In 1995 a young Norwegian band called Ved Buens Ende recorded a set of songs so progressive that a music scene still scratching its head at the bewildering stuff coming out of northern Europe had to begrudgingly accept yet another new genre, avant-garde black metal. The tracks were released as the album Written in Waters, released on a UK label, and the band disbanded shortly afterwards, so twenty four years is a long wait for a live show. I mean, they were ahead of their time, but this is ridiculous! They played Norway of course back in the day  – but then I was working full-time, had a one year old child who was keeping us busy by sticking her fingers in plug sockets and making me read her the same book fifty times, and lived ( and still do ) in England, which had a poor quality of living by today’s standards, so Norway as a gig option was pretty much bongo bongo land as far as I was concerned. To put the likelihood of reaching the most expensive country on the planet into some kind of financial perspective, when their CD came out on Misanthropy Records, it was £14.99 in the local record shop, which in today’s money is £28. You can imagine how much Burzum’s Filosofem on A5 digipak was. Yep CDs were stupidly expensive and you couldn’t easily hear the music first, you just had to take a chance. I did take the chance…..oh, can you hear the violins playing?
So, fast forward twenty five years and I am a successful businessman ( like yeah..right ) with just enough money to fly to Finland, book an apartment in Helsinki and get to watch the reformed Ved Buens Ende play at BLOWUP 5, albeit without very much alcohol in the blood stream, because beer is so expensive here.
At the venue, in our excitement to get right to the front, we ended up listening to the entire set stage-right, with Vikotnik’s guitar blasting at us, but how ace was it to hear those songs again? It was very, very ace. Carl Michael Eide sat on a bar stool ( due to his leg injuries ) and they worked through the following setlist, only pausing to introduce a couple of the songs ( there was a short but furious fight for this piece of paper at the end. Our mate Rall ( a fellow music nerd ) from Estonia lost, and a Finn won. I asked the victor, politely, for a photo, and as this is a nice country, how could he refuse? ).
Have you never heard VBE? Well, you really have to wonder how on earth all the ingredients for such music came to manifest itself in those Norwegian youths – there must have been a classical music background, because the guitars are not really played like guitars, more like Geordie would play them, but without any of the rock and roll. As such, it is like a demented version of a string quartet, but played by sullen outsiders, on electric guitars. The drumming is a bit like jazz drumming, but not up its own backside like most of those players, you know, always cacking on about dynamics and so forth – I mean, as if a snare drum ever sounds good when you hit it quietly! No, it’s technical, but pissed off, sharp yet moody, like all good
metal drumming should be, but romantic also, with lots of 6/8 stuff and dark, feminine ‘otherly’ themes. The bass playing is very clever – sparingly using the fundamental note and generally winding around it as a counter melody. Together with the haunting clean Frostian singing, the music frames lumbering, menacing slow parts with blistering, filthy black metal explosions of speed. The three elements of bass, drums and guitar come together the same way early Joy Division did it; each part is something less on its own but has new meaning when framed against the other two parts. Also, if you’ve listened to Spiderland by Slint, imagine that crossed with Killing Joke and early Immortal.
As the songs went on, the crowd around us seem to love every moment, as if they were reliving ever listen of the album over the years – WIW is one of those recordings that gets under your skin, and stays there I guess. There is one phrase of music I was particularly waiting to see, and it was played as the penultimate track tonight. As a drummer ( of sorts ), there is an absolutely stellar piece of stick and legwork in Den Saakaldte that makes me want to weep, it is so good – it comes in at exactly 6.59. ‘All’ that is happening is the kickdrum is three to the floor, with reversing triplets played over the top with china and snare, for four bars, and then a straight blast for four bars, with accents on beats 2,3 and 5,6. Should be easy! However, I’ve never heard anyone on this earth play it as good as Carl Michael Eide. I can play it a bit slower, on a good day, with the wind behind me, and that’s with twenty years practice. The guy drumming tonight, Øyvind Myrvoll – well he is pretty damn close throughout the entire set!
So, it is little details like this that drag old bastards like me across the Baltic sea in October to a place where it costs nine euros for 33cl of beer. Would I see them again? Yes! What struck me most about the performance is that you could see just by watching them ( and with a bit of hindsight looking at the side projects ) just what a fortuitous meeting of three people this was back in the early nineties – certainly each member brought their own ideas and character to the songwriting and between them created something much bigger than the sum of its parts. You don’t realise that so much listening on CD alone but it’s more obvious seeing them engage with the songs. Is there any chance we’ll see them live again? I hope so. Of course we still have all the side projects associated with Ved Buens Ende to be thankful for – Dodheimsgard are still touring and maybe we will see some more Virus, who knows? Skoll and Vikotnik came to the front and thanked everyone after the last song. Great stuff, one more thing crossed off the bucket list for me. And to all of you down the front for this gig, and who made the journey, thanks!
I found a much better video ( rather than my close-up, terrible recordings ) from their gig in Germany earlier in 2019. Thanks to sophisticated804 for the upload.