The bombastic operatic Metal of Avantasia continues apace with their eighth album Moonglow (Nuclear Blast), and just in case you were in any doubt it opens with a nigh on ten minute slice of pomp that would not sound out of place on Meatloaf’s Bat Out Of Hell 2 (MCA/Virgin). The conceptual nature and fantastical sound of previous album Ghostlights is expanded upon here, helped by the ample time Tobias Sammet was given when making it. Continue reading
Blood Red Throne have been around for some time now, and with Yngve “Bolt” Christiansen they found a vocalist able to bring something more to their shows, as he is able to communicate with the audience in a way that seems sincere and engaging. With a set list comprised of something like fifty percent classics from Altered Genesis, their most celebrated album, the band lay Rockefeller in ruins. Bolt circlebanging, puking, then continuing to circlebang. Not to mention guitarist Ivan Gujic trashing his guitar at the end of the show, then proceeding to down half a bottle of tequila. It seemed like the pep talk backstage had been had. This said, the band could have added some more visual aspects to their show, but as an opening act one couldn’t really expect much more than a backdrop.
Suffocation are veterans by now, and a band that always delivers. However, it’s somewhat disappointing to catch them with only two members from the core lineup, instead bringing replacement musicians for guitarist Guy Marchais and vocalist Frank Mullen. But then again, the stand-ins did a really good job, and we got all the classics like ‘Breeding The Spawn’, ‘Catatonia’, ‘Funeral Inception’, ‘Liege Of Inveracity’, ‘Abomination Reborn’, ‘Pierced from Within’, ‘Effigy Of The Forgotten’, ‘Thrones Of Blood’ and ‘Bind Torture Kill’. It was all delivered with conviction and by a Derek Boyer with his bass literally standing upright on the floor at times, and a Terrance Hobbes looking as he was having the time of his life playing the same songs yet again. Suffocation is indeed always a safe bet, and also grand masters of the brutal death metal genre, even when they are playing far from their own New York scene.
Last band of the night were none other than the proud Egyptophile Americans in Nile. They are usually worth catching for George Kollias jaw-drop inducing drumming on its own. Throw in the fact that they have a solid discography of brutal and truly quality death metal by now, and you can maybe forgive them the fact that they don’t offer especially much in terms of the visual part of the show except their backdrop. But when a band churns out great renditions of ‘Lashed To The Slavestick’, ‘Sacrifice Unto Sebek’, ‘Kafir!’, and’ Sarcophagus’, most are willing to ignore the lack of visual pleasing stimuli – ignoring washed out t-shirts and shorts.
World record holder in leather, spikes, and mullets, Nifelheim, proved themselves once again worthy of being THE black thrash export number one of Sweden. Lead into battle by The hard rock brothers, twins Tyrant on bass and Hellbutcher on vocals, they held Inferno captive for ten songs, including the massively enjoyable ‘Storm of the Reaper’. They proved once again that to get far all you need is some good tunes and the proper attitude.
Craft was the last band out on the John Dee stage, and saw the venue filled up with people eagerly anticipating an onslaught of Swedish black metal. And they got what they wanted, although I must admit, after seeing Craft twice now, that they sound better on record than live. They also look a bit disorganized in their appearance, as if the band members don’t have that extra cohesive interpersonal dynamic going that makes a band stand out. At the very end drummer Uruz announced that he would be leaving the band, and introduced what might be his successor, Trish Kolstad, a local Oslo-based drummer, also recently making an appearance with Gehenna. She joined the band on stage for their last song, ‘I Want To Commit Murder’.
A surprise was had with the Finnish legion of Moonsorrow, whose albums I must say I have passed by pretty much in silence and disinterest, seeing as most folk oriented black metal is rather bland, and usually far too jolly, and fits better with the typical German festival goer who enjoys drawing a dick on their forehead and wear viking helmets – the ones with historically incorrect horns stuck to them. But I stand corrected. Moonsorrow was fully enjoyable, and far darker and balanced than I remembered from earlier. If not a band with a great show to coincide with their music, they at least pulled off the musical part with excellence.
Mayhem. I have caught them a million times by now, and there’s always an element of surprise to their performances. If not in terms of theatrics, then in terms of songs selected, or even how the band has seemed to vary immensely in how well they perform the material. This time around the band not only put on a great show, had good sound, but also played some songs they haven’t played in a while. In addition they had both former vocalist Maniac on stage, as well as Attila, and Messiah, all doing vocals on selected songs from their own eras and albums with the band. First appearing was Maniac doing five songs from 2000’s Grand Declaration Of War. Then Attila did ‘De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas’, ‘Life Eternal’, ‘Freezing Moon’ and ‘Illuminate Eliminate’, before Maniac was back on for songs from Deathcrush, which also saw the return of Messiah with the band, probably a byproduct of him appearing earlier on the very same stage with Order. The same band whose drummer Manheim also joined Mayhem on one of the songs he played with them on the Deathcrush EP back in 1987. Basically all in attendance were guided through the bands entire history, pigs’ heads thrown into the audience and all. Wholesome family Easter fun and games in other words. Most definitely a headliner worthy of ending this year’s Inferno festival. The entire Mayhem show is actually on YouTube now it seems, so you know what to do!
WORDS BY PÅL TEIGLAND LYSTRUP AND JULIA TUOMINEN
What makes a “classic”? In the case of Mayhem’s Live In Leipzig (Peaceville) it’s primarily down to what it represents – not only the closest thing to a full album by the classic line-up of Mayhem (itself awarded the c-word at least in part for the fact that two of them were dead by violence within three years), but an important document in the development of both a scene and a genre. It’s impossible to look into the early days of “second wave BM” without running into a reference to Live In Leipzig, and it still regularly appears in lists of the most important releases in the genre. References to it tend to spend longer talking about its classic status, the “atmosphere” or the events of the scene it helped give birth to than the music itself, which can cause alarm bells to ring.
Setting everything else aside for the moment, then, the first thing to say about the music is that it’s RAW. Not just the sound – which is better than you may be expecting, especially in its’ remastered form – but the song-writing and playing too. People already familiar with the band after Dead’s… er… death may be surprised – the mystical, sinister atmosphere of De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas (Deathlike Silence) is thin on the ground, and the experimentalism that the band embraced in their later years is entirely absent. Early tracks like ‘Necrolust’ and ‘Carnage’ push their Thrash and Venom influences to the front, and even DMDS tracks are more savage and direct than their studio incarnations.
Traditional wisdom has Dead being the quintessential Mayhem vocalist, but his style is much more straightforward and orthodox than that of Maniac or Attila – fans of the latter in particular may be disappointed with lines like “in the middle of Transylvania” delivered in a straight rasp rather than Atilla’s vampire drag-queen tenor. The quality he’s so treasured for, of course, is authenticity – it’s hard to deny the genuine rage and alienation of a man who shot himself in the head five months after this performance – but the extent to which it really informs the music is a matter of personal interpretation. It’s precisely that “realness” and lack of irony that can transform Live In Leipzig into something more than the sum of its sloppy parts, but it’s hard to pin down objectively – one person’s “sloppy” is another’s “dangerous”.
As a document of the genre’s early days, Live In Liepzig is as important as you’ve heard, and the bonuses in this package (a booklet full of scene memorabilia and a second disc of another performance with most of the same tracks and a rawer sound) makes it even more so. As a piece of music it’s both undeniably flawed and often genuinely captivating – and in many ways it’s the flaws that makes it so engaging. Still an essential history lesson for those interested in early 90’s Scandinavian BM, but not always an easy one to swallow, and some fans will find themselves blasphemously glad that Black Metal has been so thoroughly house-trained.
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