Text & Photos: Teddie Taylor
You don’t typically associate blues with black metal, until you’re seeing four metal bands in New Orleans. The South birthed Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Bring Me My Shotgun,” Blind Willie McTell’s “A to Z Blues” and Robert Johnson’s “Me and the Devil Blues.” Putting aside the obvious differences, the two have a shared interest in dark subject matter and shock value. There are stories of life and death, journeys to Hell and back, and of the shadow-filled corners of existence. Barghest, Grave Ritual, Vimur and Hellgoat are part of a community of Southern black metal groups that consistently manage to put chills down your spine in spite of the heat, and they all congregated one night at Siberia for a show…
Barghest are predatory in their sound. They guide slow, dooming intros into massive, deadly songs. The mythological barghest – a monstrous creature that can take the form of a wolf or a goblin – suits them; their songs shift and twist and become something entirely different than what you initially heard. They’ve released a split with fellow Baton Rouge group Thou in the past and played a new song from an upcoming collaboration with California band TEETH (which is going to be the second Release by GrimCVLT – stay tuned for more info coming soon). I counted no less than five Barghest patches on vests during the show; the five guys have a deserved reputation as one of the best metal acts in the swampy South.
Grave Ritual exude effortless brutality. Raw. Understated. Natural. There were no props and relatively little movement, but this made it easier to appreciate the savage vocals and to immerse yourself in the noise. Listen to their album Morbid Throne, released earlier this year, and then see them for something beautifully grim.
Vimur, the decade old project that originally consisted solely of Vaedis, play as fast as your brain can process what you’re hearing. Each song is a nonstop mental assault and the fog on stage only added to the feeling of chaos. The best way to imagine them live is to get ahold of the live tape they put out last year.
If you don’t think you’ll ever get to see Gorgoroth and their infamous sheep heads on stage, Hellgoat are a comparable force. The Atlanta-based trio’s arms were dripping with their blood and sweat as a nearly mummified lizard hung from the mic stand and candles burned. Hellgoat are as extreme as they appear and the entire aesthetic is real. Twelve years together and they have perfected a combination of theatrics and sonic severity. Hellgoat vocalist/guitarist, Vaedis, and drummer, Aetheos, are also in Vimur. The two bands share members, but manage to separate their sounds. Hellgoat is Vimur’s unsparing brother.
If the blues musicians of the South sold their souls to the devil at the crossroads, what did the black metal ones do?