Live review by Natalie Zed; Volbeat Concert Photography by Adam Wills
Despite the fact that I’m sarcastic bastard and a bitter cynic in all matters of the heart, when it comes to metal, I am usually a bundle of goddamn sunshine. I like metal. When I meet new metal, I actively try to be its friend; I want it to be good. Usually, when music disappoints me, it’s for a justifiable, quantifiable reason: the aesthetic is inconsistent; some aspect of the performance failed; or the overall sound is just not my thing. Any hint of negativity in the reviews I’ve written up until this point has been, I hope, positive criticism — useful, encouraging, pointing out a flaw to be rectified or a weakness to be improved upon. Usually, I want the bands to keep working, to do better.
This is the first time I have ever felt the need to actively protect the rest of the world from something I’ve experienced. I have no desire to offer something constructive or helpful. I would not like them to improve; I would like them to stop.
This review is going to be a bit odd, lopsided and out of order. I want to talk about Volbeat first, if only to separate and excuse them from the vitriol I am about to unleash. I have no bone to pick with them at all. Their heavy metal/rockabilly/early rock’n’roll gangster aesthetic is fantastic. They’re greasy, twangy and a hell of a lot of fun to see live. Michael Poulsen embodies their sound: lean, punchy muscles, the lines of his brow and cheekbone just a little haggard from hard living, slicked back, dark hair and covered in old-school tattoos. His voice is surprisingly clean (although he claimed to be suffering from a cold and therefore would be busting out his “Corpsegrinder” voice more than usual). Volbeat’s set was idiosyncratic and playful. They performed a cover of Misfits‘ “Angelfuck,” as well as a series of mini-covers during their encore, including “Raining Blood.” They closed with “Still Counting,” which stayed with me afterwards, and has become a surprisingly pleasant ear-worm, gnawing away ever since the concert. Like many of their songs, it is supremely singable, dark and cola-sweet, satisfying in the lungs. I’d love to see Volbeat again. They’re somehow both skeezy and classy; they fuck with boots on.
Pleasantries out of the way, let’s talk shittiness. What you need to know is that it’s a goddamn miracle I was able to salvage enough of my good mood to actually enjoy this set after the opening bands.
Immediately preceding Volbeat were the Sleeping. I’m willing to admit right now that I may not have been willing or able to give them a fair shake. After Dommin, I was in a poor enough mood that I was unwilling to extend them any generosity as an audience member. I experienced a brief flicker of hope when I saw them setting up a theremin, which was promptly extinguished when its only use was to provide a cool sound while the band members took the stage. While they were not nearly as offensively bad as their predecessors, neither did they do anything to impress. For trying to embody a hardcore aesthetic, their frontman was lacklustre and tired quickly. Their sound was devoid of anything that captured or held attention and after a few songs, I found my mind wandering away almost entirely. I was bored. If I am bored at a concert, something is profoundly wrong.
Saying that I am bored should be the grimmest insult I am able to level, the deepest cut at my disposal. However, whereas the Sleeping managed to make me, Natalie Zed, Supreme Liker of Things, actually apathetic, Dommin pushed me further, right out the other side into full-blown, righteous anger. They are revoltingly bad. They call themselves gothic metal and in identifying themselves as such, I want to garrote them on behalf of Peter Steele’s estate. Their stage presence is half-hearted and effete, barely slick and entirely humourless. They clearly spent more time and attention on their hair than on playing their instruments. They attempt to create an urban-vampire vibe with their set pieces (quasi-Victorian clothing, a curl of metal thorns, roses on the mic stand), but wind up coming across as disingenuous, stylistically bloated and artistically empty. Standing at the back, shaking our heads in disbelief, intrepid Hellbound photographer Adam Wills and I (and company!) managed to come up with the following phrase to describe what we had just witnessed: “the rape-baby of HIM and Billy Idol, conceived at the Cabaret Voltaire.” That’s the best we could do. The reality was so, so much worse.
Writing this has made me feel a little bit better. I am lighter somehow — cleansed. I hope only that, in suffering as I did to bring you this review (the good, the bad and the fecal), I might spare a few of you from ever having to tread such grim and douchey paths.