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Articles : Hymns To The Dead (Dark Mofo) @ Odeon Theatre, Hobart 19/06/2019

By on June 21, 2019
Photo by DarkLab Media

Every year as darkness descends upon Hobart, the heart of winter bears the scars of the world’s most intense extreme metal. This annual ritual is none other than Hymns To The Dead, within Dark Mofo arts festival. This year, five acts from far-flung corners the globe took the stage at the Odeon to deliver a night of powerful and enticing blackened death metal.

Opening the event was the cold and violent onslaught of New Zealand blackened death metal band Heresiarch. Their menacing, knife-edge style of war-metal was apparent in the sheer destructiveness of songs like Ruination that levelled unrelenting and abrasive riffs, the bellicose tone of Heresiarch’s sound opening fire upon the audience at the Odeon. From the militant drums and aggressive onslaught of their practically possessed vocalist to the profound emptiness in the stately mid-pace songs like Carnivore, Heresiarch’s impressive set came to a close with the ominous cry of no man shall have mercy upon another.

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Icelandic extreme metallers Zhrine is one of the most unique interpretations of heavy-post-black metal, if one could corner the sound somewhere. Oppressive and atmospheric, Zhrine are however far from lumbering, as the track Spewing Gloom showcased. Opening with a tremendous uproar into furious pace, the full-bodied warmth of the upright electric bass rolled hypnotically beneath the icy tremolo of the guitars, locking into a steady, entrancing groove. Zhrine’s sound does scale the contours of post-black; it has the undulating pulse of post-black but also the textures and speed of death and black metal. The vocalist/guitarist’s use of the threadbare bow across the guitar strings cast a mournful veil across Zhrine’s set, emphasised by his impressive vocal range from dire screeches to deep almost monastic delivery. The set moved seamlessly between journey-like songs, from thundering despair-ridden outcry to almost-instrumental eerily withdrawn pieces peppered with boutique rhythmic patterns and twinkling guitars. As the set moved into a transcendent ethereal finale and that gorgeous double bass had the final, solitary, lingering note.

Then, like a mallet-driven through the fragility of sorrow, New Jersey-based death metallers Funebrarum, wasted no time launching into their pulverising set. Funebrarum’s sound reaches a phenomenal scale of death metal; its tough and blackened in a kind of grimy style at times, and overall technically impressive and energetic. Daryl Kahan has a bona fide monster of a growl that decimated through the massive barrage of blasts and huge, dense guitar sound.

Funebrarum hit the fist-pumping crowd with some variety as they moved into the solemnity of Into Dark Domains, a perfect performance of death metal laced with a blackened edge that built into hectic mania before coming full circle to close in majestic pace. Never sticking with a single formula, Funebrarum then injected defiant energy into the moshpit with the bouncy number Beyond Recognition. With the announcement of a forthcoming album called, as far as could be heard over the screaming audience, Turning The Stone Of Torment, Funebrarum gave us a tantalising taste of the enormous, intensified sound that is to come, in the form a new song that was eagerly embraced by the fans. Funebrarum’s set was just wall to wall intensity, unrelenting throughout even the final songs, culminating in an almighty gritty blackened death metal neckbreaker Depths Of Misery, sending the crowd ballistic.

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Speaking of intensity, more was fast on its way. Following the mind-blowing antics of Funebrarum was dramatic UK band Dragged Into Sunlight. As if transporting us to another dimension, the stage at the Odeon became grimly adorned with an ornate candelabra and antlered deer skulls. The whisper of evil reigned as the strobes that backlit the drumkit rendered but fleeting glimpses of the bands’ silhouettes, backs to the crowd. This layout gave the impression that we were all complicit to some dark circular ritual, peering into the mysterious source of blinding light. The sound was hostile, all-consuming, the deep droning sub-frequencies disconcerting and unsettling. Although chaotic in a primal, disturbing way, the complex arrangements appeared to make cosmic sense, the use of voice samples produced a cinematic feel, and between some of the long and compressing segues, there were some refreshingly catchy riffs. As the candles extinguished in the final songs of Dragged Into Sunlight’s set, the night deepened. This was the perfect climate for the first Australian appearance of legendary custodians of satanic blackened death metal, Mystifier.

The ritual is just beginning…came the dark lines from Mystifier’s vocalist Diego DoUrden. Formed in Brazil in 1989, Mystifier are veritable anti-lords of the black metal underground and have a longstanding, committed fanbase across the world. Their sound is a fiery, brooding, and luscious bass-heavy form of blackened death metal. Despite a number of lineup changes over decades, the current form of Mystifier is solid, as demonstrated on their recently released album Protogni Mavri Magiki Dynasteia. Opening their set with the demonic invocations of the title track, our first live experience of DoUrden’s deep foreboding vocals was commanding, as the song moved from its sermonic intro to the seductive wax and wane of its heavier later movements. Since their inception, the constant member has been guitarist Beelzeebubth and his performance at Hymns To The Dead only underscored why Mystifier has remained one of the most intriguing and captivating bands in the genre. Beelzeebubth maintains a relatively clean toned sound that adds an extra hue of hostility to the haunting tremolo and screaming solos of this lurid and sultry, but newer Mystifier song.

Keeping with the run of Mystifier’s recent material, the set built up into a massive showcase of their more classic black metal leaning with Weighing Heart Ceremony and the powerful occultish rhythms and scorching solos of Ahkenaton (Son Mighty Son) cut through the smoke-filled stage, confirming that Protogni Mavri Magiki Dynasteia is a worthy heir the Mystifier’s own legacy. Before long, however, the familiar, austere opening riffs of An Elizabethan Devil Worshipper’s Prayer Book took the willingly seduced audience back to the early ‘90s. This is just one of those stand-alone songs in the story of satanic metal; it’s several movements just contain everything such a song ought to have, from the dirty blackened edge to the rich-toned opulent defiance of almost cheeky demonic disposition, complete with sinister keys. And it was delivered so convincingly, with the authority of genuine darkness. Furthermore, DoUrden was indeed mastering the feat of singing, playing bass and keys at the same time. After a wild moshpit for Give The Human Devil His Due, the set moved into the earliest era of Mystifer’s catalogue, to the dark and persistent pace of Cursed Excruciation, before the relentless storm of Defloration (The Antichrist Lives) closed this awe-inspiring set. In a final statement…See you in hell…DoUrden bid Hymns To The Dead 2019 farewell.

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