So here I am back at Station 4 in St. Paul, waiting in line to be conquered by some of the finest metal bands that Greece, Brazil, Jerusalem, Canada Rome, and Colombia (via the US) have to offer. Three patch-vested teenagers who reek of B.O. are doing their best Beavis & Butthead impersonations behind me and commenting like women on everyone’s choice of metal T-shirts, and making fun of same. I think back to my own Beavis & Butthead phase with a mild sense of shame. Did I really behave this way with my friends at metal shows? O God I did—but fortunately the line starts moving and I don’t have to think about my teenage years for long.
I had never heard Inquisition before tonight. I know nothing about them, I haven’t bothered to YouTube their music, and I’d like to be surprised by how awesome they sound. Some bands, I believe, you’re better off hearing for the first time at a live performance. When Inquisition finally takes the stage without introduction or banter or bullshit and besmeared in corpse paint, I am a bit surprised: they’re a two-piece: drummer and guitarist, no bass. The few bands I’ve heard who didn’t have a bass player, hadn’t pulled it off: they sounded thin; there was no bottom, no heaviness. But black metal can get away with shit that other genres can’t. Going bassless apparently ist krieg, because Inquisition blows the crowd away. Guitarist Dagon croaks and yeowls with a voice like a demonic toad, swaying and riffing on a stage that he has all to himself. The drummer, Incubus, demonstrates why Inquisition has no need for a bassist. They sound tight and coherent without one. I’m glad I didn’t listen to their music beforehand (and with album titles like “Ominous Doctrines of the Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm” that somehow don’t sound pretentious, I’m doubly impressed). I would watch them perform again, given the chance, and I recommend you do the same.
Had the Romans circa A.D. 30 had live heavy metal shows, what would they have thought of the spectacle? How would they have appropriated the spectacle into their culture? Because at its heart, live heavy metal is a spectacle unlike any other. Imagine living at the turn of the first millennium and being witness to gladiatorial combat and aggressive imperial expansion and elephants marching on barbarian hordes to a metal soundtrack performed by men dressed in cuir boilli leather mail and wielding gladius swords and spears and torturing their enemies into submission. How cool and awful would that be? It’d be kind of like living in the US today. But it would also be kind of like seeing Ex Deo perform, only with more blood, death, and ceaser-enforced moshpits. Ex Deo is another band whose music I had never heard before tonight—not counting Kataklysm, of whose members Ex Deo is composed. General Iacono and his legionnaires perform, well, about as I expect. They sound a bit muddy though. Iacono flogs imaginary enemies with a mic-cord whip and repeatedly sends up entreaties to or about someone’s father. They do wear cool costumes, conveniently numbered XI through XIII (I can’t see the drummer’s Roman numeral, if he has one). It’s a history lesson come alive! To me their live sound is almost indistinguishable from Kataklysm’s—maybe because I saw Kataklysm only a few months ago. Ex Deo? I can take them or leave them.
The first awesome thing they do: tape incense to the monitors before their set begins. The incense chases away a powerful B.O. stench that has built up during the preceding two sets. This I appreciate. The second awesome thing they do: come onstage. The third and most awesome: they play a set of some of the best Mesopotamian- and Sumerian-themed oriental black metal ever. Ashmedi plays his guitar with a drumstick. The chant in “Grand Gathas of Baal Sin” works the crowd into a frenzy. I recently wrote a piece about another Middle Eastern black metal band, Al-Namrood, who cited Melechesh as one of their greatest influences. Now I see clearly why. And on reflection, this night belongs to Melechesh. They absolutely own the show. If you live in western Canada or the US and you’ve not seen Melechesh perform live, you need to get your ass to one of this tour’s remaining stops. You have no excuse for missing Melechesh. Seriously, no excuse.
There are five, maybe six dudes in the photographer’s pit, not professional photographers but dudes holding cellphone cameras and playing air guitar and high-fiving each other and blocking the view. Through the entire set. I really love getting to stage front-and-center only to enjoy watching the backside of some douchebag who thinks he’s a cameraman when he’s really just a tall obnoxious douchebag. That said, the Krisiun brothers kick as much ass as I knew they would. “Vicious Wrath” and “Combustion Inferno” and “The Extremist.” Moyses shreds on a badass 7-string Dimebag guitar. The moshpit is reckless and young men are crashing into Station 4’s concrete pillars and sprawling across the floor. It’s the three-piece bands that make the most fucking noise. What else can I say? It’s fucking Krisiun.
Finally, the band everyone is here to see! But wait, the crowd has thinned out. I mean a lot. There’s like a hundred people milling around. Where’d everybody go? Septicflesh is onstage. Whatever, fuck em, they don’t know what they’re missing. The one security guy has evicted the cellphone douches from the photographer’s pit and we can all enjoy a good Greek brutalizing. Goddamn, Seth Siro Anton has a raw voice. He wields his bass like a Borg cybernetic extension. (Yes, I’m watching Star Trek as I write this; I think it’s an apt simile.) They play half of the Communion album—my personal favorite—and material from Sumerian Daemons and The Great Mass and maybe some older shit but I’m bad at remembering things like that. Septicflesh does not disappoint. The remaining diehards clearly know better than to miss Septicflesh, although I’m still confused as to why so many people flaked out. This was a Friday night show.
Aside from the cellphone dudes, my only other overall complaint is the seemingly short set lengths. Five bands in five hours. Krisiun didn’t seem to play that long. But aside from Ex Deo, the bands all sounded great. I have no complaints about mix quality, even though Station 4 isn’t known for its acoustic grace. The place is basically a warehouse.
Anyway, don’t miss out on the rest of the tour. Catch the Conquerors of the World at the following stops or die trying:
10/22 – Edmonton, AB @ Pawn Shop
10/23 – Kelowna, BC @ The Level Nightclub
10/24 – Vancouver, BC @ Rickshaw Theatre
10/25 – Seattle, WA @ Studio Seven
10/26 – Portland, OR @ Hawthorne Theatre
10/27 – South Lake Tahoe, CA @ Whiskey Dick’s
10/28 – West Hollywood, CA @ Key Club
10/29 – Tempe, AZ @ 910 Live
10/30 – Albuquerque, NM @ El Rey Theater
10/31 – San Antonio, TX @ Korova