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Thursday 25 July 2019

A View From The Back Of The Room: Agrona (Live Review By Matt)

Agrona, Blind Divide, Black Pyre & Misanthropia, Fuel Rock Club, Cardiff

This was supposed to be a headline gig from Liverpool black metal band Ethereal, unfortunately the band had to withdraw from the gig with around a week to go. Now this left everyone with a conundrum, cancel the gig? Or continue with Agrona (who were due to be the main support) taking the headline set and Black Pyre in support? Thankfully due to some string pulling from Agrona, they managed to get a four band bill on what was billed as a black metal showcase.

We got to Fuel Rock club just as Misanthropia (6) kicked off, according to their Facebook they are a three piece however all I could see was one man and a guitar playing a set of black metal featuring some fluid guitar playing, frantic riffs and programmed drums. I've never been that 'into' one man projects but it was a evil enough start to the evening keeping those that had turned up entertained ready for what was to come.

The room started to fill a lot more as M2TM alumni Black Pyre (7) returned to the Fuel stage once again to bring Nordic darkness. The gloom was immediate as Asbjorn Daemonium de Noctis, Dominus de Octopus and Kjøttflate The Mighty Ravendork powered through their furious, classic black metal sound, croaky vocals, tremolo picking and blastbeats agogo Black Pyre are a band who take their music seriously but do have their tongues in their cheeks about the cvlt nature of the black metal scene. Unfortunately due to forces of light (or logistical errors) they didn't have their now trademark Grapefruit but that didn't matter because the crowd were pitting and enjoying Black Pyre's frozen darkness. A band going from strength to strength they will be on more black metal showcases soon I'm sure.

Ah yes the previously mentioned black metal showcase tag, now M2TM 2019 winners Blind Divide (7) are not a black metal band, not by a long stretch and unfortunately they had an absolute mare of a show. Getting into the spirit of things they were made to look as cvlt as possible by Agrona's Kreulon and took to the stage with their usual aggression, however it was very clear that there was something amiss. The sound was muddy from the very start (apparently it was also very soupy on stage), the grooves were not that audible due to the swampy mix, leaving James' vocals very low in the mix. Still they battled on regardless getting some action down the front. However they are not a black metal band so were a little out of place on this bill and their addition was very last minute due to the issues mentioned previously but they plowed on playing older and newer tracks before finishing their set properly. It's said that you win some and lose some in this life but with Bloodstock looming, they need to regroup and get ready to lay waste to the Newblood Stage in August.

So time for the headliners and we've waxed lyrical about South Wales' premier black metal band in these pages numerous times. Personally I've seen the band more times than I can remember, through numerous line ups and performances, however I have never sound Agrona (10) so as vital and vicious as they did here. Taking the headline show in their stride they are now old hands at this and with a partisan audience in tow, many of whom have also seen the band numerous times, they took the vast crowd by the scruff of the neck from the beginning and began the bloodletting early as they went straight into Burn, the song many will know due to it's excellent lyric video. It was an great track to start out on establishing the nifty guitar work of the twin axeslingers Aeron and Arawn who lock in together for wrist shattering tremolo riffs. The engine room is human drum machine Ankou who blasts away with total abandon as Kreulon stalks the stage bringing the low-end devastation.

Agrona were on fine form from the very beginning determined to prove that they could replace Ethereal with ease. The instrumental elements were tight, syncopated but most importantly audible, there was a serious clarity meaning you could hear every single note being cranked out of Fuel's PA but also the dual lead vocals from the warlike Taranis and the bewitching Adara, with Kreulon also giving some barks later on as Taranis prowled the crowd anointing them with blood. The setlist too was excellent featuring some of the deeper cuts from their debut album such as Unbound and Risen along with favourites like Storm's End and Summoning The Void, which is now officially a singalong and new track A Feast Of Warlords while Unbound featured a brilliant new orchestral intro. This was Agrona at their most vital, muscular, tight as hell and showing anyone that may doubt them that not only are they capable of headlining venues such as Fuel and ones bigger of course but also that they are long overdue another appearance at Bloodstock to show how they have evolved into a blaspheming black metal machine.

A very enjoyable night with some very dear friends and some great live music from the South Wales scene which is still on fire. 

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