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On The Road with BEHEMOTH, WATAIN and The Decibel Magazine Tour

My sincerest apologies for this long overdue labor of love. My insatiable thirst for metal got the better of me this past spring and summer, and I admittedly took on far too much work than any one sane person ought to.

Luckily, nobody has ever accused me of being sane…hence the backlogs and delays.

The third week of April brought the much anticipated Decibel Tour to the Pacific Northwest where I started my first night of the tour coverage in Seattle, Washington.

What a line-up. DAMN! Featuring Behemoth, Watain, The Devil’s Blood and In Solitude, this extraordinary variation of occult and black metal offered a chilling package that kept things gloriously filthy and barbaric night after night.

What was really significant about this tour is that a similar line-up was supposed to take place in 2011, with Behemoth and Watain touring together, and Goatwhore and Black Anvil providing support. Unfortunately, due to Nergal’s health concerns as he batted leukemia, Behemoth could not attend, and Watain, Goatwhore, and Black Anvil toured together.

It was fantastic to see Behemoth and Watain finally able to join forces, and to have Behemoth back on U.S. soil for the first time since Nergal’s recovery. Having witnessed the unholy spectacle of Watain and In Solitude together in Gothenburg, Sweden late last November, I was stoked to see these two bands in tandem again as well.

On The Road with BEHEMOTH, WATAIN and The Decibel Magazine Tour
It seemed things had finally come full circle, and not a moment too soon.

April 20, 2012, Seattle, Washington – El Corazon

El Corazon is a small, intimate “sweat lodge” style venue that tends to reach record temperatures with even a half capacity house. There’s no photo pit, so you basically fend for yourself, and essentially compose your shots using a hell of a lot of physical gymnastics and creativity, all the while, nearly crawling up the musicians’ nostrils due to close proximity. Time spent in the crowd usually lends itself to a vicious (but friendly) beating, and heat stroke is imminent. The staff at this venue are extraordinarily helpful and capable, and no matter how extreme conditions may be, they always manage to keep their proverbial cool and run the show with the utmost finesse.

On The Road with BEHEMOTH, WATAIN and The Decibel Magazine Tour
This was well above and beyond a “half capacity” house, and in fact, was packed to the screaming gills. Infernal, muggy, and filled with nervous energy (and some stunning olfactory stimuli as well, considering three of the four bands on the bill douse themselves with real blood, and one of them also has actual carrion on the stage with them)…this show was not for the weak, sensitive, or queasy.

On The Road with BEHEMOTH, WATAIN and The Decibel Magazine Tour
Despite the cramped quarters, all bands were on top of their game and put on a delightfully punishing show. It was my first time to see The Devil’s Blood and I was particularly impressed with vocalist Farida Lemouchi’s haunting, otherworldly vocal prowess, and remarkably commanding stage presence. She’s a helluva cool lady, too.

On The Road with BEHEMOTH, WATAIN and The Decibel Magazine Tour
In Solitude were every bit as impressive as I remembered them from having seen them last fall, and their nostalgic sound reminiscent of Merciful Fate was a huge hit with this very enthusiastic crowd. I was pleased to note that even the first two bands had a generous and very rambunctious audience.

On The Road with BEHEMOTH, WATAIN and The Decibel Magazine Tour
By the time Watain took the stage, the masses were in a bit of a frenzy, and as that mawkish, musky aroma begin to disperse throughout the room, the natives commenced to getting very, very restless.

As they struck those first chords, that familiar feeling of transcendental goose- bumpiness overtook me, and I inhaled sharply and reveled in the sound of their glorious cacophony washing over me. That feeling will never get old. If it does, it’s because I’m already dead.

By the time Behemoth stormed the stage, there was barely room to perform the mechanics of breathing and it was hotter than hades in that place. I vaguely recall this, however, despite the rivers of sweat pouring down my ribcage, and the sodden hair sticking to the back of my neck, because the only true discomfort I felt was the anticipation of them opening their set – it was almost painful.

