DAY ONE – THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2013
DICKENS PUB + LORD NELSON’S BAR & GRILL
Noctis 666’s first night may not have been the night I was most excited for, but it was by no means a slouch. Jumping between Dickens and Lord Nelson’s Bar & Grill (and of course the drunken void that was the parking lot between the two venues) gave the night a distinct and memorable feel. Both venues had a completely different energy; Dickens being a lot more death and thrash oriented while Lord Nelson’s had a raging heavy metal party feel, and managed to keep a large amount of people at both venues.
I suppose it goes without saying that the mighty Swiss duo Bölzer was my personal pick of the night. The mixture of dissident death doom and ferocious blackened death was executed with a commanding confidence from both band members that I haven’t seen in a long time. Let the drunken haze of hell metal continue!
I’m so hungover that the very lights in my house are burning my eyes. That’s definitely a sign of a successful first night at Noctis. I didn’t realize it immediately, of course, it took three long minutes of stretching out my moshpit wounds and throwing up all over my bathtub.
But I digress.
The night started off with a trip down to the Ramada Inn to watch Sarah Kitteringham deliver a presentation about women in metal. That was about as much class session as I wanted to take for the night, so as soon as the speech ended, I travelled en masse with fellow writers Wolff and Lemke to Dickens, where several beers and a full pack of cigarettes was consumed.
We arrived right in time for Savage Streets, who were admittedly garnering an awesome crowd reaction. I had never been a fan of theirs, but it’s impossible to argue with that kind of vibe.
Then came Satan’s Satyrs and Bölzer. Bölzer was the more intriguing of the two, being that are a two piece band and sound as heavy as any five piece can ever get. I don’t know how they do it, but it works.
And then The Cadavor Dog. They are, without a doubt, one of my favorite Alberta metal groups. Those dudes tear it up every time they get up there and are always super rad to talk to. I even bought a shirt. You should to.
And then of course Exciter, who haven’t aged much for being around for 30 years. It was an absolute treat to see John Ricci and company play those classics. It’s just a shame I didn’t make it to the end of the set.
I’ll do better tonight.
When Noctis season rolls around it’s almost hard to believe. All year we wait for our gods to grace our soil, and make the rest of the year worth living. So after the appropriate amount of yard beers (three or four seems to do the trick), I was headed down to Ramada to grab my pass from Sarah Kitteringham and take in her lecture. As part of the “Women in Metal” conference, Kitteringham touched on a few important topics, some seemingly self-explanatory, others less so. One idea that really stuck was the concept that women have to earn validation as musicians, whereas men are typically seen as competent from first glance.
After the conference I made it over to Dickens just in time for Savage Streets’ set. If you’ve seen them before you know that their war-themed death crust is among the best acts in Alberta, easily. Satan’s Satyrs followed them up with a punky take on ‘60s psychedelia, albeit to a slightly less enthusiastic crowd. This quickly shifted when the indefinable but definitely deathy Bölzer; hit the stage. Of the few two-piece (guitar and drums) acts I’ve seen live, Bölzer; blew the doors off in experimental structure and pure volume. The Cadavor Dog, another local favorite, delivered a safe but energetic set after just recuperating the costs of this summer’s flood damage, and Exciter left the room saturated with sweat and heavy metal nostalgia: A pretty kickass kickoff for what is sure to be another legendary Noctis weekend.
Presenting my research on the rise of female performers in extreme metal to an audience made me a bundled mass of nerves. No matter, the speech went well enough and the heated question session ended just in time for me to run frantically to Dickens. Satan’s Satyrs were delayed by a busted string; after a quick fix they jumped back on stage and delivered their wicked blend of Electric Wizard and Black Flag that had the crowd dancing. I ran over to Lord Nelsons in an attempt to fulfill my photography obligations. Upon entering, the room erupted in laughter. Rav “The Arab Villain” was delivering a scathing review of an air guitar attendee, whose performance was apparently less engaging than watching a man fuck a goat.
Back and forth, back and forth. I refused to do anything but headbang in the front row during Bölzer; they were unequivocally the best band of the evening. It was skull crushing blackened death/doom, esoteric and battering with a wicked vocal delay that made mountain man vocalist and guitarist KzR all the more intimidating.
The smell of marijuana permeated the air; it appeared many were taking a break while Edge of Attack performed. It’s not my thing, but the band delivered power metal efficiently. The same can be said for Striker, though they certainly upped the pizzazz. The Cadavor Dog was more my scene. Then, of course, Exciter kicked the crowd into an outright frenzy. Fuck yeah, Canadian speed metal!!!
