2nd to 3rd November 2019
Static Darkness 2019 Day 2 with Dunkelsucht, Massive Ego, Reaper, Funker Vogt, Solitary Experiments, Rotersand
Part two of this two day festival, for those that missed the introduction in part one: Does Slimelight need an introduction? For three decades this club night has provided the Gothic community with a home in London. Always held at Electrowerkz, otherwise known as The Islington Metal Works, the gritty nature of a once busy factory / warehouse is a marriage of convenience for Industrial, Goth and EBM music. It’s a slightly more sterile experience now - there is now fully-fledged security, the remnants of Carsten Höller’s pop-up restaurant, a zero tolerance to drugs and even a strict “keep to gender specific toilets” ruling. But it’s still “Slimes”, long may it last.
Static Darkness is a new festival, this is its first year. The scene in London once supported several festivals, but now seems to have lost its urgency. Even walking around some of my old haunts around London such as Kensington High Street and (of course) Camden Market, there is a distinct lack of clothes shops catering for the scene. The team at Slimelight are known as having an extreme passion for the scene, and I presume this festival is to answer the faithful clan requests. We are not dead, merely the undead! Add this passion to the family type feel that still exists with all involved at Slimelight, I eagerly awaited this festival.
A two piece band originating from Zurich, Switzerland consisting of Patrick Näf on vocals and Tim Lindner on electronics and keys. For those who do not speak German, the band is called something like “Dark addiction”. This just about sums up where the band is aiming - melancholy, brooding darkness, a touch of morbidity and at times a little disturbing. They have an Industrial / EBM hybrid style of music with load, deep growling vocals. Their latest album ‘Entstellte Persönlichkeiten’ was released earlier in the year and is a recommended listen. https://www.facebook.com/Dunkelsucht
Music & Performance
The opening band for the second day - there is only one stage today, the main stage on the top floor of Electrowerkz. I’m there early, there’s only a small crowd, and it is early - only just after 4pm. I await from the front of the stage - no battles to get a view and take images. Unfortunately for DUNKELSUCHT they had a revisit from the Gremlins that visited FROZEN PLASMA last night. No sound at all this time. But did this work in their favour? Most certainly it did. After the frantic efforts of the fantastic crew, and a few minutes passing, more of a crowd had built up. They deserve it. Tim’s keyboards fire into life and Patrick can resume his stalking of the crowd. There’s always a void being an opening band, such a difficult job. The crowd are cold in spirit and low in numbers.
However once Patrick gets into the swing of it, with his snarling vocals and menacing leaning stance into the crowd an atmosphere is soon built up. After a few minutes of being in the crowd I moved to my place on the stage to resume taking my images. Again, the sound is very different from here, the stage monitors are not as powerful as main loudspeakers for the front of house. I noticed from here there was a set of synth drums, but they were unused (in place for the next band, MASSIVE EGO). Watching Tim with his keys shows a young man who gets totally engrossed with his music. It’s a mix of characters, from the two guys, and that works so well - a band that is understandably growing and evolving but is tight knit. I enjoyed their set.
01. Enter the Cave
02. Es Ist An Der Zeit
05. Wenn Liebe Das Herz Erwärmt (Der Stalker)
06. Transit Zum Sirius
07. Die Letzte Nacht
Total: 7.6 / 10
Some may have imagined that MASSIVE EGO have appeared from no-where over the last two or three years. Not true, the band was formed in 1996 - with the inimitable Marc Massive being the frontman throughout. Initially more aimed towards a Romo (a London based New Romantic revival) crowd with a new wave pop sound, but then drawn towards the dark side in 2013. Now signed to Out of Line, they released their much darker initial album ‘Beautiful Suicide’ in 2017. Within a very short space of time they have established themselves in a crowded EBM / Industrial scene as an act that stands out from the crowd. Unique visuals and an eye / ear for the detail in their art form - it’s easy to understand their appeal. MASSIVE EGO recently released a follow up album, ‘Church For The Malfunctioned’. Marc Massive performs vocals (and writes lyrics), Scot Collins plays synth (and is the driving force of production) and Oliver Frost plays percussion. http://www.massiveego.co.uk / https://www.facebook.com/massiveego
Music & Performance
Both DUNKELSUCHT and MASSIVE EGO were positioned very close to the front of the stage, it left very little room for the three members of MASSIVE EGO. The crowd was now getting bigger, but I did still manage to get into the crowd, and at the front of the stage again to get images and a good view. I am so glad I did, Marc had a simple but very effective entrance to make - an original visual that added to the striking appearance of the three band members. I wasn’t entirely sure how to describe what Marc entered the stage wearing, I’m not heavily into the hi-tech world. It looked for all intents and purposes to be a virtual reality headset, with a screen much like an iPad on the front.
