The following article was published in N-SPHERE January 2011 issue.


When: 10th & 11th December 2010
Where: Kulturhaus. Bucharest. Romania


Desiderii Marginis
Dirty Granny Tales
Simone H. Salvatori
Seventh Harmonic




Two years have passed since their first event and Kogaionon and Donis Art still amaze me with their perseverance and stubbornness in organizing underground concerts reaching to a limited amount of individuals. When the program of this year’s Dark Bombastic Evening had been revealed, I found the first night more appealing through its diverse line–up and interesting bands who were to visit Romania for the first time. Although I wasn’t familiar with all of them, I decided not to listen to their music beforehand, nor read anything about, and instead rely on the live experience and expect anything/nothing.

I arrived on the first night a little bit late, in the middle of Johan Levin’s (Desiderii Marginis) performance, only to find a somewhat distracted public. To be honest, I didn’t manage to induce myself a proper mood either. Not only on the account of the surprise to find out he had to go first – contrary to what the official signboard was mentioning, but rather of my personal and probably old–fashioned conviction that this kind of music, which requires perhaps a certain type of audition similar to the one required by classical music, is not compatible with the sorts of setting Kulturhaus had to offer. A better location would have been, in my opinion, the Reduta Cultural Center – previously used by the organizers for similar events hosting Arcana, Ataraxia, In Slaughter Natives and others.

photo by Vel Thora. Desiderii Marginis Live in Bucharest

After a quite abrupt finish, Desiderii Marginis was followed by Dirty Granny Tales, the band I was most curious about. Four strange characters stepped (barefoot) on the scene, whose appearances, ranging from broken, ragged dolls to allegedly grim corpse–paint enthusiasts, promised – and later confirmed – an unusual and original show. From the first notes which gave way to a twisted lullaby, I was mostly drawn to what seemed to me a healthy dose of self–deprecating humour. The action got more complicated, as from the second song, other characters began entering the stage and a whole story about different human experiences unfolded, involving an array of custom made puppets and costumes, intelligent interludes for dance solos and interventions from the members of the band themselves, assuming an active role in the play and becoming key figures for the narration. A show thought and rethought, implying a good amount of work invested, with impeccable interpretations, left me wondering how much of a crippled experience would it be only to listen at home Didi’s Son album.

Later on, the pause in between Dirty Granny Tales and Irfan, continued by an extended soundcheck, allowed me to observe closer the instruments which one by one were brought on stage: a portable harmonium, the more exotic daf, saz, oud, duduk and others, hinting what was to follow. Inasmuch as Irfan and Isihia were the first (roughly tagged) neofolk and neoclassical Bulgarian bands I got acquainted with, and considering that once they had musicians playing in both these projects, I’ve always felt encouraged to view the two bands, as complementaries, since the two stands are both Balkan in essence: one looking towards the vernacular culture and folklore and the other one towards east, aided perhaps by the generally more neglected heritage left by centuries of direct Ottoman rule, which included, among others, policies of repopulation and conversion to Islam.

photo by Vel Thora. Dirty Granny Tales Live in Bucharest

Playing a more eclectic card, the musicians from Irfan composed a balanced playlist for Friday night (even preview songs for the next album), ensuring a trip which brought to my mind the the vivid visual memory of wandering through a rather dull town, full of communist–era blocks, and discovering and entering a lavishly decorated Djamia centuries–old (Bayrakli Mosque in Samokov, Tombul Mosque in Shumen), bearing on the walls words in the arabic script that add up to a paradoxical “intimate estrangement”. Providing such a setting favorable for other possible worlds, the musicians, with the support of a very receptive audience, attempted convincingly to draw an arch through various eras and places, offering their own interpretation of turkish and persian classical music, oriental christian chants, western medieval chants and music, Renaissance, once in awhile returning to folk and old church–Slavonic singing. In spite of the problems with the sound system, all the band members played in a flawless manner and again, the live experience proved to be better.

