This week’s blog dissects and gives a rundown of last week’s goings on with the Watain tour and Marduk shows in Salt Lake City, both big shows from gigantic Swedish black metal bands. You should have been in attendance for at least one of the gigs—if not, you missed out on some evil doing black metal. Also is a rundown of this week’s shows, and another batch of blog exclusive CD reviews as well as some choice reviews from fellow SLUG writer Andrew Roy. Next week I’ll have a big old batch of reviewed re-issued, re-mastered and “best of” albums to get your Black Friday shopping lists complete for your metal loving friends and family.
Tomorrow night, Friday Nov. 19, Numbskull, Reveeler and Riksha play The Fifth Music Bar in Bountiful. $4 gets you in, tunes underway around 8 p.m.
Saturday night, Nov. 20. Sure Sign of the Nail, Maraloka and Big Trub will play at the Shred Shed (do some Facebook detective work to find the address) at 7 p.m. I didn’t get an event price but it’s local so if there is a charge at all it’s gonna be cheap.
Also Saturday night, Toxic Dose, Riksha, Pariah, Blessed of Sin and Backwood Burning will play Club Vegas (21+). $5 gets you in, tunes at 8 p.m.
On Wednesday Nov. 24, Face the Tempest, Dead Vessel, Embers of Yddrisil, and The Dark Past play Club Vegas. $5, tunes at 8 p.m.
Last but certainly lot least, the mighty GWAR returns to play Saltair on Wednesday, Nov. 24 in support of their new awesomely metal and just all around bad-ass album Bloody Pit of Horror which will be reviewed for the blog soon, but all you need to know is it down right owns. Support comes from The Casualties and Infernaeon. Tickets in advance are $22 and $25 the day of. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Bring lots of white shirts and get them covered in GWAR blood—it’s a cheap Christmas present for your GWAR loving grannies.
After what felt like running a marathon in three days, I ended my weekend with a calm Sunday, feeling a bit under the weather and generally tired instead of having an awe inspired feeling after the weekend. I saw Swedish black metal horde Watain perform one on Thursday, Nov. 11 and then after a night of rest, (and watching the University of Utah lose and playing terribly against Notre Dame on the afternoon of Saturday the 12) I encountered the long standing Swedish troop Marduk on Nov. 13 for the first time. I look back and instead of a more pleasant memory I find myself pondering the current state of black metal, be it on the European side or American side. I’m not exactly sure where this cynicism lies. Maybe it’s in the fact that I am approaching the 30-year mark in age coupled with the fact that I have been spoiled and I have seen some really fantastic metal concerts since I started venturing to live shows when I was 15. Anybody is going to contemplate their life and love for certain types of music after nearly a decade and a half. Whatever the reason, the throne for the mightiest Swedish black metal band is vacant (since Bathory is no more) and in the live setting I’m still not quite sure who reigned supreme, Watain or Marduk.
Going back to Thursday Nov. 11 and Watain’s North American tour supporting their new record from Season of Mist, Lawless Darkness, it was a decent package tour for fans. National touring support came from the likes of the rather boring live and on CD Black Anvil, who were in the middle of their set when I arrived. Up next was Goatwhore, a band who I knew could deliver because of a few prior live excursions. They played a well rounded, potent set of black metal tinged death metal tunes. Sammy Duet of Acid Bath notoriety dished out the riffage and some backing vocals to the main vocal and energetic attack coming from Ben Falgoust II (also of Soilent Green fame). Falgoust consistently got the crowd worked up and inspired mosh pits and plenty of devil horns and “hey, hey, hey” chanting, not only providing a “warm up” to Watain’s Satanic black metal offerings to come they definitely made themselves stand out.
