One more year has passed and it was again that time of the year when black metal fans from all over the place gather in the Estonian capital of Tallinn for a weekend of live music, beer, friendships old and new, just to have a good time in general. Now in its tenth edition, Howls of Winter has become a firm staple in the scene for avid fans of underground extreme music, and a welcome yearly tradition for many.
The second day of Howls of Winter X (or third, or seventh… depending on when you landed in Tallinn) was the day of the Icelandic and European bands, starting from the very first one, NORNAHETTA. As the joke goes, there are around ten people in all living in Iceland, so we could clearly see some familiar faces. Their aggressive and eclectic sound again did wonders in the role of opening act and prepared the ground for the more ritualistic take on black metal of Czech INFERNO. The guys have always been putting up good shows and this time didn’t disappoint either; however, I couldn’t help but wonder whether people would have noticed anything in this darkness if in their place was just a recorded tape and some moving blankets on stage, for how little lighting and how much the band was – quite literally – covered in mystery (and dark clothing, covering them almost entirely).
As a band I wasn’t very familiar with before, LUCTUS from Lithuania were certainly a positive surprise. Having a more thrash-influenced approach, their offering came as a welcome refresher, and they also showed good personality and strong stage presence. It’s nice to see such bands exist also in more “obscure” scenes, and good to have the chance to see it with your own eyes. NAWAHARJAN belongs to that typically German black metal branch, which is definitely more known in continental Europe than at these latitudes (yet they did have a good number of fans on this day – many of whom were actually Germans – in the audience) and they have a somewhat-MGLA-like approach, which had its good moments. In this performance though, the feeling was that mainly most of the audience’s attention was directed towards the next band, as MISÞYRMING was definitely the one upon which weighed the highest expectations.
Of course that didn’t stop them from delivering a killer gig, enriched by a strong new record, breathing even more new life into their brilliant live material. The atmosphere in the hall became really heated and the focus was solely on the stage and on these rugged-looking young Icelanders giving it their all; as they did back in 2020, when they were meant to perform in this very same club and suddenly the COVID restrictions came into force. As we recall on that occasion, they still decided to perform in what became one of the first – if not the first – live music streaming of those confusing times. Still, very nicely done.
Some people started to head out after that show, but many stayed to see the very last performer of this edition, the Swedish-based HETROERTZEN, originally from Chile. The band had thus the opportunity to showcase some of the material from the new “Phosphorus Vol I,” which seemed quite well received by the audience. The red cloak and face mask of the vocalist and guitar player were barely noticeable in the lack of light, with very faint blue in the background and a couple of candles lighting the front. This was, of course, all for the sake of the show’s atmosphere, including the pentagram hanging in the center, fitting the theme perfectly.
Just short a few minutes from the end of the show, we decided to play the cab lottery and head back into town. It had been a long weekend after all and it was certainly filled with good music, interesting finds, good conversations, meaningless conversations, and an overall sense of community that has always been there every year as part of the Howls of Winter experience package. Certainly others feel the same, or it wouldn’t be so that the same faces are always showing up year after year (along, of course, with new ones).