The screen projected a face that seemed to follow the crowd, it seemed to be an integral part of Marc’s face - an impressive visual addition to the bands arsenal. A modern interpretation of the traditional china mask. Marc managed to wear the “mask”, sing and move around the stage whilst wearing it - quite a feat in itself - however I did feel sorry for him when he momentarily “lost” the mic. But credit to Marc and his ability to recover - he remained calm and professional and this moment was probably missed by most in the crowd. Very good all round, Marc. The rest of the band are in full make up, expressing their own identity - as always attention to detail and expressing their own individuality.
The band are settling well into their set, from the front the sound is clear and powerful - the keyboards are played in the “guitar style” that Scot is well known for. His style of distinctive keys flows throughout - it really is one of the highlights of any listening experience concerning MASSIVE EGO. Oliver pounds those disc pads with a robotic tendency, and Marc’s vocals and overall command of the crowd is as usual in very good form. I move from the auditorium and the crowd, onto the stage, and whilst stage monitors can never give the full power of the main speakers I thoroughly enjoyed the sound and set from where I was positioned. I was within inches of Oliver and his percussion - overflowing energy, such a treat to watch close. Marc had by now taken his headset off, the crowd can now more easily see his trademark hair buns on each side of his head.
It was the kind of performance that left a lasting impression. They deserve where they currently are, a band in demand - I enjoyed it entirely.
01. Digital Heroin
02. For The Blood In Your Veins
03. Kill The Conspiracy
04. Malfunctioning Me
05. Fallen From Grace
06. Drag Me In Drag Me Under
07. I Idolize You
08. My Religion Is Dark
09. World In The Gutter
Total: 7.8 / 10
Born after the first phase of NAMNAMBULU seemed to signal the end for the band, REAPER has become a staple diet of many a dark dancefloor around the world. Vasi Vallis is nothing if not productive - add to this that he can turn his hand to numerous musical interpretations within the electronic music field. He’s a powerhouse force to be reckoned with. Unlike some of his other projects REAPER exists to explore the deep, darker side of life - with a healthy dose of sarcasm and clichéd pokes of fun. A band that often consists of more members than just Vasi when playing live, they have supported tours with some of the big names such as COMBICHRIST. https://www.facebook.com/reaperelectro
Music & Performance
I had chatted briefly with Vasi beforehand, so I knew he was playing the REAPER set by himself this evening. Arriving on stage, for the second time this festival after playing with FROZEN PLASMA, he looked his usual cheerful self. Little did he know that the technical Gremlins that hampered yesterday’s set were again to show up to the party. No sound at all, nothing. The team arrived on stage quickly again, from where I was standing it would appear an offending cable was replaced - I wonder if this was the cause of yesterday’s problems too? Vasi just seems to take things in his stride, his smile seemingly fitting for the REAPER style of music - “hey I’m serious, but no I’m not serious at all…” I love these moments of live music, it’s the essence of excitement and the real core of live gigs. Fascinating to watch from my vantage point on the stage, I had decided not to venture into the crowd, it was now a full-sized crowd and very busy.
I enjoyed the set, I really don’t want to present a negative feel. However, I do prefer to see a full stage of musicians so this kind of set I will always struggle with. I didn’t hear the auditorium sound, but had no reason to suspect it wasn’t of the same good quality of the rest of the weekend. From the stage monitors it was clean and punchy, and still exhibited a deep rumble when required. No doubt the low frequencies I associate with REAPER’s sound, part of the general “Vasi darker sound” was further amplified towards the crowd. But I just missed the fuller stage I had witnessed the last time I watched REAPER play live. Vasi being alone lost some of the visual appeal. It was a fine set, but missing what I like to experience from a live performance - a little drama and, of course the extra depth more musicians provide. Apologies for the lack of set list.
Total: 7.4 / 10
Heavy weights of the scene, FUNKER VOGT, were initially formed by vocalist Jens Kästel and programmer Gerrit Thomas in 1995. They seemed to have disbanded in 2013, but returned in 2017 with vocals from Chris L. from AGONOIZE. Their album in 2017, proved me entirely wrong with my thoughts that bands don’t work when the lead vocals are replaced. They are as relevant now as they were before the split, cross pollination between bands can reinvigorate and strengthen a band. https://www.funker-vogt.com
Music & Performance
I’ve been a long-term fan of the band; I’ve seen them play live many times. But due to the stage-based photography I was doing at this festival, it was the closest I had ever been. As they entered the stage I could see Chris L had similar but different make-up to last night’s appearance with AGONOIZE, but he still had the same hostile stance and swagger. It’s an amazing stage presence, almost intimidating. Gerrit Thomas takes his place on keys, about a metre away from me, he now sports a full beard and looks very different to the last time I saw him - but his usual cap and headlamp gives him away in the darkness. Drums, like last night for AGONOIZE, are standing with René Dornbusch with his usual body paint.
