Mithras Garden

Suppkultur, Koblenz (Germany) / 15 November 2003
Aeldaborn, Sieben, Hekate, Howden/Wakeford

The line-up of the first Mithras Garden-festival, organized by people from the circle of Hekate, sounded interesting enough to make the journey to Koblenz. Apart from Hekate, the new German group Aeldaborn was on the menu, and no less than two performances by the multi-talented Englishman Matt Howden: one solo as Sieben, one together with Tony Wakeford.We took our time and arrived one day before the festival in Koblenz. Which is no punishment, because it’s a lovely old town, surrounded by rivers, hills and castles. On Saturday night we went to the festival venue, club Suppkultur, which turned out to be situated quite far from the centre, on a remote and dark industrial area. Before opening time quite some people were waiting outside already, and in genereal the evening was well-attended. Visitors received an exclusive Hekate mini-cd. There were some modest merchandise stands, where you could buy the latest Hekate anniversary compilation, the new Zinnober magazine, some stuff of the performing artists and some fantasy/spiritual goodies.

In the very dark club Aeldaborn was the first to perform, the second time I saw them this year. They played a varied set ranging from apocalyptic folk to militant percussion to classic wave and gothic rock, with drums, keyboards, acoustic and electric distorted guitars. The crowd was quite enthousiastic. I enjoyed myself, though I think the band needs some more work to become a real asset for the scene. The different elements of the band do not form a tight unity yet. The monotonous drumming could use some more variation and dynamics. Though Aeldaborn rotates with three vocalists, none of them is really convincing, relying more on power than on technique or subtleties. Also some of the songs could be more melodic to really stand out. This criticism is meant in a constructive manner though, I do think that Aeldaborn has the potential to become quite good. Now they are more of a rough, unpolished diamond.

Then Sieben aka Matt Howden came to the stage for the first time. Sieben is a solo project nowadays, and Howden proved that he needs no other musicians around him. Armed with just a violin, his voice and a little sampling loop pedal device he created a full sound, with all elements played live. He achieved this by sampling himself, short tones and sounds created with his violin, and so created all kinds of loops, layered upon each other. For rhythmic elements for example he taps the wood of his violin or even plays it with his chin to create a scraping effect. Because of this improvised character the songs sound different at each concert. Sometimes things go somewhat different than planned, and he has to start a song over now and then, but that’s something you’ll easily forgive him. The concert was not only virtuoso, but certainly also moving. He played some nice moody songs, mostly of his latest album ‘Sex and Wildflowers’. I think Matt’s vocals get better every time. A fine atmospheric set with a lot of feeling in it. A bit rude of Matt though to drink my girlfriend’s glass of water without asking, for which he later extensively apologized and made up for with a bottle of beer ;-)

Hekate played a homegame for a supportive audience. I’ve seen some very good concerts of them, but last time in Bochum I thought they weren’t at their best. This time in Koblenz they were in better shape. Hekate had an original playlist, with songs from their early days, some classics from ‘ Sonnentanz’ and quite some new material. Of course they also played ‘Mithras Garden’. The members changed a lot from positions on the stage, which was adorned by a lot of lights, smoke and incense. Their drumming was as always excellent and tight. Nowadays they even employ a full drumkit, which was dynamic but a little dominant. A lot of variation was on the menu, sometimes perhaps a bit too much. Of course they did the percussive tracks they are famous for, plus some more sensitive folky ballads, but also experimental electronic things and even a funny future pop dance track called ‘Unlimited life’. All these styles made the concert a bit messy, and perhaps not every track was completely succeeded. But Hekate shows so much pleasure and dedication on stage that you give them quite a lot of credit. The last encore was the great classic ‘Die gedanken sind frei’.

The final act to perform was the duo Howden/Wakeford. Matt Howden has left Sol Invictus, but still collaborates with Tony Wakeford. They have released two albums as Howden/Wakeford, which sound more experimental than most Sol Invictus material. Tonight the focus lay on their excellent ‘Wormwood’ album, which has a strong religious theme, with various songs having mantra-like qualities. As always Matt played his free-flowing violin sounds, while Tony played some sort of small electric bass. Both men sung alternately or together. I did find it very good, though the songs demand quite some attention. The performance had an intimate and somewhat serious character, with Tony standing there very stoic and somewhat timid, though he had to smile now and then about Matt playing the violin with his chin and other tricks. As I expected they did not treat us to Sol Invictus classics, expect for the traditional ‘Twa Corbies’ in the encore. The final track, the biblical ‘Now and at the hour of our death’ was a suiting and solemn ending.

It was already around 02:00 hour when Howden/Wakeford ended. Due to this and to some technical difficulties an afterparty at the club did not come to life. Some visitors probably went to one of the other dark dancenights held in Koblenz the same night. Personally I could hardly stand on my feet anymore, and my hearing senses were already satisfied. With a good feeling we left the club again. The first edition of Mithras Garden was succesful in the number of visitors and the quality of the acts, and a sequel has already been announced. If all goes according to plan Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio and B.O.T.I.S. will be among the live acts in Koblenz in March. I think chances are high that I will be there again…