Whatever the traditional value and worth of December’s holiday season, the grim cacophony visited upon Vancouver’s Media Club last weekend was a welcome nihilist’s balm against maudlin seasonal materialism. Of the newer genres of heavy music, black metal remains one of the most interesting: its evolution from a desolate European punk/metal hybrid in the 80s to its practically mainstream acceptance in North America today (i.e. deafheaven) is distinctive; where other metal subgenres have demonstrated a recursive valuation of progress – faster than fast, heavier than heavy, etc. – arguably detonating with Venom’s Black Metal album, its singular, blinding flash of emotional intensity continues to draw inspirational fuel from external influences and genres, blackening all.
Three-piece opener Nostrum deserves tripartite recognition: for its newly-minimalist trio of guitar, vox, and drums; the welcome distinction of its two-thirds female gender majority; and drummer Bina’s lightning-fast recovery from a dropped stick, which was so quick that one couldn’t detect so much as a single missed beat. Compared to its first album, Seer‘s sound remains anchored to a blackened guitar tone yet appears to have catalysed its stoner rock influences on an open sea of atmospheric prog. Commendably, local favourite Firecult remains stalwart in its preservation of pure black metal and the addition of ex-Brimstone guitarist/vocalist Michael Benton has sharpened the band’s focus and stoked its stage presence to a blistering intensity. Wolvhammer‘s closing set to a slightly diminished crowd nevertheless simmered in roiling black rage from start to finish and one hopes that Vancouver will see the band’s return for subsequent tours. \m/