Alcest / While Heaven Wept / Primordial – A Show For The Ages

You know that Fleetwood Mac song, Man Of The World?

Shall I tell you about my life
They say I’m a man of the world
I’ve flown across every tide
And I’ve seen lots of pretty girls

For some strange reason, this was the song that was playing in my head as I was riding in the car, half asleep, going home after what can best be described as an eventful and wonderful night spent with Alcest, While Heaven Wept and Primordial. (Kinda makes you wanna drool just at the sight of these names, right?) My conclusion as to why this song was playing in my head as I was returning home was a) my life was awesome that night – shall I tell you about it? And b) I’ve seen lots of pretty girls bands.  But, let’s start at the beginning.

It was a warm, rainy June evening when we pulled up in front of the club, after a couple of hours’ drive to the neighboring country of Slovenia where one of my most-anticipated shows of the year was about to start. I was nervous because I wanted two things ASAP: to get in and to get beer. The girl at the small table at the club entrance couldn’t find my name on the list right away, which made me more nervous, and when she finally did find it, she informed me that she was all out of the wristbands that served as a photo pass. My trusty camera and I did not like this, so we insisted that she give us some kind of accreditation for taking pictures once inside, and she finally caved and gave me a special press badge that she said only I got that evening. First win of the night!

When I got inside, Alcest was already playing their first song “Printemps Émeraude”. Now this was my inaugural time seeing any of the bands on the bill, and I imagined I was gonna get there early, order a beer, take out my notepad and my camera and mentally prepare for a shitload of awesomeness on many, many levels. Walking into the club while Alcest was already playing was not part of my plan, especially considering this was the band that produced an album (Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde) that has layers of intimate meanings to me.

So, there I was, thrown at Alcest’s mercy with no preparation whatsoever. I look around: The crowd is sparse but listening very closely; no one is talking. They begin to perform the second song, “Les Iris”, and I slowly start to realize that I had a hugely high expectation of this band, imagining that once I saw them live, they’d whisk me away with a single note to a magical world where Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde would lie behind the Écailles de Lune, while the band itself would at least float in the air. Needless to say, it didn’t happen, I got four normal non-floatie dudes playing metal, and I was quite surprised at the fact that their performance was rawer than the recorded version. The sound itself wasn’t the best, but the rawness didn’t come from the quality of the sound, it came from the band. Alcest is, everyone must agree, a gentle flower with the ability to truly transcend space and time with its music, and one of the key features allowing this transcendental quality of its music is absolutely Niege’s vocals. That is also one of the features I was missing at this show, because I was struggling to hear his vocals during the entire performance. Combine that with the rawness, and you get a more immediate sound and a different Alcest, one that reminds us of its black metal roots. After playing the first part of Écailles de Lune, and one of my favorites from the album — “Percées de Lumière” — they closed the show with Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde”, and I thank them wholeheartedly for that because that is the one song I had to hear them play.

Break. One down, two to go. Much-needed beer in hand as I finally have a chance to take a breather and prepare for said shitload of awesomeness.

Now, those of you who have been reading my live reports and articles know that I’m a sissy. I admit it. I take music very seriously most of the time, and it I give it all kinds of meanings — not rarely are those meanings very personal. What can you do? It’s my companion in all of life’s moments, and a faithful one at that. So (yes, I’m getting to it), when the time comes for me to see a band perform music that I have come to know as my own,  well, I get all jittery, the eternal teenager in me starts going all fan-girl and the minute the band steps on the stage, I start cheering and shit. Yep, that’s me. You might wanna stay away if reputation is of importance.

To say I was jittery while I was waiting for While Heaven Wept to start is an understatement.  Most of you know that a perfect score for an album here at MetalReview isn’t something you see every day,  especially not something you’ll see my esteemed colleague Michael Wuensch giving away easily. Well, WHW’s Vast Oceans Lachrymose is one of those albums that gained and deserved a perfect score, while the rest of their albums never got lower than an 8. Does that spell greatness? Why, yes I believe it does.

