancholy and monotony, yet, strangely it doesn’t feel repetitive. I guess they need some congratulations for managing to obtain this. All this was followed by even more slower rhythms coming from the Finns in Unholy, a project that was formed back in the nineties, but kept on splitting, hence, there’s not that many chances of seeing them live. Even fewer, if none, in the future. And I feel bad for not bothering to understand more of the bizzare mixes and sounds on stage, but my stomach was demanding its rights so I had to spend time filling it up with food and taking a little rest for the day.

I returned to watch more Finnish dark music, from Dark Buddha Rising. As it started to get dark, the atmosphere was well built in combination with the bloody show offered by the singer who poured ‘blood’ all over his body using some slow, adequate motions. Their silhouettes were perfectly matched with the DBE fiery logo projected behind the drums. Their music totally requires a certain mood or state of mind to comprehend. I saw people who were simply adoring it and a lot of the audience was simply wondering ‘wtf?’. Don’t think I heard anything in between about the band’s sound, that most likely feels like a neverending repeating riff for an untrained ear. Because, at the times when I did try to figure something out, I realised that the repeating riff actually comes with something new after a little while. And then something else new. So I totally put a new name on my list of ‘bands to be explored’, and maybe one day I might either comprehend or simply just hate this. We’ll see.

The Mount Fuji Doomjazz Corporation was one of the day’s highlights in my program, as I liked the sound of their ‘sister’ project, Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble. But TMFDC is based on live improvisation putting together elements of noise, jazz, experimental and ambiental music. I must admit that the live experience was not as cool as expected. It’s the kind of concert I’d much rather enjoy in an opera hall or so, and I’d prefer more ‘action’ instead on the stage. The whole band is kinda static and they prefer to play ‘in the dark’ and have you focusing on a projection on the background. They had small problems with one of the laptops, hence the show was a tad delayed, but they probably couldn’t cut it shorter as the movie would no longer make sense. By the time they ended, the energy felt kinda low all around, and luckily the night was revived by the Icelanders from Sólstafir and their boundaries breaking blend of metal, rock and a dark rock’n’roll like sound. Equiped with their stage ‘suits’ reminding you of some wild west characters, performing mainly from their latest release, Ljós i Stormi, having to cut their set off by one song, the band offered the most energic gig I witnessed. I say this because I never saw the guitarist called ‘Gringo’ moving from his spot, nor the singer doing so much changes in the way he interprets the songs. Another important change was during the song ‘Fjara’ where the choir was replaced by a sweet pan flute played by Gadinet from Negura Bunget. I guess the late night atmosphere combined with the energy on stage was a perfect winner for the end of the DBE’s first evening and made me count quite plenty of Sólstafir tshirts in the audience, the day after.

The night ended with an afterparty ‘around the corner’, still in the Ryma spaces but not in the area where the stage was located, where a bunch of people would headbang and jump and dance on the metal rhythms played by the evening’s DJ, using his vinyls (as far as I read prior to the event). I was surprised that they used more ‘commercial’ tunes, as last year the music was chosen more in the underground direction, but as long as people had fun, it must be all that maters. This was, again, a chance to sit down with old and new friends and enjoy a drink and some jokes. This led to a slow morning the next day but it was well worth it. Due the insane heat outside, I only left the hotel to eat lunch with some friends in a pub close to the festival area, a pub whose owner has a rather weird conception about business and how he should handle a multitude of customers at the same time. Hence, I’d gladly stay away from Pub13 anytime I am in Alba Iulia.

