The Distortion Project delivers a double headed black metal treat to Belfast with Chtonic and Satryicon
MAKING their first appearances on a Belfast stage two bands, who are literally from the opposite sides of the world brought new dimensions to the often hackneyed field of black metal; silencing the doubters and opening up new, interesting pathways on the metal journey.
While most of the crowd in the Limelight2 on Monday (11th November) were there for Satyricon's Belfast début, all concerned received a pleasant shock as Taiwanese metallers Chtonic hit the stage to deliver a tight, focused and engaging performance.
Singer Freddy Lim, bearing the mark of the Eight Generals of Hell on his forehead, offered new textures to the black/death metal vocal style and occasionally added flourishes with the traditional Taiwanese erhu.
With the masked CJ Kao bearing what appeared to be a mask for summoning vampires, and the semi-masked drummer Dani Wang, their preferred references to aboriginal Taiwanese were present, allowing Jesse Liu to give a masterclass in guitar histrionics - whatever they are feeding their guitar players in Taiwan is working!
Many there will not be aware that Chtonic are a highly politicized band; they are prominent figures in campaigning for full Taiwanese independence; Lim is a member of Amnesty International and is a previous President of the Taiwanese Chapter. However, many eyes were focused on the attractive female bassist and band spokesperson Doris Yeh.
Her beauty prompted the usual round of misogynist comments from the less evolved, but they would do well to remember that Yeh uses her looks as a tool to raise awareness of women's rights and is an active rights campaigner on many issues. And, she is a hell of a good bassist!
Such is the activism of Chtonic that they are banned in several parts of China for their political views - but on Monday, what Chtonic proved that they are a healthy and vibrant set musicians who have adapted and adopted western black and death metal to deliver a set that can literally leave an audience gasping for more.
With the stage set for Satyricon, Frost's monumental drum kit towered over all present- a testimony to black metal tradition, and the template he used to anchor everything down, plus add the percussive shades and splashes that are essential to the band's sound.
Of course, the band really is the bastard black metal baby of Satyr and Frost. It is their vision of an evolving, changing black metal sensibility that has seen the band tweak at their traditional sound, adding rock elements.
There are stuck up poseurs who want everything to stay the same. They can f**k away off! Satyricon's recorded output of recent years on stage lives, breathes and spits like a snarling feral beast.
Satyr commands the stage, rocking on his trident mike stand, staring all around as he delivers invective and bile. Where Chtonic work towards a free Taiwan, Satyricon paint upon the bleak landscapes of Norse winters and Nordic traditions with dystopian paints to create a canvas of hellish visions and slim hopes of defiance and victory - all with a healthy dash of references to Satan of course!
Mother North, The Pentagram Burns, Fuel for Hatred were outstanding delivered live - the touring band coalescing, and tight as the bonds on a human sacrifice at the feet of ancient, vengeful Norse gods.
However, while songs like Now, Diabolical and K.I.N.G. have become stage favourites the newer tracks Our World It Rumbles Tonight and The Infinity of Time and Space show a way forward more complicated and layered than the doubters can ever see; Satyr telling Belfast that the latter song encapsulates everything about the band.
If this is the future of Satyricon it is bright light on the shadowed world they deliver their art upon.
And, while we are normally averse to referring to any band rock or metal band as producing 'art' it is clear that to Chtonic and Satyricon that they are artists in a dark world of shadows where mere mortals fear to tread.
Satyricon six or seven years ago where on the cusp of emerging from the black metal clichés. They have shrugged off the shackles of 'scene' conformity and developed into an immense live machine.
As Satyr hinted that he'd like to return to the city we can only hope that Satyricon and Chtonic do not just notch up Belfast as one more city to play, but do ensure Belfast is penciled in next time they tour Europe. Both are guaranteed the warmest of black welcomes!