DOMINION OF FLESH: 5 YEARS OF CLOISTER RECORDINGS
FESTIVAL REPORT 2019
PRE-SHOW WARM UP PARTY – 31st October, 2019
Location: Fylkingen, Stockholm, Sweden
Performing acts: Soot / Gnawed / Cruor Incendia / Alfarmania
Report: Richard Stevenson
Live photos: Marco De Baptistis instagram.com/debaptistismrc
MAIN EVENT – 1st & 2nd November, 2019
Location: Hus7, Stockholm, Sweden
Friday: Hjärnkultur / Moral Order / Blitzkrieg Baby / Brighter Death Now / Alvar
Saturday: Megaptera / Slow Slow Loris / Da-Sein / Nordvargr / Trepaneringsritualen
Report: Richard Stevenson
Live photos: Madcap Piktures & NecrosHorns (refer to image watermarks for credit)
Cloister Recordings from Denver USA is a young label helmed by Marcus LaBonte. By his sheer drive and enthusiasm, Marcus has elevated Cloister Recordings to be one of the most active post-industrial labels of recent times. Then with reference to his dedication and the excited nature of his personality it reminds me of an earlier era of the underground before the internet jaded pretty much everything. The fact that Marcus decided to host the event in Northern Europe rather than the label’s home town is clear testament to such enthusiasm, but then noting the number of Swedish projects that Cloister have already released, this also explains the chosen location of Stockholm. On a personal note, the fact that my best friend from Australia now lives in Stockholm, the decision to attend the festival was made all the easier.
To first speak of the venue, Fylkingen is a non-profit organisation and performance space for new music, experimental art, performance, dance and film and seeks to promote new experimental contemporary music and art. The Fylkingen orgainsation also has an association with the famous EMS Elektronmusikstudion studio (the centre for Swedish electroacoustic music and sound-art) which is located in the same building.
As a performance space Fylkingen features a ‘black box’ art/ music/ theatre room, accompanied by a small side bar with seating. It was then interesting to note that the performance space was emptied of the audience between performances, while the bar was shut during the performances themselves, which functioned to encourage all attendees (in the order of 75 people), to watch each of the featured acts.
With the announcement of the Thursday pre-show only weeks before the main event, based on my already established travel plans, I was unable to get to the venue in time for the first two American acts Soot and Gnawed. But at least with the benefit of short video clips posted online, it would seem that both projects delivered solid sets of grimly hued, vocal driven death industrial, complete with appropriate projector visuals (including Gnawed’s notable use of time lapsed footage of the decomposition of a pig carcass).
Arriving in time for the start of Cruor Incendia, they are a project I was wholly unfamiliar with, although appear to have issued two tapes in 2016 and 2017 respectively. For the performance the sole member stood behind a low table of a multitude of sonic effects equipment. Harshly loud from the outset, the 40-minute instrumental set came across as an unrelenting freeform composition. Being clinical and brutally loud, the sound resembled serpentine coils of roiling industrial menace. Featuring clean sonics and mid to lower range industrial noise, it also featured pounding mechanised rhythmic elements, other sections of clinical higher pitched shards and shrieking granular tones, where it partly reminded of the sound of Satori. Being presented in a darkened space, the backing video provided an intense strobe light effect, with visuals having a ‘military-industrial complex’ angle. Personally I was very impressed by the performance, and in hindsight Cruor Incendia were both one of the most surprising and volume impacting sets of the entire festival.
Alfarmania were slated to start at 11.30pm, as the sound check took longer than anticipated, the group did not start until around 12.20am. On stage the duo of main member Kristian Olsson and vocalist Viktor Ferner (also of Young Hustlers) were joined by a third unknown member who assisted with the sonics. Noting the volume of the preceding act, Alfarmania were initially much quieter, but gradually built to peaks of grimly hypnotic ‘post-mortem’ power electronics. Complimented with a hallucinogenic backing video of spliced together scenes from old VHS movies, it functioned to elevate the nauseous esoteric atmosphere. Performance wise Viktor stalked back and forth side stage with ritualised menace, sporadically bellowing harrowing and distortion smeared vocals. Kristian then displayed a mastery of the noise equipment (including channel mixer, pedals and Korg synth), and sporadically joining Viktor in delivering a further distortion treated vocal barrage.
