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Wednesday 20 September 2023

A View From Beyond The Void: Cosmic Void Festival Day 1 (Live Review By Alyn Hunter & Natalie King)

Cosmic Void Festival Day 1, O2 Academy Islington, Friday 15.09.23

Cosmic Void is in its second year already, with another fine lineup curated by Cult Of Parthenope (from our understanding, a few Europeans based in London), bringing a swathe of UK exclusives and debuts from far and wide to the capital. The UK is in as fortunate a position as ever in regards to black metal festivals, with other notable events such as Fortress, Reaper, a staple representation in Incineration, and the Fellfoot Wood events amongst a swathe of other smaller one day affairs. 

Cosmic Void in particular has eeked out a place at the top that has become a draw for UK residents and travellers from further afield alike due to the central location, and the rare performances of the bands that it invites on our soil. Eschewing the safe approach of looking exclusively at booking the tried and tested bands that have routinely graced our shores, Cosmic Void gives the UK a taste of the privilege that European extreme festivals have often been privy to for so long and that our more popular or mainstream festivals are not able to accommodate. This approach has been successful enough to allow them to expand to creating another similar type of event in Celestial Darkness in Spring of next year, albeit with a more doom genre focus. So, are they doing a good job? Undeniably so.

This year saw the addition of an extra day following the success of the much lauded 2022 event, accessible only for weekend ticket holders with no day-tickets available, this was a sold out billing in a venue separate to the remainder of the weekend. Admittedly that came with one or two notable pitfalls in that by the time day-splits were announced, some had realised that a couple of the biggest draws for them were to be performing on the Friday, and with tickets for the weekend flying out quickly there were multiple comments on the public posts expressing their disappointment that they would be missing out.

The second pitfall is that like many of the venues in the franchise, the O2 Academy in Islington is an expensive (read, vastly overpriced even for London) venue with terrible viewpoints, poorly positioned bars and claustrophobic staircases to upstairs viewing areas. So, whilst understanding the necessity through logistics in having to secure a different venue for the Friday, this was by all means the weakest of all the venues with a bizarre upside that they do a surprisingly good bottled espresso martini... make of that what you will.

A final consequence of this venue choice (albeit this could've been mitigated with some better planning on our part) was that we unfortunately missed festival openers Trivax celebrating their album launch of the much awaited Eloah Burns Out due to issues with the tube at Bank, with every Northern Line train being diverted through the southern side for reasons unknown. With the vast number of t-shirts representing them and several anecdotal remarks caught audibly on arrival though, it's clear that they had made the most of their billing, and having seen the band on a number of occasions, that's something we don't doubt in the slightest. So our apologies to Trivax, we really did wish to see you and it's our loss that we didn't, but we hope you had a blast and best of luck with the continuation of the album release.

So on arrival, passing by the merch desk we quickly learned that it was a cash only affair - not too much of a problem with a cashpoint nearby, and Cosmic Void merch is as it was last year - well designed and reasonably priced all things considered in a festival environment. Having quickly identified that our dwarven statures would make viewing a band as visually important as Mephorash (8) difficult, we scaled the stairs and ernestly fought for a viewpoint on the balcony. Worth it though, as the Swedish cult group were excellent despite a debatable mix with the guitars being relatively thin. Draped in their cloaked garb and performing a range of fan favourites from the fantastic Shem-ha Mephorash amongst their other records, they set a high bar and had the crowd hooked throughout their ritualistic set.

A trip to the cashpoint to get funds for a Mephorash tee and a Cosmic Void hoodie, followed, and back just in time to return to our now contested viewing spot for Mis├żyrming (9), who were high-up on our list of 'must-sees'. As one of the two top-tier Icelandic UK exclusives, this was a much anticipated return to the UK and boy did they deliver. Taking plenty from their previous two records Me├░ hamri and Algleymi, a masterclass in raucous and abrasive black metal was delivered to an entranced crowd from a band in prime form whom the UK certainly will be craving more from.

It was back to the bar for some much needed refueling before returning for tonight's headliners, Norway's Mare (8), not one that we were overly familiar with before the festival, but would happily oblige in watching again. Low/no stage lighting and instead opting for a candelabra lit performance, Mare perform a stripped back black metal with occult themes and that entrancing and hypnotic vibe that often comes with bands of their ilk. Regardless of our own familiarity though, the now packed out venue was very much completely under the spell of the Norweigans, and their set had that palpable paralysing effect as they let the raw power of their sound alone do the talking. 

A strong closing statement for the opening day, although an early-ish finish at just before 10 almost feels uncharacteristic of an extreme metal show compared to what we are used to - probably another aspect of the venue choice. No problem, a diverted journey via Camden's favourite drinking hole The Dev before bailing back to the hotel (notable props to the busking outfit by the Angel station doing a rendition of Stairway To Heaven, they get a 7).

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