Intense, ultra-serious, dark, somber—all fitting descriptions of the music Bobby Krlic produces as The Haxan Cloak, though none do justice to what was one of the most memorable live performances I have experienced. Or maybe "endured" would be a better word. Krlic says his recently released second album, Excavation, is loosely constructed around the death of its protagonist and his subsequent journey of anguish and despair. It's an atmosphere that was readily created in all its shadowy glory in the basement of London's Birthdays venue.
Given the sheer amount of live instruments that were purportedly used on the new album, it was a strangely minimal sight that greeted us on stage: Krlic behind a simple bank of controllers, as flickering, sepia-wrought visuals did their best to put everyone on edge. Opening—I believe—with "Mara," a single, blinding strobe quickly became yet another challenge to overcome, with Krlic seemingly doing everything he could to get us to admit defeat. Indeed, for some the intensity proved too much, with at least a dozen people retreating to the back of the room after just a few minutes' pummeling.
Those that remained were treated to 40-odd minutes of ominous, breathtakingly powerful doom, lodging you somewhere between elation and a panic attack. The kick drums and bass notes slammed into you like a seething, furious ocean, with occasional snatches of half-melody whipping past. Heads bowed and nodded, many of the crowd shut their eyes against the relentless snap of the strobe. There was something tribal and ritualistic about the scene. "The Mirror Reflecting Part 2" is brutally beautiful sitting alone in your flat; in this environment it felt like the end of civilization.
Following this, the echoing bells that greeted us at the start of "The Drop" felt cathartic, a soothing reward for making it this far, before—of course—building to a final crescendo so cataclysmic it felt you may never again see the sun. Some though—myself included—would have gladly remained in the Cloak's shadow as long as it was cast.