After many, many postponements, the 2022 (technically 2020) version of annual extreme metal touring festival Devastation on the Nation was finally able to get under way. They rolled through Minneapolis’ Lyric at Skyway Theater this past Friday with a monstrous lineup that can satisfy just about anyone who is into black metal, with six bands who all bring a monstrous sound all their own to avid fans. In order of the show, the bands who play on the festival are Stormruler, Vale of Pnath, Ghost Bath, Abigail Williams, Borknagar, and Rotting Christ.
Abigail Williams is a band that has seen a number of transformations and has a reputation for lineup changes. Starting out initially as heavily Emperor-inspired, their sound has morphed as much as the members of the band has. In the past several years, the band was reduced to sole founding member Ken Sorceron, and in my opinion this has coalesced their musical vision and focus into the best version yet. Their set ran through several songs off their most recent album (2019’s Walk Beyond the Dark), crashed into a brand new song (as of yet unnamed), and finished with the closer of Walk Beyond The Dark (The Final Failure). As a longtime fan of Abigail Williams, Ken and his band’s ability to translate what is first and foremost a very atmospheric album into a blistering live performance was really remarkable to see. Walk Beyond The Dark is a very textured, emotional musical journey and for anyone who hasn’t seen them perform material off it yet – it is given perfect due live, which Sorceron’s screams filling the space over intense blast beats and layered guitars creating a textured wall of sound.
Second last to play are Norwegian legends Borknagar. Much like Abigail Williams, they too have seen a number of transformations over the years and many lineup changes. Their most recent two albums (Winter Thrice and True North) took on a more progressive-metal and folk-heavy approach to their tried and true epic black metal sound. Semi-recent addition ICS Vortex (Simen Hestnæs) adds a dynamism to the vocal approach of the band both on record and live that gives them an explosive sound. They’ve long been a band who interweaves vocal styles, but Winter Thrice and True North showed a renewed focus on the interplay between the vocal styles to really create an epic, expansive atmospher in their music, and that is what makes their live performance so killer. Despite having so many different elements going on, the way that each is given room to take on a force of its own is truly a mark of seasoned professionals. Add to that the twin guitar attacks and keyboards and the band is constantly in motion, with literally never a dull second. Set highlights were two tracks off of True Noth – Thunderous and the magical, ethereal live rendition of Voices.
Last to perform were Greek legends Rotting Christ. Having been performing in one style or another since 1987, the Tolis brothers’ outfit has seen (there is a pattern here) many sonic and lineup transformations, with the core of those two always keeping the same. As one of the longest running extreme metal bands, they (personally) had a lot to live up to in terms of performing – you would figure that if you’ve been playing live music that long, you better be able to put on a killer show. Ever the professionals, they brought exactly that – song after hellenic song of blistering metal perfection. Their recent output has seen them turn towards a ritualistic, occultic style, with a more satanic chant style of vocals and repeating, circular guitar lines that wrap one up in a storm of energy and hypnotize them. That feeling is conveyed perfectly live – though it is sometimes fractured by Sakis’ intense deep roars, who brings an animalistic energy to the stage, bounding all over the place and constantly amping up the audience. All told, the band played for nearly an hour, covering songs from all over their discography (even a couple back from the early 90s that are a bit thrashier in style).
These three bands are joined by no slouces in the supporting department – also playing are Vale of Pnath (sharing members with Abigail Williams), epic black metallers Stormruler, and depressive black metallers Ghost Bath.
There are still quite a few Devastation on the Nation events left – you can catch them here:
5/03 – Toronto, ON – Lees Palace
5/04 – Montreal, QC – Foufounes Electriques
5/05 – Quebec City, QC – Imperial
5/06 – Manchester, NH – Jewel
5/07 – Brooklyn, NY – Saint Vitus Bar
5/08 – Baltimore, MD – Soundstage
5/10 – Greensboro, NC – Blind Tiger
5/11 – Nashville, TN – Exit/In
5/12 – Birmingham, AL – Zydeco
5/13 – Atlanta, GA – The Masquerade (Hell)
5/14 – Tampa, FL – The Orpheum
5/16 – Houston, TX – White Oak Music Hall
5/17 – Fort Worth, TX – Haltom Theater
5/18 – Austin, TX – Come and Take It Live
5/19 – El Paso, TX – Rockhouse Bar
5/20 – Phoenix, AZ – Nile Theater
5/21 – San Diego, CA – Brick By Brick
5/22 – Los Angeles, CA -1720