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21/09/2015 : AMBER ASYLUM, CAMERATA MEDIOLANENSE, EMPYRIUM, DARKHER, TENHI - Prophecy Fest @ Balver Höhle in Balve 19/09/2015

AMBER ASYLUM, CAMERATA MEDIOLANENSE, EMPYRIUM, DARKHER, TENHI

Prophecy Fest @ Balver Höhle in Balve 19/09/2015

Concert
Alternative RockBlack MetalClassicalDark PopDeath MetalDoomDoom MetalEthereal / Heavenly VoicesFolkNeoclassicalNeofolk
Prophecy Productions
21/09/2015, Ron SCHOONWATER

What a great ambiance! The Balver Höhle (Europe’s biggest cultural cave according to the organisation), location Helle 2 (everything has a meaning) in Balve in Germany hosted the great Prophecy Fest of 2015. It’s a perfect small festival with the beautiful, superb location and a great atmosphere. The fest was sold out with 1250 paying tickets, but there was lots of space to relax, sit, enjoy, drink and eat. There was not so much choice in food (like on any small festival), but there was enough. Even for vegetarians. Most important was the great line-up, but what do you want with a label like Prophecy. We didn’t see Crone and Vemod, but there was enough to enjoy for fans of (dark)folk, rock, metal, atmospheric music and neo-classical music.

It was obvious when you came close to the impressive cave that LIFELOVER was playing their atmospheric doom black metal on stage. A heavy, but clear sound filled the cave, but I needed some time to adjust to where I was. I first had to check the Prophecy stand and the small Tenhi art exhibition with Saivo and Folk Aesthetic images. When I returned to the stage, Lifelover was at the end of their set. The only thing I really saw was the back of all the audience. A shame, but this is not the reason why I am here.

The four female witches (like they introduce themselves) from San Francisco create atmospheric dark ambient music with doom (metal) influences. AMBER ASYLUM uses the rock element of drums and electric bass, but completed with two violin players. The music is slow and filled with doom clichés. Biggest problem is that the voices of the two singers are reasonable good, but not superb enough. With slow hypnotic quiet music like this you need a voice that can compete with the best of the world. Unfortunately that’s not the case.

And when we talk about superb voices and singers, The Italian CAMERATA MEDIOLANENSE have them in abundance. They have three female lead singers, two male lead singers and a complete choir to support them. The set is mostly concentrated around their last released masterpiece Vertute Honor Balleze. Due to the fact that the Italians brought an entire choir it is to be expected that the music is oriented around the more classical and heavenly voices side from these all-round folk, neo-classical, theatrical band. Goosebumps moments are there with the beautiful brought versions like Vago Augaletto, Vergine Bella, Solo Et Pensoso, Dolci Iri, Canzone All’Itallia and (a less electronic version of) 99 Altri Perfecti. Camerata Mediolanense proved with a furious, new version of Balcani In Fiamme (without trumpet) that their drums and percussion past is not forgotten. This was absolutely amazing.

DARKHER is the atmospheric doom, gloomy rock answer to PJ Harvey during her Is This Desire? period. Cold, but groovy and the heavy guitar riffs and drum lines are completed with the beautiful voice of Jayn H. Weissenberg. Especially when Darkher takes the doom with pop approach it works wonderfully well. Like with the outstanding Ghost Tears, the dark, almost acoustic, ballad Hung and the more up speed, doom meets psychedelic rock of Foregone. Unfortunately Darkher shows that another musical approach isn’t working as well. When the band creates less doom and more pace in the music the strongest point of the music, the voice of Jayn, starts struggling and musically. Hopefully Darkher will stay on the dark and doom pop side of the music spectre, because that fits them perfectly well.

The last few years EMPYRIUM has grown from a doom metal band with folk influences into an adult dark folk band with rock/ metal song structures. It’s the beauty of this band. Listen to the well built The Days Before The Fall for instance. The quiet start, the heavy ending, this song has it all. Songs like The Fraconian Woods In Winter Silence and (the grunting). Mourners shows the more doom metal oriented past (and present with The Vision Bleak) of Empyrium. Personally I’m more pleased with the last released and songs like Dead Winter Ways or Saviour. It is difficult to explain, because the music contains the same elements, but it appeals much more to me. The voice of Thomas Helm sounded slightly higher today as on their albums. It is not sure if it had anything to do with their long sound check and all the stress it brought.

Another band who had difficulties with their sound check was the Finnish TENHI. The band that brings the atmospheric tranquil sound of the woods to live. Today they brought with them, a pianist, three acoustic guitar players, a female violinist and a drummer. So it is not so strange the band had some difficulties with their sound check. The result was unfortunately that the music sounded very soft, at least at the beginning of the concert during their Saivo songs and, one of my favourite songs Kausienranta (with that beautiful piano line). When the band gave more power and speed, like on the songs from their album Kauan or during Luopumismen Laulu the sound was much better. It proved that a band like Tenhi who puts all these different elements into their music (like hard meets soft, one instrument alone or all the instruments together and one note meets a lot of notes in one moment) is difficult to mix. It is maybe one of the reasons they do not do much concerts? In the end it has to be said that the music, with all these great (singing) voices, was mixed reasonably good. Although the band sounded a bit extraneous at times, it became better and better when the set progressed. Unfortunately the people in the back of the cave) probably near the bar’ became louder and louder. They missed out on a, maybe, one of a lifetime moment. Tenhi already stated that they will not perform live again in the very near future. That is a shame, because I imagined this band at a seated concert (for instance at the Shauspielhaus in Leipzig).

And then it was time for me to go home. Missing out on the last band, but with a great memory in mind. Hopefully Prophecy will organise this festival on the same location next year, because they have a lot of great bands who can make the most out of the Balver Höhle.

Ron SCHOONWATER
21/09/2015


 

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