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FESTIVAL REVIEW: North of the Wall 2017

Celebrating the best in the depths of extreme metal, Glasgow’s North of the Wall Festival has become a highlight in the festival calendar and 2017’s event intended to be the biggest and boldest edition of the festival to date. With an earth-shattering lineup showcasing the best in black, death and doom, and spread out across two days, North of the Wall aimed to make a real statement. Distorted Sound attended this year’s festival to see if the building momentum delivered a festival that was truly worth attending.

FRIDAY 14th April 2017

WODE

Wode live @ North of the Wall. Photo Credit: Evangeline Parkinson Photography
Wode live @ North of the Wall. Photo Credit: Evangeline Parkinson Photography

For any band, opening a festival can truly be a daunting task with the risk of a flat performance setting a bad tone for the rest of the day’s billing. However, Mancunian black metal outfit WODE gave a performance that set the bar incredibly high. The band have been bubbling away in the UK black metal scene in recent months and the generated hype translated well into a performance that demonstrated why WODE are exploding in black metal. Pummelling blast beats from Tim Horrocks kept the pace frantic whilst guitarists Karl Sveinsson and Michael Czerwoniuk delivered riffing that was trademark of the black metal style. Bound together with Czerwoniuk‘s raspy vocal deliveries, WODE delivered a short but impressive performance that kicked North of the Wall off to the best possible start.

Rating: 9/10

Words: James Weaver

WEDERGANGER

Wederganger live @ North of the Wall. Photo Credit: Evangeline Parkinson Photography
Wederganger live @ North of the Wall. Photo Credit: Evangeline Parkinson Photography

With the standard set so high so very early on, unfortunately, for Dutch black metallers WEDERGANGER they gave a performance that never really fired on all cylinders. Granted the band’s take on the style was appealing for those in attendance with haunting rhythms delivered in abundance from guitarists MJWW and Bezetene whilst the countering balance of screams and cleans added a new dimension to the band’s vocal output but WEDERGANGER never delivered that killer hook. Theatrics and props utilised throughout their set became a distraction rather than bolster their sound and as the band’s performance went on, it became increasingly flat and felt rather disappointing.

Rating: 6/10

Words: James Weaver

MISþYRMING

Misþyrming live @ North of the Wall. Photo Credit: Evangeline Parkinson Photography
Misþyrming live @ North of the Wall. Photo Credit: Evangeline Parkinson Photography

With North of the Wall boasting some truly impressive names on this year’s lineup, it would take something truly special to stand out as a one of the best performances of the festival and Icelandic black metallers MISþYRMING gave just that. From start to finish, the Icelandic outfit gave a truly gripping and memorable performance. The ferocity at the band’s disposal was absolutely enormous as winding riffs and venomous blast beats were unleashed and subtle pace changes allowed the band’s soundscape to wash over the audience like a giant wave. Piercing shrieks from vocalist D.G. added a new layer of intensity to a band that full shook the foundations of the venue through a mesmerising performance, one which set the bar incredibly high for the bands that followed.

Rating: 10/10

Words: James Weaver

MGLA

MGLA live @ North of the Wall. Photo Credit: Evangeline Parkinson Photography
MGLA live @ North of the Wall. Photo Credit: Evangeline Parkinson Photography

MGLA have been rapidly expanding within the realms of black metal. 2015’s excellent Exercises in Futility has helped the band scale up the ladder of the scene and their headlining performance on the first day of North of the Wall showcased a band that oozes class. The band’s slick riffing from guitarists M. and E.V.T kept the pace varied and intoxicating whilst Darkside‘s skills on the drums resulted in a flurry of blasts and balanced percussion. The band’s wide soundscape was pushed to the forefront consistently throughout their set which showcased a band performing at their very best. From M.‘s razor sharp vocal deliveries on Exercises in Futility I to the sustained swinging rhythms, MGLA delivered a monolithic performance; one which showcases why they are such an exciting prospect in modern black metal.

Rating: 9/10

Words: James Weaver

SATURDAY 15th April 2017

VENOMWOLF

Commencing day two was VENOMWOLF who were originally billed to perform as CALL FROM THE GRAVE in tribute to BATHORY. As a result of lacking time to rehearse, the band performed under their original name delivering a set of two halves. The first half of their set showcased original material; a fine display of blackened thrash metal. The speed and intensity was relentless and consistent vocal shrieks served as a fine method of inject life into the audience but where the band shined was in their conclusion where BATHORY covers were aplenty. A fitting tribute to one of extreme metal’s biggest names.

Rating: 8/10

Words: James Weaver

CRAVEN IDOL

Craven Idol live @ North of the Wall. Photo Credit: Evangeline Parkinson Photography
Craven Idol live @ North of the Wall. Photo Credit: Evangeline Parkinson Photography

The underground scene here in the UK has been incredibly fruitful in recent years and London’s CRAVEN IDOL gave a razor sharp performance that was monolithic in intensity. The blackened thrash style of the band’s sound resulted in a relentless experience that gave little room to recover as a flurry of rapid riffs and solos that were jam-packed full of killer hooks were unleashed whilst ‘Immolator of Sadistik Wrath‘s shrieks were strong enough to hold their own against the tsunami of the band’s backing sound. Overall, a consistently intense performance, one which showcased yet another star in the UK’s underground metal scene.

