Gorgoroth

support Vital Remains + Ageless Oblivion + The Modern Age Slavery
author AP date 12/04/14 venue Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN

Since last watching Gorgoroth two and a half years ago at the now defunct Copenhagen venue Rock, I've held them in low esteem - compared, at least, to the unholy quartet of 1349, Behemoth, Taake and Watain. They simply didn't live up to the notoriety of their infamous performance in Krakow, Poland in 2004. I am nonetheless at Pumpehuset to watch them once more, not least because Hoest, the mastermind behind Taake, is standing in for Atterigner on vocals on this tour for reasons that escape me. Before analysing his contributions to the Gorgoroth show, however, there are three support bands to behold, two of which haven't even been advertised on the tour poster and thus come as a complete surprise to me, and, I believe, most of the other people here tonight.

All pictures from Christian Søes can be found at Blurred.dk

The Modern Age Slavery

The first of these is the Italian Modern Age Slavery, whom I know only by name, having read our Editor-in-chief's praising review of their 2008 album "Damned to Blindness". And if the cover art doesn't provide sufficient clues as to what they might sound like: think walls of blastbeats, double pedal gunning and indecipherable guitar work in best deathcore fashion. Indeed, the emphasis is on the brutal for large portions of the set, and if you weren't already familiar with the quintet's music, it's nigh impossible to determine what is actually going on - until "The Silent Death of Cain" eventually adds some colour to the proceedings by way of an epic tremolo melody and an orchestral backdrop sampled in by Fleshgod Apocalypse's Franceso Ferrini.

There's three or four guys upfront headbanging and moshing like their lives depend on it, but the remainder of the scant audience show little enthusiasm despite their vocalist's best efforts to get us in the mood. "This is the last show on this tour, so let's go fucking crazy!", he roars - and besides a few guys taking a few steps closer to the stage, his request is met with utter defiance. No matter; TMAS themselves are very much in the mood, and as a result, there is genuine passion and enthusiasm visible in their delivery of the thick death metal grooves in the second last song. My lack of familiarity with the material, as well as an unwilling crowd put an inevitable damper on this, but it's not for want of trying on the band's part.

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Ageless Oblivion

The second unbilled act is British Ageless Oblivion, who fashion themselves a progressive death metal band. But although they certainly lean less toward the -core, their music is still a far cry from what I would consider progressive, or technical death metal (here I'd name Death, Gorguts, Suffocation and their ilk). There is a progressive element to it, just as there is a more authentic feel to these proceedings, with none of that "Come on Copenhagen, let me hear you!" dross spewing from vocalist Stephen Jones' mouth, and the lighting too, remains more moody and old school than TMAS' rainbow spectacle, with pale yellow and blue lights dominant. And while this band's music, too, requires some pre-listening I fear, I do find myself continuously aghast with admiration at Sam Chatterton's highly organic finger/slap style of playing the bass - something that is especially evident in "Lament" off their newest album "Penthos". Here the contrast between unsettling, ambient melodies and crushing brutality finds a perfect balance. But it's too little too late to warrant much applause from this sour old sod. Perhaps after listening to this stuff on record, it will open up to me. Who knows.

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Vital Remains

Tonight's main support - the Providence, RI based death metal veterans Vital Remains - could not be more offensive if they tried. Or, well… Clearly they have put some effort into it: current vocalist Brian Werner (who has been with the band since 2012) is wearing a sleeveless t-shirt with the word INFIDEL adorning its front together with a cross over the Islamic crescent & star, and the friendly expression FUCK ALLAH garnishing its back; while bassist Gator Collier is sporting similarly themed garb with FUCK THE BIBLE on the back. They don't leave much to imagination, these gentlemen: they clearly don't care much for religion. Let the Fatwas rain.

The music of Vital Remains (with which I am being acquainted for the first time here) strikes me as brutal, old school death metal with a hint of the black, and as they are presently "celebrating 25 years of fucking blasphemy", we are given a well rounded introduction to all of the group's discography here, delivered with awesome intensity, and with the kind of authority only a band with 25 years in the bag can muster. It rubs off on the audience, too, with "Hammer Down the Nails" inspiring a hefty moshpit, and most people look to be in ecstasy when Werner proclaims, "Fuck Allah, and Jesus, and Buddha… Fuck 'em all!" before diving into the audience and promising an Afghan fan his t-shirt with the words "I'll give you this shirt right after the show, and you can go shove it up the fucking Taleban's ass.".

But the blasphemies do not end there. During the set closer "Dechristianize", which is preceded by that dramatic orchestral music you hear in virtually every Hollywood flick involving Hell or Satan, Werner pulls out a bible and starts tearing pages from it, throwing these into the audience before setting the book ablaze - much to the loud approval of the crowd. I myself am unsure how to react to it: it's a gimmick of course, and I must admit to being impressed by Vital Remains' commitment to their beliefs (or lack thereof), and by the visual and aural aesthetic that arises from it. But at the same time, the level of controversy is bordering on the unnecessary.

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Gorgoroth

Gorgoroth's entrance is dramatic as usual, yet instantly, there is the sense that tonight's onslaught is going to be a tad more special than the occasion I mentioned in the preamble to this review. Much of that owes to the extraordinary showmanship of Hoest of course, as even wielding Gorgoroth's customary enormous spikes on his arms, the man looks his usual self: Satan. I swear, you will not find in black metal a more menacing, terrifying, ultra serious frontman than Hoest, his slow, demonic movements on stage exuding pure evil and hatred. Clad in a mist of dry ice that envelops even the bathrooms (!), he and his compatriots for the evening stage one of the most unsettling performances I have ever borne witness to, the eerie, freezing melodies of guitarist Infernus and Skyggen, and the thundering rhythm section of bassist Bøddel (who looks incredibly similar to Dimmu Borgir's session bassist Cyrus) and Tomas Asklund creating an atmosphere of confounding malevolence; an absolutely monumental backdrop to Hoest's shrill screaming and growling. This is no place for the religious tonight.

For the next hour and 15 minutes or so, Hoest and his pack of hellspawn lead us through a fine assortment of Gorgoroth's two decade back catalog, with "The Rite of Infernal Invocation", "Krig" and "Profetens Åpenbaring" in particular raising the hairs on my arms, and sending uncomfortable chills down my spine. Much like the ritualistic performance Watain earlier this year, this is one of those spectacles that's difficult to take one's eyes off: like sweet sin beckoning to one's darker self. Be free, rid yourself of the chains of submission, and enter the kingdom of Gorgoroth; a place of eternal darkness, but yet also of musical grandeur of the sort you'd have to look for in the music of Wagner elsewhere. As hyperbolic as that may sound, this is the nature of Gorgoroth - and even more so with the entrancing Hoest at the helm. It's not simply music; it's an experience in which the atmosphere encompasses all. It's black theatre.

Of course, from a critical standpoint there is no escaping the fact that musically, Gorgoroth's material is not as strong as some of the other Norwegian and Swedish heavyweights'. But standing in these foggy surroundings, all eyes fixed on the bands, it is easy to forget, or at least ignore the group's shortcomings, because as performers, when they hit their stride as they do tonight, they're as good as anyone.

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