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Live Report: Primordial, Mgła & Urfaust in Dublin

Live at The Academy – February 27, 2016

Written by Simon Mernagh | Photographed by Down the Barrel Photography

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There is somewhat of a surreal buzz throughout Dublin city on this Saturday afternoon. Unprecedented sunlight leaves the locals in a tizzy, although nobody complains about it. It is election weekend, and the half-finished count reveals that a record number of right-wing, nepotistic, starched-shirt ‘gombeen’ politicians have slithered their way into office. Most unusually of all, however, is the homecoming gig of legendary Irish band Primordial, joined on the bill by Polish upstarts, Mgła and Dutch shamans, Urfaust. Unusual because, despite being the land of their birth, Primordial seldom play Ireland.

After wading through the crowded doorway entrance, past the overzealous security guards and slightly frightened-looking ticket staff, it becomes clear that the overwhelming majority of metalheads in the Academy this evening have travelled far and wide for this gig. The three bands performing this evening represent Eastern, Western, and peripheral Europe between them, explaining the pan-European flavour. It is certainly a welcoming change from the usual gaggle of pasty long-hairs which haunt the Dublin metal gigs.

Urfaust hit the stage as the clock strikes six, packed crowd in tow, and reactions are entertainingly mixed. Known for their ritualistic approach to droning black metal, their mesmeric style is almost as captivating as guitarist/vocalist IX’s Mustaine-y bouffant. The duo has a special relationship with Dublin, having recorded Trúbadóirí Ólta an Diabhail live at the ill-fated Pint, along the capital’s quays. It remains among one of their finest recordings, and much of that set is faithfully replicated at the Academy. Stretching a half-hour set to forty-five minutes clearly wears on the crowd a bit, and if the post-gig pub banter was anything to go by, Urfaust’s three quarters of an hour was plentiful.

Mgła | Credit: Down the Barrel Photography

Mgła | Credit: Down the Barrel Photography

Exercises in Futility is a stalwart of ‘best of 2015’ record release lists, sprinkled throughout our own staff picks. Excitement was high for Mgła, and appropriately so – they delivered the punishing, violent black-death onslaught they have become known for, adorned in matching face-hiding black outfits to boot. Although it must be said that seeing their fresh faces sound checking mere moments before kills the ‘blacker than the blackest black times infinity’ aesthetic a bit. The mysterious trio of Polish-speaking skinheads beside me particularly enjoyed themselves, appearing in time for Mgła’s set and vanishing the moment it ended. Following such a blistering performance, could anyone blame them?

Primordial | Credit: Down the Barrel Photography

Primordial | Credit: Down the Barrel Photography

Their space was quickly occupied by some local heathens as the twentieth hour drew near. Primordial are known for their ferocious live prowess, touring extensively and headlining festivals across the world. Seeing them in a sold-out, small venue was a treat as they blasted through a fan-pleasing set, seamlessly coupling cuts from oldies A Journey’s End and Storm Before Calm with their anthemic recent output. “Death of the Gods” was given a noteworthy airing, perhaps unsurprisingly given the upcoming centenary of the 1916 Rising. It is a pity that frontman Alan Averill forgot some of the lyrics, but then again, a well-drunk bottle of wine will have that effect on a live performance.

His soaring vocals and blackened wretches perfectly complimented his comrades’ rhythms and scales, themselves deviated from Irish folk. Primordial is a rare band, firmly rooted in a national style without submitting to gimmickry. Despite hitting all the notes with gusto, the audience stood in stone-cold silence for the longest time. Even fan favourites such as “The Coffin Ships” or “Traitors Gate” were met with a mostly po-faced response. This author chalks it up to overly polite continentals upping the class of local gigs, which often end with bloody noses regardless of the performers. Perhaps the natives were understandably depressed, in the throes of a miserable election period.

Primordial | Credit: Down the Barrel Photography

Primordial | Credit: Down the Barrel Photography

Two hours zipped by, with the strict 22:15 curfew ushering folks out (making way for a completely unrelated, hideous-sounding nightclub) right after Primordial left the stage. Although it failed to dampen a triumphant evening of Primordial’s uniquely Gaelic black metal, championing chest-beating yet historically informed patriotism in the face of a dying political landscape. Greater men have fallen, but Primordial continues to ascend.

Primordial Mgła | Urfaust

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