On The Road with BEHEMOTH, WATAIN and The Decibel Magazine Tour
They were every bit as huge, dense, and punishing as I recall. Even in that small venue, with a very pared down stage set (due to size constraints of the stage itself) they were ENORMOUS. Thunderous, and immense, they ripped the roof off off the place, and the crowd were enraptured to say the very least. A screaming, fist pumping, balls-out time was had by all. I could scarcely wait for the next night.

April 21, 2012, Vancouver, BC – The Rickshaw Theater

What can be said about the Rickshaw that hasn’t been said already? Situated in one of North America’s grittier ‘hoods, there’s a better than excellent chance that you’ll have to fend off the aggressive attentions of multiple panhandlers and junkies just in the time it takes you to get from the door of your cab to the front door of the venue. Having once encountered a rat the size of a full grown German Shepherd running toward me with a syringe clutched in its teeth in the back parking lot, I was pretty much ready for anything when I arrived. I’d say this urban grittiness lends itself well to the overall “metal” experience. I love the Rickshaw.

Other than encountering the usual suspects, arrival was fairly uneventful on this evening, though, thus leaving all the real excitement for after the start of the show.

The Rickshaw is a very large theater with high ceilings, a huge stage, and a large photo pit as well as providing a number of areas to shoot from some very creative angles. The venue itself boasts a sizable capacity, and is often pretty full due to Vancouver’s thriving metal scene, and fans’ tendency to turn out in devoted droves to support metal shows when they come around.

The sheer amount of square footage the stage possesses provides a nice, ample showcase for bands with this degree of visual spectacle and magnitude to really shine. They are also more liberal about the use of fire and stage props than U.S. venues are, which allows the bands to exercise more freedom of creative expression – always a good and welcome thing.

Taking full advantage of these factors, as well as gorgeous lighting, all four bands ripped the roof off of the place, one after the other. It was a non-stop slaughter of the senses – outstanding from opening note to closing.

On The Road with BEHEMOTH, WATAIN and The Decibel Magazine Tour

April 22, 2012, Portland, Oregon – The Hawthorne Theater

Unseasonably warm weather and an abundance of sun made this day a rather pleasant one until the Hawthorne Theater filled to capacity with fervent screaming metal heads. The ventilatory system of the building was unable to properly handle the outdoor temperature coupled with the seething masses inside, and it rapidly became a sauna inside, minus the very refreshing icy “plunge pool” nearby to jump into.

A few people left due to being violently ill from the heat, and one member of In Solitude collapsed on the stage and needed to be carried out, laid on the ground, and doused with cold water. There’s not much most of us will not endure for metal, however. Oppressive heat, cloying humidity, dangerous conditions, and and the weighty stench of carrion and body odor did not deter the Portland crowd from throwing themselves into the performance with 110% of their being. Their enthusiasm wasn’t dulled one iota, and all four bands raged through the night with unrelenting aggression, as did the intrepid spectators.

On The Road with BEHEMOTH, WATAIN and The Decibel Magazine Tour

April 23, 2012 San Francisco, California – Slim’s

A smallish, but popular venue with fans and bands alike, Slim’s is consistently pretty packed, and the last time I saw Behemoth here, in January of 2010, it was a veritable sardine can. This night was no different except for being even a little more “cozy”.

Things got real interesting just prior to Watain’s set, when a fan in the front row apparently overwhelmed by the olfactory offerings provided by the band’s stage props, leaned over the barricade, and proceeded to projectile vomit approximately a gallon of spicy pad thai onto the ground with an audible, watery splash. Photographers recoiled at the sight of this spectacle and quickly moved as far away from the emesis as possible, which happened to land directly in front of where Erik’s mic stand was placed.

Well, one man’s garbage is another (wo)man’s treasure as they say, and being a full- time ICU/Trauma nurse when I’m not documenting the metal, I fear no vomit, or any other manner of unsavory things that may be expelled from the human body. Conversely, I revel in it, and it pays my bills.

Wading over, I stood right smack dab in the middle of the acrid, noodly mess, and took full advantage of what can only be considered a photographer’s “gastrointestinal gift from heaven”.

Special thanks to that puking dude!

