Hulder/Blackbraid/Aeviterne/Stress Angel – February 25, 2023 – (Le) Poisson Rouge (LPR), New York, NYSunday, 5th March 2023
While planning our trip to New York City for Powerwolf (check out our review here), I saw a show announcement that dropped the old jaw like a Looney Tunes short – Hulder announced a one-off headlining show, with Blackbraid, Aeviterne, and Stress Angel as support. For anyone who knows me, this is show of the year potential. Blackbraid put out one of the most unique and well-crafted black metal releases in a long time (#5 on my albums of the year). Aeviterne released an instant dissonant death metal classic in 2022, and Stress Angel is a legit up-and-coming blackened death metal group. However, our flights were set to leave on the day of the show, and the hotel was already booked. Thankfully, our flights were booked with Southwest, and the change actually saved us money on the return flight, and extending the hotel stay was easy enough. With literally changing all of our travel plans in order to make this show, it’s fair to say that anticipation was at a boiling point.
With sore feet from the previous two days running about New York City – and a trip to Trenton to see Selfgod – we did the most metal thing one could before the show. That’s right, we got cupcakes – a wonderful bakery a short walk from the venue named Molly’s Cupcakes. If you find yourself in the Greenwich Village part of New York City, check them out! We also stopped at the legendary Generation Records, where if you want metal LPs, a cool t-shirt, or even some buttons for your battle jacket, this is the place to go. But, I digress.
Upon arriving at the location for the evening’s festivities – (Le) Poisson Rouge (known as LPR for short) – there was a line of fans slowly gathering. Many of which were in Blackbraid garb, but none more so than the gentleman in front of us. Adorned with almost every piece of merch Blackbraid has released thus far, we struck up conversation, and learned that he had traveled all the way from London for this show! It’s one of the things that sets metal apart from other styles of music – the intense love and dedication that the fanbase emits. As you can see, our new friend Karl was ready as anyone for this show to commence!
Once entering, most folks went straight to the merch tables to get their wares – us included – and we luckily enough got a front row spot after purchasing our new wardrobes. This was my first time attending a show at LPR, and I immediately loved the setup. The stage was in a corner, but was sizable and in a perfect positioning for the floor to have a good view from almost every angle. For those who have been to many different venues, a good setup is nothing to take for granted.
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Opening festivities was Stress Angel, playing a selection of tracks such as “Godless Shrill” and “Exposure to a Disease” from their 2021 debut, Bursting Church. Uncompromising and direct, the band’s blackened death metal assault served as a perfect way to whet the crowd’s appetite. Take them lightly at your peril – Stress Angel has conjured up a unique style that pulls no punches, and this evening’s performance serves as evidence of that. Keep a close eye on them, as the potential is there.
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Boasting one of the debuts of 2022, New York’s own Aeviterne turned death metal on its head with The Ailing Facade, with an enormously robust and experimental sound that resulted in something truly special. Looking at their lineup, with members who previously were in Flourishing, as well a current member of Artificial Brain, there’s a lot of pedigree in the mix. It definitely shows both on album and in a live setting, as the band absolutely demands the crowd’s full attention, forcefully steamrolling one’s aural sensibilities.
Tight and attentive, Aeviterne delivered a focused chaos that encapsulated their audience. Guitarist/vocalist Garrett Bussanick’s commanding aura, combined with an immense rhythm section of Ian Jacyszyn’s pulsating drum work and Eric Rizk’s prolific bass lines, along with the impactfully complex guitar stylings of Samuel Smith form a near perfect combination. That biting guitar tone that drives their record work is seriously crushing live. Pulling off all of the complex arrangements that comprise the band’s music isn’t simple, but Aeviterne makes it look effortless. More people need to hear and see Aeviterne, as they’re a top echelon act that gets every nuance exactly right.
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The anticipation for Blackbraid was off the charts. The collective crowd was buzzing in anticipation, especially with the announcement that this would not only be the band’s longest set to date, but that it would include some new debuting material from the band’s yet to be titled second album. Blackbraid I is one of the finest pieces of soulful and unique black metal in the last decade, with the Native American storytelling and historical context that is ingrained in the music by Sgah’gahsowáh.
With Sgah’gahsowáh being the sole songwriter, he has managed to fill out a full five-piece live lineup that clicks with absolute perfection. Choosing to open with a new track titled “The Spirit Returns,” it ended up being a perfect choice to begin their set – a beautiful and powerful song that I can’t wait to hear recorded. Debut album opener “The River of Time Flows Through Me” followed, setting the crowd into a frenzy, while a second new song titled “Moss Covered Bones on the Altar of the Moon” impressed everyone in attendance with its melodic sensibilities balancing out with the fervent vocal delivery of Sgah’gahsowáh.
The lucid and sobering “As the Creek Flows Softly By” instrumental, featuring Sgah’gahsowáh’s beautifully played flute arrangements, transitioned into the poignantly intense “Sacandaga,” and the two sounded just as perfect back-to-back live as they do on album. Closing the band’s performance was personal favorite “Barefoot Ghost Dance on Bloodsoaked Soil,” serving as an emotional and sonic crescendo that was played to pinpoint accuracy and overflowing with emotional resonance.
Aggressive and brimming with passion, the band blasted through their 45-minute set in seemingly an instant. Blackbraid have no limits, and if the two new songs are any indication, whatever Sgah’gahsowáh has brewing for album #2 is going to be something special to look forward to. Don’t miss them on the upcoming Dark Funeral/Cattle Decapitation/200 Stab Wounds tour in a few months. Chances are, they’re going to steal the show every night. Maybe we’ll get lucky and hear the epic “Prying Open the Jaws of Eternity” live?
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Headlining this impressive lineup is frosty black metal of Washington’s Hulder. Following up the emotionally tinged Blackbraid is a mighty feat, and Hulder put on a uniquely powerful show that was up to the task. The set began with “Burden of Flesh and Bone” and “Sylvan Awakening” from the acclaimed 2022 EP The Eternal Fanfare, setting a menacing tone of buzzsaw fury. Single “Evil’s Incubation” and “A Forlorn Peasant’s Hymn” followed, with the latter being from the band’s full-length Godslastering: Hymns of a Forlorn Peasantry.
“Unholy Divine” was a set highlight, making the crowd even more fervent, while “Creature of Demonic Majesty” and “Sown in Barren Soil” blasted by quickly with galloping riffs and chilling atmosphere. “Upon Frigid Winds” is one of this writer’s favorite Hulder cuts, and came off brilliantly live – especially that mid-song interlude that gives the song its exalted ambiance. We also were presented with a deeper cut with “Beastial Form of Humanity,” from debut demo Ascending the Raven Stone, being a poignant conclusion to their performance.
Hulder have an unmistakable presence live that enhances their stellar recorded work even further, making them a must see for any fan of well-composed black metal. Still a relatively young and fresh project, Hulder has only scratched the surface of the snow-covered heights that can be reached. Hard to imagine, with all that has been achieved already. The future is without limit.
This lineup was a showcase of four bands who are all relatively early on in their respective musical paths, yet all have made indelible and profound impacts that many bands simply never achieve. A truly special evening full of firsts, extreme skill and proficiency, and unbridled passion for the craft. The crowd had high expectations, and it’s easy to say that those were indeed exceeded. Was it worth changing travel plans for, however? Why am I even asking? I think you all know the answer.