Live Review and photos by Kyle Harcott
This night there were options: Vancouver’s metalheads could head over to the garage, a few blocks away, to see metal godfathers Ozzy and Halford, for the princely sum of $100+ for floor tickets. However, those of us in the know were headed to the Rickshaw (right smack dab in the heart of Ground Zero Junkytown, Main & Hastings – Canada’s most miserably black metal neighborhood if ever there was one) to watch Watain lay satanic waste.
Entering the venue, I spied Cartel, Watain’s tour manager and headed over to introduce myself and shoot the shit: Yes, the merch and the pig heads made it across the border (mostly) intact; No, the border was no hassle at all [yay for once!]; Yes, tonight Vancouver would receive the full Watain treatment, including flaming tridents (the surprising word on the street being, up to the time I write this, Van City has received the only ‘full’ Watain show on the tour thus far – score one for Nofuncouver).
I only caught a couple of songs from the local openers Galgamex. Even still, I liked what I heard – the band play a ripping brand of technical death metal, dime-stop precise. They seemed to do a decent job of warming up the small crowd, but I barely caught a glimpse of them before their set was over.
Next up, stone-faced and looking ready to crack skulls, Black Anvil came out to no fanfare or bullshit and proceeded to pound a healthy dose of black metal-by-way-of-hardcore into the grateful Vancouver crowd. They hammered out a set composed primarily from new album Triumvirate and won over the crowd with their filthy-urban-blight brand of black.Drummer R.G. was especially entertaining to watch, one of those drummers who really looks like he’s putting his back into it.
Relentless road dogs that they are, this show had to be Goatwhore’s fourth or fifth time in Vancouver since Carving Out the Eyes of God was released 18 months ago – and, shame on me, I’ve managed to miss them every time prior. I kick myself for having waited so long to see them, because they are truly a show of force onstage. Ben Falgoust is an excellent frontman and really connects with the crowd, while Sammy Duet captains the ship with his massive and crushing riffs. I’ve been a fan of his guitar playing since the Acid Bath days, so it was amazing to finally hear him in person. But while Goatwhore’s music is hammering, part of the appeal definitely lies in the fact that they really come across as the people’s band: Ben’s slapping hands with the crowd throughout the set, keeping up the banter; Sammy’s throwing the goats at the audience and handing his pick to a young kid up front after the set; James Harvey and Zack Simmons are hanging out in the crowd before and after. You get the vibe that Goatwhore are always real happy to be playing in front of a crowd and they give nothing less than a hundred percent. To my eyes, it appeared that they were also the band of the night as far as t-shirt sales – everybody has to have a Goatwhore shirt. They closed the set with “Apocalyptic Havoc” and the crowd, expectedly, went off. Who needs a god when you’ve got Satan, indeed.
Anticipation ran high as the stage was being set for Watain’s first show in Vancouver. I was waiting to go in the photo pit when Watain’s road crew brought out ‘the box’. And as soon as its flaps were opened, the sweetish smell of death was let loose upon the Rickshaw (which, in honesty, probably smelled about as bad as the alleys surrounding the venue in summertime). Twelve pig heads, presumably fresh at the start of tour nine days previous in Pittsburgh, were in a pungent state of decay by the Vancouver date. Cartel was right, though- after a while they did smell vaguely like chocolate. My hat’s off to the iron-stomached Watain roadie whose job it was to mount them on pikes – barehanded, no less; all part of the ritual, I suppose.
Soon enough, all ceremonial flames were lit and out strode the dread beast Watain to perform their black mass. What a show. From the opening strains of “Malfeitor”, Watain held the Rickshaw rapt with satanic attention. Their reputation preceding them, the band completely revel in malevolence and black theatrics, from coating themselves in pig’s blood to utilizing flame as the major light source onstage. Frontman Erik Danielsson’s grim ringmastery commands attention and respect, while the band scorches their way through the soundtrack to damnation. Blazing through a set culled mostly from their last three albums, Vancouver was treated to an epochal black rite onstage- a fact not lost on the 250-strong all-ages crowd, who roared in appreciation for every blasphemous note. A gamble with any black metal show, the sound in the Rickshaw was occasionally a bit dicey, but I heard everything I needed to hear, and truth be told, I was so dumbstruck by sheer visual (and, uh, olfactory) overload that the sound took a backseat to having my eyes opened wide. Ending their set with “Waters of Ain”, Watain exited the stage leaving a long outro playing out over the audience, leaving many in the ravenous crowd to believe they would return, but it was not to be. The ritual was over.
Some secondary souvenirs from the show: Black soot up my nose, the scent of decay seeped into my clothes, and, upon inspection as I removed it, brown droplets of dried porcine (hopefully) blood adorning my paper wristband. As well as an unexpected, temporary case of nasty cold symptoms the next day – I can only hope it wasn’t pig-borne virus. Hail Watain!
Watain Set List:
Sworn to the Dark
I Am The Earth
Underneath the Cenotaph
On Horns Impaled
Waters of Ain