Festival season may have drawn to a close but those still yearning for a full-on day of live music, A Blaze In The Northwestern Sky had you covered. With ten bands performing at Rebellion in Manchester, this event was perfectly set to give fans another blast of metal.
Opening the day’s proceedings was HEXAGON TRAIL, a one man project that was interesting to say the least. With huge emphasis placed towards the ambient, drone and electronic sounds resonating from his laptop, the sound was both engulfing and utterly bizarre. Occasional black metal-esque shrieks carried over the backing sound that gave the added bite. The style of HEXAGON TRAIL is certainly unique albeit an acquired taste and despite little attendance throughout the performance, it served as a interesting opening to full day of action that followed.
Nottingham seems to be having an explosion of doom driven bands in the past couple of years and two-piece outfit SHRYKULL gave a performance that packed an enormous punch. Venomous blast beats from the drums carried the rhythm surging forward and backed with the solitary use of the guitar, riffs were infectious. Drummer Kez Whelan handled the majority of vocal duties and his black metal-tinged snarls were vicious and the occasional guttural bellows from guitarist/backing vocalist Will Powell added an extra level of aggression to their sound. For just a two-piece band, it was massively impressive just how heavy SHRYKULL‘s sound was, pummelling those in attendance. An impressive set from a band that you feel just has so much more to give.
Self-described as ‘DigiDeath’, Manchester’s NEKRODRAKO‘s approach to the death metal style was experimental and utterly rewarding. Largely, the performance was driven through the savage riffs from guitarists Ian Fraser and Dan Quiney that kept the rhythm flowing at full-throttle whilst vocalist John Thompson emphatically paraded the stage unleashing guttural vocal barrages. This is where things got interesting as occasionally the electronic sounds from Thompson‘s keyboards took centre stage that added a layer of ambience and immersion to NEKRODRAKO‘s sound. By this point, it was clear that the focus of A Blaze In The Northwestern Sky is to champion bands that take a slightly different approach to the heavy metal blueprint and in that regard, NEKRODRAKO made perfect sense and made a lasting impression.
Grindcore thrives in the live environment and EVISORAX gave a truly menacing performance at A Blaze In The Northwestern Sky. From the offset, the band roared into life, giving their all to lay out a ferocious onslaught of rapid drumming and monstrous riffs. Guitarist Dan Lynch spent the majority of the performance bellowing into the crowd as he carried the heavy riffs, backed with a consistent drumming performance from Brod. Vocalist Chris Reese was a sight to behold with vocal barrages packing absolute energy and mayhem and you could see the draining effect on the energetic frontman, not that it dampened their impact. EVISORAX‘s grindcore assault was utterly destructive.
The blackened death metal style of Manchester’s BURIAL made perfect sense for A Blaze In The Northwestern Sky. Championing the extreme, BURIAL‘s sonic assault was fairly impressive given the high standards set by the band performing earlier in the day. Heavy laden bass tones set the mood and with a focus set on the drumming of Dave Buchan, BURIAL‘s extreme metal output made for favourable listening from those present in Rebellion. Whilst the sound did become muddled on occasion, with the guitar riffs of Richard Barraclough being lost in the overall sound, it didn’t detract from the band’s energy. Albeit their style is nothing new, but BURIAL gave a performance that captured the essence of what this all day event is all about, championing the extreme in the local scene, and in that regard BURIAL were perfectly suited to the lineup, leaving a positive impression to those who witnessed them.
CONJURER are becoming a well-respected name in the doom scene of late. Following a thoroughly impressive set at this year’s Bloodstock Festival, the band took to the stage of A Blaze In The Northwestern Sky riding their momentum gained over the summer and the result was a set of truly spectacular sludge driven doom. The balancing of both vocal outputs from Dan Nightingale and Brady Deeprose was executed with absolute accuracy, with each giving a slight variation in pitch which influenced the band’s intoxicating ability to ensnare you into the heavy sound. Through Andy Price‘s hard-hitting bass tones and backed with world-crushing bass drum kicks from Jan Krause, CONJURER were utterly monstrous in their output. The occasional intricate guitar notes from Brady Deeprose spiced things up a little, giving their sound that added layer of immersion. There’s a reason why CONJURER are rising up the UK underground scene, and it is clearly understood why when the band gave a performance like they did at A Blaze In The Northwestern Sky.
Following the sheer intensity of CONJURER the pressure was on for OLD CORPSE ROAD. The band’s folk-tinged black metal made for an enjoyable live performance with the band’s massive sound presented well given such an intimate venue. The use of the keyboards from The Watcher added a layer of melody to the snarls and black metal riffing, an element that is hard to come by on the day’s lineup. Yet it did not feel out of place. The added melodies only enhanced the band’s approach to black metal, emphatically raising the impact of The Revenant‘s guitars and leaving room for the vocals to reign supreme. With each member of the band utilising vocal exchanges, the overall sound was huge, ensnaring and truly rewarding to watch.
Serving as sub-headliners to ANAAL NATHRAKH, ETHEREAL are a name that is becoming increasingly known in the UK underground. Entering the stage donned in the classic black metal corpsepaint, ETHEREAL backed their visual get-up with a sonic performance of varying levels of chaos. Riffs were executed with ferocious speed from rhythm player Iyaan and backed with the trademark blastbeats from drummer Mordrath, for the most part ETHEREAL replicated the sound of classic black metal with relative ease. The symphonic sounds added a subtle touch of melody and helped reinforce the vicious snarls and growls from lead vocalist Naut. Given the small intimacy of the venue, it was surprising that ETHEREAL‘s built components sounded so well, albeit the symphonic sounds were sometimes lost as the focus was drawn to the raw output of the band’s bass. Despite this, ETHEREAL gave a set that was digested well by those in attendance, showcasing that the UK black metal scene is certainly alive and very much kicking.
Headliners ANAAL NATHRAKH have built a fierce reputation in regards to their live performances. Since their explosive entry in 1998, the band have fused the varying styles of extreme metal to create a sound for the apocalypse and despite a shaky start due to sound issues, ANAAL NATHRAKH layed waste to A Blaze In The Northwestern Sky. Unleash very much lived up to it’s title as chaos engulfed Rebellion, Forged Towards The Sunset‘s haunting chorus was executed perfectly by Dave Hunt and In The Constellation of the Black Widow was utterly enormous in the live environment. New track, Depravity Favours The Bold, from the forthcoming The Whole of the Law, held it’s own compared to the ‘classics’, bringing truly monstrous riffs from live session player Dan Rose. With ANAAL NATHRAKH largely acting as a two-piece in the studio, it was remarkable how well the session players gelled to the core members Dave Hunt and Mick Kenney. From start to finish, the band didn’t let up, inciting chaos at every opportunity through the injection of Dave Hunt‘s menacing vocal deliveries backed with a truly crushing sound. ANAAL NATHRAKH have long been described as the sound of the apocalypse and their performance at Rebellion only enhanced that title. Unforgiving, monstrous and executed with absolute professionalism, ANAAL NATHRAKH ended A Blaze In The Northwestern Sky by capturing the essence of what extreme metal is and releasing it in a blaze of ferocious fury.
For more information about upcoming events at Rebellion, Manchester, like their official page on Facebook.