I’ve never been a massive fan of Watain’s music—going to the show last week was more out of curiosity than anything else. I heard rumors of some Nazi folk starting a fight with the band during their last appearance in Salt Lake, a rumor which I later had pretty much confirmed from a conversation with a fellow metal brother at the show who was actually a close witness and possible participant to the said brawl at the previous Watain show. The curiosity also stemmed from the fact that I’ve heard Watain is quite powerful in performance energy and satanic imagery. Once the stage was fully set up the Satanic imagery was definitely in check, with candles adorning the stage and what I guess I would describe as a Satanic altar in the middle of the stage with, I’m going out on a limb here but what I think were real rotting pigs heads on posts on either side of the stage, I assume real because they filled the already stuffy club with a not so pleasant smell. Being Satanic and black metal is pretty much cliché these days, and every band’s idea of Satan is always in question. The idea of believing in Satan (at least to me) insists that the God and ideas of churches these bands so openly oppose, in fact acknowledges that Christianity has a reason to worship and that the Christian version of God does exist, something I could agree less with, but hell it’s just cool to be evil right? The idea of Satanism with many of the black metal or whatever other extreme metal niche in many instances it’s more of a metaphor for being anti-Christian. Where Watain particularly stand, I honestly don’t know or don’t care.
Watain’s stage imagery and the corpse painted (on the more detailed side) members did invoke some demons inside myself and did feel like I was participating in a spirited mental and physical blow of defiance to established religion. Watain’s musical set to me however was more of a style over substance type affair. The majority of the band’s tunes just entered the familiar wall of sound effect. I know full and well from hearing the band on CD that there are guitar leads and distinct rhythms from the drum and bass sections of the band, but in the chaotic loudness of it all much of that seemed lost as I meandered around the club trying to find that “sweet” sound spot where I could hear the mixing of instruments properly. I never did find the sweet spot sonically which made me appreciate the slower songs from Watain much more because they resembled something musical. As always with shows, my opinions are moot compared to crowd reactions. Like Goatwhore, Watain inspired some mosh pit breakouts, a mini-brawl between concertgoers plenty of headbanging and fist pumping devil horn action and lots of cheering. Oddly Watain ended their set in a tease with a recorded orchestral piece of music playing, leading fans to believe the band would come back for an encore but never did. Would I pay over ten dollars to see Watain live again? Probably not, but if you were there and had a hell of a time, my thoughts don’t mean a damn thing, and if you missed the performance, it’s a worthwhile venture to see the band if they return.
On to Saturday night the 13th of November at the Vertigo 21+ portion of the Complex: Marduk, Withered and Toxic Holocaust played an off date from their current touring duties with “The Blackest of the Black tour,” which features Danzig. It was quite a nice treat to have said bands venture into town. Much like Watain, Marduk is a band I’ve heard bits and pieces of, but mostly I’ve ventured with their much applauded Panzer Division and Opus Nocturne albums and their latest, Wormwood, which I reviewed a while back for SLUG. There’s no dislike for Marduk’s music by any means, but it wasn’t something I was overly excited about seeing them.
Atlanta, Georgia’s Withered entertained the Marduk attending audience first. The band definitely has the chops recorded and live to make a big impact in not just the American extreme metal scene, but the world scene as well. I had just received a digital promo of the bands latest album Dualitas from Prosthetic Records and found plenty of interest in it, so before even seeing the band play I had interest in seeing what they could deliver. The band made a point of highlighting the bassist in the live setting as he stood front and center with guitarists to the left and right of the stage both switching on and off on vocal duties. The band played their heavy ended bass tunes with fervor and fire all under an ominous low red light with doom type dirge passages death growls coupled with straight black metal blasting and scowling. It was a nicely varied set and was very well mixed for the live show. The bands set left me wanting more and with the urge to hunt down the bands previous two full-length albums.
Hitting the stage next was Toxic Holocaust, one of the first retro or “neo” thrash bands to emerge on the scene roughly 11 years ago, mainly the sole project of it’s creator Joel Grind. With what the band delivered in the form of a three-piece live incarnation—Joel handling guitar and vocal duties with a bassist and drummer in tow—I was not only extremely surprised at the band’s set but found myself headbanging often. Grind delivered plenty of thrash riffing that while sounded like rehashed stuff from thrash legends of old, it still played out very well live and was highly entertaining. I found myself hard pressed to actually lump the band in with all the other retro thrash acts that have emerged in the last few years mainly in the deviation from sounding distinctly like punk fueled American thrash that many of the other bands in the scene entail. It almost felt as if I was witnessing a German thrash band at times. The set was definitely all in good fun and I would actually pay money to see Toxic Holocaust in a headlining position.
