14. WAVE GOTHIC TREFFEN
13th May to 16th May 2005
Who in the dark music scene has never heard about the WGT? Over the years it's become an
institution that attracts music fans from all over the world. This year more than 160 bands played at 16 venues all over
the city during four consecutive days to over 20,000 fans. Although the majority of the bands fall within the gothic or
electro genres, the festival is open to all styles of dark music and, as usual, there was a small neofolk and dark ambient
festival within the festival. This year the bands were spread over three days and the quality of the headliners alone (Sol
Invictus, Actus, Predominance and Ain Soph) made the event highly interesting to any fan of this particular scene.
There was nothing particularly interesting to see on the Friday so the evening was spent in
the company of Italian friends in the pagan village. Sharing mead, meat and stories while keeping a vague ear on the
various pagan folk bands that were playing on the small open-air stage. A pleasant and relaxing evening to start the
Things couldn't have started better on the Saturday; it poured down with rain
all day. But, with Sol Invictus due to play later in evening, this was something almost inevitable. Forsaking all ideas
to go and see And Also The Trees in the park, I made my way directly to the Anker, the small venue allocated to the neofolk
scene. The time to greet a few friends and to check out the merchandise stall and the concerts began.
The Italian band Inner Glory was the first play, a five-piece combo featuring drums, keyboards, cello, viola, and a sort of wasted dandy on vocals/acoustic guitar. I've never been really convinced by their records, and their concert didn't do much to change my opinion. They played a show full of bravado and attitude, which can be something very good when it works. But it's a thin line to walk, and when things are derailed by a series of minor incidents then it can become a real commedia delle arte. Better luck next time…
Darkwood were next to play. The live apparitions of this German band are pretty scarce,
so I was looking forward to catching them on stage at last. Henryk on guitar and vocals, accompanied by a
bassist/percussionist, an accordionist, a drummer and a female singer for some songs, played a very professional show
that placed the emphasis on the music, without any unnecessary theatrics. Their (far too) short set presented a selection
of 'classic' German neofolk ballads taken from all their albums, notably 'In The Fields' one of my personal favourites,
before ending on a more tense and dramatic note when all the bend members took to the percussions. A good concert that
lived up to all my expectations...
Apart from their first few releases, I've never really liked In My Rosary. After lasting
out one or two goth-pop songs, I decided it was time for a few refreshments at the bar...
If the Anker was about half full when the first bands began, by now it had become
jam-packed and the queue outside was more than impressive. Apparently, the popularity of the indoor neofolk stage on a
rainy day had exceeded all previsions of the organisers. Ah well...
Whatever, I was inside and it was now time to squeeze my way up front for the Sonne Hagal concert.
This was something I really did not want to miss, as it was the official presentation of 'Nidar', the band's new four-track
ep, just released on Andreas Ritter's label.
With the bassist and the keyboard player, completed by a discrete female vocalist on the occasion,
hiding in the wings, the centre of the smoke shrouded stage was left to singer/guitarist Oliver and Andreas Ritter from
Forseti on accordion and the occasional percussions. As expected, they played all the songs from 'Nidar' but also the two
tracks from the 'Dygel' 7" and some older classics like 'Odin', 'The Runes are still alive' or the Ernte cover 'Sonnenwende'.
At one moment Andreas and Oliver switched roles to play the Forseti song 'Ewigkeit', assisted by Henryk from Darkwood on
melodica. The audience-rousing moment of a well-mastered, elegant and distant performance; a stance well suited to their
particular style of atmospheric folk.
The most well known band on the bill was without doubt Sol Invictus and they could really be
considered as co-headliners of the evening. Tony (guitar, vocals), Renée (violin), Maria (violin) and Karl (bass) entered
the stage with their instruments in one hand and a chair in the other. After a round of applause and a short sound check,
Tony and his sitting band of merry troubadours could eventually get under way.
They played a set made up entirely of audience pleasers like 'Black Easter', 'Garden
Green', 'La Croix', 'Hill of Crosses'... as well as a host of songs from the early albums. Without Eric Roger's embellishments,
the sound was a more raw than what I had been accustomed to recently, but the songs were still just as good. Guts and
passion replaced the Gallic sophistications, for a performance that was played with much more energy than expected from a
seated band. Driven by Karl's effect laden bass, the songs had a sort of 70's folk-rock feeling to them that only added more
Englishness to the performance. I know that a few fans were a bit disappointed by this more back-to-the-roots concert,
but I really enjoyed it.