On The Road with BEHEMOTH, WATAIN and The Decibel Magazine Tour
An extra added bonus on this night was that Casa de Miladinovich had the opportunity to host In Solitude for two nights after the S.F. show – true to our tradition of being a bit of a Metal B&B for bands who need a shower, laundry, home cooked meal, a place to rest that isn’t rolling down the street, AND has a toilet you CAN take a dump in – or two! Beer, hot tasty food, and open jam sessions happened, and a good time was had by all. Our only real regret is that the pool wasn’t open yet. It seems every other tour stop was having unseasonably warm weather, but us. Maybe next time, eh?

May 12, 2012 New York, New York – Irving Plaza

After a brief return to work in the hospital setting, (where it’s essentially the same as touring – copious amounts of blood, stool, vomit, urine, intoxication, grievous bodily injury, total bedlam, but minus the kick-ass music) I hopped over to NYC for the very last night of this monumentous tour, where there would be NO bus call, and the night could last forever…or at least until the cruel sun came up, and/or the last reveler standing were to finally hit the floor.

The day sheet posted for the bands resembled the day sheet on any other previous tour date. It listed the load in, doors, and set times for every band, but at the bottom, where the bus call time usually is listed, this glorious message sat instead:

“Bus Call: NO MATTER” This was going to be fun.

Typical of the last night of any tour, the bands seem to have a renewed sense of vigor and fury that overrode any exhaustion they may have been suffering as a result of weeks on the road. That inexplicable but omnipresent drive that allows musicians to funnel limitless blood, sweat, tears, and fortitude they didn’t know they had left in them into that final performance and go out with not just a bang, but an outright explosion, was evident in every note, every scream, every stomp. All four bands were on fire that night, and the show was one of the most magnificent I’d seen in a very long time. They truly closed out the tour like champions, and typical of the New York crowd, they went absolutely apeshit as only they can. A night and a tour to remember, most definitely.

On The Road with BEHEMOTH, WATAIN and The Decibel Magazine Tour
No night in NYC would be complete without a raging after party at Duff’s of Brooklyn. World renowned for being one of the most notoriously AWESOME metal bars on the planet, Jimmy and Co. never fail to put on a whopping hell of a shin-dig. The place quickly filled to capacity with revelers – bands, crew, fans, and friends, and when I finally had to bid everyone adieu, and stumbled out the front door to grab a bit of sleep and detoxification, I was stunned blind by the bright sun surreally shining in my face, after a raucous night of pure unholy darkness.

It was 9:30 A.M.

Time well spent with extraordinary people, and a tour not soon forgotten. Thank you one and all, for making every blistering, hedonistic, ear-splitting second count.

On The Road with BEHEMOTH, WATAIN and The Decibel Magazine Tour
On an ending note, due to Watain having some visa issues at the start of the tour and having to miss a handful of dates, they scheduled some one off-dates in the midwest, to make up for it. I was able to attend two of them in Poughkeepsie, NY, and Cleveland Ohio, and this was a rare and rewarding treat for a number of reasons. Due to Selim Lemouchi (who did an outstanding job, performing “double duty” on the Decibel tour, playing with both the Devil’s Blood AND Watain every night) having to return home when the tour ended, Watain became a four piece band with Erik playing guitar. Initially, he expressed some concern over this, as this role is not one he fills often, but he KILLED IT. They sounded great, and the shows, being smaller one-offs and not part of the general tour package, felt more like intimate parties than concerts, per se. It was a shorter set, replete with Bathory covers and encores…I took advantage of this unique opportunity to see something truly special, and spent one night without my camera, and instead slammed Heinekens, and rocked the fuck out, right at the edge of the stage. Every now and again, you just have to be part of the crowd, and not miss a single second of the show – put the work aside, and just be a fan. That balance is good for the soul. \m/

On The Road with BEHEMOTH, WATAIN and The Decibel Magazine Tour
Huge props to Behemoth, Watain, The Devil’s Blood, In Solitude, Kristin “Gypsy” Schloesser, Jon Eddy, Cartel “Buzzard” Brown, John Perez, Sean “Pellet” Pelletier, Decibel Magazine, Metal Blade Records, Liz & Dave Brenner, & Earsplit PR, Jimmy and the gang at Duff’s, and all the supporting crew members, venues, staff & friends who made this tour amazing. You rule. Every single one of you.

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