Björn, Eline & Serge opted for this little but mesmerizing gig instead of Roadburn, and it was damn well worth it. The review will come later (we're still dazzled) but here are sixty-one neat pictures of this beautiful evening.
Unless you have been living under a rock for the past thirty years, the name Dirk Serries will probably ring a bell. The good man has been leading the way in ambient-drone land for decades and now he slowly makes the transition to jazz, in which he is already quite influential. So yeah, Dirk Serries is a talented man who has delivering intrinsic soundscapes for decades.
Perhaps, living under that same rock, you will have never heard of Consouling Sounds either. Founded by Mike Keirsbilck ten years ago, this record label has put our little country on the alternative music map again. During those ten years, Mike and Nele have been working their asses off to deliver some exquisite musical goodies from Amenra, Wiegedood, CHVE, Maudlin, A-Sun Amissa, Barst, Inwolves... The list goes on and on. And on.
So when the people from BRDCST festival invited Consouling Sounds to have a little birthday celebration, Mike quickly agreed and decided to put Dirk Serries in the spotlight. In his turn, Dirk called-up some of his henchmen and wrote down names like Stratosphere, Scatterwound, Fear Falls Burning and Yodok III. For such a line-up, I was willing to travel to Brussels, taking my own henchwoman with me, especially to witness Yodok III. She had never experienced them before. She'd be in for a wild ride.
(p.s. read my review for 'Epitaph')
We left our apartment somewhere in the afternoon. It was warm. The sun was shining. The tulips were opening up and the mating call of the many birds in our neighbourhood provided us with a joyful mood. It's a thirty minutes walk from the house to the trainstation, over the much feared Antwerp-Ring and through two sunlit parks. Once arrived, we quickly grabbed something to eat before embarking on the train to Brussels. There, a continuously talking American was annoying the rest of the passengers. Some were trying to nap in the sunlight, others were live streaming their train ride on facebook or instagram. We? We just looked outside, trying to locate buzzard nests.
Anyway, about an hour later, we arrived at the AB, one of Belgium's most respected venues. Young rock bands dream of playing at Rock Werchter. Young dance producers dream of Tomorrowland. But here in Belgium, every musician dreams of playing at Ancienne Belgique. Stratosphere did it for years and Dirk Serries made that dream come true. Rightfully so, too, but I'll get to that soon. I met Ronald inside the AB Club. He was nervous, just a tiny bit. Most of all, obviously, he was excited. "AB. I'm playing at AB". He handed me a copy of his "Collaborations 1" CD (read our review and listen to teasers) and we had a little chat. Then it was time for the event to start.
(oh, sorry about the either absence or the quality of photos. I didn't bring my camera.)
The buzz inside the AB Club faded away when Stratosphere sat down and picked up his bass guitar. Spontaneously, the people in the first two rows sat down on the floor. I was one of them and I really wished they had put down a bunch of chairs. But, nonetheless, my back pockets met the floor when Stratosphere's first soundscapes started filling the room.
Soon it struck me. I didn't know the song he was playing. Or in other words, it was not 'Desolation', the track he had been playing live for the past several years. In fact, Ronald had decided to showcase the new Stratosphere, away from the post rock and shoegaze influences and deep into immersive ambient soundscapes.
This was a remarkable gig, one that clearly shows the next step in the evolution of Stratosphere. It was also a bit short but perfectly performed.
By the end of the Stratosphere performance, Dirk and N (Hellmut Neidhart) walked up and took their place behind Ronald. While I crawled to the back to get a drink, Scatterwound replaced Stratosphere. One's drones faded out, the other's fuzzy soundscapes faded in. With this duo, the evening gained a noisy, gritty sound, like sitting in a bobsled that goes 300 kilometers per hour on a rocky slope. It was harsh, intense and pulsating. It was brilliant too, just not very friendly for people's ears. Nonetheless, this was a perfect example of Dirk's evolution. From these mesmerizing drones to the overwhelming madness that was yet to come, the evening couldn't have been better. It certainly couldn't have started better. I high-fived Ronald in an effort to congratulate him with his convincing performance and fully enjoyed the rest of Scatterwound's impressive concert.
After a brief break, in which the floor in front of the stage was being cleared, it was time for the much anticipated resurrection of Fear Falls Burning. I had seen this act once before, with Dirk fronting three drummers in one of the most impressive performances I have ever seen. Now, here in AB, the band appeared in a new incarnation, with one drummer and a saxophone. Although different, this was yet another sweet piece of music in which ambient, jazz and almost industrial drumming created a whirlpool of noise.
The soundscapes reappeared and so did whatever it is that Tomas Järmyr does. To clarify, Tomas plays jazz, rock, metal, grindcore and black metal, plus solo cymbal sets, and with Yodok III, he does it all in one song. Supporting Dirk's drones and Kristoffer's tuba sounds, Tomas carefully explored the possibilities of his drum kit. First quiet and introvert, the music gradually built up. I, still watching the "newbies", was excited. I saw the look in their eyes, they had no idea how to feel about this stuff. The music became louder, and Tomas moved from incoherent tapping on cymbals and tripods to equally incoherent banging on toms. Some heads started to nod in approval.