My friends and I called the second day of DBE a ‘folk day’, considering the names on the lineup. And it started as such, with the Italians from Rose Rovine e Amanti and their neofolk rock with a red rose attached to the hat. We actually thought several times that they sing in Romanian, this is how much the two languages sound alike (unless he used a special Italian dialect in his lyrics). Musically, we were treated with a continuous change between electric and acoustic guitar for the main singer, keyboards, violin and a drummer who maintained the grooviness of their songs. I was happy that they seemed to set a good mood among the audience, setting the right state for the bands to come after them. The first one in the series was the Romanian – Italian mix going by the name Sunset in the 12th House, also invited for the second time at this festival, due an unfortunate cancellation of another band. But this was rather fortunate for me as the guys had the chance to perform live songs from their first album and what a thrill for the ear this was. With two percussionists on stage, one on regular drums, one on African like ones, hand held (I can’t recall if they have a dedicated name), I was immediately sold to the grooviness of each tune. There were hardly any vocals used in the lyrics, leaving place for a sweet flow of guitars, bass and mandolin mix and an increased level of curiousity for the upcoming album. I recommend you don’t miss it. Plus, I was more than happy to see the great response from the Romanian crowd, who didn’t seem to have enough of the guy’s performance.

A bunch of musicians filled the stage for the next concert and they are playing with the name Hexvessel and bring us a psychedelic forest folk rock as far as I was informed. But irregardless of the music categorisation, they bring us beautiful music. It was fantastic to stand in front of the stage and try to visually capture what each musician does and at the same time trying to figure out the overall sound entering your ears. It felt really pretty, like it did when I shortly listened to some tunes prior to the festival. I saw people dancing and clapping with enthusiasm between songs. It was the band’s second performance at the festival and I’m pretty sure they had a great time both on stage and also among the Romanian audience. They kept smiling as long as I saw them on stage and, even if they couldn’t release their newest album at Alba Iulia, I was told they played some of the new compositions that, like the entire setlist, sounded fantastic.

Fantastic (and more than that) is one of the words to describe the next performance on stage. I somehow missed the name Coulisses in the list and thought that the next performers are called Isobel & November. They started as a duo on stage, with one guy on keyboards and a bearded guitarist in front of the microphone. When he started to sing, I felt like hypnotised. It’s been a while since I heard such an awesome voice that simply leaves me with my mouth open and unable to move away from the stage. The duo played few more songs, quite intimate and dark, folkish sounds. The keyboard player switched to drums eventually, keeping a soft and surprising back rhythm for the lovely voice and the guitar. After a while, the guitar and its carrier left the stage, making room for a cool drum solo, after which the other people in the band came up on stage, taking over the bass, the drums (the previous drummer went back to his keyboards and/or guitar). The singer also came back and all of a sudden the music switched to a bit more psyched (apparently country and goth) music. Extremely beautiful stuff, usually starting softly and cozy and ending up in a madness of sounds during which Per Erik (the singer) seemed to go berserk. He didn’t even bother to replace the broken string on his guitar. So, actually what happened on stage was that Coulisses is another project of Per Erik’s, but as they didn’t have a lot of material for a full concert, they combined their set with Isobel & November. Actually, this was the first live appearance of Coulisses as far as I understand and I am more than happy to have been able to witness that. It was the biggest and most beautiful surprise of the festival for me. Not to mention I always had to move back and forth as the light kept on changing during their set, making it for more and more interesting photos as well. Another mention about this concert is that for one of the songs, everyone in the audience was called ‘pussy’ and so were the band members. That was because it was dedicated to the ‘Pussy Riot’ scandal, in order to show the solidarity with the imprisoned musicians.

I don’t even recall when I was done with the eating process, but pretty soon it was time for the Russians in Theodor Bastard. I had listened to their ethno trip hop before and I found it rather beautiful and full of emotions. The live experience raised the beauty to even higher standards. The darkness had surrounded the stage so their pretty singer was interpreting and gracefully dancing under various colors dictated by the stage lights. Her voice was simply beautiful from one end to another and they even got to play an extra song, that’s how much the crowd and Doru, the organiser, loved it. Once again I saw a bunch of people dancing in front of the stage or along the walls and benches. There were such good vibes in the air going from and to the stage that I somehow wished that concert would end the evening and would last for few more hours. Yet, it had to stop and the Russians had to leave the stage to make room for the Poles in Job Karma. A duo presenting their ambiental computer music (as all I noticed on stage were two laptops and a bunch of cables) with a heavy accent on visual images projected in the background. With all my respect for the artists’ work and ideas, I was too tired at that hour to watch anything on a screen and I simply can’t spend more than 3 minutes looking at people playing music behind the computers. Hence I took a small retreat in the ‘party’ area of Ryma (quiet at that time) and enjoyed the silence and an encounter with some familiar faces.

