Metal Life Show Review: WATAIN and MAYHEM Jan 2015
The last night of the Black Metal Warfare tour was descending upon the sold-out crowds at the Fonda Theatre, as masses of black t-shirts sporting pentagrams of all shapes and sizes filled the venue within minutes of doors opening. Revenge from Canada kicked the night off with their no-holds-barred style of gripping black metal grind. There were high points of their set but none high enough to get me to check out an album, as I am not familiar with this band’s discography. I admired the endurance of drummer James Read, whose deviating rhythmic patterns were fascinating. I also dug the Deicide-esque vocals and backing vocals that were staples throughout the set. However after a while, everything got too monotonous: the constant blasting of the snares and the same one-note scream and the same noodly guitar solo that always seemed inappropriate and incongruous. I think this band would improve vastly by incorporating some steady grooves into their work.
The lights dimmed once again, and the crowd shrieked for Watain as frontman Erik began the ritualistic procession by holding a goat’s head high in the air and freezing in complete stillness as if nobody was watching. It seemed as though the more calmly and slowly he put the goat head on the table in front of the drum set, the more excited and rabid the crowd became. Suddenly, the band explodes into “Death’s Cold Dark” and all hell breaks loose. I was in the photo pit at this point, trying not to let pure adrenaline take over and cause my hands to shake. But by the time they were playing “Total Funeral,” I could feel the band’s droplets of sweat falling onto my face and on my camera lens. The charred smells of dead bodies were wafting through the air, and the cow’s blood was spilling from front to back. Watain’s set was Chaos at its finest, ending on an eerily touching salute to Selim with Malfeitor’s spine-chilling decree that “at the crossroads we meet again.”
As stunning as Watain’s set is, there was still plenty of room for the godfathers of black metal to create a stunning grand finale to what will inevitably be the most menacing tour of 2015. Mayhem opened with “Deathcrush,” and Attila superseded the recording work of Maniac by miles. Attila’s live vocals contain some of the most versatile and artistically pure ranges you will ever discover in a stage performance. The phantasmic cries in “Illuminate Eliminate” and the hypnotic droning of “Pagan” were two high moments not only for Attila, but also for the band as a whole. But what topped it all off for me was hearing “Freezing Moon” live for the first time. As a twenty-three year old who is only four years into heavy metal but plays this track on repeat, it was an experience I never thought I would get to live out. But I embraced every moment of it. In fact everyone at this sold-out show surrendered to the darkness that pervaded the Fonda that night. Whether you were the headbanger in front or the artist on stage or the one with a gaping jaw who couldn’t fathom what she was seeing (yeah that last one is me), you experienced the show of a lifetime.