By this point, my photo card was full and my body was shaking. Hairspray Heroes and Ryan Stock did their thing; but as demonstrated by the hordes of drunken fans in the parking lot, organization was no one’s strong suit. It was party time. Kudos to Terese Fleming and Joshua Wood and Scarab for pulling off a fantastic first evening of Noctis 666. The beginning of the end was a blast.
DAY TWO – FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 20, 2013
RAMADA INN + MACEWAN HALL BALLROOM
It’s scary how old I feel sometimes.
I remember a time where I could go out multiple days in a row and party with the best of ‘em, but that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore, as I spent a good majority of day two resenting my own existence.
In turn, I managed to miss a full day of conferences and the first three bands playing. My apologies to Dire Omen, Villainizer and Barbatos. I’m sure the sets we’re great.
The bands I did see, though, didn’t disappoint.
My personal highlight has to go to Revenge, who I had never heard of until now. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a more chaotic blend of metal before in my life. How those guys manage to put that stuff together is beyond me. I would have never thought to compose anything like that.
Also, their guitar player was absolutely nutty. Hands down the most technically sound playing I’ve seen so far at the fest. It boggles my mind a little, because I had always been under the impression that black metal players just loved to suck at their instruments.
And speaking of black metal, Blasphemy was crazy.
I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand the appeal behind black metal. Music wise or image wise, it just doesn’t make any sense. That being said, the aggression that Blasphemy brought with that set was downright terrifying though. I thought music was supposed to be fun to play and what not, but they seemed genuinely displeased to be there. Kudos.
No words. This was the mantra repeated numerous times before, during and long after the second night of Noctis was over. It occurred to me that at some point, I would have to come up with a disjointed written impression, but honestly everything I came up with at the show would seem like the worst hyperbole to anyone who wasn’t there.
After a fish taco feast, I made my way to the university campus with anxious nerves and a body filled with alcohol and THC. I was ready to go hard all night; I just didn’t expect the limits to be pushed quite so far.
Dire Omen, Edmontonian death metal, unleashed a hateful burst of hell fire on the few lucky festivalgoers who made it to the venue on time. Impeccably tight, they were relentlessly fast and genuinely interesting (something I find harder and harder to say about death metal these days). They were followed up by the ever so controversial Edmonton “terrorist metal” act Villainizer. I’ll keep it short, I’m just glad they didn’t do the whole costume schtick and their poor half naked belly dancer was relegated to the merch booth.
Getting to see both Revenge and Blasphemy was surreal. Sure, Revenge needed to be about ten times louder and Blasphemy had a pretty serious snag half way through their set, but both bands put on some of the most evil music I have ever witnessed performed in front of me. Blasphemy’s vocals were among the most memorable and devastating I can recall.
The festival is finished as of tomorrow, it feels like it could never end.
The problem with pre-drinking is attempting to herd a dozen drunk dudes to the venue afterwards. Fortunately, we all agreed that missing Barbatos was out of the question, so we showed up just in time for the Japanese maniac Yasuyuki Suzuki to belt out his rotten metal punk jams, like “Blonde Hair and Bitch” and my personal favorite, “Rocking Metal Motherfuckers”, while members of Fornication and Gatekrashör provided perfect instrumentation.
The mellower doom followers Pagan Altar allowed everyone to catch their breath before the death metal onslaught of Gorguts, Revenge and Blasphemy, whose relentless riffing was far more audible in person than on record. Plus, the downright terrifying appearance of the band adds some credibility to the extremity of the music. Guitarist Caller of the Storms literally moved nothing but his fingers the whole set, all while staring coldly through his shades. The debauchery continued at Calgary’s favorite pissing hole, Verns, where Frightenstein thoroughly entertained the wasted masses. Taking the last train to, rather than from, downtown usually signifies a night of excess, but this is Noctis. Decisions made this weekend don’t count. Except for the $300 dollar ticket some friends got for breaking into the defunct Uptown Theatre, that still counts.
My word, I’m tired. The metal market provided a treasure trove of goodies; after blowing half my rent I walked out with three tapes, a wicked Denial of God and custom Noctis patch, along with nine LPs. A few live interviews and wicked laughs provided by Mr. Dan Neild and the ladies of Girlschool later, the shuttle was packed up tight and we were on our way to the university of some metal.
