The last time I saw Behemoth they were closing the Temple stage on the Saturday night of Hellfest 2012 in spectacular fashion. Following the release of this year’s moody masterpiece, The Satanist, I was keen to see how their live performance has evolved, and what they’re capable of on their own headlining tour.
I have to confess to never really understanding the hype and cult following that surrounds Winterfylleth, but I’m happy to report that they manage to hold my attention much more effectively in the live arena than on record. Their tremolo-heavy compositions sound robust and dense, though perhaps at a cost to the atmospherics so abundant on their albums, giving them an altogether more direct presence.
Winterfylleth’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Winterfylleth
Grand Magus [3.5/5]
For a bill that relies predominantly upon crushing heaviness and bands that are usually relegated to genres that belong in the extreme territories of heavy metal, Sweden’s veterans Grand Magus are an odd choice, but their contrast is part of what makes them so memorable. Providing the biggest opportunity for sing-alongs tonight, fan favourites such as ‘Like the Oar Strikes the Water’ and ‘Hammer of the North’ are received with enthusiasm, while Christoffersson’s solos cut through the mix as a lightsaber cuts through the flesh of a loving elderly mentor. Grand Magus write the kind of songs that were made to be played live and one gets the feeling that they’d be a welcome addition to any bill.
Grand Magus’ Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/grandmagusofficial
Decapitated make the very brave choice of throwing all of their eggs into one basket and then completely smashing that basket to pieces by only playing songs from this year’s rather tedious Blood Mantra. Their workman-like performance gives them an odd sense of detachment from the crowd, while Rasta’s vocals sound tired and strained. Heads may be banging, but there’s an unavoidable sense that Decapitated are just haranguing a disinterested crowd.
Leave it to Behemoth to show their compatriots how it’s done. The Poles have ever been a band to transcend the boundaries of music and, with their penchant for theatrics and costumes, their stage show does just that. There’s a strong sense of tonight being less of a performance, and more of a celebration of the power of music and its ability to bring people together. At times it almost feels like one is taking part in a black mass, especially as Nergel swings his thurible back and forth during ‘The Satanist’, filling The Forum with the smell of incense, or when the band don hoods and horns for their incredible finale.
Tonight’s setlist reads like a ‘Best of Behemoth’ album, showcasing all of their finest moments over the past 15 years, with a slight bias towards material from the new album and, really, who can complain? The quartet make everything look absolutely effortless, while the backing tracks of horns and choirs used on this year’s The Satanist serves to elevate the music to epic proportions. ‘Of Fire and the Void’ quite nearly matches the grandiosity captured on record, while the crowd goes nuts for fan favourite, ‘Christians to the Lions’, Nergal looking ever the part of the rockstar as he bounds back and forth across the stage, scaling risers for a bit of tasteful posturing.
The highlight, however, is when the band return to the stage for one final song. It sounds monumental on record, but the sheer brilliance of ‘O Father O Satan O Sun!’ can only be realised on a stage. It sends enough shivers down the spine to render one momentarily incapacitated.
Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel
Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer
Decade of Therion
As Above so Below
Slaves Shall Serve
Christians to the Lions
Ov Fire and the Void
Ludzie Wschodu (Siekiera cover)
Alas, Lord is upon Me
At the Left Hand ov God
Chant for Eschaton 2000
O Father O Satan O Sun!