Waiting patiently outside the Underworld in Camden, a haven for London’s alternative cultures; fans stood for the doors to open around mid-afternoon. The venue was dedicated to a day long festival of extreme music; capped by two renowned names in the “post-black metal” scene – Austrian avant-garde act Dornenreich and French shoegazers Alcest.
From beginning to end, Infernal Damnation was overall a festival that didn’t disappoint on its eight outing this time around. Most of the bands present were on the heritage and folklore sphere of black metal, which set the mood for Great British darkness prior to the European headliners. Despite some sound feedback issues for London’s Crom Dubh, each act played an impressive set which showed good showmanship and dedication to their art. Old Corpse Road for one stood together in faux-religious reverence as they performed Gregorian chants for “The Witch of Wookey Hole” by themselves, rather than pick the easier route of a sampled track.
Soon to follow were Primitive Graven Image, one of two corpsepainted, battle-oriented bands on the bill along with the World War II-centred Eastern Front. Despite their limited set time of thirty minutes, the former put on a decent show which saw more people banging their heads in the crowd than previously.
Interestingly enough, it was De Profundis who were sandwiched between these two bands that held the more sinister aura about themselves. Whether because of their brand of extreme metal tinged with funk, or the fact of all the players sans drummer standing eerily still against the waves of the Underworld’s fog machine; this was a presence not to be missed before the harsher Eastern Front came on.
Nonetheless, it wasn’t until English Heritage black metallers Wodensthrone that the festival truly began to kick off after the one hour break. Though they too were given a much shorter slot for their music, it was still more than enough for the band to give a taster of ethereal, epic passages despite frontman Brunwulf’s seemingly disinterested swagger.
Aside from this, even more people stepped into the moshpit for the first headliner of the evening, Dornenreich. Regardless of the monotonous soundcheck which seemed to drag out the time, the wait was more than worthwhile for the audience when the trio began their set with acoustic number “Meer“, then launched into the more metallic songs from their catalogue. It is true that Dornenreich are an act who stand out from much of the “post-black metal” fare with their focus on art and musical aesthetic, yet it is really in a live atmosphere that the band are best understood. Either holding an acoustic or electric guitar in his hands, frontman Eviga proved to be a strong musician as he led bandmates Inve and Gilván through intense, anguished plays of “Jagd“, “Flammenmensch” and “Trauerbrandung” before closing with the final track of current album ‘Flammentriebe‘.
Rounding off a day of ferocious, bleak metal then came the second half of festival headliners Alcest. Though mastermind Neige’s more wistful, dreamlike approach compositions were a large contrast with the preceding acts including his Austrian labelmates; he and his live band’s slot had actually worked well as a refreshing compliment by which to end the evening. Standing together in a zen-like state with the crowd, Alcest let songs “Printemps emeraude“, “Les Iris” and “Tir Nan Og” float into The Underworld like a calming haze until it was soon time to bring out the joint tracks of “Écailles De Lune” for those most eager to hear their more recent work.
Photo taken by Susanne Sinmara Erbida