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Monday, 11 June 2018

A View From The Back Of The Room: A Forest Of Stars (Live Review By Paul H)

A Forest Of Stars, Damim, Praecantator, Levitas, Yylva, Fuel Rock Club Cardiff

Whilst men in tight shirts who can’t get things off the top shelf due to their bulging biceps headed to the Cardiff City Stadium for a night of bloke hugging (yes, The Stereophonics were in town), the best value ticket for a million miles was the five bands for a tenner bill at Fuel. Why the place wasn’t rammed to the rafters was beyond me but those who did make the effort were treated to another excellent evening courtesy of the fantastic Eradication Booking Agency who are putting together some stonking bills. Full marks to Gavin and the team for the hard work in a scene where reward is rarely of the folding variety.

The opening band was a possible first for Fuel. Atmospheric and ethereal black metal outfit Yylva (8) played an enchanting set and used an acoustic guitar and a harp, yes, a fucking harp. Has there ever been a harp on stage at Fuel before? Answers on a postcard please. Anyway, for 30 minutes the assembled punters stood captivated by the three on stage, led by harpist, vocalist and main force of the band, Clare Webster, whose dexterity on the strings was matched by her powerful and melancholic voice. The band usually have accompanying blast beats and powerful riffs. Tonight, Rob George’s delicate guitar work held the music together and it was stunning. At times you could hear a pin drop as the wistful harp work weaved its magic.

Next up was local outfit Levitas (8) who have been around the scene for a couple of years. The band features Rhys Williams on guitar and vocals, Helen Kinsella on guitar and vocals, Liam Wolf on bass and vocals and Sam Heffernan on drums. The band play agonised black metal with reverb drenched shoegaze soundscapes, and they are a damn fine band too. High on energy, impact and technically tight, the band impressed from the start. Wolf and Williams cover the vocals, with Williams’ mournful delivery the ying to Wolf’s howling guttural yang. Powerful riffs and intricate slower sections allowed breath to be caught after periods of intensity. Heffernan’s drumming is effortless whilst Kinsella and Williams displayed some impressive fretwork. A band that are worth checking out.

A confusing set from four-piece Praecantator (5) followed. The band’s black metal, combined with their cloaked image was well-received and although it was a small audience, we were clearly enjoying what we heard. Although the band had a 35-minute set scheduled, an abrupt halt after 15 minutes curtailed their set, with the bizarre sight of the three outfield members walking off, leaving the drummer sat bemused for a few seconds before following. Word on the street was that the issue was with the new drummer, and with faces as black as their cassocks afterwards, there was clearly something not quite right. With the band having released their debut EP Arcane Sceptre recently, let’s hope they can get their issues sorted.

With a member of Akercoke in their line-up, there was no chance that Damim (9) would be anything other than brilliant but what followed was just mind blowing. The band, who were until 2016 Dᾱm, started at 100mph and ploughed furrows through Fuel with their powerful, intense black metal. Ferocious and blisteringly heavy, the band feature Nathanael Underwood (vocals and guitar – Akercoke), Ewan from Spawned From Hate ably filling in for Edd on guitars, alongside Faust on bass and drummer Flow Toulman. Having been disappointed to have missed them at Eradication Festival a few weeks earlier, it was great to finally get my ears around their massive slabs of avant garde blackened thrash. Tracks from their noughties releases Purity (The Darwinian Paradox) and The Difference Engine were lapped up and a new track suggested that the promise of a new release will shortly come true. A great band who are tighter than Doro Pesch’s leather pants, and vicious and intoxicating live.

With time against me before I caught the crazy train home, there was sufficient minutes to catch a couple of tracks from the headliners, A Forest Of Stars (8). I liked what I saw and heard with the seven members of the band crammed on the stage; their progressive folk black metal works in a way that you might not expect it to, and I’d taken time to listen to their catalogue including 2015’s Beware The Sword You Cannot See in advance. The calm and mellow segments provided by Katie Stone aka Katheryne, Queen Of The Ghosts with her violin and flute segued neatly with the gruff vocals of Mister Curse (Dan Eyre) whilst the rest of the band’s abstract psychedelic black metal provided plenty of interest.

If there was one complaint, it was that there was there was not enough harp (© Gavin Davies) from any band apart from Yylva. Metal needs more harp. On a serious note, another great evening and some superb performances once again.

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