You’d think that the straightest line between two points would be a line that goes from A to B but no, not when you have to drive from Helsingborg on the west coast to the dark deep forests that is Småland aznd Hultsfed. No no no, you have to meander up and down, this way and that way to come to Hultsfred and MÖRKASTE SMÅLAND. A place mostly known for its summer festival but as the summer festival is but a faded memory there is a new kid in town. A celebration of everything black and death. On its third year MÖRKASTE SMÅLAND is still in its infant years but the line up for this year’s festival doesn’t look too bad. Sure, the really great, big names aren’t here and that can be a slight set back but there are still enough interesting acts to watch. But a real crowd pleaser would have been the topping on the cake.
THURSDAY was a kind of appetizer when the touring entoueage of three came to town. Starting with Finnish black metal horde AUTHOR. I have been taught that if you don’t have anything nice tomsay then don’t say a word but that doesn’t work here. The nicest I can say is that they seemed to be a sort of apprentize. They are here to learn and grow. Musically they made me think of a local band called Darksend that I saw live in the late 90s.
If the first band wasn’t that impressive it got better with OCTOBER TIDE. Having interviewed them twice for BATTLE HELM they shouldn’t be new to you. With their My Dying Bride-eaque death metal they raised the roof at Hulingen. The first night was like a tnree stage rocket that started with the not so good to go to better and better.
DEMONICAL play a death metal that is both and not Swedish. They are unmistakenly Swedish in esound but not like Swedeath or melodeath or Gothenburg sound. Perhaps it is because they come from the north (everything is north for me but north of Stockholm that they sound the way they do. There is a touch of melody but most of all it is full on attack. Even on a tiny stage they manage to give it all.
FRIDAY started with a strange buzzing outside my window at Hultsfreds Vandrarhem. Not that it bothered me. I can sleep in a crowded house if I am tired enough. But it is strange what noises you discover when you are in a new place. If Thursday was a slow started Friday looks much more promising. Of the six bands there is no band that I am not familiar with. A great promise for a spectacular evening.
For a band’s first live appearance this was as we say in Swedish “snortajt”. I thought that I knew of DOMGÅRD beforehand but upon closer examination I came to the conclusion that I’ve missed out on this Swedish black metal combo. So a big “fuck you” to me for that. They do not invent the butter knife all over again with their black metal. But they did impress me live. And with a guest performance by Dark Funeral’s vocalist this kinda set the tone for me for the rest of the festival.
My infatuation with Dutch metal will be satisfied for a long time now that I get tp see GOD DETHRONED live. A band that had brightened many a gloomy day with its relentless death metal assault. This is like metal heaven for me. To finally see a band live that I have been following for a very long time. So, yeah I am a bit biased but I got give a flying duck’s shit, I loved every minute of GOD DETHRONED’s gig even if the guitar sound pretty much sucked. They weren’t as massive as I expected them to be but that was down to borrowed equipment and not the band’s fault.
I get GRIFT mixed up with Griftegård and any other band with the word grift in its name. So instead of meeting an old friend I made a new acquaintance. Instead of thinking I know this band’s songs I need to listen attentively to catch the nuances (if there are any – this is after all black metal). This is one band I’ll kick myself for having missed because this is my kind of black metal. For any Watain, Marduk. Or Dark Funerals out there that I love the stuff of GRIFT is the more melacholic, full of despair black metal that touches me deep. So I am glad that I got to experience this band live
CRAFT is one of these bands that at first I wasn’t too impressed with but over time I’ve come to like them more and more. And now I really, really like them and was looking forward for them to blow my brains out with a top notch gig. I have heard CRAFT being described as Sweden’s answer to Darkthrone but I would line to say that CRAFT has taken the way Darkthrone should have taken had they not gone punk. This is black metal with a very unique sound. It might sound boring and repetitive to the untrained ear but if you go deeper, like in a live setting you hear the nuances that there are in the sound of Craft. Unfortunately this wasn’t the gig to see with CRAFT. They didn’t seem to be at their best and with a vocalist that looked like he was bored out of his skull and just wanted to drop through the stage floor this was a letdown live.
It wasn’t that long ago I did an interview with Swedish thrash band WARFECT. And now I got to see them live too. This could very well be one of the high lights, or at least the most different band at Mörkaste Småland. This is thrash the way Kreator play(ed?) it. Fast and furious but every now and then they slow down and let us catch our breath. If you like WARFECT on record you’re gonna love them live too. They are as ferocious as you want them to be on a stage. Okay that they differed the most from all bands at Mörkaste Smålsnd but they were a fresh breath of metal air.
I have been following Dödheimsgard since that very first album “Kronet til Konge” that I reviewed in 1995 all the way through the DHG years up to now getting to watch them live on stage. It has been one hell of a journey twenty years plus old. Seeing a band that I’ve followed for 21 years live for the first time gave me chills down my back. DÖDHEIMSGARD is not your average Norwegian black metal band. No sir, they are so much more. What was fun seeing them live was that they played oldies from way back, from that very first album I reviewed back in 95. This to me was a THE highlight.
To summarize Friday I gotta say that all six bands that played gave me something to remember. Some were better than I expected, others just as good and the some let me down. But that was my own wrong doing for having too high expectations. And as always you cannot please everybody’s taste yet I get the feeling that many come to festivals more as an excuse to drink and socialize. Nothing wrong with that. One reflection I made though was that the crowd at all concerts was very tidy and strict. No moshpits and almost no headbanging. Is the black metal crowd that anti social and misanthropic that they cannot even bother to give the bands feedback?