I returned later to the main stage to have a look at the Danes from Of the Want and the Moon and check out the sound of their neo folk tunes which felt quite shamanistic at times. It seemed like there’s plenty of beautiful, almost magic, music coming out from the speakers but my level of tiredness didn’t allow to focus for too long, so I just had to put them on my ‘to listen to’ list. I sort of regret not being able to enjoy their music live, but after so many lovely moments during that day, I guess I was allowed. I do hope to see them live again on a better day. The last show of this incredible festival was delivered by The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensamble. The albums that I listened from this Dutch project are full of mystery and a dark, intense ambience, which they try to replicate live and combine with a set of moving images that play on the background. There’s a bunch of instruments either working together or allowing one of them to stand out and let you discover its beauty (the trumpet sounds were hypnotising). I was sad that they didn’t have a drummer on stage (unless he was well hidden behind all the tall supports for PCs and such), but glad I got to experience them live. Probably a god choice for the final show as the music invited you to retreat in a corner of your mind and enjoy the silence around you. Yet, my brain was feeling as if it’s about to shut down, so I spent a big part of the show trying to find someone to walk back to the hotel with. I was too tired to even think of the idea of catching a cab.

I think there’s many other words that can be said about this festival. And about each of the bands. Probably someone with more and deeper knowledge of these underground genres might have succeeded in giving you a better picture of what the two days in Alba Iulia have offered us, music wise. For me, it was a lovely treat. I’m glad to have discovered new bands and re-experience the ones I already knew from before. But most of all I am glad for the two days of openness and friendly atmosphere. I believe the best ending for this review is to send big thanks to Doru and everyone in his team involved to make this event happening and running so smoothly. I heard rumors that maybe this might be the last DBE edition. It would be a real pity if this is the truth, yet, people who got to attend the events are probably left with some amazing memories and stories to tell over and over again. But with or without this festival, after having experienced such an event, I believe that the words on DBE’s page footer (http://www.darkbombasticevening.com/) state the truth – ‘Underground will never die!’ Amen!

PS: Many thanks to Andrei who helped me with some pieces of advice about what I wrote in the review

Sólstafir Interview at Inferno Festival 2012

With a history going all the way back to ninety-five, Sólstafir is a four piece Icelandic band whose current musical style makes it rather impossible to put them into one category or another. Hence, I tried to get to chat with the band to try to maybe understand better who they are and what their music is about. The band’s drummer, Guðmundur Óli Pálmason, or Gummi, if the previous name seems impossible to decipher, was really nice to sit down with me after their signing session at the Inferno festival 2012 in Oslo, and answer my questions. The result of our talk can be read below, while more info on the band and their music can always be found either on their website – http://solstafir.net/ – or any of the official pages on facebook, myspace, etc. Besides, I personally recommend you give their 2011 album, ‘Svartir sandar’ a try.

You guys just did a European Paganfest tour, with Primordial, Korpiklaani and Negura Bunget among the names on the lineup. How did that go for you, what was the overall experience?
Gummi: I think the band is really growing. We were the opening act so I guess most people were not coming to see us mainly. But we always ended up with a good crowd, since we never played in front of an empty hall. I can only assume that people saw or heard our name somewhere and came to check us due curiosity. Even though this paganmetal thingy is not where we belong, our music is not pagan not viking nor some stupid humpa metal at all. All in all we consider it was a very good experience and we have reached some new crowd and that’s basically the reason we did it.

How did you end up playing Paganfast then?
I think it was actually through Alan from Primordial. He really wanted to have us. I know he’s neither into humpa metal so I guess he wanted some serious pagan metal band.