photo by Vel Thora. Irfan Live in Bucharest

Next, and supposing to close the first DB evening, was Simone Salvatore, trying to perform “a solo version of different songs”. I recommend searching for other reviews, because the weak performance that started out, and the invasion of Kulturhaus–on–Friday indigenous customers encouraged me to leave earlier. :/

To be continued with the Second Evening of DBE II.

photo by Vel Thora. Simone H. Salvatori Live in Bucharest



Evil spirits seem to have been cast upon this year’s 2nd edition of Dark Bombastic Evening, prolly Romania’s (& to some extent Eastern Europe’s) answer to the well known Western & Central European industrial, goth, experimental & underground music festivals. There were many bad omens hinting at possible failure & they started to manifest themselves even months before the 2–day festival’s dates.

First of all, the venue was changed, from the grandiose The Silver Church to the hipster–ish Kulturhaus. Last year’s 1st edition had all the ingredients, from the bands – focused on nostalgic neofolk & bombastic martial industrial – & perfect sound, lights, visuals to the wonderful venue, The Silver Church, a spacious & classy, yet not pretentious location featuring columns, arches, chandeliers, candles & torches creating a perfect atmosphere for the 1–day then festival. I’m sure the organizers realize that the setting & atmosphere for such an event are extremely important & maybe this is a reason for their announcement of next year’s location for the festival, somewhere in the open in the heart of Transylvania. My guess is that Dark Bombastic Evening III will take place in an old fortress, maybe Alba Carolina or in other related sites in the city of Alba–Iulia. Oh, & another thing, the date’s changing, from the traditional 2nd week of December to the 19th & 20th of August.

photo by Vel Thora. Seventh Harmonic Live in Bucharest

Secondly & the most important bad omens were of course related to the festival’s line–up. Some bands due to various reasons had to drop out of the festival or cancel their shows starting with Sunset in the 12th House (a new musical project featuring former members of Romanian black metal band Negura Bunget), continuing with Naevus’ disband (though leader Lloyd James did come for a solo acoustic Naevus setlist) & culminating with Tony Wakeford’s statement that Sol Invictus will be unable to make it to the festival due to some health problems (Tony did record a video message for the audience in which he kindly apologized for the inconvenience, wished us all the best & gave us a preview of a new song from Sol Invictus; felt so sorry because of Sol Invictus’ absence form this festival, definitely my first choice to see at this edition & I’m sure that a great number of those who bought tickets were really looking forward to seeing this icon of the neofolk & neoclassical scene perform live on Kulturhaus’ stage. Hope you’ll be able to make it here & play in the near future, Tony, till then keep it cool, take care and control!)

Enough of “what could have been DBE II” & moving towards the live performances of the 2nd day’s line–up: Seventh Harmonic, Arcana, Ataraxia & Naevus.

photo by Vel Thora. Arcana Live in Bucharest

Seventh Harmonic – an English neoclassical group founded in late 1999 with an all–female line–up. I arrived about 15 min. after their show had started & their set seemed decent & standard for a neofolk/neoclassical band. Because Ann–Mari Thim (vocals, Arcana) was unable to supply vocal duties because of a sore throat, Seventh Harmonic’s set was 100% instrumental, with some highlight points like the violin bow guitar playing & the percussion sector. Also nice visuals to fit their music style. All in all, a decent & enjoyable live performance.

