It’s been a long and brutal summer. There was more than a few occasions in which I thought the damn sun would keep scorching until there’s nothing left. Still, each of us had our own ideas on how to make the most of it, if you know what I mean.
If you really do, then you also know that the whole of it is slowly being moved back indoors. And what a way to do it, by having one of the hottest names in the metal community (for lack of a better term). The supreme leaders of the new, dare I say modernized, black metal, from Krakow, Poland, Mgła! With a brand new album called “Age of Excuse” under their belt.
This was a somewhat later addition to their calendar, and the hype surrounding this and nearby events was insane. I had originally planned to go to Zagreb before the addition of Belgrade changed my plans, but what I learned in the meantime was that the concert was sold out incredibly quickly. I knew it would be no different here, and I was right because at one point the venue was changed. It was still in the same building but now it had more room for all of us. This very rarely happens here and it shows just how big the hype was.
This all-Polish event started with Dagorath. New name on the scene but with a traditional approach to their craft, with an almost definite Mayhem touch to it. They showed potential but, and I really hate to repeat myself, in events like this, nobody remembers the opening acts. Unless they end up becoming the next best thing since sliced bread and then you can be all smug about it and go “oh yes I was there when it all started”. But that’s a different story.
Next up were Martwa Aura, and while the above holds for these guys as well, it was interesting to see the “breaks” in black metal. It was a good mix of clean and harsh vocals and the instrumentation contained, like I said, a lot of non-black stuff. Standing way out at the back, I could see the place was VERY well crowded considering it was a band probably only a few people heard of before this event. The sound quality was very good which was, at the time, just adding to the hype.
Mgła were on the stage without a long intro, without ominous Latin chanting on the PA. The place was absolutely packed. Everyone just waited for the word go and It. Was. On!! “Exercise in Futility I” proved over the years to be THE opening song for their sets. Everyone knows the lyrics, everyone is singing, crowdsurfing ahoy! If someone told me 20 years ago about this kind of atmosphere on a black metal set, I’d call them crazy! And their sets are intense! They cut the chitchat between songs, they don’t move around, they let their music speak for them. They showcased the new songs, the intensity was rising as the event moved on. These guys live are so much different. The now legendary “With Hearts Towards None VII” must deserve a special mention, because it caused an eruption in the crowd. The drummer, Darkside, is out of this planet good, and I’ll be the millionth person to say it.
The sound remained really good from our position, although there was a few odd hiccups when the guitar would be just a tick quieter but nothing to complain about. We were, obviously, all waiting for the perceived finale in the shape of “Exercise in Futility VI” but the actual finale was for me even better, the next one, “Exercise in Futility V”. Now, long ago was that whole “finding personal meaning in the lyrics” thing but I’ll be damned before I stop getting chills down my spine for the “it took a quarry to bury the dream”! When one dream is buried, another appears and that’s about enough for this occasion.
About an hour and change later, that was it. There’s two major things that need to be said as to how these guys rose to the top. If you want any success you either have to do something that has such a broad marketing appeal that only a lunatic would be offended, or do one particular thing so well, that everyone has to come to you for it. Second thing, some might find shocking, if you want good black metal, you DO NOT need to record your album in a shed in the middle of a forest with a 25 cent microphone. Mgła didn’t reinvent the wheel here. They have simply focused on why people who love black metal do it and honed it to perfection. It was simple in hindsight and they reap the fruits now. Long may it continue!