They started playing right on schedule (I was naturally, cheering and screaming) and the most astonishing fact was, when I looked around, there were a maximum of 20-30 people watching the show. What the fuck? I thought the place was gonna be packed and was considering bringing hockey pads in case I’d have to fight my way through the crowd. Seriously, my fellow metalheads, you sometimes have to be taught what’s good and worthy of your attention. WHW, dammit, is worthy of every single atom of your attention and respect, for that is the band so rare nowadays — a band that’s truly memorable and profound.

Okay, back on track: They opened the show with “The Drowning Years” off the Of Empires Forlorn album, their second full-length from 2003. The sound was satisfying; the guys and lady were well-rehearsed and Rain Irving, the man we came to know and love when we first heard him on Vast Oceans, was sounding top-notch.

After a bit more from Of Empires Forlorn and their latest full-length Fear of Infinity, Rain announced they were gonna perform “Vessel” of Vast Oceans. Now, here comes the sissy part — Vast Oceans Lachrymose is perhaps the single most intense piece of music I’ve ever heard, an album that doesn’t sound any less epic or gorgeous with further spins but remains firmly a modern classic in the world of epic doom metal.

“In a word, I’d call the record Magnificent, with a capital “M” dropping shadow clear into the next county. It’s a fantastic work of heavy metal that’s undoubtedly deserving of high accolades… ” [M.Wuensch]

Personally, I can’t choose a favorite song from that album, so any song was great, and the band performed “Vessel”, without a single flaw, just as I’d want them to. Rain is an absolute winner as a frontman, communicating with the audience, both while singing and in interludes, even for an audience made up of barely 30 people. After “Vessel” came “Thus, With a Kiss I Die”, and the band gave us such an intense and awesome jam session that the Rush T-shirt that Tom Phillips was wearing was oh-so-appropriate. They showed devotion and professionalism on stage, and I can say that I feel privileged to be one of the few at that Slovenian show that got to hear such great musicians play. The only thing left to add is that WHW should seriously consider performing Vast Oceans in its entirety. An anniversary show, perhaps?

Break. Another much, much needed breather before the stars of the night come out on stage – Primordial. The room is starting to fill up, you can smell “psyched” in the air, and after Alcest and While Heaven Wept, I seriously don’t know how much more of this musical ass-kicking I can take.

Primordial is a band that goes in the category of “Top 20 Bands In Metal Today”, a band that seemingly can do no wrong. After years and years of listening and loving their music, it was about goddamn time I saw them live. And man, were they in their element. I don’t know how they usually perform their gigs, but they were certainly giving their best on stage here.

They opened the show with “No Grave Deep Enough”, the opening track from their latest master-piece Redemption at the Puritan’s Hand, and that was the match that lit the crowd on fire. It was so good to hear them live, and to see them after all this time of photos and YouTube videos, it was very hard to wipe the smile off my face.

The sound and guitar playing so specific to Primordial and so recognizable was there, all right, while they played hit after hit. From “Gallows Hymn” and “As Rome Burns” through “Autumn’s Ablaze”, “Gods to the Godless” and the devastating “Coffin Ships”, they were fucking merciless. And, yeah, we all loved it.

Alan Averill is one of the most memorable vocalists and frontmen around, being, in fact, the embodiment of the band’s music: passionate, intense, uncompromising, hardly leaving room to breathe. He is indeed the (corpse-painted) face of Primordial in all its glory.

The only wish I didn’t get that night was “The Burning Season”, my favorite Primordial track, but still, my friends, it was a show to fucking remember.

After the concert, I was fortunate enough to hang with all of the bands and to talk about their music (among other things), and it was one of those moments in life when I couldn’t help but feel so goddamn lucky to be a music fan and a journalist, and to have the chance to meet some of my idols. So, I’ll take this opportunity to thank all of the bands that played that night with a very special thank you to the WHW crew – you guys rock.

And that’s all kids. Stay metal.

[Words and images by MIRELA TRAVAR]

Posted by Mirela Travar

Passionately want to do everything.

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