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Dark delights at Messe Des Morts

Posted by Lorcan / March 12, 2013

Mgla120313.jpgThose with a soft spot for darker underground metal were treated to the second installment of the Mess Des Mortes festival last Saturday night, with a packed-out Theatre Plaza being the venue of choice. Appealing to the substantial amount of Black Metal fans in the fine city of Montreal was always going to be a winner, and with the first installment having gone down successfully, round two with luminaries from as far afield as Poland and Germany was always a certainty.

Along with the usual odour of beer and flowing dry ice, there was an element of unfinished business in the air, as one of the best groups of their kind in Europe at the moment, Poland's Mgła, had been unable to make the last year's show.

The group's inclusion tonight for a once-off North American date is the major draw for many - their first album in four years, the almost scarily good 'With Hearts Toward None' being firmly ensconced in many Top of 2012 lists.

Theatre Plaza itself is exactly as the name suggests. Despite a humbly small entrance on Saint-Hubert (Metro Beaubien) it boasts a large, if somewhat sparse stage, facing a large overhanging bar and balcony. The balcony in particular makes for a great vantage point to sample beers and check out bands without pushing through the mass below.

With local openers Black Empire sadly missed (and seemingly gloriously uncaring of another Montreal band that incorporate those words in their name), it falls to Phildelphia's Woe to continue warming up the swelling crowd.

The group give an impressive account of themselves. Swelling and melodic Black Metal blasts off the stage with some particularly nifty drumming. There's a sense the group's pedigree isn't exclusively of the old school vintage though, with some breakdowns and chugging guitar sections adding to the colour of the set.

Solid, inventive and with a diverse style of attack, the animated group give a strong account of themselves. A confrontational and irreverent singer helps matters, with a final push of the mic and playful demand for narcotics from the audience.

Quebec's own Forteresse are up next. Riding something of a wave with their recent 'Crépuscule d'Octobre' record, they have a speciality in evocative and breathless compositions.

Kicking off with their characteristic folk-music sample, the by-now considerable crowd are loving it. Cuts like 'La Lame du Passé' from their latest carry a visceral feeling of power, with the tremolo picking and scything chords lashing through the PA with abandon.

It's a shame then that the group don't seem particularly into it tonight. Standing off and smoking a cigarette with tough-guy bravado might impress some of the crowd here, but it basically works to makes the singer look disinterested.

A shame they can't back up their live presence with the power that they can tap on recent. The crowd however, love it and bay for more.


Mgła are up next, and don't disappoint.

With every member wearing a black leather jacket and with cowled faces - the slow, meaningful web of riffs and cold melody the group conjure up is nothing short of magic.

There's a sense of the group having tapped into a musical crescendo of cold beauty. The masks they wear makes it impossible to assess their emotions or state of mind, and like the style they play, it stays menacing and cold. The core of pulsing, dark metal contrasts with the very human roar of exhortation from the singer.

The band's adherance to the basic style of Black Metal makes it all the more thrilling that they can project so much in such a limited, but forceful style. Comparisons with the likes of Altar of Plagues and Nachtmystium's fine 'Instinct:Decay' record arise, but the group here possess their own power and menace.

They get a hero's reception, having made a round trip of several thousand KM for us tonight.

Germany's Nargaroth are the final band to grace the stage tonight. Something of a love it or hate it phenomenon, the group is built around the persona of singer Ash, who remains something of a 90's Black Metal persona to many.

Bursting out with two guitars and the usual corpsepainted backing band, 'Black Metal ist Krieg' is a fun opener, but it's soon the same thing repeated ad nauseam.

The devoted roar it all back and love it, but it's something of a case of repuation over substance that finishes off what otherwise was a fine evening of the damnedest black. It's hard not to think a younger, hungrier group could have been a better use of funds - but there are still plenty who lap this up.

Whatever there is in the water that supports this style of music in Montreal seems to more than keeping the festival afloat. The next assault is planned for November and will feature an even more international smörgåsbord of blasphemic delights.

Live pic by Valentina Salas



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