Arcana – the neoclassical/darkwave group founded in 1993 & hailing from Sweden was the next name on the list; all the members appeared on stage wearing only white clothes, including fellow Swedish musician Johan Levin (Desiderii Marginis) who joined the band on stage for some songs. Arcana, being for the 3rd time now in Romania & familiar to a lot of the audience presented a nice, standard setlist filled with their traditional ethereal atmosphere, though less focused on its medieval feel; too bad Ann–Mari vocals were yet again absent. Prolly the most significant moment of the night came at the end of Arcana’s show, when Peter Bjärgö announced, with tears in his eyes and tremble in his voice, that this might well be Arcana’s last live performance (after the show, Ia Bjärgö confirmed to me that it was their last live on stage) and that the Swedish group will surely disband. After a few seconds time, there was a rain of applauses from the awed audience and shouts of respect for the band & their entire body of work during the past 15 years.

photo by Vel Thora. Ataraxia Live in Bucharest

At the end of Arcana’s show, during breaktime, the organizers screened Tony Wakeford’s video message and the audience appreciated the Sol Invictus leader’s gesture.

Ataraxia – the Italian cult neoclassical/neofolk/ethereal folk ensemble formed in 1985 – had announced that their show will consist of 2 distinct parts, the 1st one focused on their more traditional music style (which the organizers had labeled on the event’s poster as “cosmogonic folk”!) which is also featured on their latest album LLYR, while the 2nd part of their live performance will revolve around a dark cabaret concept associated with their 2006 release titled Paris Spleen, an album inspired by Baudelaire’s late 1860s work, Le spleen de Paris. Their scenography for both parts, especially for the 2nd one, was delightful – the sound & set, the wonderful costumes, a mad S&M paggliacio/pierrot acting on stage & the whole La Belle Époque atmosphere were high points and it seemed like Ataraxia was doing this type of dark cabaret show for years & years, like they have been this type of artists in their previous lives. Francesca Nicoli’s presence & performance were absolutely fab & dedicated (such a penetrating voice from such a beautiful & trv kvlt female leader of the band, truly a gnostic Sophia of the European neofolk scene, Ataraxia almost resembling a mini–matriarchate) & her band mates also lived up to the audience’s expectations & even to their name as a group – ataraxia – or to put it better in other words, the killers of apatheia. Thus, their show as a whole, lasting for nearly 2 hours, was surely the most impressive one from the 2nd day of the festival & prolly ax en aequo in beauty & originality with Dirty Granny Tales’ performance from the 1st day of Dark Bombastic Evening.

photo by Vel Thora. Naevus Live in Bucharest

Closing the 2nd day & the festival was Lloyd James or, as he stated, “all that’s left of Naevus”. You might consider this the 2nd musical project from DBE which disbands & plays its last live show after Arcana. After more than a decade of work, James decided to put an end to Naevus and focus on an acoustic solo career with his first solo album, The Division of Labour coming out soon. James delivered a modest performance in front of a small audience, many of them leaving after Ataraxia’s show and many compared his poor live show with the one from the previous day delivered by Spiritual Front leader, Simone Salvatore. All in all, Dark Bombastic Evening II had its highs (Dirty Granny Tales, Ataraxia) & lows (Simone Salvatore, Lloyd James).

Considering all the sheer bad luck around this 2nd edition of DBE, the organizers have their excuses (considering the long list of events in Romania organized by Kogaionon & Donis Art & their dedication, they have lived up to their goal of bringing some of the most interesting names in underground music – from dark ambient, neofolk, martial industrial and neoclassical to black metal, doom metal, post–rock and even dark cabaret), though there were some low points – like not having fillers in case an artist has to cancel its show or at least reduce the price of the tickets, the venue, reduced line–up & audience, some disappointment regarding the live shows of some artists, a slight distancing from the music styles of the first edition which focused on neofolk & martial industrial to a more neoclassical & dark cabaret edition (some people complained about this shift, but for me it was an interesting choice). The audience’s number decreased this year with more than half if we compare this 2nd edition with the 1st one from 2009 when there were like 500 persons from Romania & all around Europe. All in all, we have to appreciate the organizers’ (Kogaionon & Donis Art) attempt to continue the Dark Bombastic Evening tradition which started in 2009 and we can only hope for a new, different & interesting experience during the summer of 2011 in the heart of Transylvanian land.

by Roxana Vasile [day 1] and Adrien Seelebruder [day 2].

Full article here.