Rating: 8/10

Words: James Weaver

LVTHN

The Audio is the smallest of the venues playing host to North of the Wall this year and the performances given there displayed a close, intimate feeling. None more so than LVTHN whose brand of black metal seemed to suit the venue perfectly. With a stage bedecked with a candlelit shrine and the scent of incense strong in the air, the blood covered band delivered an assault upon the senses. There was little stage banter and aside from casting the blood soaked vinyl from the opening ritual into the crowd almost no breaks in the half hour of actual music the band imparted. A strong performance from a band sure to go onto great things.

Rating 9/10

Words: Tim Redman

SULPHUR AEON

Sulphur Aeon live @ North of the Wall. Photo Credit: Evangeline Parkinson Photography
Sulphur Aeon live @ North of the Wall. Photo Credit: Evangeline Parkinson Photography

With the Classic Grand delaying opening it’s doors on time, SULPHUR AEON‘s impact felt sub-dued when the German death metal outfit finally took to the stage. Niggling technical issues and the prior delays were at hand for this but when the band started to gain momentum, the result was utterly explosive. Strong pounding riffs and bombastic drumming were the order of the day here and with subtle sinister lead guitar tones layered under the band’s explosive sound, SULPHUR AEON‘s performance was monstrous to say the least.

Rating: 8/10

Words: James Weaver

NAðRA

Soaked in blood and dirt, Icelandic black metal outfit NAðRA gave a gripping and enchanting performance. Comprised of members from the excellent MISþYRMING the quality on display here was fantastic as NAðRA‘s approach to the genre kept people hooked consistently throughout their performance. Relentless rhythm from the drums backed with piercing shrieks from vocalist Örlygur Sigurðarson kept the sonic assault flowing to maximum effect whilst the intricate and somewhat melodic lead guitar play from Tómas Ísdal added an extra dimension to NAðRA‘s already expansive soundscape. Whilst they weren’t as jaw-dropping as some of the other bands on offer, NAðRA gave a consistently tight and trademark performance of the black metal style, which went down a treat for the audience at North of the Wall.

Rating: 8/10

Words: James Weaver

NOCTURNAL

With the hype around the main stage pulling most of the crowds away it was left to NOCTURNAL to compete. Despite the relatively poor turnout and a few technical issues that plagued the set the band were in fine form, with their new vocalist doing a competent job of filling the legacy he’d been left. Classic’s such as Rising Demons and Burn This Town went down well and the band did inject a dose of much needed thrash into an otherwise black metal dominated weekend.

Rating 8/10

Words: Tim Redman

BATUSHKA

Batushka live @ North of the Wall. Photo Credit: Evangeline Parkinson Photography
Batushka live @ North of the Wall. Photo Credit: Evangeline Parkinson Photography

BATUSHKA are one of the most interesting bands currently in black metal. Anonymity surrounding the identity of the band members alongside a theatrical ritual in their live performances has resulted in the Polish outfit soaring through the ranks and their performance at North of the Wall was nothing short of spectacular. A strong scent of incense filled the room whilst light flickered from candles as BATUSHKA, cloaked in Orthodox robes, took to the stage and gave a performance that was utterly gripping. Blast beats and the signature black metal riffing was consistently present throughout the band’s performance and the vocal shrieks held their own against the expansive and gargantuan sound, but it was the subtle melodies that elevated BATUSHKA as one of the standout bands of the festival. The haunting melodies at the beginning of Yekteniya III raised the hair on the back of the neck whilst the ever present Gregorian backing choir helped the band display a ritualistic performance that was truly remarkable. With various movements in pace, soaring vocal deliveries and moments of earth-shattering intensity, BATUSHKA were utterly phenomenal and gave a performance that will be long remembered.

Rating: 10/10

Words: James Weaver

REVENGE

Revenge live @ North of the Wall. Photo Credit: Evangeline Parkinson Photography
Revenge live @ North of the Wall. Photo Credit: Evangeline Parkinson Photography

There was an air of anticipation prior to Canada’s REVENGE taking the stage. The war metal outfit have a notorious reputation for explosive live performances and their headlining performance at North of the Wall delivered. From start to finish REVENGE gave a performance that was nothing short of intense. The combination of Vermin and Haasiophis vocals were absolutely enormous, with dual guttural blasts leading the line of the band’s sonic assault whilst James Read kept the pace at top gear through blistering machine gun fire drumming. That, and backed with an arsenal of thick bass tones and piercing guitar riffs, REVENGE were a force to be reckoned with. Whilst the band’s sonic assault was absolutely gargantuan, it was a shame that the warzone was not emulated throughout the audience consistently across the band’s set. Things did pick up though and by the time REVENGE came to an abrupt closure, Glasgow had felt the full force of the band’s noise explosion. A fitting end to North of the Wall indeed.

Rating: 8/10

Words: James Weaver

Check out our photo gallery of the action at North of the Wall from Evangeline Parkinson Photography:

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Distorted Sound Issue 24 COVER