You just said you’re not pagan metal..
Actually I regret the last affirmation. But let’s say we of course are some sort of pagan metal then. First of all we are heathens, which some take as synonym for pagan. We don’t go around and read certain books every day or shit like that. Besides, being Icelanders, this is something that’s in our blood. Yet, we don’t really sing about it. We’re not singing about the Gods nor vikings going around with swords.

Then what are you singing about, considering not that many people probably manage to fully understand your lyrics?
We sing more about personal stuff. We get inspiration from our own personal lives. People asked us if out last album, ‘Svartir Sandar’, is a concept album and, well, we never thought about it like that but in retrospect it kinda is. It’s kinda about this lost soul wandering in the wilderness of Iceland, the black volcanic deserts and stuff like that.

Yea, I actually got to witness that with my own eyes
You know, that place kinda affects your mentality in a way, especially when you live there. Maybe you don’t think it’s anything special when you grow up there, but once you get to go away to other places, you see how things are totally different. When I was a kid, I thought all sand was supposed to be black. Then I travelled to Europe and I saw brown sand, and I thought ‘What is that? Sand is supposed to be black, not brown’.

What’s the story behind the band’s name?
Well it was either that or Satanic Goat Penis. I’m glad we went with Sólstafir, because Satanic Goat Penis would have limited us in a way. Haha

Let’s look at your last release. Why is it divided in two?
It was too long for one CD. Basically we were writing a lot of material as we took a new approach this time in the way we would write our music. We went into our rehearsal room from nine in the morning and we would just make music until five o’clock in the afternoon when kindergartens close down and some of us have to pick up their kids. We did this like five or six days a week, for about three months. We booked the studio in advance and when we finally got there, we just couldn’t stop writing. So we wrote one song in the studio, which is something we never done before. We really were on a roll.

I guess one can pretty much feel it in the album. It is quite compact.
I think you can actually hear it’s all written in the same period of time and it’s all written before noon, so that’s why it’s so mellow as we didn’t feel like playing fast at that time. When we were done, we told our label we have this much material and we thought they’d gonna ask us to drop one song. But instead, they replied with their French accent ‘Ok, so it’s a double album’ (said with a French accent). We were really surprised they didn’t ask us to take any of the songs away and they were really into the idea of making a double CD. Another surprise, since hardly any label does that today. Basically it was their idea to do it.

Who did the album cover and what is it about?
The cover and all the artwork was painted by a Norwegian artist called Kim Holm. We met him when he came to our gig in Bergen and he asked us if he could paint pictures of us while we played. We’ve been asked by photographers before, but never a painter, haha. A few weeks later we were discussing ideas about the cover and we decided his style would fit the music perfectly. He also painted a picture to each song, based on his own interpretations of the music and the lyrics, as well as hand writing all the lyrics. Basically he did an awesome job!

One of the songs on the album, Stormfari, is ‘spoken’ by a woman’s voice. Is she reading some news or?
Her name is Gerður G. Bjarklind and she is reading the weather forecast. She is the voice of the Icelandic radio and everyone in Iceland recognises that voice. Some of my friends were very surprised when they first heard the song and it felt as if someone turned on the radio. We agreed with her to read this forecast that speaks of upcoming bad weather as it fits really well with the concept of the song.

You released a video as well, for the song Fjara. Was this also made by the label or by yourselves or, what’s the story?
Basically me and our singer had this idea to rip off a movie called Django, a sixties western movie with a guy dragging a coffin through the desert. We thought that would look cool in our video. We know this American director, Bowen Staines, who did a lot of stuff in Iceland and who worked with National Geographic. We just sat down with him and brainstormed the script based on that idea, we also got a little bit of budget from the label so we ended up with everything well planned. It was our first experience with making something visual in a really professional way. I think in the end it really paid off. It was a lot of hard work, we did it ourselves for a small budget. It looks as if it had bigger budget. I even risked my life doing the video.

