Watain

support In Solitude
author AP date 25/01/14 venue Lille Vega, Copenhagen, DEN

A long time has passed since I last found myself at an extreme metal concert - in fact, it was most likely at Hellfest last summer. But woe unto me if I was going to skip the long awaited return of Watain to Danish pastures to follow up on what I'm told was an impressive display at the now defunct Rock in 2008. So after feasting on an enormous slab of Nebraskan Black Angus rib eye and red wine with my colleague Mischa Nielsen, we brave the biting cold together to witness the spectacle for ourselves.

All photos courtesy of Peter Troest

In Solitude

In Solitude are not the most obvious choice of support for a band as malevolent as the mighty Watain, but for a connoisseur of diversity such as myself, this lighter proposition is a welcome contrast to the satanic proceedings sure to commence immediately in their wake. Given our metal aficionado Ellis Woolley thought so highly of the band's 2011 album "The World. The Flesh. The Devil.", my own expectations for In Solitude are considerable and they're a band I've been looking forward to experiencing live for some time now, having also judged their latest offering "Sister" from 2013 a brilliant piece of music. So while we eagerly anticipate a review of that record to surface from Mr. Woolley, promised as he has to do it, I bring you here my thoughts on the Swedish quintet's abilities live.

It does not take long for their dark, occult heavy metal (which distills its influence from Mercyful Fate, Ghost and Iron Maiden) to exact its grip on me, with the extensive instrumental sections in many of the songs aired tonight in particular striking a familiar chord with me. "Death Knows Where" and "Lavender" and "Witches Sabbath" all produce instant admiration in the already populous audience, particularly so as In Solitude are an extremely lively act to watch, bassist Gottfrid Åhman putting on a display seldom seen in this genre, I find. The usage of blue and red lights and incense (!) and no spotlight on the band members elicits a wonderfully ritualistic atmosphere, and when the single strobe behind a translucent backdrop depicting the unsettling artwork of "Sister" is flashed in keeping with the rhythm here and there, the effect is a cool, stormy backdrop.

Despite the fact that all five musicians, completed by guitarists Nilkas Lindström & Henrik Palm, drummer Uno Bruniusson and vocalist Pelle Åhman, carry themselves with immense charisma and do their utmost to capture and retain our attention throughout the set, I derive great amusement from the fact that when P. Åhman insists on speaking to us in between the songs, his English speech, polluted by a thick Swedish accent, is nigh impossible to understand. I chuckle at this, but really when that constitutes the only question mark during the band's 45-minute set, you know you've got yourself a special show. The songs are consistently fantastic; the performance marked by infectious energy. And what's better: Danish fans can devour more of the same already a month from now when In Solitude returns to provide support to Behemoth and Cradle of Filth at Amager Bio on the 26th of February.

Watain

The bar is thus set high for Watain, whose show has been curbed by VEGA's fire safety requirements already before it starts. No fire, no blood. Instead, it is left to the five demonic musicians to let the music carry its own weight, which should not be much of a chore considering the esteem and legend of these Swedish kings of black metal. Mind you, the production is still phenomenal: the band members - vocalist Erik Danielsson, drummer Håkan Jonsson and guitarist Pelle Forsberg, as well as the two session musicians guitarist Davide Totaro and bassist Alvaro Lillo - are fenced in by a semi-circle of what I initially perceive to be stained glass windows, but then quickly discover to be metal frames onto which an assortment of animal skin and bones has been attached; and a 3D image of St. Peter's Church. It all looks very theatrical, and when it comes to original black metal, if you ask me, the more theatrical the better (bar the use of synths and such of course).

Watain enter the stage to the tune of "Night Vision" before unleashing their first rite, "De Profundis" at us with almost unreal intensity. This band looks and sounds fucking ferocious, with not a single uplifting note penetrating the dark, unsettling melodies, ominously rumbling rhythm section and Danielsson's ungodly shrieks. He does, near the beginning, carry a torch, but this is quickly blown out. Still, the absence of pyrotechnics and the infamous spraying blood ritual does little to hamper Watain's performance here. They demonstrate power and might, enveloping the near sold out venue in horror with lyrics as vicious as the songs sound. "Storm of the Antichrist", "Devil's Blood" and "Total Funeral" are particularly impressive when set against a backdrop of pure red or blue light and devilishly flickering strobe, and even the Darth Maul-inspired corpse paint of the odd one out - Alvaro Lillo - does little to distract from the evil unfolding before our eyes.

It's fantastic to see how deeply Watain immerse themselves in the theatre that is their music, Danielsson especially contorting his body like a man possessed (I have noted on my phone that he reminds me of Beetlegeuse from Tim Burton's "Beetlejuice" by virtue of his movements, probably much to his and his fans' dissatisfaction). The rest of the band look much less fun: the guitarists have painted a gaping black abyss around their mouths to appear as though they'd like nothing more than to consume my soul and shit on my grave, and if I could see the drummer in the midst of the dim lighting, I'm sure he'd shrivel my testies, too.

By the looks of it, the audience in attendance is lapping this up, and I must myself admit that even though my interest in black metal is only marginal, this is some of the best stuff I've watched in the genre besides Taake. Testimonial to the respect they command, Watain are called back on stage not once, but twice to perform an encore, featuring first "Outlaw" & "Sworn to the Dark", and subsequently the classic "Holocaust Dawn" and "Waters of Ain". An impressive, deservedly frightening experience that I'd like to see with the full production at one of the summer's metal festivals, and with a more favourable sound mix.

Setlist:

  • (Night Vision)
  • De Profundis
  • Malfeitor
  • Black Flames March
  • Storm of the Antichrist
  • Devil's Blood
  • Sleepless Evil
  • Total Funeral
  • The Wild Hunt

--Encore--

  • Outlaw
  • Sworn to the Dark

--Encore 2--

  • Holocaust Dawn
  • Waters of Ain

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