Live review by Kyle Harcott; Live photos by Ted Reckoning
Decibel Magazine’s inaugural tour was a much-anticipated treat, bringing together as it did four well-respected bands from the darker side of the metal spectrum – something for the li’l devil in everyone, from the dark trad-metal stylings of In Solitude, the blood-and-‘70s-drenched occult rock of The Devil’s Blood, to the christkilling riproar of Watain and the triumphant return of the mighty Nergal and his unstoppable blackened-death machine Behemoth. By the time I got there for the early show, the Rickshaw was quickly filling up.
And when I say early…. In Solitude went on at seven, so I got there in time to catch the last, maybe, one-and-a-half songs in their brisk opening set. And as great as what I heard of ‘To Her Darkness’, and ‘Witches’ Sabbath’ seemed to come across in the live setting, I just didn’t catch enough of their set to be left with a strong lasting impression, but the punters down front seemed pretty into it.
Did a quick merch check before The Devil’s Blood; I was surprised to see very few freshly-minted shirts being worn this night. Last time Watain came through with Goatwhore, both bands’ tees were flying off the table like Satanic hotcakes. But, being the cheap bastard I am, this night I (and apparently quite a few others) balked at each band’s $30-and-up shirts, Watain’s $25 tour posters from 2010, and In Solitude’s Decibel flexi-disc for a silly $15 (can’t even use ‘em as coasters, man!) Nope, instead I treated myself to another beer, and hunkered down for some (lord-of-this-) earthy psych-rock from The Devil’s Blood.
The blood-drenched sextet entered to very little fanfare, immediately launching their four-song ritual with ‘The Thousandfold Epicentre’ under subdued red-and-blue kliegs. Farida, resplendent in her role as Stevie-Nicks-as-LaVeyan-Rhiannon ringmaster, held the awed crowd rapt as her voice soared above the band for those gigantic choruses. The live setting also lent itself to extended Free-Bird-ian outros from Selim and rest of the band. The Devil’s Blood are a fantastic rock band and should be playing their hook-laden show to far larger venues; live, their brand of occult-rock hints very well at just the right tinge of ‘70s-arena-rock excess, and I say that with highest compliment; it’s been too long since I have seen a band flat-out rock this well.
As good as they were, though – ultimately, it was Watain I came to see. And true to form, they did not disappoint. Things were decidedly less odoriferous/conflagrant this time; what with this being a package tour, and Watain’s set being a shorter middle one, few sheeps’ heads were in attendance from what I could see, and there were no flaming tridents to be had. Nevertheless, a (slightly) stripped-down set somehow managed to make Watain seem even more lean-and-mean. Ripping open their set with ‘Malfeitor’, the band rained down their bloody, Bathoryan brimstone upon the Rickshaw with unfuckwithable fury. Especially gratifying was the masterful rendering of ‘Stellarvore’, which saw the room awash with raised goats for the thundering chorus. Praise was given out too, as Erik Danielsson respectfully dedicated ‘Total Funeral’ to local legends Blasphemy, holding court as they were in the Rickshaw’s balcony. All too soon, set closer ‘The Serpent’s Chalice’ was upon us, and once again, Watain vanished without an encore.
My black metal bloodlust satiated, and even slightly more chuffed than after the first time I saw Watain, I moved back and found myself a vantage-point seat and wondered how in the hell Behemoth would top a set like that.
I need not have wondered too much. Blasting into their set with ‘Ov Fire and the Void’, Behemoth – leader Nergal especially – received a roared, much-deserved conqueror’s welcome from the Rickshaw, our city’s metal faithful ecstatic to finally have him back up and well enough to tour again after his fight with leukemia. Behemoth were a sight to behold; their stage production ran the gamut, from the high-intensity light show, cyclorama strobes blasted at the audience, to the band’s Road-Warrior-esque stage garb. Musically, they were flawless, segueing into latter-day and early material alike. And what a showman in Nergal – as a way of introducing ‘Conquer All’, he stretched his arms out wide, looked upon his spellbound audience and roared right back at them, ‘IT’S GREAT TO BE ALIVE! IT’S SO FUCKING GREAT TO BE ALIVE!’ The response was, expectedly, deafening. The man is truly a reckoning force onstage, holding the audience in the palm of his hand as he’s describing the Decibel tour as ‘four of the most evil bands you’re going to get under one roof.’ For their first North American tour since January of 2010, Behemoth’s headlining set ran the gamut, digging into the crypt vaults for material dating all the way back to their first EP, And The Forests Dream Eternally (‘Moonspell Rites’), all the way up to songs from 2009’s Evangelion. They were relentless, and so was their audience, wildly appreciative of every note. Encoring with ’23 (The Youth Manifesto)’ and the mighty ‘Lucifer’, Behemoth tore the Rickshaw to pieces, proving for once and for all that what does not kill you, only serves to make you stronger.
A fantastic night for wholesale devilry and metal in general, my hat’s off to Decibel for putting together a stellar tour, and I have strong hopes that the magazine decides to make this an annual event.