I couldn’t help feeling a little déjà vu after last night’s AGONOIZE - inevitable I suppose? It did take me by surprise a little. I’m a big fan of FUNKER VOGT, but somehow hadn’t (in the past) been too involved with AGONOIZE. I am familiar with the back catalogue of FUNKER VOGT, I can sing along - feel emotion based on my familiarity. The previous night I couldn’t do that with AGONOIZE songs, tonight I could - but I still couldn’t help myself feeling that it was somehow a little “samey”. Odd, I know, and I totally accept that maybe I was just tired. Certainly, as the set progressed with all the usual military stylistic gestures from the band, and anti-war themes within their music and songs it’s obviously different to AGONOIZE. Plus, there was no blood this evening - we were all spared the Chris L. blood share.
Watching the band from this close is fascinating - totally engrossing. Gerrit is cool and calm as his fingers whizz around the keys. His energy is the most laid back of the band but would still power a small city. Whereas, of course René would power a small country - his level of fitness is outstanding. Musically they seem to encapsulate all this energy and blast it into the crowd with all the power of a battlefield. Again, like last night my ears are hurting from the sharpness of the cymbals hit by René, the sound is quite incredible when you are on stage, much more noticeable with the subtlety of the electronic music through the stage monitors. Subtlety?
I question my sanity as I type - even through the less powerful stage monitors it’s not a word I’d use out of the context of listening through stage monitors. Chris L has perfected the shooting pistol stance, and the distorted vocals sound remarkably similar to original frontman Jens Kästel, but with just enough of Chris L’s own stamp on the sound. I loved this performance, and felt a level of pity for the following bands, the crowd were so into FUNKER VOGT’s energetic set, how can you keep a crowd at this level of hyper-activity? A difficult task indeed. Apologies again for the lack of set list.
Total: 8 / 10
The nucleus of the band started in 1993, the core being an Amiga 500 computer (and a Kawai K4 synthesizer) a fine heritage. SOLITARY EXPERIMENTS was born in 1994 and thus celebrate 25 years of producing high quality electro sounds. They are known for producing catchy melodies with great production qualities - and a vocal quality that exudes human sentiment and emotion. Their trademark look, with red shirts and ties screams, for me, a huge nod to the Granddaddy band KRAFTWERK. https://www.solitaryexperiments.de / https://www.facebook.com/solitaryexperiments
Music & Performance
After FUNKER VOGT’s eye watering performance, the entrance of SOLITARY EXPERIMENTS, all smartly dressed, is a huge contrast. Probably the largest number of band members the stage has seen throughout the festival; Dennis Schober (vocals and lyrics), Michael Thielemann (keyboards), Markus Otto (keyboards) and Frank Glaßl (drums). There’s a certain level of fooling about, the guys are in a good mood and pleased to be here tonight. From the stage I look into the crowd, it’s obvious from here that they feel a bond with the band - a level of sentiment and affection.
Dennis bounces around the stage and commands your attention, his voice sounds great tonight and as usual warmly contrasts with the electronics. Being at the front of stage the use of persistent dull orange lighting makes Dennis’s bright red shirt look subdued and dull, such a shame when their shirts are such a distinct trademark. It’s not too dissimilar for the guys further to the back of the stage, but that seems more acceptable under the even dimmer lighting. This is one of my favourite bands, and they managed to keep my interest throughout their set playing a fine mix of their back catalogue.
It’s the pure high quality and approach to production I really like about this band. Clean, clear and mixed to bring the best of live synthesised sounds, but with warm melodies it’s an intoxicating mix. I loved the gig, with a hesitation - I only wished they had not followed such the high energy bombshell that is FUNKER VOGT. As I looked into the crowd I perhaps sensed they felt the same, like me they showed an appreciation, they sincerely seemed to love the gig. But the frantic waves of movement were subdued in comparison to FUNKER VOGT.