Representing pulsing void emanations and grimly laborious post-mortem atmospheres, I have no idea how the group generates such a queasy and morbid sound infused with grim malice. While it is the first time I had seen Alfarmania live (excluding the collaborative Proiekt Hat / Alfarmania set at Tesco 30th Anniversary – which technically is a completely separate project), it was all I had hoped for and perhaps expected based on their long standing live experience. With clear variation in volume, the set built and receded throughout the set which functioned to draw the audience into its hypnotic clutches and articulated an over-arching atmosphere which sought to tear at the veiled fabric of reality and reveal the unfathomable chaos beyond. Yet given the late hour and length of the set (around 50 minutes), it was also noted that the crowd had thinned slightly by set conclusion (however I was always going to be there until the grim and bitter end).
In walking home though biting cold and frost glistening streets after 1am, the pre-show was nothing short of a great precursor to the main event to follow.
MAIN EVENT: FRIDAY
Arriving at the venue Hus7 at the allotted official opening time of 7pm, it was immediately apparent that the chosen event space could have not been more appropriate for what was to unfold. Located in an industrial estate on the outer southern edge of Stockholm, Hus7 is a converted slaughterhouse cool-room/warehouse, but which still features the original rough concrete floor, overheard meat hanging racks and industrial grade clear plastic curtains separating the rooms. The medium sized event space (capacity of approx. 300) included a low elevated stage to the centre of the room, bar to the back, and side room with well stocked merchandise tables and also provided for mingling space away from the main space.
Not being at all familiar with the project, on stage the group consisted of three members, including the vocalist/ guitarist flanked by the other two on laptops and effects units/ mixers. As for the sound, the project can be categorised as pounding rhythmic industrial, featuring a clean and mechanical tone coupled with an atonal droning undercurrent. Likewise with the gruff yelled vocals the evoked mood reminded perhaps of an updated and uptempo sound of Mental Destruction or later era Sanctum. Certainly it was a solid and enjoyable set to open the festival.
In recent years Moral Order have quickly made their presence felt within the underground, following the issue of three heavy electronics / industrial albums and an EP on Cloister Recordings, Tesco Organisation and Malignant Records.
For the live show main member Fernando O. Paíno manipulated his laptop and Korg synth to deliver an excellent set of dour toned heavy electronics and pulsing-rhythmic industrial. On the opening track it was a lengthy swirling instrumental soundscape which built a strong atmosphere before launching into a selection of more compact and vocal lead industrial songs. Featuring his own aggressive vocals on various tracks he was also joined by Kas Visions (also of Da-Sein) for a couple of tracks who delivered further vocals in a coldly apathetic and deadpan style.
In essence it was another excellent and enjoyable set, swinging from overtly aggressive, to militantly rhythmic and to ominously brooding. Likewise with the stage bathed in deep red hue and strobing lights providing further atmospheric impact.
With this being the debut live performance of Blitzkrieg Baby it was unclear to how Kim Solve’s strongly studio based material would be presented. So when mounting the stage it was noted that Kim was featured on bass and backing vocals, and joined by Anders B. (of Mind&Flesh & Three Winters) on synths / percussion and Per Åhlund (of Diskrepant & live drummer of Sophia) on lead vocals / effects equipment / percussion.
Uniform wise each member wore matching black hoodies pulled low over the eyes and effectively replicating the cover images of the Kid’s World EP & War Gods MC. Musically speaking Blitzkrieg Baby is effectively the bastard love child of a pop tinged song format genetically spliced underground rhythmic industrial, thus they are quite a unique project within the post-industrial underground. It was then a pure pleasure to see how well the music translated in the live arena. Per displayed a confident yet understated swagger with the vocal delivery, while Kim seemed totally in his element and enjoying himself immensely (talking to Kim later, it was surprising to hear this was the first time he had ever performed live as a band).
Based on the short and sharp 30-minute set it was a strong and polished performance for the first live outing of the group where they appeared completely at home on stage. Already released tracks were played, including Cannibal Commando and War Gods, while new tracks Violence and One by One were aired and sounded excellent on first listen. With the crowd response between tracks being extremely enthusiastic, it was great to see and demonstrated how well Blitzkrieg Baby songs translates in the live arena. Obviously I am then intrigued to where the group goes from here with regard to live performance. With time we shall see.
Brighter Death Now
There is absolutely no question that there is an inherent level of chaos associated with Brighter Death Now live performances, where tonight was no exception. For the show the group was a four piece, featuring Lina Baby Doll on bass, Giovanni Maffeis on noise units, Asa Tedebro on distorted violin and Roger Karmanik on vocals and mixer. Bathed in a deep blue hued light, early set track I Wanna Die was an early standout, with its sickeningly lurching bass rhythm and morbid toned vocals. Equally impressive was Pay Day another notable track which is effective a rhythmic power electronics ‘waltz’ of a track. Being appropriately loud and brutalising, and with little separation from the audience due to the low stage, early antics involved a stage invasion by audience member. This injected a degree of chaos when the stage invader was wrestled to the floor and mounted by a writhing Roger who then forced the individual into continuing the vocals of I Wish I Was A Little Girl.