Then the band decided that it was time for hell to break loose. Louder and fuller in sound still, the performance suddenly blasted off in brutal, repetitive drums and a tsunami of drones, reminiscent of pummeling death metal concerts. Now there was no stopping Yodok III as they raged on with a never seen before intensity. By now, there were people headbanging, including me. Even the die-hards were impressed and the "newbies" were simply awestruck. With their mouths open in disbelief they willingly underwent the most intense ambient/jazz performance in history.
And then they did it all over again with a second track.
So, the verdict? Well, apart from the absence of chairs, this evening was simply perfect. We saw a new Stratosphere. We saw Dirk as central artist giving the very best of himself. With great ease, his enthusiasm radiated through the AB Club and infected everyone inside. On the way back home I wondered why I didn't have a Yodok III t-shirt yet, probably because they don't have merchandise like that. So congratulations Dirk and congratulations Consouling Sounds. This was perfect.
Oh, while we were carrying Stratosphere's equipment to his car, some bloke yelled "respect pour des musicièns". I couldn't agree more...
Hangarhead had already kicked off the festival when I finally entered the building. The place wasn't packed and people were just starting switch from coffee to beer. A man came up to me and introduced himself. It was Winfriend, one of my readers and - dare I say - fans. We talked about music, festivals, work, politics and Cecilia's World. I watched the food trucks get ready and remembered I had only eaten those two cookies. So I grabbed a pack of Sultana's and by the time I had finished them, it was time to see my first band on the festival.
That band was Temptations For The Weak and I had absolutely no idea what to expect. It was a local band and during their soundcheck I heard pieces of 'Old' by Machine Head. This could become interesting.
And it did. These guys pleasantly surprised me with their blend of modern metal, thrash and metalcore. Their music sounded potent and well varied. A big plus goes to vocalist Djoni who is blessed with a wide vocal range, from clean to core-screams. The rest, skilled musicians in their own term, seemed to have a lot of fun on stage and showcased some good old fashioned heavy metal fun. This surely is a band to keep and eye on.
*Funny side note: their cover of 'Bodies' couldn't have come at a better time. Winfried didn't know the song. I told him that this was the tune from the second fight scene in Cecilia's World and he suddenly liked that scene a lot better.
Next up was Objector, also a local band and also definitely worth your time. That is, if you are an old school thrash metal fan. The vocalist was wearing a Kreator t-shirt, and that was the era Objector took us to. Eighties thrash metal, nothing more, nothing less, but coming at high speed and kicking ass as if there is no tomorrow. I liked everything about the gig, but I was mostly impressed by the drummer. He his an animal, focused to the core while he blasted out the tempos the rest of the band could thrive on. Perfect thrash metal chemistry.
In that aspect, maybe Moker was my least favorite band on this festival. However, that doesn't mean that Moker sucks. These guys have been around for no less than eighteen years, perfecting their technical death metal. Here, blessed with an excellent sound (kudos to the sound engineers for their work during the entire festival), Moker blasted their complex and brutal music through the speakers and the fans ate it like speculoos. Me, just not a tech-death fan, watched them for a while and then decided to enjoy the weather outside. Once there, I noticed that it was raining like crazy, even hailing. Moker had made the weather gods angry, so it seemed.
Can you believe that I had never seen Saille live before? This was the gig I was most curious about. Their atmospheric black metal may have sounded a bit out of place in between all these death and hardcore infused bands but I love every single second of it. I also think I was not the only one. Personally, I loved the odd contradiction of the dark, mysterious and gloomy imago of the band and their members just having fun on stage. They were all smiles and enjoyment, even though the gates of hell occasionally opened up and devoured a few souls.
Because the weather outside was so nice and friendly, I decided to stay inside, sit down on the concrete floor and burn a few bibles. There, I watched another PA-system being set up and I wondered. Other festivals came to mind in which something similar happened and I wondered if Carnation would be louder than the previous bands. It's a little trick in the world of live music: play louder than your supporting acts to sound more impressive.
And...yes. Carnation cranked up the volume. Nobody seemed to mind, probably because Carnation also played that other trick in the world of live music: smash the audience in the face with fierce and brutal death metal. The crowd went bananas and with good reason too. This was an impressive gig, even to me, someone who is extremely selective with his extreme music. I actually spent a big part of this gig talking to one of the food truck owners, the one with the delicious Italian sausages. But kudos to Carnation for being a punishing live band.
With Wiegedood, my evening ended. Part of me wanted to stay and watch Welicoruss but that knee I hurt earlier that day and an upcoming outburst of flu decided otherwise. From a respectable distance, I watched Wiegedood black metaling the shit out of what was left of Carnation's path of destruction. As I mentioned earlier in this review: I'm very selective of my extreme metal but Wiegedood is always welcome. Their relentless and suffocating approach to black metal has never disappointed me and here too they simply blew the roof off the place. For my wrecked old body this was the final beatdown before I headed back home.
On the walk home I befriended a cat. I was a big black tomcat with white marks around his eyes. He walked alongside me for half a kilometer and then suddenly turned around and ran off, possibly chasing a mouse. I spent the rest of my walking time thinking back and preparing this review. I was glad I eventually went to this festival, even though I wasn't feeling too well. In fact, the only thing that could have been better were places to sit. So next time, if they put some chairs or benches in the merch area, this would be the perfect festival for an old metalhead like me...
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