Oh, what happened?
I don’t know if you noticed, but in the end of the video, the coffin sails over a waterfall. Somebody had to get the fuckin’ coffin out in the river. I am not exaggerating, but the coffin was like seventy kilos heavy. The guy who made it didn’t think of the fact we had to drag it all over so he used some solid wood. So we ended up having to carry seventy kilos up the mountains, down again, then I had to go in the river. The waterfall is something like sixty-five meters tall and the river that leads to it was up to my knees. I was dragging the coffin in the middle of the river all the way to about five meters close to the waterfall. I had some ropes around me, but still, it was one of the most stupid things I’ve done. It was also a lot of fun and we even placed a small camera on the coffin so you could actually see the horizon and then when it goes over and into the waterfall.

Did the girl in the video actually drag that heavy coffin?
Yeah, and she’s about forty-five kilos. She was really struggling, plus it was really cold and she was only wearing this thin white dress. She did a very good job.

Do you think your music is representative for Iceland in any way?
Both yes and no. We don’t sound like a typical Iceland band

What’s a typical Iceland band then? I personally heard such a wide variety of sounds from that country, from Björk to Sigur Rós..
Indeed, and then you got the metal scene today, which is mainly technical death metal. I think we’re probably in the middle. We’re not a metal band, yet we’re not like the bands you named either. We’re this rock band floating in the middle somewhere. People are telling that when they listen to our music they can see the Icelandic landscape. Honestly, this was not what we aimed for as we’re not pretending to have written the music in the nature. We live in the city and write the music there. But if this is the feeling that people are getting out from what we play, then it must be representative in a way.

Do you consider yourselves as an underground band or now do you think you started to go over the ground?
We’ve been an underground band for seventeen years. And now it feels strange to be on the top ten in Iceland for some weeks, top five on some big radio stations and to be number one on a rock’n’roll radio station. People are really starting to know us, even in the streets. We really don’t think much about this aspect, making music is our hobby, like for example other people just collect stamps. We’re obviously underground if you take the scale of U2 or Metallica, hehe

Yea, let’s not go there. Back to my initial question about the tour (since the dialogue flowed differently than the order of my questions). Any funny stories that you can recall now?
Korpiklaani was playing with us every weekend and their singer has the same hair as I do. So people were always coming to me in the weekend asking if I am their singer. Some girl wanted a photo and she kept saying ‘Wow, it was a really good show, can I have a photo please? Can I have a photo?’. I was thinking to myself ‘Oh yeah, I’m a rockstar, you can of course have a photo’. Then, after the photo was taken she walks away and says ‘Korpiklaani’ and all my enthusiasm is gone. Both me and Jonne, their singer, thought this was quite hilarious. We went out in the crowd, found the same girl again, and she still thought I was their singer. This was happening the whole tour. One guy came to me asking ‘Are you the singer of Korpiklaani?’ ‘No, I’m not’ ‘Yes, YOU are!’ ‘No, I’m not’ ‘Yes, you are!!’. He didn’t believe me. At the end he took me to a bar, gave me some drinks. I couldn’t say no, I would have offended him.

Did you get to play many far? Actually, what I’m trying to ask is if you prefer to play festivals or regular tour shows?
It depends. I like being on tour, you know what you have to do every day, you know the people. Festivals can be cool as well, especially if you get a great spot. We played Roskilde festival for about seventy-five minutes and that was one of the most awesome gigs we ever done. Overall I probably don’t see much difference between playing festivals or just concerts. We love playing live and being on stage.

How are things for an artist in Iceland? Do you get any sort of state support? Or community support? Or it’s mainly hard work by yourself and invest all your money into it?
It’s really hard work. We spent so much money on this band. The thing is, it’s also very hard to make it outside Iceland. If you’re, for example, a band in Norway… I remember when we were a black metal band in Iceland in the early nineties. Nobody paid any attention to us, but probably in Norway we would have been signed very quickly. Then, there’s the fact that bands in mainland Europe can just hop in a van and start touring, while we have to take a plane with all our stuff and that is quite expensive. So breaking out of Iceland is really hard. But lately there started to be a bit more support. Iceland Air, for example, is offering special deals for bands and their equipment. I believe such things help the music scene in Iceland overall.

