Text: André, Pics & Videos: Aidan
Even in your middle age, you can still get to know new concert venues in the Ruhr region that appeal to you right away. The rather alternative, cosy youth and cultural centre Emscherdamm is not located in the centre of Oberhausen, but even late at night this is not a problem if you have a dear colleague like Aidan who drops you off at the central station after the witching hour.
After Havukruunu had spoiled us a few days earlier with finest, epic black metal, we were now permitted to indulge ourselves completely in doom. The package Thronehammer, Wheel and Cross Vault promised Champions League level – and the anticipation for this evening was thus immense. Fortunately, our high expectations were even exceeded. As I type these lines, I would love to relive it all again….
Cross Vault was the only band on the exquisite billing that I hadn’t seen live beforehand. I voted their last studio album, As Strangers We Depart, number 4 on my “Best of 2021 list“ last year – only Morgul Blade, Wheel and Seven Sisters ranked ahead of the doom quintet, who – as I’ve known since yesterday – live scattered across half the republic. To cut a long story short: Cross Vault completely blew Aidan and me away – and our two kind travelling companions should also be very positive after the show. Although the guys, apart from a gig at the venerable Baroeg in Rotterdam on 6 November 2021 as part of the Dutch Doom Days, had almost never been on stage in recent years due to the pandemic, they played extremely tight. When you get such a top-class opening act, you may consider yourself extremely privileged. Thanks to a really good sound, which was to characterise almost the entire evening at the Emscherdamm, all instruments also came into their own very well. An impressive appearance is undoubtedly singer Niklas, whose vigorous, soulful performance reminded me of Alan Averill from time to time, despite a different vocal colour. I was pleased to hear songs from older releases as well, since Cross Vault are by no means to be reduced to their latest output. “The Weeping Song“, originally by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, was a wonderful ending. There is no doubt that the band gained some new fans that evening – and their trip to the Ruhrpott was therefore certainly more than worthwhile for them.
After this intense performance, any band would have a hard time – but after Cross Vault came not just any band, but Wheel. Aidan and I had already enjoyed the Dortmund band live twice last year. Since their performance at Keep it True Rising! was so brilliant, we suspected that it would be very difficult to reach that level again today. But – the band managed it easily! There is no question that Arkadius is the best German doom singer our scene has to offer at the moment. By the second song at the latest, he was back in his own world and treated us to a world-class performance that actually deserved a headlining slot at a major festival. The same goes for the whole band, of course, who hit a dizzying level both in the studio and on stage. Epic doom, I’ll say it again for the record, doesn’t get any better than this – Preserved in Time in particular is a future classic that all genre bands will have to orientate themselves on in the decades to come. When you throw in the sublime “Scent of Death“ on top of that and even surpass the original, it’s almost surreal. The atmosphere was so splendid at the Wheel home gig in the Ruhrpott that it was a real pleasure for everyone involved. The closing, mighty “Aeon of Darkness“ was a majestic culmination.
“Kill the King!!!“ After Wheel followed the nominal headliner – Thronehammer! I had promised Aidan before the gig that he could look forward to the most impressive wall of sound that one can currently experience live, only Sulphur Aeon can keep up with that in my opinion. And the German-English quintet did not disappoint, quite the opposite! Thanks to the excellent new song material, I liked the gig even more than my Thronehammer debut at the Hammer of Doom 2019. Although Kat said she had some vocal problems and therefore altered some passages, she was once again an excellent master of ceremonies who unquestionably managed to conjure up Cthulhu. Her variable voice is as impressive as her stage presence – for me, she is one of the defining faces of our scene thanks to her talent and uniqueness. What her lads did on the instruments was also pure madness: whether it was the guitar section consisting of Stuart and Tim, or the rhythm section consisting of Uwe’s great substitute Tobias and Markus, here were exclusively masters at work, who really made me forget space and time. You could completely sink into this performance – great art and a brilliant end to this evening, where we were actually dealing with three headliner-worthy bands, who were all convincing from the first to the last second.
Conclusion: Our good friend Flo put it in a nutshell – evenings like this show how great our underground is and what magical moments you can experience there. I saw a lot of excellent bands this year and I can’t even list them all here. But this doom package already deserves the stamp legendary! The fact that you can share such experiences with great people makes them even more precious.