The Darkest Night of the Year
Dimmu Borgir, Dark Funeral, Dodheimsgard and Evenfall
at the Hard Club, Gaia, Portugal
April 11, 1999

by: Pedro Azevedo
Four black metal bands in one concert is something more than unusual here in Portugal, so I was really looking forward to this show, especially considering the excellent sound quality that the Hard Club usually provides -- which was, again, the case. The first couple of bands, Evenfall and Dodheimsgard, were unknown to me. Their performances totalled about 25 minutes each, but that's about all they really had in common. While Evenfall were reasonably consistent but very unoriginal, Dodheimsgard were very original but lacked consistency. Evenfall played some polished, mostly mid-paced black metal, something like a slower version of Cradle of Filth. They were competent live, but they really lacked originality -- I even think I've heard at least one of the keyboard melodies in a Hecate Enthroned song before. They did, nevertheless, succeed to entertain reasonably well, since their performance tended to improve as songs went by, but overall were hardly interesting.

Dodheimsgard, on the contrary, were anything but predictable, both visually and musically. Very unusual black metal experimentation, apparently drawing influences from Darkthrone. They had some great, and also quite original, moments, especially during the new songs, which include some keyboard work. None of the electronics that are supposed to be present in their new full-length were used live, though. The older songs, which show a different style, weren't so good and a significant part of their experimentation wasn't very successful. Some of the audience wasn't very happy with them, but I did enjoy watching them and they did play a reasonably innovative and occasionally quite interesting show.

Considering the (once again) excellent sound quality, I was more than looking forward to Dark Funeral, but their 45 minute long set wasn't entirely satisfactory. It was brutal -- very brutal --, but what made them better than the average on CD was their ability to add guitar melodies to their remarkable harshness, especially on _Vobiscum Satanas_, and those melodies were generally forsaken live. It was still a good performance, very brutal and rhythmically well done, and the audience reacted quite well. They played a good selection of songs from both full-length albums, plus "Open the Gates" from their debut MCD and a fine cover of Slayer's "Dead Skin Mask". It could have been an outstanding performance, had they been more careful with their guitar playing, but it was still definitely worth it.

Finally, over an hour and fifteen minutes of Dimmu Borgir. Similarly to what happened with their somewhat surprisingly excellent new album, _Spiritual Black Dimensions_, their live performance was far better than I expected after having watched live recordings of theirs a couple of times on TV. As a matter of fact, their live performance was absolutely excellent. The sound was simultaneously thunderous and very clear. New drummer Nicholas Barker (ex-Cradle of Filth, who are supposed to have Was now) delivered a remarkably powerful and tight performance, even moreso than when I saw him with Cradle of Filth. Guitars and bass did a great job, while the excellent and very clear keyboard background provided a melodic base for the other band members to shred upon. In fact, the keyboards were so well handled that it sometimes seemed almost too good for a live situation. The vocalist did seem to be using a lot of effects on his voice, though. In the meanwhile, tour bassist (and full time Borknagar vocalist) Simen Hestnaes also performed his clean vocal parts from _Spiritual Black Dimensions_ very well -- a highly worthy addition to their line-up, even if only for this tour. In addition to the great sound, the playing was surprisingly detailed, and yet aggressive and sometimes tremendously fast. -Very- impressive. I am sure that most of those who slag Dimmu Borgir for being a "mainstream" black metal band would have been blown away -- I'm not their number one fan either, but these guys just do have a lot of quality, and not only is their new album great as their live performance at the Hard Club was simply outstanding, -much- better than I expected, even if made far easier by the superior sound quality. They played almost all of _Spiritual Black Dimensions_, if not -all- of it (the live version of "Reptile" was especially great), plus an impressive medley of songs from _Enthrone Darkness Triumphant_, the full versions of "Mourning Palace" and "In Death's Embrace" from that same album and the classic title track from _Stormblast_. An amazing performance.

(article submitted 19/5/1999)

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