Kataklysm

support Whitechapel + Fleshgod Apocalypse + Dyscarnate
author RUB date 10/12/19 venue VoxHall, Århus, DEN

The weather was cold and windy, as I made my way towards Voxhall last Tuesday evening. As metal fans have become accustomed to, when Kataklysm pays a visit to your town, they’re bound to pull some pretty big and respectable names with them on their tours. Tonight was no different, and as they paid homage to the legendary MTV show (you know, back when they played actual music) of the same name, the Headbanger’s Ball Tour had arrived to Aarhus. A small note on how the line-up worked with how MTV worked. MTV had all sorts of metal, with perhaps the exception of extreme metal, unless you in the 90s would call Slayer extreme (to some extent, ok). But tonight’s line-up differentiated in various aspects, and although the entire line-up was deeply involved with death metal, the genres presented were very different, and just underlined how good this line-up actually was. So, in the spirit of what MTV once were, here is the review of the first act.

All photos courtesy of Hasan Jensen

Al Llewellyn of Dyscarnate

Dyscarnate

I entered the venue just as a deep “are you ready” roared through the room. The trio from England was lit from the beginning perhaps due to the surprisingly huge turnout this December evening. The tunes were deep, heavy and technical and already from the first track there was plenty horns and headbanging showing. In fact, even the balcony was put to use, which to my knowledge is somewhat rare for a Tuesday show; again, slightly surprised, but to be fair the package of bands was just too strong and potent for people to pass on, including yours truly. This variant of death metal sends nods towards both Morbid Angel, Dying Fetus and Immolation, and it’s even easy to recognize the “newer” inspiration in Misery Index. Luckily, Dyscarnate have still managed to develop their own take on the brutal and technical death metal genre. The vocal duties were swapped between Tom Whitty and on guitar and bass respectively, and simply worked flawlessly.

The atmosphere they created was angry. Very angry to be exact. Thus, this worked brilliantly as a warm-up set and did exactly what it should, as it ignited a fire in the crowd. They weren’t in fact doing much out of the ordinary or anything extraordinaire, but it just worked; there was no BS and just straight to the point. And when the sound, at least from where I was standing, sounded crisp and tight, it was just hard to put a finger on any negative aspects. Truly a very, very solid performance, and I haven’t even touched how Matt Unsworth behind the kit sounded: tight as a machine. They ended after 40-ish minutes on a very high note with first “The Promethean” and then “This is Fire”, which spawned the first real mosh pit of the evening. Very excellent from a so-called “warm-up” band – and then some!

Fleshgod Apocalypse

Fleshgod Apocalypse

Another band, another brand of death metal. This time in the more symphonic vain with the Italians in Fleshgod Apocalypse. Kicking things off with the magnificent “The Violation”, ensured things were off to a good start. Or so you would think. The soundscape sounded strange and sort of muddy with the drums being way too loud when compared to the guitar and the vocals (and especially the clean vocals of bassist Paolo Rossi was a general issue throughout the show, as they seemed to be drowning in the mix). Some of the issues seemed to be fixed as the second song, “Healing Through War”, aired. The genre ‘Fleshgod excels in has always had a complex nature to it, and demands crisp production, mix and sound; it’s simply crucial to their performance. The music was obviously still very grandiose as we’re used to, but that just means that even the smallest flaw was that more noticeable.

Speaking of noticeable. Since last time I saw ‘Fleshgod, two longtime members have since left; lead vocalist and guitarist Tommaso Riccardi and guitarist and backing vocalist and guitarist Cristiano Trionfera. What this meant for their constellation (remember, they have a history of swapping roles within the band), if I’m not mistaken, was that they had to switch roles once again. As a result, David Folchitto had to be hired for the drums as well as Fabio Bartoletti for the guitar, when playing live. This meant that Francesco Paoli had to take up the duties of lead singer again, thus mixing everything up once again. Confused? All this switching roles last happened in 2017, but something still seemed off with their timing, and when the mix had some issues, it all came across as an unusually muddy experience. Luckily, they still exceled in creating that special grand, symphonic and mysterious atmosphere which we’re used to, but it still boded sort of weak for the overall impression of the show. The crowd seemed to share my feeling, as the horns was as quickly taken down as they were put up. Even though Francesco Ferrini on the piano did his best enticing the audience in-between his plays, which, by the way, was still very much manically and Mr. Hyde-like, the crowd seemed sort of “unimpressed”, if I may use that word.

Luckily, for the show as a whole a couple of youngsters in the front seemed really entertained and impressed by what they saw; perhaps their first ‘Fleshgod show? And when “The Fool” was aired a larger majority joined them in going mental. Paoli even tried with a quick wall of death which got the crowd to mosh with ferocity. Finally, everything seemed to work for them, thus making it the clear highlight of their show, but it just came so late into the gig that it seemed slightly futile. Alas, I’m pretty sure this was my weakest ‘Fleshgod concert, especially at this venue. It just seemed like something was off with either the sound or the tightness of the band during the first half of the show. It didn’t get me all wired up with that special feeling as usual with their very technical and blistering symphonic metal, although it still had moments. This time around, the Italians were clearly beaten by the English. Wouldn’t it have been hilarious if ‘Fleshgod were French?

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Whitechapel and one very impressed spectator

Whitechapel

The near-flawless mix was once again back, and every instrument was audible for this next act. Especially the easily recognisable deep, brutal, guttural growl of the one and only Phil Bozeman. The down-tuned rhythms and beats were digested by the headbanging horde, and truly brought the groove to the floor, and people were moshing violently to the heavy tunes. Although we’re still deep in death metal territory (remember, they aren’t a straight-up metalcore band anymore, wink wink), it’s a different take than that of both Dyscarnate and more noticeable Fleshgod Apocalypse. The music was packed with bouncy rhythms, heavy tunes and plenty of breakdowns; just for the headbang-lovers in the crowd, and of course in the spirit of the once great MTV.

After a couple of songs, it become clear how much their melodic and definitely modern take on the genre was apparent when compared to the former two bands, especially during some almost completely clean and quiet songs off their newest outing. This was not a problem for the large majority of the crowd in the front, as they engaged in one mosh after the other during the aggressive and brutal tracks, but the involvement and attitude was just a far cry from that of the more, let’s say, “intimate” almost popish nature of those quieter ones. They strike me as sort of inappropriate for tonight’s line-up or commemoration for that matter, and stood out so much when compared to the straight-up brutal ones. I must highlight Bozeman’s vocals during these latter parts, though, as they are definitely one of the better ones in the genre, and was utilized to perfection this evening with the very heavy breakdowns during the show.

To summarize: when they perform the all-out brutal and energetic deathcore, it was really good, but those quieter songs? I really don’t know. It sure made those aggressive tracks stand more out, but it simply ruined the flow of the gig in my opinion. When you only have 40-something minutes, which actually isn’t a whole lot, it’s that more crucial that you utilize your time in the best way possible. When “Our Endless War” and “The Saw is the Law” was aired, the floor simply exploded with circle pits, moshing and even a couple of crowd surfers. This was a proper way of ending the show, which on a few occasions seemed full and flat, but when they stepped up and played the genre which this tour was all about, the overall impression was just that superior.

7

Jean-François Dagenais of Kataklysm

Kataklysm

Right from the first track, Maurizio Iacono manning the pipes commanded the crowd for more movement, and they obeyed him right away. What the reaction after the first few songs told me was that this was a good crowd for Kataklysm. People on the balcony and on the large majority of the floor was actually very engaged in the concert; I will actually go so far as to say that at least a few dozen in the front were actually losing themselves. One simply has to acknowledge the prowess of the man in front. The way he engaged the crowd was just sublime. Of course, the many years of doing this has something to do with it, but still when he read the crowd like he did, and actually managed to feed off of their energy it just gave the show that more intensity.

Taking the development of tonight’s bill into consideration, this actually seemed as the natural progression or next step, if you will. They were even more melodic than the former band, when disregarding those “quieter songs”, but they still managed to combine enough melodic elements in each song to keep them easily digestible. Sadly, for the overall impression, when Iacono addressed the crowd between songs one could really hear how audible (read: loud!) people were. Talking that loudly is never a good sign. Nevertheless, the crowd in the front seemed to really enjoy themselves, as they continued to barrage through every track with constant moshing. This was a pretty noticeable accomplishment in my book, as I usually tend to find Kataklysm quite dull, both on record and live; or at least nothing special. Tonight, however it seemed so much better and very potent, largely thanks to the energetic crowd. And as mentioned in the former paragraph, the band read this perfectly. Iacono invited the crowd onto the stage on the account that “there doesn’t seem to be any security”. This was a pretty drastic measure to keep the metal train rolling, but people gladly accepted the invitation and started crowd surfing towards the stage (you should see the sole security guard present quickly disperse to acquire help). This step made the concert even better, as a sizeable amount made their way onto the stage.

Maurizio of Kataklysm

A small negative matter has to be addressed. I’ve always thought that what Kataklysm didn’t have in interesting songs, they definitely had in talent. I especially remember drummer Olivier Beaudoin being insanely tight, which his back catalogue of playing with both Belphegor and Keep of Kalessin live should be a testimony to. But tonight he seemed to miss more beats than what’s considered acceptable. Whether this had something to do with the fact that he apparently managed to digeste 80 (!!!) pieces of sushi at a local restaurant earlier, I’m not certain, but I wasn’t the only one taking note of this. Nevertheless, Iacono kept going and praising the crowd: “Let’s pretend it’s not Tuesday, and that it’s Saturday instead!”, which just sparked further headbanging and moshing in the front. Even though one could tell that some people had already left, it was nowhere near what I initially thought. They end on “In Shadows & Dust” and “Elevate”, and just to stress that fact that the energy went both ways, Iacono said: “I wonder what it’s like to play here on a Saturday – it’s fucking Tuesday!”.

Although I've seen Kataklysm quite a few times, this could, on the contrary to ‘Fleshgod, easily be the best show I’ve seen with them. Although I don't find the majority of their songs all that interesting, for some of them even dull actually, the entire show and the way they interacted with the crowd has to be rewarded; so, this goes as much out to the crowd as to prowess of the band. The true headliner to me, as expected prior to the show, was the opening act. But still, a very credible performance by these Canadians, still worthy of the headlining title.

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