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Live Review + Photos: Behemoth + Watain 2015

Behemoth / Watain / Bölzer
The Metro, Sydney 03/10/2015
Review + Photos: Peter Zaluzny

Even though Swiss two-piece Bölzer arrived with just one demo and two EPs under their belt, the black/death outfit had built up a considerable amount of hype. And rightly so. After all, their unique take on unrelenting black metal blended with light melodic tones is the kind genre bending that will inspire an army of imitators who will be good, but never quite as great as the original.

Singer/guitarist Okoi “KzR” Jones unloads riffs with the speed and power of a fully loaded clip pumping out of an assault rifle before pulling things back for subdued major key sustains dripping with reverb. He typically sticks with demonic screams, until the songs demand a sinister tone which call for haunting clean calls into the mists. Meanwhile, drummer Fabian “HzR” Wyrsch maintains musical bedrock on the skins with the same degree of complexity, filling the handful of gaps left by KzR. Every Bölzer song blends into a vicious wall of horrifying harmonies that tear and somehow tenderly touch at the same time.

But even the best bands can be brought down by a bad mix, and Bölzer spent half the show fighting a losing battle with someone who couldn’t handle their unique sound. The answer, apparently, was to turn everything up to 11, which squished their beautiful sound into an ugly object that clumsily smashed into the mosh. When things finally came together towards the end, Sydney was lucky enough to spend a moment with Bölzer. Unfortunately, that moment was over far too quickly.

By the time Swedish outfit Watain came to the stage, the sound desk had its shit together and a throng of fans were ready to embrace the band’s notorious live performance. Brutal, black, and bloody as hell, there’s something to be said for bands like Watain, who not only wear their influences with pride, but do justice to the bands that directed their style. These guys blend the time-tested blast, beat, shred, repeat routine with deliciously raspy vocals, a rough rock edge and even a touch of punk.

The music is only half the fun though. Watain’s live presence is like a wild beast that pours everything into its threatening performance before landing a series of deadly blows. Only a handful of the band’s token props made it into the set, but this didn’t discourage them whatsoever. Instead, the lads embraced the opportunity to prove that there’s more to their act than a visual extravaganza. And prove it they did. The infamous odour of a group intent on smelling as extreme as it sounds lingered in the front rows, with those in the first few copping a sprinkling of animal blood halfway through the set.

Some may argue that Watain’s antics are a contrived attempt at appearing kvlt. Perhaps it’s pretty cheesy at times, but there’s room in the world of heavy metal for bands that want to embrace the antics which, if you cast your cynicism aside, are downright fun to be a part of. The difference between a band with staying power and a giant slice of cheese is substance and execution. In these respects, Watain delivered and excelled.

The anticipation for Behemoth, however, was massive. Not only were they touring off the back of The Satanist, their most critically successful album in years, but they’d upped the ante of their already well-regarded performances with a massive stage show designed to make everyone forget about the outside world. Massive risers, gargantuan back lights and plenty of smoke, Behemoth emerged from the mist followed by frontman Adam “Nergal” Darski, who held two flaming torches above his head before throwing them to the floor and attacking the audience with “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel”.

Few can match Behemoth in their ability to generate a genuinely disturbing atmosphere, supported in part by their ghoulish garbs that look like they’ve been dug from a nearby tomb, and harrowing corpse paint. Behemoth are a band of few words, and although some banter made its way into the set, they prefer to show their appreciation through other visual means.

In short, even though they probably want to sustain an evil presence, the band members – and Nergal especially – couldn’t help but run up to the edge of the stage to stare down the fans, scream in their faces and pull all manner of metal-as-fuck poses to liven up the set. There’s a bunch of friendly guys behind the horrifying exterior and whenever they play, you get the sense that they’re genuinely grateful for being able to do what they do.

So when Behemoth managed to pull off cuts like “Conquer All” (which can shatter the bones of bystanders with the vocals alone) and “Chant For Ezkaton 2000 E.V.” (a track you should always show friends who are curious about Behemoth) with such precision, it was impossible to respond in any way other than jaw-dropped awe.

As a lasting cherry on the towering cake, Behemoth remained backlit for the final song, leaving Sydney in the face of shadowy figures adorned with emotionless horned masks. These satanic statues played the final bars of “O Father O Satan O Sun!” while Nergal recited an unholy tome with powerful force as a final, chilling message for the fans in Sydney. If there’s a better way to end a gig, tell us now, because until then Behemoth shall hold the crown as one of the world’s premier metal bands.

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