Live Report: The Decibel Tour: Behemoth, Watain, The Devil’s Blood, In Solitude, Evoken
In this day and age, keeping a print-heavy metal magazine afloat, and in decent shape, is a Sisyphean task. But Decibel has managed to do just that, putting out one glossy issue after another chronicling the exploits of some of the world’s most extreme musicians. It’s only fitting, then, that the magazine should load a tour with a cadre of bands so different yet so similar, appeasing their many-faceted audience with disparate tastes but never forgetting the unholy sentiment at the bottom of it all. Hail Satan.
The crowd present at the sold-out show isn’t nearly as loaded with pouting hipsters as one might expect; in fact, there’s a nice mix of brutal death metal dudes, laid-back beardos, and good-natured potheads present. This doesn’t stop Irving Plaza from doing its best to make attendance a chore — the line for Will Call tickets crawls at a snail’s pace, with the one open window staffed by a single young woman who may or may not have ever done this before. The staff inside aren’t much better, barking at fans trying to hang in the hallway by the merch tables. Still, the crowds do their best to avoid this nonsense by packing tightly into the venue and posting up at the bar.
By the time I made it inside, Evoken had come and gone, and Sweden’s In Solitude are polishing off their set. The band have a decent vibe to them, merging Malmsteen-esque power metal with strange, forlorn vocals à la King Diamond. Unfortunately, the mix is all wrong, and where In Solitude should sound soaring and sharp they are straggling and blunt, leaving the listener feeling enthused but a bit disappointed.
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The Devil’s Blood are, simply put, not my thing. Their brand of oozing, sluggish ’70s hard rock, even with its moaning female vocals, sounds uninspired and at the very least does not require the three guitarists who currently occupy the stage. And while their ritualistic evocation of Dennis Wheatley-esque Satanism is a refreshing break from the leather-clad overkill of the tour’s main headliners, it also seems more like a show than it does a belief; there’s as much theater in The Devil’s Blood’s performance as there is in Watain’s. Still, the last three songs are epic, utilizing some massive Mercyful Fate-ish riffs to remind the audience of what the band are at least trying to do.
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For all their blood-drenched, skull-toting, Devil-worshipping madness, Watain are a lot of fun. Not content to dwell in the muck of black metal’s low-fi no-chorus-allowed sewers, this band of Swedes bring enough crispy, creeping black metal to justify their morbid stage decorations, and then some. Front-demon Erik Danielsson screams with carefully-staged bravado, as though he and his bandmates are well aware of the band’s air of schlockiness, and just can’t be bothered to give a fuck. The only problem with their set of pitch-black musical poison is its length — the band only plays a handful of songs, and tracks like “Satan’s Hunger,” “Stellarvore”, and “Casus Luciferi” are left by the wayside.
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It is amazing that a band as punishing as Behemoth have gained such popularity and acclaim, but as the band take the stage to their trumpeting intro track, the venue is tightly-packed with fans screaming in reverence. Behemoth frontman Nergal looks good for a man who recently beat cancer and a possible prison stay, his statuesque white facepaint and shining black cenobite’s robe a welcome reminder that, in this ever-evolving scene, some things stay the same. The band charge headfirst into the sonic fray, illuminated by flickering spotlights as they crush out classics like “Demigod”, “The Seed ov I”, and the forever-awesome “Chant for Eschaton 2000”. A short two-song encore follows up the initial set, driving the already-rabid audience even wilder.
As the crowds lurch out into the open air, an odd sense of disconnect hangs among the fans. We all saw a show, and it was good, but we’re not quite sure what exactly it was — but our unease is won over by a strong wave of contentment. Good music, good people, dark thoughts.