Later in the set some technical issues took hold where the Brighter Death Now train went screaming off the tracks. For perhaps 5 minute there was no backing track output at all. But where other act would have simply given up, not so for Roger and crew. With various individuals trying to trouble shoot the sound problem, after and extended delay the fast paced pulsing sound of Innerwar finally came roaring through the venue speakers. Consequently a brutal mosh pit erupted, where the Cloister Recordings label boss Marcus was dragged onto the stage, brutalised by Roger and then unceremoniously thrown off stage again. Amounting to pure punk attitude driven anarchy delivered as debauchery infused power electronics, it was a stunning conclusion to the set. Personally it was one of the standout sets of the festival, and the most chaotic (and best) I have seen of Brighter Death Now in the four times I have seen them live now over the years.
As the closing act for night one, Alvar proved beyond doubt they were the perfect pick for this slot. Although not typically of a style I listen too or am overly familiar with, Alvar are very much of the dance floor focused and darkly atmospheric blend of EBM, rhythmic industrial and techno, completed with live percussion and an aggressive male vocal approach. Featuring four members handling various synths, sonic equipment and percussion, and the balaclava glad member providing aggressive vocals, they delivered a storming dance floor focused set in driving and pounding song focused style which was a thing to behold.
Performance wise they were clearly an extremely well-oiled machine and when coupled with cold strobing white light, it very much reinforces the industrial club dance floor vibe, complete with a driving anthemic quality. Again while not necessarily the type of material I would listen to at home, it was excellent as a live experience.
MAIN EVENT: SATURDAY
Being billed as the final ever performance of Megaptera, in the end it was to be both the first and last time I would see the project on stage. Thus Peter Nyström’s stood side stage behind an elevated table of mixer and effects unit, where a sign stating ‘No laptop!’ in fact appear to block view of the laptop being used, while further sly humour was displayed when at the start of the set he introduced other non-existent band members. Displaying further quirkiness, the set was performed to a backing video of the controversial film The Idiots by Lars Von Trier.
Prior to the show I was perhaps expecting that the set list may consist of a ‘hit parade’ of songs given it was to be the final ever performance, but in the end this was not what was to be delivered. Rather, Peter opted to build a set from the more obscure corners of the project, and including tracks from the classic Slaughter Productions compilations Death Odors and Beatingthemeat. This approach allowed morbid toned atmospheric tracks (i.e. Sighatul-Marmatei (The Cellar Of Death) from Songs From The Massive Darkness), to be offset against more rhythmic beat driven compositions (i.e. Distikt Killing from Beyond The Shadow).
To take a step back, in the weeks before the event Peter had asked what favourite Megaptera track I might like to hear given I was travelling all the way from Australia. Even so, I was quite surprised and humbled to have a track dedicated to me, evidenced when Peter eyeballed me in the front row and pointed me out at the start of the track (that track was the grimly morbid death industrial classic Don’t Desecrate The Dead from Curse of the Scarecrow). Towards the end of the set the smoke machine was used to fully obscure the stage and when the smoke cleared Peter had doned a yellow ski helmet with ‘DEVO’ emblazoned across the forehead as an obvious tribute to the group.
As a final comment perhaps the overall volume could have been pushed up slightly, which is often an issue for early acts on a multi act bill, but this is only a minor comments and it was still a great final set to witness.
Slow Slow Loris
Not being familiar with the project, by name alone Slow Slow Loris were clearly the wildcard of the festival. Being a duo consisting of Angela Nica Yeowell and Robert Heim, Robert handled the atonal industrial noise backing, while Angela focused on lead vocals and additional noise effects. Performance wise Angela embodied quite a theatrical stage presence for both vocals and movements, including use of gestural arm flourishes, articulation of a decorative fan and use of contact mic’ed feathers to generate additional noise. Sonically speaking the backing industrial noise ranged from subdued passages which built with deft volume and sonic impact. The vocals were also highly varied in delivery, from fragile to forceful, where shades of Diamanda Galas and Alzbeth (of The Moon Lay Hidden Beneath A Cloud) were apparent in the vocal styling. Some mid set sound issues slightly marred the flow, but after only a short delay the song level and output was fixed and the set got back on track. In the end rather than being the ‘odd one out’ on the bill, I viewed Slow Slow Loris fitting the Cloister Recordings roster in the same way that the theatrics stage elements and surrealist / dada inspired Contrastate fits within the Tesco Organisation roster.