Marduk are unquestionable legends of the black metal scene, with origins going back to 1990 the band has a slew of albums and other varied releases hence plenty of song choices to belt out to the unfortunately small crowd in attendance at the Vertigo. Though sometimes quantity does not make for quality, experience is definitely something Marduk have obtained, and you can’t really take that away. Much of it comes from the long standing and original guitarist Morgan “Evil” Hakansson but there are other well rounded members and musicians and their live show easily portrayed said fact. The sound mixing while not perfect was much better than anything at the Watain show. In fact the drum mixing for all bands as part of the tour was terrifically loud, resonating strongly in you chest. Marduk vocalist Daniel “Mortuss” Rosten had a loudly piercing scream. The sound was a bit more muddled in the front—I found moving back towards the middle of the venue offered the best sound mixing being able to pinpoint guitar leads as well as the bass playing. The energy was high and Marduk did nothing but appease the fans that came out to see them. So back to the question I’ve been raising throughout this double concert review blog: would I pay over ten bucks to see the band again? In the case of Marduk, yes I would.
Maybe it’s the traditionalistic sense I always carry in my mentality that the originators are superior to the imitators (not saying Watain is a Marduk imitator by any means), but Marduk just carry their experience with them which outweighs Watain’s by a good 8 years as a band. But this was never a competition between the acts, the Watain show received a decent bout of promotion and Marduk seemed to fall a bit under the radar. If you’re a fan of any sort of black metal you should have attended at least one of these shows, because the plain matter of fact is if you don’t go out and support the national/international tours, you’re not going to keep having them brought to town. Forget scene politics or whatever else is ailing you if you want to have notable touring acts come to town but you don’t attend the touring acts shows, well you only have yourself to blame.
Withered = Nachtmystium + Funeral Mist + Twilight + Valdur
Withered have offered quite the bestial and gloriously heavy album with their third full-length Dualitas. There are a few bands dabbling in the style that Withered offer—a mix of black, death and doom metal—but this is the first case of a band having a firm identity in doing what they want to do and delivering it extremely well. Songs transition with ease from blasting violently scathing paced black metal played out in many different paces of tremolo riffing and drum blasting. There’s little hints at death metal here and there a lot coming straight from a deviation of the bands black metal scowling in the form of wicked and bestial death growls. The blasting easily transitions throughout the album with cold resonating doom dirge passages some play straight to the heavy groove type of doom while others like “The Progenitor’s Grasp” one of the better songs on the album mix all styles with groove type doom, melodic doom offerings and that core scathing black metal sound. Dualitas production is next to perfect for what this album is striving for it’s clear, precise and loud but also muddled in some areas to offer atmospheric devastation amongst the albums tracks. As said before there are quite a few bands attempting to mix black and doom metal, Withered just gave the metal world a perfect example of how to make a powerful album of such merging of styles. –Bryer Wharton
Cradle of Filth
Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa
I must admit a predisposed bias to Cradle of Filth; I’ve never met an album from the UK based extreme gothic/black/death metal crew that I actually found immense joy in listening too. Bias aside Darkly, Darkly, Venus Aversa frankly is a solid record for fans of the band, it definitely has a clear direction and focus on what it wanted to sound like the songs and themes throughout the album flow together as intended, they keyboards are really the most grandiose and original part of the music. But not to rain on any fans parade a few listens in my cynical side got the better of me I found myself pondering what if you removed the keyboards and Dani Filth from Cradle of Filth and just had, guitar, drums, bass and a standard black metal type vocalist you’d have one damn boring redundant churning waste of sonic space. The effort in the guitars from current players Paul Allender and James Mcllroy on it’s own is weak in they just meander along churning in with the rolling type drum fills and constant double bass dabbling kick drums. For a band containing two guitarists the leads and