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Saturnus / Esoteric - Before The Storm Tour 2022

Event: Saturnus - Before The Storm Tour 2022
Written by: RaduP, Netzach, Abattoir
Published: 07.12.2022


Saturnus + Esoteric / Novi Sad / 2022 by RaduP (23)

Radu: Coming a bit (much) later than the actual event, our coverage of the Saturnus/Esoteric tour might turn out to be more extensive than meets the eye. Partly covered by X-Ray Rod's Dutch Doom Days article, here we also have the Novi Sad gig that both me and Netzach attended, and since we didn't want to have an additional article on the same tour, we also merged it with Abattoir's writeup on the Ljubljana gig that he attended, increasing the numbers of writers doing writeups to five.

SATURNUS & ESOTERIC - Novi Sad (Fabrika), 13.11.2022

Radu: It is not as grand of an endeavor for me to go to Serbia for a concert, especially considering that this tour also stopped in two places in my own country but Novi Sad was closer than one of them and relative to the other. Even though Cluj would’ve made more sense, since that was the last date that Poema Arcanus would still act as openers, some conflicting schedules and the prospect of re-meeting Joel made Novi Sad the preferred alternative. I talked with Saturnus about the necessary stuff for the photo taking and the interview, braced myself for having to rely on public Wi-Fi, got the last minute checkups on my car, and embarked on my journey.

Joel: I’m a long way from home. 2000 km, to be exact. Serbia is a pretty strange country, judging by my Swedish standards; but so is honestly every other country on this Earth. Yes, that includes Norway (not to mention Denmark and Finland). I think that means it is Sweden that really is the strange one. Enough about this; I find myself in Novi Sad, Serbia’s second-largest city, hanging out with Sand and, eventually, also RaduP who we were to meet at the concert. It is not the first time I’m visiting Serbia (it’s the fifth time), and it’s not the first time I’m going to a gig with these two (it’s the second time, the first being Amenra in Budapest back in April), but it’s the first time I’m going to a gig in Serbia - not really topmost of countries when it comes to anything metal-related. It was, then, a stroke of good luck that Saturnus, one of Sand’s favourite bands, decided to play their first Serbian gig ever at Fabrika in Novi Sad. As I am entering the venue, I am greeted by the joyous tune of Tiamat’s “Do You Dream Of Me?” in the speakers, followed up by “Phantasma De Luxe” - which just so happens to be from my hands-down everything-considered favourite album ever, A Deeper Kind Of Slumber. This can only mean one thing: I must have come to the right place.


Radu: One interview and soundcheck later, it was finally time for the music. It was Esoteric out of these two bands I was most excited about, partly because of the otherworldly aura they have despite being otherwise a bunch of regular dudes, and because they’re the one out of the two I hadn’t seen live. The performance however was plagued by both the limitations of the venue (an industrial hall that didn’t have the best acoustics) and way too much reverb on the drums. The latter did seem appropriately painful for such a hellish soundscape creation, so I was able to take it better than Joel did, though I also agree that everything started to make a lot more sense sonically once the band addressed all that extra reverb.

One of our staffers (hint: Starvynth) mentioned that the difference between Saturnus and Esoteric is that one makes great songs while the latter makes great albums. That is something of a sentiment that can be extrapolated to the entire performance. Sound issues aside, the whole thing blended into a unitary dose of hellish psychedelia, something to lose yourself in, and nobody can make soundscapes this distinctly otherworldly the way that Esoteric did. With how much their more “recent” albums like 2008’s The Maniacal Vale and 2011’s Paragon Of Dissonance got kvlt attention, it’s easy to forget just how old Esoteric are. This was a band entering their 30th anniversary, soon to also celebrate the same milestone for their first release. You’d be hard pressed to find much funeral doom before that, let alone funeral doom this maniacal. For as long as funeral doom was a thing, Esoteric reigned, and they do so live too.

