After Thursday’s warmup party with -among others- the masterful gig from Portuguese sorcerers Black Cilice the second day started with Estonian underground players Kaev, whose craftily formulated information on social media only read “Black Metal” in every column such as home town or company information. And they delivered exactly that which was promised: Atmospherically intense and thick sounds, put together by a young band with high potential. But this year’s Howls of Winter’s grip was so tight, that there was no time to wonder if anyone at all outside Estonia heard from that combo until now: Finnish elite Norrhem from Turku quickly took over the stage with their naturalistic folklore in the shape of gloomy, punctuated Black Metal, who presented their 2018 output “Vaienneet voittajat”.
Czech Republic’s Panychida surrounding vocalist Vlčák and guitarists Honza Vanek and Mira Sinneral Lavička then served their “memorial services” by presenting a fine distillate of their last album efforts. With their Pagan Metal philosophy showing no signs of slowing down they impressed Rock Club Tapper’s audience with their one part epic one part harsh hymns worthy of movie scores.
Visiting the merch stores and having bought a supporter’s ticket this year was rewarded with a very beautiful cup/jar with the festival’s artwork on it, which all of us highly appreciated. Having smoked a cigarette or two pondering over the icy outside that Tallinn presented its visitors the show went on with Austrian warriors Kringa, who gave a wide variety of songs from their quite fractured discography with so many EPs and demos. Their premise is not only an occult and surreal show but also a slow-moving, somewhat madness-inducing temper, which has to be seen at a live show to believe.
Whereas some people were disappointed at first when word spread that Polish Black/Doom force Above Aurora cancelled their gig last minute, people got excited really quick over their replacement Süngehel, Tallinn’s sureshot warrantors for excellent Black Metal soundscapes. Destroying the stage on home territory in front of a massive crowd of cheering fans once again was a great opportunity for the young band to present itself before a highly international audience consisting of people from all over Europe and Russia. To be completely honest: Some people visiting Tallinn for the first time, even from our team, were extremely happy after hearing who will take over the next-to-last slot, since Süngehel are (alongside the great Loits of course) one of the most promising Black Metal troops from Estonia. Hellish vocals from Wroth 666 and Caddy, awesome Black/Death barrel sounds and a thick atmosphere totally convinced the auditorium.
The final entry of the first festival evening was Canada’s promising duo Sortilegia with their raw devotional downpour of absorbing Black Metal. One of Ván Records most ambitious band entries the band consists of only two members: Harsh vocalist and guitarist Anastasia Innikova aka Koldovstvo, originally of Russian descent, and her husband Haereticus on drums. With their highly acclaimed 2014 debut “Arcane Death Ritual” the band celebrated their first steps into the scene and was received with an unanimously murmured scream of utter ecstasy – meanwhile the following album “Sulphurous Temple” from 2017 was considered a great successor by many, albeit criticized and discussed heavily for its different approach in comparison to the first one. Witnessing their music and extremely vast and tremendous Black Metal waves live was intense, sophisticated and purely magnificent.
The second day started off with the only two German entries in the festival lineup: Stuttgart’s Wintergeist and the devilish Bavarians of Wedard. Both bands come from under the wig of Ewiges Eis Records, who managed to assemble a special contingent of bands from all of Europe. Wedard consisting of the two musicians Sternenfrost and Karmageddon were accompanied by their predecessors Wintergeist as live support on the stage and presented several songs from the last decade in which a number of Split Releases, Compilations and EPs were released (e.g. cooperating with Nocturnal Depression, Nychts or Moloch).
Antimateria from Finland and Urarv from Norway followed with their masterful live gigs and enchanted the festival guests with their atmospheric soundscapes. Whereas Purity Through Fire’s Antimateria and their creative head Ahma take inspiration from astronomical themes, space and the cosmos itself, the Norwegians from Urarv have a more esoteric, astrology-related approach to their Black Metal stylistics. Antimateria presented their highly-acclaimed debut “Valo aikojen taka” and the trio from Norway’s capital Oslo brought their follow-up-EP “Argentum” to their first album “Aurum” from 2017 with them.
A similar temper was shown by Darkspace from Switzerland’s city of Bern. Within their roaring maelstrom of Avantgardist Black Metal the musicians occasionally sow ambient passages granting the auditorium moments of serenity and peace. Seeing their music being presented on a live stage is a breathtaking, hypnotizing experience, holding listeners in a catatonic stage. At one time their music is journey into the sci-fi-horror genre, at the other it is a thick dark Black Metal odyssey of which one can find no other in today’s Black Metal scene.
The last entry of the sixth Edition of HOW were …And Oceans from Finland’s city of Pietarsaari in the region of Vaasa. The elite Black Metal-force majeure was originally founded back in 1995 and changed their style as well as their band name in the years they are active. Their newer songs have an Industrial/Electronic indentation, almost reminding our team of bands like Aborym or Ulver, mixing in the psychedelic, fragmented style of today’s Dødheimsgard. And what can we say except that they delivered the perfect ending to a great festival night. We sincerely hope for new releases by the band soon, as their last effort dates back to 2008. Rumors concerning a new album release by major label Century Media Records in late 2019 are rampant.
Diving further and further into the Black Metal scene of Tallinn our team visited the Black Magic Estonia club after the festival evenings, kicking back some of the Baltics’ finest beers while discussing the events of the festival days. Thanks go out to the people we had the honour to stay with! We only want to say this: THIS is the underground, THIS is an event to visit and savour. Without a doubt we will say this again in 2019: Go visit Tallinn in February. Go visit this highly recommended festival!