Be it my lack of sleep, the altitude difference compared to my Southern home or the lineup of artists I have loved for ages, the last day of NWTF was one of the most special musical experiences of my life. I actually have to write in first-person for once. Beginning with crusty hardcore punk from Portland’s Cliterati and ending with the long-awaited return of Coven, there were tear-worthy moments throughout (some of which might have been attributed to my barely seeing Bell Witch for the crowd that descended to Barboza after YOB…). If I end up in a Sisyphus-in-Hades or Groundhog Day situation, this is the day I hope to relive repeatedly. The dates for NWTF 2018 have been announced and, if half as impressive as its kick-off year, it will be a festival worth the travel.
Since hearing Cliterati’s self-titled 7″, I knew I had to see them in person. You want energy? Check. You want socially and politically conscious punk? Check. You want catchy, hold-nothing-back crust? Check again.
Infernal Coil, who I was lucky enough to see with Primitive Man and Dragged Into Sunlight last year, play an impeccable maelstrom of grindcore/death metal that is as infernal as the name assumes. In the year since I saw them, they’ve adopted a stage presence that, along with red lighting and shadows, makes them terrifyingly intimidating. Their Burning Prayer of Infinite Hatred demo may be less than 15 minutes, but not one of the seconds is wasted.
Under the glow of dark red lights, Hands Of Thieves intertwined death metal, black metal, grindcore, doom metal and every other subgenre you can name. Having previously read how their debut, ‘Feasting On Dark Intentions,’ excited the most jaded of metal journalists, I was skeptical whether they would live up to the hype. Yes, yes and yes.
When YAITW didn’t come along with Taake to New Orleans in 2016, I thought I’d never see them–the yearlong wait was well worth it. The photos you see and the things you read online barely scratch the surface of being in the presence of the North Carolinians. Kable Lyall is the paragon of a metal frontman. Each of the five members seems completely aware that they are, in fact, on a stage. Between clothes and facial expressions and movements, they entertain, intimidate and convey everything their music implies. In some alternate universe, if Guns N Roses became a black metal band, you might end up with YAITW. Not this one, though.
CHRCH is what I might venture to call a perfect band. Ethereal vocals existing simultaneously with black metal screams. Doom metal that alternates between condemnation and salvation. Drawn out songs that make a listener feel just slightly uncomfortable. The statuesque, veiled Eva Rose is a captivating figurehead perfectly situated in the dismal-yet-dreamy world CHRCH brings to life.
In stark contrast to every other artist before or after her, Marissa Nadler delivered her beautiful words alone. Her voice exuding tranquility and grace, she told her tales of darkness, of nature and of love to an entranced crowd. While the transition from CHRCH to Nadler might seem odd, the vein of beauty and dark lyrics runs true. The folk songs she plays are universal.
I cannot be the only person who assumed Fórn was a Nordic band before taking the time to discover they’re based on the East Coast. Norway or Massachusetts, they have concocted a strain of doom metal that comes from the abyss. For every moment of melody and reprieve, there are four corresponding instances of bleak, primitive despair. The sedated, funerary pacing of their music is on another spectrum of beautiful; where Marissa Nadler was classically serene, the allure of Fórn lies in its savage dejection.
The Return of Mike Scheidt. By far the most crowded of NWTF shows, YOB delivered everything expected for their first show since Scheidt’s hospitalization. Dense and wholly magnificent, YOB represented yet another facet of doom metal–one that transcends the funerary and forlorn. Sheer joy is what most faces seemed to be experiencing. Even more mesmerizing than usual, the set seemed completely limitless and unaffected by the life-threatening hiatus. YOB truly is love.
Well, so much for close-up Bell Witch photos! After YOB’s packed set, the whole of Neumo’s made their way down to the cave-like Barboza. Elbow to elbow, there was awe in the air. There, Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin continued the long-form doom that had dominated the day. Reigned in from the storm by Erik Moggridge’s vocals, the slow, dense wall of noise was ultimately cathartic. Someone once said to me that doom metal comforted them and gave them relief, mentioning Bell Witch specifically. The sentiment proves true.
When video of Coven’s Roadburn set appeared online, I had chills. As Jinx Dawson exited her upright coffin mere feet away, I felt misty-eyed. The progenitor of the sign of the horns. The original occult frontwoman. Sounding as powerful as in decades previous, Coven brought NWTF full circle. From the initial Satanic ritual playing over the speakers as Dawson readied herself to appear to the “cha-cha-cha-cha” of “Wicked Woman,” it was the spectacle one would expect. The image of Jinx Dawson holding a skull in her right hand as she sang “You’ll go to Hell!” will forever be singed into my mind.