Black metal in the early evening always stretches the audience's sense of suspended disbelief, especially when the sun has just barely set outside. However, despite the early 6:30 p.m. doors for this stacked lineup at the Wreckroom, the show started strong with a set by Swedish blackened punks Death Wolf. The group clearly wanted to make an impression on their first North American tour. Originally called Devil's Whorehouse and formed by Roger Svensson and Morgan Håkansson of Marduk, the band have evolved into a distinct entity combining feral energy and a blackened aesthetic.
Next, Italy's the Foreshadowing cooled off the proceedings with a much moodier, keyboard-driven set. Their aesthetic is much more aligned with the gothic proclivities of black metal, and so their set was more about throbbing, romantic numbers that centred on the dextrous keys of Francesco Sosto. Because of the relative delicacy of their sound, they also suffered the most from the sound problems that plagued the entire show with clunky, uneven mixes and a general lack of consideration for any kind of sophistication. The backing vocals were entirely inaudible and the technical ham-handedness limited the Foreshadowing from being as light and tender as they were striving for.
The fire-and-brimstone black metal duo Inquisition, on the other hand, fared the best in terms of sound. Dagon and Incubus, despite their sparse setup, have a way of sounding positively immense, and this show was no exception. Dagon exploited his eerie vocal range to its utmost potential, usually restricting himself to an inhuman, almost robotic and strangely hypnotizing drone, but also performing weird vocalizations that can only be described as "crazy wizard." They put on a great, searing set that ended up being a dark horse highlight of the night.
Portuguese heavy metal band Moonspell have been incorporating more and more melodic and symphonic elements into their music over time, culminating in their pair of most recent releases, Alpha Noir and Omega White, in early 2012. Their set was the most overtly theatrical of the night, with vocalist Langsuyar taking the stage wearing shiny black PVC pants and a spiked metal centurion helmet. They delved into their back catalogue only a little, preferring to play their more recent work, which also meant incorporating more pre-recorded material into the set, including female vocals and symphonic elements.
Headliners Marduk brought their military-inspired brand of driven black metal to the Wreckroom stage with a sense of dignity and gravity not a lot of bands can mimic. Their set was heavily drawn from their latest release, Serpent Sermon, though peppered with selections from their back catalogue as well, including "Panzer Division Marduk." As always, the tight, militant drumming was a highlight, as was the thick, tarry riffing from Morgan Håkansson. The smoke machine, which had been hissing evilly in a back corner all night, had filled the room with fog that reached the perfect thickness just for their set. It complemented the muddiness of the sound and almost turned it into an advantage, making it seem as though Marduk were playing in an infernal bog.