01. Every Time
02. Trial And Error
04. Pale Candle Light
05. Die Zukunft
07. Crash & Burn
08. Point Of View
09. Rise And Fall
Total: 7.6 / 10
One of the most musically interesting duos to emerge out of the Industrial / EBM scene, always surprising, always challenging their own musical direction. Born on 2002, the ROTERSAND powerhouse consists of Krischan Jan-Eric Wesenberg and Rascal Nikov. There is a certain “feel” to ROTERSAND’s music, it makes them stand out. It’s well documented about Rascal and his health problems, but he seems to be on the mend and the band have arrived back, to take their place back as a headlining act. http://rotersand.net / https://www.facebook.com/rotersand
Music & Performance
Rascal is a big, tall guy. I’ve chatted with him several times over the years, generally he’s sat down at this point. But tonight, seeing him relaxing in the Slimelight hospitality, and then on the main stage at Electrowerkz I realise just how tall he actually is. The ceiling above the stage isn’t dramatically high, but certainly I couldn’t reach it. I’m on the stage tonight with Rascal leaning on the pipes that run along the ceiling. Not stretching, but easily and without effort, leaning. He’s very energetic on stage, his sheer lankiness makes some very impressive body shapes as he moves, but the stage flexes as he bounces and jumps. It adds a further dimension to his performance, this weekend has given me a very different gig, and I’m forever thankful to the guys at Static Darkness allowing me this kind of access. Out of interest, Rascal didn’t manage to bang his head on the stage low ceiling during his active performance - although it looked very close at times.
Krischan is a fine sound producer, tonight he is busy working his electronics. He’s calm and knows exactly what he is doing - and is enthralling to watch. I can see that each touch of his table packed with electronics produces not only a symphony of detailed layers of sounds but seems to be an extension of his own being. This seems to be a complete contrast with Rascal, who bounds around the stage in a manner that reminds me of my manic best friend, my pet Springer Spaniel. Often with a huge grin on his face, sometimes a frenzied laughing expression; sometimes giving the impression of somebody slightly deranged. All with that stage bouncing and flexing, Krischan seemingly looking on wondering what Rascal will do next.
As we progress through the set, with a healthy mix of old favourites and the latest releases, Rascal seems to be on an emotional high. It’s awesome watching him back on form, and enjoying the gig so much. He not only leans into the crowd singing, more than once he is either off the stage into the crowd or on his knee’s inches from the crowd. To watch him literally make such warm contact with his fans, as he obviously emotionally connected with those lucky enough to be close to the stage was touching to say the least. Singing with them, at them and constantly having such a warm-hearted look on his face, I really felt part of something very special this evening. There were numerous moments when Krischan and Rascal warmly embraced each other, sang together - it was an open expression of their love for each other. They generally radiate feelings of delight to be on stage.
Of course, there was the usual moments when Krischan joined Rascal at the front of the stage, sharing the singing - ‘Exterminate, annihilate, destroy’ being a prime example - but it was the warm hugs that really touched my soul. I witnessed Krischan aiding Rascal to stand, he had briefly hit a moment where his energy had crashed, almost instantly as he was upright again, Rascal was on another burst of energy. Completely fascinating how the stage affects this guy. It all too quickly came to an end, not only for me and the fans in the crowd, but for Rascal too. He was so engrossed in the moments with the crowd, Krischan had to explain to him that they couldn’t play any longer - there was a curfew (presumably due to UK licensing legislation) and no more songs could be played.
Rascal was again in the crowd, enjoying himself, Krischan had by now put his jacket on, as if to give a visual explanation that they show was over. As I left the stage I could see Rascal was now in the crowd, inviting selfie pictures with the fans. He’d asked me to take pictures at the end of the gig, to show the bows to the crowd as they finished, this had somehow got lost in the moment. He was enjoying himself so much, and I for one loved to see it - this guy has had it tough. Well done guys, a truly moving experience, it was a pleasure to share it with you.
01. Merging Oceans (long)
02. About Us
03. Almost Violent
04. Waiting to be Born
05. Not Alone (rework)
06. First Time
07. You Know Nothing
08. Electronic World Transmission
09. Torn Realities
10. War on Error
11. Exterminate, Annihilate, Destroy
13. Dare to Live (actually not played, due to curfew)
Total: 8.1 / 10
To end this two part review I cannot leave without saying how fantastic this festival was. The level of professionalism, the feeling of being part of the family, the hospitality, and the facilities and just about everything else I could think of - was truly beyond criticism. Slimelight has always been a special place, and the current “family” down there, and of course those that are running / promoting Static Darkness, are the warmest, delightful set of human beings that you are ever likely to meet. The crowd obviously thrived on this overflowed feeling, it made for a very special two days of partying. An atmosphere that I don’t think I have experienced before. This is the first Static Darkness festival - wow! I can barely contain myself and my only complaint, is that I can’t repeat this every month of the year. Along with Infest the UK can hold its head high in the international EBM/Industrial/Goth scene. Fantastic, you all deserve the festivals being as successful as they are - I salute you, and thank you!
All pictures by photographer Kevin Stevens (Coast to Coast Image Works)