Haunting the Castle V, 17 February 2024, Anthisnes, Belgium

A festival hosted in a 17th century castle in Belgium, near Liege, sounds like something special just for starters. When they invite a couple of bands that rarely play live, it is gonna be even more special. Previous episodes of this festival didn’t have a line-up as cool as this one to travel to Wallonia on a Saturday. But this has to be one of the most interesting line-up a festival can have in years. Shortly before the festival one of the 8 bands had to cancel, but When Nothing Remains was the least interesting band of the bill by far, so no big deal.

At 14.00 sharp, the first band started. It was Eldenseer, a UK doom death band that is relatively new. I heard their album shortly before the festival and it sounded ok. It is rather melodic doom death, leaning a bit more towards early Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride. Not that that is a bad thing, but it sounded a bit generic. But a cool warm-up for the rest of the festival.

The award for the stupidest band name in the whole of doom metal probably goes to German band Fvneral Fukk. A side project of Ophis main man Phillip Kruppa, where he plays the drums instead. The bass player is also a member of both bands. Never the less the music is actually quite good. Melodic doom metal with clear vocals by a pretty good singer and crunchy riffs. Not particularly spectacular, but interesting. They dressed in preachers outfit and the imagery behind showed the inside of a church. The themes are primarily religious subject. Not that they are particularly fans of it though. Half way through the second song, the PA was cut off due to a power issue. It took a while for it to fix, before they could continue. Pretty cool band.

Urza is another German band, also related to Ophis as their former guitar player now handles guitar duties in Urza. Stylistically they tend more towards funeral doom metal end of the spectrum. Very slow most of the time, but some how not all that interesting enough to really be sucked in by the atmosphere; the melodies simply aren’t that engaging.

I saw Tyranny live once before a long time ago (2008?) and it was very impressive then. Don’t rarely play live, but now they are in Belgium. Their keyboard player fell ill shortly before the set, to they appeared as a trio of bass, drums and a singing guitarist. Tides of Awaking has a massive sound and is very haunting. They managed to recreate that sound live. Deep grunting vocals, repetitive and very slow melodies form the majority of the sound. The drums and the bass fill it out to the fullest. The songs change only slowly creating a kind of trance-like atmosphere. Great gig really. Strangely enough they didn’t bring any merchandise.

The German band Ophis is the one band of the bill that does play live regularly and the duo from Fvneral Fvkk was performing double duty this day – and they weren’t the only one, but more on that later. I saw them on the other festival in Belgium I went to a couple of months ago. But they returned with a partly different set. They play doom death metal, nothing complex but somehow manage to keep it all interesting and fresh. Playing the Mirthless was a nice surprise (off the split with Officium Triste). And as a curse or so it seems the PA was cut off once again. This time it took a couple of minutes to fix though. The rest of the set went without any troubles fortunately. I would mind to hear something of their debut, like God Forsaken or Pazuzu again sometimes. But basically they don’t have any weak songs. Pretty great gig.

Another band that rarely plays live is Profetus. They are from Finland, and play atmospheric funeral doom like only the Finnish seem to be able to. I wasn’t all that familiar with them as I only listened to them since I saw them on the bill for this festival. The music is quite captivating. They have no bass player, but three guitarists and a keyboard player who has an organ sound. The latter takes an important role in the music. One of the guitarist also plays in Tyranny, even though they have quite a different sound. Thergothon seems to be their major inspiration. They opened with the fifteen minute opus Northern Crown off their latest album. Quite melodic, without becoming cheesy, deep grunts and all the drum fills to keep it all interesting. An organ intermezzo here and there and always quite slow. They ended their set with one of their oldest songs, namely Blood of Saturn. Definitively a band I want to check out some more.

The last band of the bill was no less than Skepticism. One of the founding fathers of funeral doom metal, along with the aforementioned Thergothon. They don’t play much live either, but when they do it is always something special. The drum set was replaced in its entirely as the drummer uses a giant bass drum, has a set of giant floor toms and beats them with felt tip sticks, instead of the regular sticks. This creates already a very thick sound. The organ fills out a major part of the sound, especially as they have no bass player, the bass is created by the foot pedals of the organ. The guitars sound a bit thinner than for most funeral doom bands. The deep grunts of the singer completes their unique sound. After a long intro the trio appears on stage dressed in formal clothes (tail-coats and such). The singer brings a couple of white roses. And then Passage kicks in off their latest album Companion. Through out the set they touch pretty much their entire back catalogue except their previous album – I would have excepted something like Departure or Closing music. Funeral doom metal isn’t particularly challenging per se, however to make albums in a consistent style without repeating oneself may not come that easily. All of their songs sound quite different from one another. The main surprise comes at the end as they play the songs of Farmakon that doesn’t have have a title, but is imaged by a puff of smoke instead, and so it is on the set list. A song that leans heavily on the drumming. And then after some 80 minutes it is over. Another truly amazing gig.

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