Joel: I have one major issue with this night. Well, actually two, but the first one is that I, to my eternal shame, am not familiar with either Esoteric or Saturnus, having heard nothing of the former and just bits and pieces of the latter (don’t worry, I’ve since remedied this, but at the time, all the music was as good as new to me). I’m thus approaching the concert and this review with a mind as open as it’s empty. Well, the other major issue is that the sound during Esoteric’s first two songs or so (of which there were four in total) was absolutely atrocious. Someone in the sound department had laid some insane reverb on the drums, so that the kick boomed like a tom, and the cymbals screeched literal holes into my eardrums. I decided to watch Esoteric’s performance from afar as my right ear is already since long damaged from the time I spent working at a sheet metal factory, not to mention that Mogwai gig in Stockholm I attended without earbuds many years back. Man, were they loud.

After 1,5 - 2 songs or so, Esoteric signaled the sound guys to cut the fucking reverb, and suddenly the music was pleasant to listen to. Sand got hold of a set list, so I could refer to it for you, but that’d just be pretentious, as I don’t know any of these songs from before. The band was not particularly mobile on stage, mostly standing around playing their stuff and letting the enveloping sound speak for itself. Sadly, I can’t say much about the two first songs, as I really couldn’t hear them properly, but I do remember that their final song had quite an impact. It was more of a post-rock thing at times, between the crushing sections of SuperSlowHeavyDoom™, which I found both accessible and enjoyable. I’m pretty sure the song was “Culmination".

Esoteric setlist:
01. Dissident
02. Grey Day
03. Circle
04. Culmination


Radu: Saturnus is a band I had already seen twice, but one I’d always be glad to see again. Their songs have become staples of my doom listening, and even though I have favorite Saturnus songs I have never heard live (like “Thou Art Free”), they’re part of the select number of bands that, during their performance, I am looking forward to seeing what exact songs they play instead of just enjoying the performance in itself, great as that is.

Having interviewed them and then participated in their soundcheck, it was somewhat of a shock just how funny these guys are. For such a morose genre like gothic doom, every moment not spent in song was one where they seemed jovial and humorous. Perhaps even funnier was how the reverb on the vocals, which made perfect sense in song, still plagued Thomas’ vocals even in his between songs banter.

The setlist itself was filled with classics, but also some deeper cuts from Veronika Decides To Die like “Embraced by Darkness”. Alongside these, some new songs were premiered, which would be part of the band’s upcoming record. Some versions taken from the band’s tour only release, The Lighthouse EP were merged with the original versions. Though I bought the CD at the show, I soon realized I don’t actually have anything to play CDs on anymore, and as much as I wished to listen to it before writing this, you’ll have to excuse me.

Joel: I’ve heard Saturnus before, but I’ve never really listened to them before. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but my expectations were crushed (in the very best sense of the word, mind you!). Saturnus were, on top of the excellent music on display, a sheer joy to watch on stage. They gave off this unmistakable energy of a bunch of best friends doing what they love the most, constantly locking sights with each other, smiling at each other’s little tricks, and vocalist Thomas engaging the audience with conversation between each and every song.

They also had the good decency to create a truly dynamic set list, with their doomier numbers being flanked and interspersed by more upbeat, gothic songs - my favourite being “Empty Handed” (from Martyre) which really got the audience bouncing and my blood pumping. Saturnus’ music comes across as really anthemic when played in a live setting - the albums don’t quite do justice to the soaring guitar melodies, searing growls, moody keyboards, and leaden doom riffs. They even played two songs from their upcoming album for us, “Chasing Ghosts” and “The Calling”, and professed that their new album would be out in April “or May” 2023. According to Sand, these two songs were both somewhat more upbeat and lively than much of Saturnus’ previous material. Keep your eyes peeled for news about an upcoming Saturnus album!

Saturnus setlist:
1. Forest of Insomnia
2. Softly on the Path You Fade
3. Pretend
4. Embraced by Darkness
5. Chasing Ghosts
6. Murky Waters
7. Empty Handed
8. I Long
9. All Alone
10. The Calling
11. Christ Goodbye
12. Rain Wash Me
13. A Father's Providence

Radu: In the end, I don’t regret choosing Novi Sad over any of the two cities in my country, even if just for the chance to meet old-ish friends and go to a gig in a new city. Sound issues aside, both bands have great performances that solidified their statuses as doom legends, even as much as they contrasted one another.

