Direct Underground Fest 2019 Sydney (Sydney, NSW)

6 September 2019 at The Crowbar

I hadn’t heard of Reaper before last night and enjoyed their blend of metal, thrash, and punk. They are a relatively new band set to release their debut full-length soon and I am interested to see how their sound has progressed since the 2017 demo.

Christ Dismembered are a fantastic Australian band and are seemingly going from strength to strength, their support of Dark Funeral a testament to the constant development of the band. I have now seen them a few times and the standout element of the band continues to be the fantastic riffs of NecroSatan and The Sadist, the headbanging riff of A Slap in the Face to God from their self-titled debut release most demonstrative of this. I look forward to their next release.

One word comes to mind when reflecting on Abramelin’s set and that is energy. This band was 100% invested in the crowd at every moment of their performance and the crowd responded in kind. In particular, founder and vocalist Simon Dower was incredibly impressive, moving across the entire stage to engage directly with every side of the crowd whilst maintaining his powerful growls. The fact that the band has only recently returned after almost a decade and a half hiatus doesn’t seem to have dulled their abilities and I am keen to see this level of energy maintained into a new release.

Immolation was up next and they didn’t disappoint, the distinctive and uncompromising death metal they have been known for for almost 30 years on full display. These guys are experts at their instruments and every single member performed with laser precision. Playing a mix of tracks from both their back-catalogue and most recent release, 2017’s Atonement, the band transitioned effortless between crunchy headbanging sections and intricate melodic passages. Listening to Immolation’s albums prior to the show it was clear the band took influences from many genres outside of pure death metal, the black metal riffage occurring in many tracks such as Illumination a testament to this. What was really interesting was how these influences manifested themselves in the band’s live performance, the unique atmosphere being a blend of the raw intensity and immersive experience typically found at a death and black metal shows respectively.

It finally came time for Dark Funeral, the rarely drawn curtain obscuring the Crowbar stage from view while the packed venue waited enthusiastically for the Swedish kings of black metal. As the clock struck 10:40 the curtains were pulled aside to reveal the band silhouetted dramatically in the low-lights of the venue, frontman Heljarmadr adopting the same powerful pose depicted in the band’s promotional material. After coolly eyeing the eager crowd the band began. Their set was brutal from the outset, an unrelenting onslaught of sound that has come to define these pioneers of the extreme metal genre. The band hadn’t played Sydney for over 7 years and it was clear that they were glad to be back, providing incredible energy for the entirety of their set that was eclipsed only by that given back to them by the crowd. The band played material off their newest release, 2016’s Where Shadows Forever Reign, as well a mix from their previous venerated releases, much to the delight of the crowd.

Beyond the skillful playing and staging the most impressive feat achieved by Dark Funeral was the atmosphere the band created. It’s difficult to put it effectively into words – it wasn’t so much a performance but rather a celebration of the primordial essence which forms the basis of black metal. It created a feeling extending beyond pure enjoyment of the music and I would urge everyone who can to see them at one of their remaining Aus/Nz shows to experience this first hand.

Line-up: Dark Funeral, Immolation, Abramelin, Christ Dismembered, Reaper

Reviewer: Cal McGlinchey
Photocredits: Mira Live Photography