guitar soloing are rather stagnant not allowing much to really sets albums tracks apart (if it weren’t for the orchestration of the keyboards). Part of reviewing music is dissecting its parts and in the metal world where the guitar is the God of the instruments Cradle of Filth is lacking. But looking at the new record from the band purely from that standpoint is a bit over analyzing - the keyboards in Cradle of Filth have always been a prevalent factor and decisive moving portion of the music and on Darkly they’re done perfectly in retrospect to the rest of the music. In the end Darkly, fits perfectly with the gothic sensibilities of Cradle of Filth, guitar oomph lacking it may contain it’s a solid effort that fans old and new can enjoy. The album stands strong in the bands catalogue actually quite, better than some previous offerings and as far as atmosphere it far surpasses what Dimmu Borgir (a band consistently compared to CoF) just delivered. –Bryer Wharton
The Wretched End
The Wretched End = Zyklon + Dew-Scented + Myrkskog + Red Harvest + Dimmu Borgir
It’s fairly hard to deny Samoth of Emperor, Zyklon, Arcturus, Satyricon fame is a master of his instrument, the mighty guitar. The Wretched End sees Samoth combining forces with Cosmos of Windir handling vocals and bass and Nils Fjellstrom from, Dark Funeral and Aeon on drums to puncture your cranial cavity with some seriously visceral death/thrash black and industrial metal tinged ferocious buzz saw metal. Not that Zyklon weren’t really that accessible to modern metal fans but The Wretched End definitely has the ability to enrapture the modern metal scene and kill it. When I say modern metal for the instance of The Wretched End I mean the stuff that’s extremely well produced, not the crap that has pop rock sensibilities thrown in – no you won’t get any clean vocals or pretty guitar harmonies with this album but you will get riff after riff of thrash and death mayhem, pretty much all in the signature of what Samoth has become known to do. The drumming pounds and pulsates furthering the rapid-fire effect that Ominous has to offer. The album is actually a bit of a refresher, it’s simple in nature but effective and dominatingly heavy, a good record if you just want to blast shit out with a nice crisp and clean sound, it’s definitely machine-like in nature and it’s easily noticeable that’s what this trio was going for. Damn, this is also surprisingly catchy, if you dug the likes of later Zyklon, the powerful thrash dosages that Dew-Scented provide and quirky industrialized nature of Red Harvest and other projects Samoth has been associated with this album easily deserves a listen – you could also think in a way Dimmu Borgir without all the fluffy keyboards goofy satanic posturing, just the no frills heaviness of it all and you’ll have half the dosage of power Ominous provides. –Bryer Wharton
East of the Wall
Translation Loss Records
East of the Wall = Between the Buried and Me + Dredg
This album is all over the place. Portions of tracks like “Ocean of Water” and “Fool’s Errand” sound like alt-rock, then a minute later it’s like listening to prog-metal. On “Maybe I’m Malaised,” the band has success creating a repetitive, delay-ridden aesthetic to relax to for a couple minutes before heading back to their niche––BTBAM-type prog-metal. However, this isn’t their forte. East of the Wall sound more like everyone else in their school of metal when they are working their hardest. “Handshake in Your Mouth” has a few great recesses from the song where they insert some free-form guitar work, which is really refreshing coming from such a mathy, articulated band. In fact, there are seemingly improvised moments throughout the album which end up overshadowing the more deliberate segments of Ressentiment. The result is an album that could have been more than mediocre. –Andrew Roy
Heaven Shall Burn
Heaven Shall Burn = Lamb of God + Earth Crisis
Marcus Bischoff has a cooler snarl than Randy Blythe. There, I said it. In fact, Heaven Shall Burn is just a cooler version of Lamb of God. “Combat” is basically the culmination of what’s great about HSB––vocals like Satan’s outside-voice, gut-twisting momentum, and the coolest use of a gun cock/fire that I’ve heard on an album. “The Lie You Bleed For” has the heavy groove-metal that’s expected, but they include some oddly appropriate touches underneath the song––a piano, electronic textures, and restorative breaks in the song. The biggest issue with this album is that it’s like a Democrat-majority in the House/Senate––it’s cool when it first happens, but after awhile, we realize that it’s happened before, and that not much changed as a result. But, Invictus is still a solid album, despite a lack of South African rugby songs. –Andrew Roy