Behemoth: O2 Academy, Birmingham
Potentially one of the most explosive and exciting packages to hit these shores for many years, the four band line up of Winterfyllth, Grand Magus, Decapitated and Behemoth captured the imagination several months ago and tickets were duly snapped up. The anticipation had been heightened as all bands on the bill have released possibly their best works this year. It was therefore incredibly disappointing to discover a few days before that the curfew at the venue was 10 pm due to the 02's weekly Propaganda club night. This is clearly a nationwide policy as members of MoM have experienced the same problems at Bristol and Islington venues in the past few months. The challenge of getting to Birmingham from Cardiff for 6pm doors was incredible, and although I was lucky enough to take a half day to ensure early arrival, poor Ant and Elle didn't actually make it to the venue until the end of the Decapitated set, at a ridiculously early 8:10pm. Clearly something that we have to take into account for next year’s gigs, especially when the majority of our events take place away from our home soil. Food for thought. So, what about the actual music?
Manchester’s Winterfylleth (8) were afforded a mere four songs in a 25 minute set. Hitting the stage bang on 6:15pm, the black metal titans wasted no time in ensuring that all of those lucky enough to get into the venue early were fully rewarded. Building on their storming sets at BOA and Damnation (which I sadly missed) Chris Naughton and Mark Wood’s excellent guitar work combined with the powerhouse rhythm section of drummer Simon Lucas and bassist Nick Wallwork to create a wall of death metal laced with delicate and technical elements which sets the band apart from many others in this genre. A double serving from their recent superb release The Divination Of Antiquity, the title track and the quite breath taking Whisper Of The Elements demonstrated why this band are much loved in the underground metal scene. Sheer endeavour, hard graft and excellent technical skills: hopefully their star is in the ascendency.
Swedish power trio Grand Magus (9) are no strangers to the MoM crew, although for Alex and Chris this was their first time and the very reason for their attendance; they captured pride of place on the centre of the barrier for the mighty Swedes (and indeed for the entire evening – much to the admiration of the rest of the crew). JB and the band were also afforded limited stage time and they got straight to it, blasting off with I, The Jury, a svelt and shorn JB peeling off riffs ably support by bassist Fox and drummer Ludde. Grand Magus have an old school heavy metal sound, but there is also something refreshingly new about them. Inciting much fist pumping and head banging, Like The Oars Strike The Water was quickly followed by the title track of this year’s brilliant Triumph And Power before JB encouraged the ever increasing numbers in the crowd to sing along to Steel Versus Steel, which to be fair they did. Set closer Hammer Of The North proved that the audience were now totally engaged with the Swedes and a huge ovation indicated that they are well loved on UK shores.
As the strains of War Pigs kicked in over the PA, the lights dropped to announce the entry of Polish technical Death Metal outfit Decapitated (8) Another extremely short set saw Vogg and his band demonstrate that sometimes quality over quantity does work. A mere five tracks allowed, with the engaging and intimidating front man "Rasta" Piotrowski dominating the front of the stage, dreads flowing freely and guttural death vocals repeatedly delivering tough jabs to the ribs. Blistering drumming and fast moving songs helped ensure that the crowd were still engaged. A couple of tracks from the excellent Blood Mantra combined with some old school stuff such including Spheres Of Madness allowed the band to deliver nothing more than a taster of their music. This band are brutal live and it was a shame the serving was so limited.
A 30 minute change over saw the O2 change in atmosphere as the impressive stage set for Nergal and his cohort was constructed. A huge backdrop, the traditional star of chaos microphone stands and platforms for the band to stand on. Combined with an impressive light display that adapted to each song throughout the set, Behemoth (9) always put on an impressive visual show. As the house lights dimmed, orchestral music heralded the entrance of the band, complete with capes and hoods. Opening with Blow Your Trumpets, Gabriel, the next 90 minutes mesmerised, enchanted and captivated the crowd. The fury and sheer assault of the Black Death metal which has become so recognisable incited some very aggressive pits at the front of the stage and some impressive head banging in the rest of the venue. The set comprised a fair slab from the quite mind-blowing The Satanist, including the title track which was quite stunning. The drumming of Inferno throughout was absolutely destructive, powerful double bass pedals combining with rapid fire snare and symbol action. The band powered through tracks from Demigod (Conquer All And Slaves Shall Serve), Evangilon (Alas, Lord Is Upon Me) and the brutal Ov Fire And The Void along with cuts from Satanica And The Apostasy, Nergal and Seth laid down demonic riff after riff, moving around the stage with authority, and combined effortlessly with the imposing Orion on bass who stalked the stage with a demonic grin, like a serial killer hunting his next victim.
Each track was accompanied by different intros and the band slowly shed some of the stage outfits they had started with. Of course, Behemoth wear the corpse paint and this remains an intimidating element of their stage presence, adding a sinister edge to the already deathly satanic edge to their music. Closing with Chant For Eschaton 2000 the band took the obligatory photo in front of the crowd before departing. As the encore commenced, spotlights picked out each member of the band, cloaked and complete with devil goat masks with huge horns. The lighting creating a black mass type atmosphere, adding the already dark imagery. Behemoth ripped through O Father, O Satan, O Son with the crowd going crazy. A huge crescendo brought the evening to an end bang on the 10:00pm mark. Behemoth are a force to be reckoned with live and a match for anyone. The joy of seeing a fully fit Nergal is simply magical. A set worth waiting for. Just a shame the other bands didn't have enough time to really get into their own sets.