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: