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Monday, 11 February 2019

A View From The Back Of The Room: Ecclesia Diabolica Evropa (Live Review By Paul H)

Ecclesia Diabolica Evropa Tour 2019, Motion, Bristol

At times during this show, and yes, I mean show, there were gasps from the assembled crowd at the intensity and passion which was being shown on the stage. Three bands that cover different genres of the more extreme end of the metal spectrum and a crowd baying for as much as the bands could throw at them meant that this was a stunning night in terms of value for money. Not so sure about some of the merchandise on the Behemoth stall though. Whilst it appears that £25 is the going rate for t-shirts, £40 for a long sleeve and £60 for a hoodie appeared a little costly.

Having seen Wolves In The Throne Room (8) last year at their headline gig in the Globe in Cardiff I knew that the Americans deliver an almost unworldly experience live. Their astonishing focus and intensity drove their 30 minute set is coupled with a ferocity rarely seen. With the stage shrouded in darkness and the incense burning, the Weaver brothers and their assembled cohort blasted through three tracks from Thrice Woven, all of which held the audience in their spell. Angrboda, The Old Ones Are With Us and Born From The Serpent’s Eye were all massive. The constant riffing and wall of sound along with brutal vocal growls captivated many who were witnessing the band for the first time. A huge opening act.

I’ve tried on many occasions to get into the Gothenburg melodic death metallers At The Gates (6). Their show at The Globe a few years ago was the best I’d seen them play, with the up close and personal in your face approach making it a really enjoyable gig. However, despite a few other shows since, nothing has come close and tonight despite the hardcore clearly lapping it up, the Swedes once again left me completely cold. A 12 song set which took in tracks from their last two albums and the seminal Slaughter Of The Soul dragged by, and whilst the band put all their effort in, with Tomas Lindberg prowling the stage like a hyperactive toddler on Smarties, their music really just doesn’t fire the spark in me. Interestingly, despite the critical acclaim for To Drink From The Night Itself, At The Gates chose more tracks from At War With Reality including a tasty Death and The Labyrinth. I can appreciate their place in extreme metal but the repetition of their song structure meant that attention had started to wander long before the end of their set.

The last time I saw Behemoth indoors was in December 2014 on The Satanist tour, a bill that also included Decapitated, Winterfylleth and Grand Magus. Two Bloodstock shows have confirmed the size of the Polish outfit in terms of status, and we know that they now bring the show. Tonight, Behemoth (9) were simply masterful. Bone crushingly heavy, there was little let up in pace throughout their set, which balanced tracks from their magnificent 2018 album I Loved You At Your Darkest, a couple from The Satanist and a welcome handful from Demigod, Evangelion and two from Satanica. A huge set and light show ensured that visually there was always something to watch, with Nergal, Orion and Seth performing multiple costume changes to enhance the atmosphere and support the dark themes. Orion in particular is captivating, the man mountain prowls his side of the stage with an air of complete malevolence. Seth maintained a lower profile, content to add to the carnage with his astonishing riffing whilst Inferno made the blistering drumming look so easy at the back.

Focus is however, always on Nergal at a Behemoth gig though, and the frontman’s energy, desire and sheer focus made it difficult not to constantly follow him across the stage. Urging, coercing and constantly encouraging the crowd without relying on any of the cliched style that so many metal bands resort to, Nergal commanded from the front, whilst the sheer brutality of the music ensured that the pit took care of itself. With five tracks from ILYAYD, there was a familiarity amongst the material that younger Behemoth fans must have enjoyed, whilst the older legions nodded wisely to the likes of Slaves Shall Serve, Lucifer and Ov Fire And The Void. A bludgeoning Blow Your Trumpets, Gabriel reminded us of how good The Satanist still is. Billowing dry ice, a cunningly placed backdrop with constantly changing imagery and lighting that added to the atmosphere combined with the bludgeoning music, this was a show that will live long in the memory. Behemoth are at the top of their game, masters of black metal and a force that we should all embrace.

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