Joel: All in all, excepting the sound issues during half of Esoteric’s set, this was a night to remember, and a night that properly introduced me to two bands: one very interesting (Esoteric), and one which I’m sure I’ll come to know and love given a little more time (Saturnus). RaduP had to leave early because he had to work the next day, but still stayed until the show was over - that’s how engaging it was. Actually, RaduP, speaking of which, you still owe me about a euro for the water I bought you. We’ll save that for next time. Hvala vam.

jk u don’t

SATURNUS & ESOTERIC - Ljubljana (Channel Zero), 14.11.2022

Abattoir: A “Novemberish cold” Monday evening was for me a very special one this time. The road of touring brought to the town one of my favorite doom metal acts, Saturnus and Esoteric. The first being one of the most prominent acts within the melodic doom metal subgenre, and the second being recognized as one of the pioneers of the funeral doom. As a regular concertgoer I was especially glad when this tour was announced in first place. From my experience, there weren’t/aren’t lots of chances to catch doom metal bands live. Normally they don’t tour too much (of course with the fact that they are also in minority comparing to the bands from most of other genres/subgenres), and when they do, the tours aren’t that extensive as well. Although I must admit that this trend is changing for a better in recent times, especially with certain festivals that focus to book and promote more bands from this genre.

So, to the gig itself. The venue where this event was held is probably one of the smallest in the country if not the smallest one, with maximum capacity of 50-60 people. This type of venues might be pain in the ass for some, but on the other hand they also create a more intimate atmosphere as well as fairly compact and loud overall sound. And that could be felt immensely, when the Birmingham-based quintet Esoteric hit the stage first with three guitars out on the front line and gut-wrenching deep growls from Greg Chandler. An approximate one-hour-long set, which for them normally means 3-4 songs, actually went by quite fast. Esoteric delivered and unleashed their monstrous sound as expected and could only wish for a track or two more. Nonetheless, regardless of my strong appreciation of their music and performance, I admit that I had been already quite pumped up for Saturnus.

Esoteric setlist:
01. Dissident
02. Grey Day
03. Circle
04. Cipher

Abattoir: While it was a second time I’ve seen Esoteric live, it was a “live debut” for me in regards of Saturnus. The Danish masters were actually one of the first bands I had got into when I’ve started exploring the side of doom metal in general. Concretely with the record Veronika Decides To Die, which is still one of the most influential and important ones to me. The latter also presented the biggest share of their setlist this evening. Since the venue itself is already very small, you can imagine a 6-piece band being packed on the stage that barely offered any room for them to move. Still, it did not disrupt the mood of the band. The gig begun with “Forest Of Insomnia”, a track from the band’s latest record Saturn In Ascension. While it 10 years have passed since this release, which in “doom metal years” has to be divided by 3 (at least), Saturnus, surprisingly (or maybe not after all) served us with 2 brand new songs from their upcoming full-length (planned to come out sometime during spring next year) – “Chasing Ghosts” and “The Calling”. Well, what to say, we can definitely expect another treat.

If Esoteric can overwhelm you with an avalanche of noise, Saturnus on the other hand exemplify the doom metal side with more melodic and mellowed compositions. Emotional guitar riffs/solos and keys, deep (trembling) growls and soothing clean vocal/spoken words by one and only Thomas A.G. Jensen. Yeah, goosebumps on several occasions during their performance. I have to give a special credit to Thomas since he had some issues with the vocal cords (wouldn’t know that exact reason though). That’s also the reason why they had implemented some minor adaptions regarding the song selection. Nevertheless, I think I can safely say that the guys did a very good job on stage, taking also into consideration that both guitarists have had only a couple of live performances since their joining in 2020.

Witnessing two legendary bands of doom metal brought me a fair dose of satisfaction, especially with the fact that I already had some doubt if I will ever be able to see Saturnus live. Although being in fond of the music of both bands for several years, this show undoubtedly has left a strong impression for a long time ahead. And just for the record, both bands have recently also hit the “30+ years of existence within the music world”, which is nothing less than an admirable milestone.

Saturnus tracklist:
01. Forest Of Insomnia
02. Softly On The Path You Fade
03. Pretend
04. Embraced By Darkness
05. Chasing Ghosts
06. Empty Handed
07. I Long
08. All Alone
09. The Calling
10. Christ Goodbye
11. Rain Wash Me


Comments: 1   Visited by: 53 users
08.12.2022 - 12:20
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
Netzach you might be first western who did wrote a concert review from Serbia. Next to go n watch Vojvodina game
Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

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