(pictures by phil vidamour/deathwave)

Reflecting on losing a friend.  Not staring into an abyss of a black hole created by their absence, rather feeling the glow of the fire of their spark of life still fed and fanned by the many people who cared and care about the memories of that person.  The sudden and sad death of our mate Steve while having the time of his life at a festival a year ago was a proper shocker, but testament to his regard within the circle and scene of people his enthusiasm and humour touched, this tribute fundraiser gig came together amazingly.  A collection of great UK underground black metal that he enjoyed, as he did living his whole metal life.

A bucket list tick for me personally and Emissaries of Syn to play this venue, maybe only half full for our opening slot but it was a proper blast.  Bit of a sore thumb stand out on the bill with our punk-grind attack but the man himself had enjoyed it and we were so glad to make our contribution

The event had sold out and was quickly approaching rammed capacity when Heathen Deity fired up next.   From the East Midlands had only recently returned to playing live after a decade break, they don’t have to move with the times as they are deliberately rooted in a stripped down old school black metal vibe. Matching that with their corpse-painted look, their relentless flow through their grim and raw brutality is pretty effective

Old Corpse Road descend from the mythical lands of Darlington to bring their extremely atmospheric twist on black metal.  There might be a bit of face paint but their more stylish waist-coated approach fits with the well-researched folk tale aspect they weave into their epic pieces.  Excellent vocal harmonies complement the ethereal mellowness amid their thunderous onslaughts.  They are inventive and ultimately interesting

East Anglia represented by The Infernal Sea, and this is a fearsome and ferocious prospect.  Uniformly enshrouded and with the musicians in plague doctor masks, they even have a couple of acolyte “bouncers” haunting the front of the stage.  But far more impressive than the theatrics is the sheer punchy intensity of music, short and sharp songs with crisp breaks giving an almost death grind aspect to their take on black.  Lovely filthy bass tone too

A brief but spot on eulogy from Jason who was with him at the time, including pointing out that Steve’s family were here to experience their first metal gig tonight.  Undoubtedly an eye and ear opener but from what they said also understanding completely Steve’s enjoyment of the atmosphere and the community associated with this underground of explosive extremity.

To close we have Hecate Enthroned, all close friends with him and perhaps an extra passion in their playing because of this.   Twenty odd years of existence now and they are a honed machine of structured blackened destruction.   The tempo shifts through their songs are incredibly well crafted and it’s easy to find yourself getting hypnotised under the spell of the songs.  New songs are aired but I still have the same enthusiasm for some of the antique ones too, the same dark heart was always there.  They certainly gain a great reaction which they appreciate too.

There’s a moment when vocalist Joe is introducing what he knows is Steve’s favourite of theirs, and a warm wave of a sustained shiver courses past my side.  Whatever the unknown beyond may or may not be the love of your friends is a tangible thing, their presence is sustained in your hearts.  The (blast) beat goes on…