The final act was the legendary Hungarian formation ACTUS, who are back after a
seven year hiatus with a new album, 'Mandala' that was released at the festival. For this comeback performance a
singer/keyboardist, a female vocalist, a computer-player/guitarist and an impressive-looking percussionist were present
on a smoke-filled stage, lit by a special light show.
Nobody knew what to expect, but a familiar intro ('Riding the Tiger' followed by 'Actus')
soon put the audience into the mood for the new album material. All four tracks were played; long, dynamic soundscapes
alternating between epic and meditative atmospheres, highlighted by mysterious vocals in Hungarian. Flowing as one piece,
the music was in perfect synchronicity with the background projection of pixelised animations, timeless landscapes, medieval
battles scenes, film excerpts… This impressive audio and visual performance was concluded by a few older folk-tinged songs
like 'Lila' and 'Botschaft Aus Hyperboria', much to the pleasure of the remaining audience...
On the Sunday, I was confronted by a usual festival dilemma; several bands I wanted
to see were due to play at the same time in three different locations. It was difficult to choose between Predominance,
Inade et al, Nebelung or Paul Roland but in the end I finally opted for the dark ambient night in a cinema. Although I
arrived on time, there was already a long queue in front of the UT Connewitz; the 100-seater venue was full. As I did not
really want to stand around for hours, on the off-chance of gaining access I decided to push on and see Nebelung play on
the open air stage in the pagan village instead.
For this concert, Stefan O. (vocals + guitar) and Thomas L. (guitar) were accompanied
by a cello-player and a percussionist. They played all the songs from Mistelsteinn plus a few more calm and melancholic
ballads to an audience made up of a handful of neofolk fans, pagan families with their kids and a bunch of rowdy beered-up
oiks. A pleasant concert played with all the mastery displayed on record and it was hard to believe that this was only the
bands second live performance.
I don't know if it's because a lot of revellers had left by Monday or
because the sun was back, but there was much less a crowd at the Anker for the last day of the festival.
The first to play were Graumahd, a young neofolk band from Austria with
just a single and a few compilation tracks under their belts. I was told that this was only the second concert of this
six-piece acoustic combo (three guitars, recorder, flute and percussions), but whatever they lacked in stage-experience
was more than made up by their happy-go-lucky enthusiasm and sheer pleasure to be on stage. Refreshing...
Hekate were the next to play. I am not always too keen on their studio material,
but they are always a good band to see live; even with a modified line-up featuring a new graceful female singer and an
extra drummer. They played a very professional, dynamic and percussive set that owed a lot to singer Axel's energetic
stage presence. Apart from 'Fatherland' I can't remember much of their setlist, but this concert was certainly to short
to my liking, and I really don't understand why a band of this stature played so early on the bill.
It was a bit strange to see Voxus Imp on stage. This ritual project involving two members of Darkwood
has recently been revived with the reissue of old tape material. The two musicians used percussions, metal and wooden
chimes, weird hypnotic electronic sounds and guttural vocals in old German to build up a mystic, almost magikal soundscape
that I found quite compelling. It's a real pity that the project was denied at the last minute the permission to install
their impressive fire show as it would have surely added to the atmosphere and drawn more members of the audience into the
I have never really been fond of Novalis on record so I was not
expecting too much from their concert. The addition of a violinist added a bit of life to the German duo's folk-tinged
coldwave songs but after a while it became rather tedious and I retreated to the bar...
The last to play were the cult Italian act Ain Soph. Live, these master pranksters
seem to take great pleasure in acting in an unexpected way and they made no exception in Leipzig. A martial looking sonic
terrorist, dressed all in red, was flanked by a motley bunch of laid-back musicians; a tracksuit and ray-ban clad
singer/guitarist, a lanky cigarette-smoking bassist and a white suited drummer.
Sparing the audience none of the most worn out rock'n'roll clichés,
this cast of extras from a 70's Italian b-movie launched into an amped-up basic garage rock set with the cultural
terrorist providing more mayhem by throwing some cds into the audience and handing his instrument to a person at
random in the first rows. All this whilst maintaining throughout the concert a completely detached, laid-back, couldn't
care less attitude that literally oozed of cool. They played 'Pistolet Automatique', 'Lacrime e Santi', a lot of italo-rock
covers and a blistering fuzzed-out version of 'Baltikum' that blew away the audience. A cult performance...
Et voila! The festival was over. Rendez-vous next year, same time, same place...
Text : Ian C.
Photos : Nathalie F.