The other writers barely mentioned two bands who made a serious dent yesterday: both Pagan Altar and Gorguts delivered the goods. Pagan Altar, while missing out of the energy that marked their Maryland Death Festival performance, had a greatly improved set list. Standing backstage while singing along to with my own bizarre doom warble in an attempt to emulate Mr. Terry Jones was the cherry on top. As for Gorguts, well, they were tight and absolutely vicious. Headbanging along never really quite worked; no matter. Both Revenge and Blasphemy were a once in a lifetime treat. Finally, we made our way back to Vern’s to blather endlessly with the members of Altar, Bölzer, and many others. Noctis is so special because there is no separation between band members and audience; by the end of the night we all joined the drunken melee, exhausted but elated.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 21
MACEWAN HALL BALLROOM
The vibes on the train down to Mac Hall Saturday afternoon were significantly lower that the two previous evenings, but as the dead eyed and hungover bangers reached the venue, myself as Sacrifice hit the stage, the fires were once again at full stoke.. Then, a more unanimous highlight came in the form of death icons Possessed. Though opening with “The Heretic” and even playing some new material like “Crimson Spike”, the only riff I needed to hear was that one from The Exorcist. You know the one…. Yeah, that one. Girlschool crushed with the same spirit of teenage rebellion they’ve always had, while Candlemass was the calm before Carcass’ storm of furious death metal. The night ended somewhat anti-climatically though about half way through the headliners, as I decided to accompany a friend who was having slightly too much fun according to security. When all was said and done and the last piece of post –show pizza had been devoured, Possessed stuck out as the most bucket-list worth performance of the night, though all were once in a lifetime kind of bands. This Noctis, like all before it, was a massive success.
A profound sense of loss flooded me as I left Vern’s Tavern for the third night in a row. Noctis is now (likely) forever finished and I am not sure I can handle next September in its absence. The final night of the fest was probably my favorite night of any Noctis festival this year or in years past.
I arrived at the university burnt out, just in time to catch the majority of Sacrifice‘s set. Unrelenting thrash executed with both precision and maniacal enthusiasm immediately kicked me in the chest and woke my stumbling ass up for the night ahead.
After frequent beer garden booze-o-thons where many an overpriced tall can of Pilsner was crushed, Possessed hit the stage. Possessed are one of the bands I never thought I’d get to see live, let alone not even be forced to travel for. Probably the most impressive drumming I have ever witnessed in person by Emilio Marquez. Hearing the intro to the classic “Death Metal” played so flawlessly will forever be burned into my brain. “The Crimson Spike”, “The Exorcist” and the aforementioned “Death Metal” were my personal favorites.
Girlschool were an absolute treat to see live as well. Some of the best and well written golden era heavy metal played flawlessly before us by some of the most charismatic and personable people in metal.
Candlemass. Fucking Candlemass!!! Singing along to every lyric, headbanging furiously and cheering arm in arm with my close friends, Candlemass put on a set that I will always think back to. A shame they had to cut off early, their performance was one of my favorites of the entire festival. The lyrics to “In Solitude” lent some sort of poetic finality to the festival’s end. Having said that, we were not finished yet. The mighty gore lords had one final hurrah.
Carcass took the stage with force. Launching straight into a medley of tracks spanning all of their previously released material and even a handful from the recently released Surgical Steel, the band had the most commanding presence of the night. Jeff Walker’s trademark snark was on full display here as well in between songs, injecting the set with a personal feel.
Easily my favorite night of the festival and an amazing way for Noctis to end, even if Carcass’ own Jeff Walker seems convinced the fest will return next year.
Head throbbing, I faced a crowd of metal heads on Saturday morning to present my research on the rise of women in extreme metal for the second time. If the question session was any indication, it went decently and seemed to be strong enough to prevent trolls from hollering at me. After that, I took a quick nap in a quiet corner, downed three cups of coffee, and moderated all the academic talks that occurred. Laina Daiwes, Vivek Vanketesh, and Deena Weinstein were a pleasure to watch, even if my brain was no longer operating properly. Discussing race, gender, and sexuality all inspire my love for academia, and each speaker had interesting knowledge to add to the trove of metal studies available.
My body was giving up on me by mid afternoon, so I went home to eat real food, feed my anxious kitty who had been alone all weekend, and simply recoup. I made it back to the venue for Possessed, and was immediately struck by the drummer. Seven Churches isn’t exactly known for its percussive talents; this set was solid and completely proficient. Damn pleasure to watch, to boot. Girlschool followed up, and completely surprised me. Upon entering I thought they’d be riding on nostalgia, but that sure as hell wasn’t the case. They are a strong live act, and if the bangers in the front row shrieking in elation were any indication, they were a perfect addition to Noctis.
Candlemass blew my mind. Best set of the festival, followed closely by Bölzer. At first, I wondered if frontman Mats Levén would match the amazing vocal prowess of their previous vocalist, Solitude Aeternus crooner Robert Lowe. He sure as hell did. The set was sped up and utterly crushing, and watching from backstage, snapping my neck ridiculously, was a huge privilege. Sure, Carcass was amazing, but Candlemass was an experience I’ll never forget.
By Team Shrapnel: Tanner Wolff, Sarah Kitteringham, Brandon McNeil, Ian Lemke
Photos: Sarah Kitteringham