It’s cool to get some ‘fresh air’ from that direction since there’s pretty genuine stuff..
You know, not every band in Iceland is very original though, yet you wouldn’t probably hear about those who aren’t original. Why should you? You already have one hundred bands in your own country that sound the same, so why would you look all the way to Iceland for that? So those who break out it’s only the people who have something new to offer, I think.

So there’s a struggle to go around the main existing patterns..
It is a natural process though. I think that if you’re a band in Iceland you know that you’ll never make a living out of it, you’re never going to sell more than twelve hundred copies, so why should you try to please anyone else than yourself? I believe that kinda of sponsors originality. This doesn’t mean we don’t have non original bands though.

Are you guys happy?
As a band, I think we’re happy with what we have accomplished. Not many bands have stayed together for seventeen years, with the same lineup. I think we’re just too stupid to quit. So if happy is stupid…

That’s the reason?
Yeah, ignorance is bliss, happy is stupid, then we’re probably quite happy because we’re quite stupid.

As long as you make good music, I like that solution. In August this year, you’re going to play in Romania at Dark Bombastic Evening festival – http://www.darkbombasticevening.com. I guess you’ve never been to Romania, what do you know about the country? Or the festival?
Well, everyone heard about Transylvania. I also know that Vlad Tepes was the inspiration for the Dracula thing. Of course he wasn’t a vampire, but he pretty much was an insane tyrant. About the festival, I know that they always had unique lineups. There’s this band, Hexvessel. Their singer used to be the singer of another band called Code, whom we toured with. He’s also the Norwegian black metal band Dødheimsgard (DHG), but anyway, he already played there with Hexvessel and he really really recommended this festival to us. They’re actually playing there agin this year, since he loved it so much. He’s a very good friend of ours, hence we trust his advice. So, even if it’s possible that we are going to lose money at this festival, we decided to do it. But it’s probably one in a lifetime opportunity, so we’re thrilled to take it. It feels like it’s a unique festival and this is the reason we decided to do it.

On your tshirts, you have this text … ‘Anti Christian ‘
‘Anti Christian Icelandic Heathen Bastards’. We had this slogan when we were a black metal band, so to speak. We are all pretty much against organised religion. It’s not just Christianity, but every organised ones.

Is Iceland a religious country?
No, not at all. We actually always think of Norway as religious fanatics, since they actually are more religious than we are. Which is funny. Anyway, we stick to our slogan since that is what we stand for. We are not a political band in any way, we don’t agree with Christianity, nor organised religion, we are heathen and we are fucking bastards, so there you go. And, of course, Icelandic.

I think I’ve been through all my questions, so at the end, any final words for the readers or people who will come to see you live?
We’re the best band in the world, buy our albums, I need money..

Hehe, you have five kids at home..
Yea, five kids, I need to feed them. Hehe.

Oh, and last subject of the interview. What do you think about these scandals nowadays about downloading stuff from the Internet?
I don’t think that’s the problem. My friend was reading a book, by a guy who used to be a CEO of a big record label back in the eighties or nineties. He was saying that even back in the nineties, the record sales were going down, because of the price of the CDs. If the record labels would put their CDs at a reasonable price, the people would still buy them. The Internet is not the cause of the whole problem. It has, of course, changed everything. But we used to have tape trading before as well. But today, the rules that they are trying to pass seem to attempt to ban every kind of user uploaded material. And that’s just censorship in its purest form. I don’t want to go too much into it as I’m really into conspiracy theories, but basically I believe the Internet is the voice of the people, and some people try to take away that voice. They are using the download thingy as an excuse to do that. I think it’s more about taking the power away from the Internet users, since that’s where everyone can state their opinion right now and say things against anything.

In some countries…
Exactly, maybe in few years, you won’t be able to say anything anywhere since there won’t be freedom for user uploaded content. So it goes much much deeper than music or movies.

Well,I guess it’s best to stop here, as we can debate for hours, but tonight is not for thinking, but rather for enjoying good music and the good mood around at the festival.