SATURDAY started like Friday. I woke up, went down and had breakfast. Saturday’s line-up had a couple of bands that I was really looking forward to seeing. Like SORCERY and SAMAEL. Bands that I’ve been following for decades. I was also looking forward to hearing MEPHORASH. Their latest album really grabbed me by the balls. And Norwegian RAGNAROK. A band I have an on/off relationship with. But like always I might find new bands to fall in love with. Only time and a nice performance will tell
I knew nothing about Finnish KYY. So it was either a crash and burn or a new found fave kinda thing when they as first band fired away the Saturday part of the festival. It isn’t anything that I haven’t heard before but there is something to KYY’s full on attack black metal that really speaks to me. A cool start to the Saturday.
This was an act I really looked forward seeing. MEPHORASH latest slbum is one of my recent faves when it comes orthodox black metal. If you like acts like Watain, Funeral Mist, Ofermod and Malign this for you. Seeing them live brings the conjuring the album is to life. Hidden behind anonymity a gig with MEPHORASH becomes a summoning, the band becomes a vessel for the Great One. I totally love the dedication the band shows. It is almost like being invited to a black mass. This is the totally opposite to any right hand.
I cannot help feeling like it is a Venom for the 10s that start playing every time I hear STYGGELSE. This as old school as it is almost ridiculous. And I love it like a kid in a candy store. And to get to gear them live is like the perfect environment for their metal. This is perfect party music. You can unplug your brain and just let the music rumble your intestines.
To watch RAGNAROK live is like being run over by a tank. Just like on their albums it is full speed ahead from the first note. A RAGNAROK album can sometime last only 30 minutes and that is as much as you can take of their metal assault. But live they go on for longer. And let me tell you that is an aural attack on both ears and brain. So if you’re looking for subtleties you better go looking somewhere else.
TRIDENT is like a kinda super group of Swedish extreme metal. I know of the bands they’ve been in but I am not at all familiar with this band. But I can hear traces of some of the bands that this springs from. Death metal the Swedish way. As I am not at all familiar with the songs this was all new to me all I could do was to open up my mind and let them in. I really like when the voice is more of an instrument than just vocals. It adds to the characer of the music. This I liked.
I have always had a bias against TSJUDER as I thought them to be some weak as Norwegian black metal but boy has I been wrong. This totally fucking blew my mind off. There is nothing weak about this. This is kick ass, full throttle, take no prisoners black metal. Bloody hell what a show TJUDER put on. I am a true believer now. I need to check out their discography now, immediately.
This is a blast from the past… again. There have been quite a lot of them this weekend. SORCERY is a band I’ve been following (well following isn’t the right word) since that first album “Bloodchilling Tales” in 1991. SORCERY is a classic Swedish death metal band playing classic Swedish death metal and doing to the outmost standard. You cannot go wrong no matter if they play dongs from the new album or from the debut. It still sounds pretty darn impressive.
I remember ordering SAMAEL’s debut album “Worship Him” and how bloody disappointed I was when it came, bent at the corners. Musically it was nowhere near a letdown. Since then much water has run under many bridges and SAMAEL has shape shifted many times. At Mörkaste Småland SAMAEL played the whole album “Ceremony of Opposites” from 1994. An album that shaped the future of SAMAEL. The mix of techno/body/EBM and metal is a really cool mix. I didn’t really give that album a chance when it was released but hearing it live 22 years later I totally embraced it. Seeing SAMAREL live is a happening. A stage without a drum kit looks naked but it really suits the sound of SAMAEL.
The Icelandic metal scene might be small but the bands that come out of it are so bloody great that it is amazing that a population smaller than Sweden’s third biggest town can produce so many great bands. SINMARA is the kind of black metal I like. Repetitive and trancelike. It is the small nuances that moves the music forward. This is the kind of music that doesn’t need a big stage. It would have looked a bit out of place if the band had been placed on a large stage since their black metal is claustrophobic.
I don’t remember when I heard a BELPHEGOR album the last time. Still I was looking forward to seeing them live for the first time. If you are looking for variation and hook lines you looking the wrong place. BELPHEGOR is all about total annihilation. Dissemination of everything that is possible to destroy. Watching BELPHEGOR live is an eye catching event. They sure know how to put on a show. It is kinda like an old horror movie they way they build their stage show. But musically this wasn’t too my liking. It all felt like a large bass rumble. I don’t know if it was because the sound sucked but I get more from listening to a BELPHEGOR album than I got from hearing them live. Seeing them was a whole different ball game.
And so came Saturday to an end and with that the festival. MÖRKASTE SMÅLAND is not uniquely alone in being an extreme metal festival, even in Sweden but it is a nice small festival. Like I’ve already mentioned I missed out on that one or two real crowd pleasing bands but I have gotten a hell of a load of new bands to check out. And for someone who has spent the better part of 34 years listening to extreme metal this was a “not too soon experience”. What I would wish for is that more people come join the festival audience. We need these kinds of festivals too. Not all can be in the summer and outdoors. We need something to visit during the dark, cold, lonely months of autumn and winter.
If the line-up for next year is cool I will be there next year too. Hell, I’ll probably be there not matter what the line-up looks like. This festival was 19 bands of pure fucking Armageddon to my back and feet but the spirit it brought I can live on for a long time now. THIS IS MY LIFE. Anders Ekdahl