Upyr, Reka & Celeste Live in Sofia or 160 Hearts Beating as One

A report from an unforgettable evening in Sofia

The 19th of July was a weird Saturday wondering if it should stick to being rainy or not. With the Upyr, Reka & Celeste show we’d been setting up, and most importantly awaiting, for quite some time we were kinda sure the colors of this summer night would be as black as they can get. A quick last invitation sent online before we get to the venue is answered by a bunch of Romanian friends who are saying their night with Reka and Celeste was great. What better a motivation than this?

It’s 5 pm, Mitko and George are waiting for the bands in front of the club with a big pot of spicy vegan cream soup and traditional Bulgarian desserts, Reka arrive with their new French singer just on time, our friends Upyr are also present at the appointed time. When unloading Reka’s van this summer’s traditional rain starts falling over the city. Celeste come an hour later with their impressive gear of guitar cabinets, amps, smoke machine and lights, everything goes quite well and at 20:30 the bands are ready with the soundcheck.

Upyr’s Brodnik // Photo by Is.

The clock is ticking, the crowd is thickening and at 21:30 the first tones of Upyr‘s Hymn to Pan slowly creep into the venue. The invisible dark hands of Bulgaria’s doom beast is grabbing the people chatting outside and a minutes later we’re all inside, kneeling in front of Upyr’s altars of eternal sleep. Apocalyptic visuals are projected behind the band. Your sight is searching salvation but it’s doomed to the evil grimaces of Boro, who’s singing tongiht as the devil’s son himself. His bandmates are in deep, black trance, with seriousness and distance, shaping their faces. They are all drowning in their own low-tuned, crushingly slow and hypnotizing sonic madness. Sometimes I slightly dislike the fact that Upyr’s music is like a worship to all transformations doom metal has undergone through its history. Maybe still looking for the right and personal direction, maybe just because the members are free, different and not scared to indulge in whatever route their music wants to take… Tonight it doesn’t matter, because the fact their music has skinned alive and consumed the essence of the early Black Sabbath, Electric Wizard, Hellhammer and that maniacal lunacy of Saint Vitus works just perfect. Upyr are a grim colossus, fed by all of its darkest predecessors. And I look around, it has conquered us all… again.

Reka // Photo by Is.

After a short break spent gasping for air outside and trying to save our already detuned brains we’re back inside just in time for Russia’s Reka. On this tour they’re joined by Michel, the voice of Selenites. I’ve been listening to Reka for quite some time already, but somehow always felt they have to be experienced – live and physically. With their walls of guitar sound and apocalyptic rhythm section crushing you like the black, cold river their music actually is. Reka are basically leaving us senseless, song names and setlists don’t matter anymore, the words Michael is singing are merging with all other elements of the music and we’re offered an organic sonic mass which is so homogeneous it feels alive. Reka are not a band, Reka are a living organism, existing on the very boundary of desperation for all our kind has done to the perfect world we’ve been given. It will take us days before we’re able to escape the endless desolated landscapes where Reka uncompromisingly left us.

Celeste // Photo by Is.

The night has dragged us so far, on the verge of the very point of no return and for a last third time we’re back inside the club. Thick smoke is slowly filling the space and four red lights appear in complete sync with a first static outburst of slowly developing distorted introduction. The venue is drowned in a complete darkness and Celeste waste no time but instantly grab us by the necks. They radiate us with an intense attack of lights and abrassive, mid paced (post) black metal. They are like four red-eyed cyclopses from another realm, who came to us not to communicate, but to simply share a perverse, but tasty and destructive offering to slaughter all our senses beyond recovery. Over 160 bodies are trapped in this room, with their eyes twitching, ears screaming and bodies resonating with Celeste’s introvert implosion. Their set feels like seconds and suddenly it’s all gone.

We are all gone, left in the dark, to wander around the streets of Sofia, looking for our homes. Homes and beds which’ll never feel warm again. No matter it was a summer night, because it was flooded with nothing else, but thick, black cold.

If you like to feel a bit of this night check out Iskra Georgieva‘s great photos from the show here.

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