Darken the Moon XI, De Casino, Sintnikolaas, Belgium, 14 September 2019

The eleventh installment of this festival was held once again in the very nice De Casino venue in Sintnikolaas in Belgium. I think it is the third edition that I attended. This years headliners that drew my attention were Evoken and especially Skepticism.

I missed the opening band, and the second band was already playing when I entered the venue. This was an Italian band named Assumption. They play doom / death mostly with some droning elements in it. Not a bad beginning. Even thought they are not all that original, it sounds quite good. Somewhat between Esoteric, diSEMBOWELMENT and Evoken.

The second band for me was Katla from Iceland. Named after a vulcano. And they can’t be found on metal archives. I guess it holds a bit the mid of stoner and traditional doom metal. Not all that slow generally and clean vocals. Somehow I don’t remember much from this show. Except the last bit was somewhat weird as the vocals was alone on the stage with some droning background tape and singing while the drummer was filming from the audience.

(Echo) are also from Italy. Everybody arriving at the venue was given their latest album at the entrance. And this was the release party for it. I guess it was also dinner time for many people as the venue appeared much emptier than before. Musically it was interesting mostly doom death metal with some modern influences. Yet the vocalist forced vocals, especially his grunts sounded terrible, his clean vocals were quite limited as well, and awkward stage presence made it a lot less interesting. They played their whole new album in order and no other songs.

When Marche Funebre played the venue was again a lot fuller. They started this festival series 10 years ago and I think they played on every edition. After the previous band this was quite an improvement even though I am not a big fan of the band. It’s mostly somewhat faster doom death with both clean and grunted vocals, somewhat in the direction of My Dying Bride, but I miss the sorrowful melodies of the latter.

Then it was finally time for Skepticism from Finland. They don’t play live a lot, I think I saw them once over 10 years ago. Musically, they are quite different. The base of the music is formed by an organ which can reach very low tones. With a guitar on top. The drums are mostly low toms and snare played with felt mallet instead of normal drum sticks. Hence the sound is quite extraordinary. The music is very slow and minimalistic. But always very recogizable. The band dresses in formal clothes and the singer even brought a bunch of white roses onto the stage. The setlist focused mostly on Alloy, their previous album and Ordeal, their latest. With two older songs, from the first two albums. I would have loved to hear Nothing from Farmakon though. A nearly faultless gig from a very original and special band. Even though they remained stoic throughout the gig and had very little interaction with the audience.

The last band of the evening was Evoken. A US death metal band, highly influenced by the almighty diSEMBOWELMENT, yet with a style of their own. They played a tune from nearly all their albums, with Antithesis of Light being a definite highlight for its monumental primary riff. And frankly their style has hardly changed throughout their career. Not nearly as slow and majestic as Skepticism. Still they have quite some great riffs and melodies. But somehow I always feel that there is something missing in their sound to make it truly great.

All in all a great little festival again, with Skepticism being the definitive highlight. Let’s hope for another edition next year to have another batch of interesting doom metal bands.

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