Black Conjuration II @ Fowler’s Live, Adelaide, South Australia

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It was a dark and stormy night… Actually it wasn’t, yet Black Conjuration II presented an ominous and foreboding line-up that brought a chilling atmosphere to the pleasant Adelaide evening.

Assembling some of Australia’s most unique extreme metal acts, and claiming to be Adelaide’s deadliest metalfest, BCII certainly had a strong underground feeling to it, despite being surprisingly well attended.

Time constraints meant that I missed opening act, Oath of Damnation, arriving instead for Intellect Devourer. Playing their Death/Entombed style of early death metal, there were no surprises in Intellect Devourer’s set, but the songs were energetic, the riffs catchy, and they played like a well-drilled unit.

Following were Rote Mare, a straight-up doom outfit with largely spoken word delivery. Rote Mare brought forth all the things people love about British-style doom: a bowel shaking bottom end, solid Sabbath riffing, and a seething, gloomy intensity.

Hailing from NSW, Innsmouth played an exciting mix of doom, black, and death metal. Tight as a duck’s ass, and aware of the importance of dynamic variation and sound colour, Innsmouth immediately grabbed the audiences’ attention, their captivating brand of metal making it impossible not to bang your head.

In existence for 20 years, Mournful Congregation only began playing live in 2009. Using three guitars and bass to cover all the parts written into the band’s densely layered material, one could only describe the experience as awe-inspiring. Their four-song set proved that slow is the new fast, and that too much depression is never enough. Mournful Congregation showed that, given space to breathe, genuine pathos, and a powerful, beautiful sound, metal can be a devastating statement of emotional intensity.

Following on from this was no easy task, but Inverloch acquitted themselves very well. Careening wildly from heavy, oppressive doom, to wild-eyed death metal, with split-second precision time and mood changes, Inverloch were the musical equivalent of an acute bout of dissociative identity disorder. I occasionally wished some of the fast sections lasted a little longer, but their schizophrenic brand of metal was highly unique and enjoyable.

Queensland’s Portal are a love or hate proposition. Creating a choking sense of dread with both their music and their image, their set was an unrelenting onslaught. Sounding like a swarm of demons trying to escape tortured amplifiers, and bereft of any notions of variation, their music pulsed hypnotically. The dissonant, rapid minutiae of each instrumental part served to create a cogent whole, while The Curator’s barks and grunts served to heighten the sense of discomfort. Truly in a class (and genre) of their own, their minimalist take on heavy metal was at once inaccessible, harrowing, unforgettable, and immensely engaging. Having pounded the audience into submission, Portal left the stage with little fanfare, feedback ringing out, a staunch annunciation that applause would be, at best, an unwelcome patronisation.

All photos by Kevin James

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