As a project Da-Sein is related strongly to Moral Order, with Da-Sein being duo featuring Kas Visions and Fernando O. Paíno. Sonically speaking, Da-Sein can be described as the other side the of Moral Order coin, where they are sonically related by the same minimal analog industrial tonal range. But Da-Sein are also differentiated by their driving song-based approach based on minimalist melodies and pulsing analog rhythms. Clearly with a stronger dance floor edge than Moral Order, Da-Sein remained minimal industrial in expression, with the resulting sound very much influenced by and at home on the German Galakthorrö. With Kas delivering deadpan half sung vocals and Fernando on Korg synth, the set ranging from mid-paced to higher energy tracks, it was a straight forward and no frills set which generates head nodding and foot shuffling appreciation from the crowd.
With the back to back billing of Nordvargr and Trepaneringsritualen, I suspected there would be a degree of collaboration on stage. Despite the imposing figure of Nordvargr entering the stage alone, the likely collaborative format was duly confirmed by the banners hung at the back of the stage, featuring the combined bind rune of Nordvargr and Trepaneringsritualen, while the ritual altar featured the skull, candelabra and burning black candles associated with Trepaneringsritualen.
Commencing as a solo Nordvargr performance, strong incense was burned, and later his flesh smeared with ash, while the blood red light and thick smoke elevated the ritual atmosphere. With a series of storming tracks presented as live vocals to backing track, Sweet Death Triumphant, First East, The Horsemen Rides Out In Foaming Steeds and Tabernakelvisa – The Redeemer and the Secret were clear standouts (the later two tracks from the upcoming album Daath). In essence Nordvargr’s set exuded a commanding stage presence and mastery of his craft, and consequently was another personal revelrous ritualistic highlight.
With the continued use heavy smoke machine use and blood red lighting, Thomas appeared through the mist wearing his trademark garb of a burlap sack mask soaked in coagulated pig’s blood and hangman’s noose tied around his neck. Accompanied by a second unnamed member behind a standing drum kit, they formed a trio with Nordvargr proceeded to launch into live renditions from the recent collaborative two track 7”ep (where each project reworked a track of the other). After the storming live renditions of both collaborative EP tracks Konung Krönt I Blod and Salve Teragmon, Nordvargr departed the stage and Thomas continued with a set of his heavily song verse/chorus/verse driven tracks. Judas Goat, Madr Malformed, All Flesh Has Corrupted, Feral Me and Serpent Seed were particularly stunning, with the later resulting in an intense mosh pit, but with the wet and greasy concrete, soon various figures were loosing footing and sprawling across the floor.
Having previously seen Trepaneringsritualen at Tesco Organisation 30th anniversary festival with live vocals to backing track, it was clear that the addition of a live percussionist absolutely elevated the malevolent driving impact of the set. Likewise with the back it back format and collaborative crossover between Nordvargr and Trepaneringsritualen it all worked perfectly. The elevated sound level and ritualised performance aesthetic was met with an ecstatic and fervent crowd reaction, which all amounted to a supreme ritual death industrial performance which was the perfect conclusion to the two-day festival.
Although personally I perhaps had the distinction of having travelled the furthest to attend Dominion of Flesh, still there were many others who had also come from significant distance. With attendees having travelled from all corners of Sweden, neighbouring Norway, as well as much further afield from Spain, Italy, UK, Germany and America, it demonstrated Dominion of Flesh to be a festival of international calibre and appeal.
With only five acts each night, it meant there was ample time between sets to catch up with various folk and peruse the merchandise tables. It also avoided any sense of fatigue which can set in from too many acts and too little time between sets. In fact the event ran like clockwork and consequently disappeared all too quickly, which says volumes of how well the event was run overall. It is also fitting that label boss Marcus LaBonte was able to watch every act and was noted as being front and centre for many of the performances.
As an overall assessment this event was equal in calibre and execution of other major two-day events I have attended over the years. Being well attended by in the order of 180+ people, the fact that Dominion of Flesh event did not sell out then completely perplexes me. With benefit of hindsight, if you had previously contemplated attending the event, but in the end did not – know this. You missed out on an exceptional festival, displaying a varied line up of the best of what the current post-industrial scene has to offer. Lifetime memories are seared into the mind’s eye with events like these, thus absolute congratulation and acknowledgement to Marcus LaBonte / Cloister Recordings and all others who assisted behind the scenes for making Dominion of Flesh both a reality and an amazing event.