Since 2003 the city of Utrecht is hosting the dark underground lifestyle festival Summer Darkness. With acts performing throughout the city in the familiar live music venues, but also in a couple of churches and with markets, city tours and LARP exhibitions this is an annually growing festival, comparable to Germany’s Wave-Gotik-Treffen. Although not as huge as WGT this is also one big party for the ones into the goth-, cybergoth-, steampunk and/or rivethead subcultures. This year we didn’t visit the entire festival, but we did go to the God Is An Astronaut gig that also was part of the festival. This Irish band was supported by two Belgium ones; The Black Heart Rebellion and AmenRa.
AmenRa should have opened today, but due to a severe traffic jam they weren’t able to arrive in time. Fortunately the guys from The Black Heart Rebellion were able to put their gear a lot earlier on stage so we still could see both bands as they switched places. TBHR’s star is rising quickly in 2013 and is shining bright while doing so. While originally formed as a punk band they’ve now switched to a more psychedelic / postrock / drone metal kind of approach (sometimes even a bit pagan/folkish) and this results in a diverse sound with both beautiful and haunting moments. Associated with the Church Of Ra they’re more accessible than AmenRa, but can deliver an intense show as well. They’ve played Roadburn, they will play festivals like Incubate, Ieperfest and Pukkelpop and this will definitely not be the last thing we hear about them.
On an almost completely dark stage with projected dark images of mostly natural phenomenon AmenRa kicked in extremely heavy. A massive wall of down tempo sludge together with the visual aspects created an insanely intense show. Technically perfect, they once again showed why they’re on the bill of every heavy festival in Belgium and The Netherlands this summer. They literally blew away the greatest part of the audience. I’ve seen them now a couple of times and every time they’ve succeeded to impress. Their show at this year’s Roadburn was still the best, but man did this come close. Could God Is An Astronaut still convince after this kind of dark brute force?!
To immediately answer the last question: they couldn’t. Their melodic post-rock with a spacey approach was performed in a very decent way, the mood they created fitted the music well, but their sound was too minimal to convince after two really dark and intense shows. In didn’t help at all that their first couple of songs weren’t really dynamic. The structures of the songs were tedious and they played a couple of songs from their upcoming new album which all had these annoying vocoder vocals. Only the last two songs, ‘Red Moon Lagoon’ and ‘Route 666’, were powerful instrumental songs that got the audience bang their heads. Unfortunately many visitors already left, because they couldn’t handle the soft show after the Belgium violence earlier that day. If these rockers wouldn’t have focused on their new album and more on their heavier songs it could have been working out just fine, but today they were no match for the other two.
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