BEHEMOTH – From The Fires Of Hell!

September 4, 2019, 10 months ago

Mark Gromen

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While many in the US gathered for a Labor Day weekend barbeque, Nergal and the Polish black metallers known as Behemoth did their flambéing onstage, as part of touring Knotfest. A fiery, pyro laden spectacle missed by many, as the vast majority were just walking into the venue, as I was departing. Two young girls at the front of the barricade grabbed one of the other photographers and asked, "This is great! Who are these guys?" Guess that was part of the attraction for the band, breaking in a new audience. Behemoth will be direct support to Slipknot, overseas, once the calendar switches to 2020. 

Not sure if it was safety precaution, or Nergal wanting to be snapped wearing his fancy headdress, but no photos during the opening "Wolves Ov Siberia". A flame throwing display, the band members' faces were shrouded with black veiled death masks. Doesn't prevent Nergal from zipping about the stage, exhorting the early arrivals/fans to participate. Pressurized carbon dioxide eruptions completely obliterate the onstage figures from view. Come "Daimonos", the veils are gone. While the shot out of a cannon jitterbugging guitarist/frontman is the focal point (even when ensconced behind his double snake head dais), hulking bassist Orion has become more active, doing his best to draw attention: often bending backward as he plays, holding his four-string vertically aloft and frequently spitting a watery mist, overhead. They only have a 35 minute set, so it's pretty much intense, start-to-finish.

When not singing behind his serpentine perch, the cowl wearing Nergal makes forays to the edge of the crowd, playing atop the wedge monitors, and even venturing onto the giant bass bins, where he looms over security and the photo pit. The fire ritual that frequently begins the show took place prior to "Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer". The mainman appears from backstage, a flaming skewer in each hand. He raises them overhead, then proceeds to the front of the crowd, motioning the fiery batons from side-to-side. He tosses them, still lit, behind him as the band launches into said tune. Can't deny the catchy "Thine is the kingdom" chorus. So much for keeping us (photographers) safe, as midway through, a conflagration breaks out: repeated jets of flame behind each musician and then all, simultaneously. Feel the heat! It ends with Orion and guitarist Seth, face-to-face, center stage, beneath Inferno's drum kit.

"Bartzabel" begins with Seth, alone, onstage. Once Nergal returns, he's adorned with a giant beehive shaped headdress, decorated with dozens of tiny inverted crucifixes. The precarious headgear doesn't stop him from playing guitar, or moving about (even jumping onto the stage front stack of amps), although it must be said his motions are more belabored, not the slap dash cuts with which he normally navigates the stage. Strobe lit and more Co2 (shot at obtuse angles), the short, but powerful "Conquer All" is nod to old school fans. To begin "Sabbath Mater", the band has their back turned to the crowd, as fires ignite across the stage. Ritualistic chanting, each fist thrusting "hey" is punctuated by another plume. As a pre-recorded voiceover bellows from the speakers, the stage is empty, aside from the red lights trained on the backdrop (an outline of the United States, an upside down cross planted firmly in the heartland). The staccato rhythm of "Chant for Eschaton 2000" kicks in, the band having acquired stage blood in the interim. A good swathe on the left side of Orion's face is crimson. Nergal continues his homage to KISS bassist Gene Simmons (earlier having repeatedly waggled his tongue), by spitting blood, his mouth now a bright red, in contrast to the black and white corpsepaint. They came. They saw. They conquered (all). Behemoth are a force to be reckoned with!

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