BEHEMOTH - Satanist On South Street
April 23, 2016, 2 years ago
On the first night of Blasfemia Amerika, a short string of 13 North American tour dates, the Polish black metallers serve up a healthy dose of mayhem, courtesy of their last studio album, which topped many Best of 2014 lists (has it been two years already?). That said, the idea of an album, played chronologically, in concert, is not typically my idea of fun. Perhaps it's a symptom of the iPod/Spotify generation, where people repeatedly listen to the same thing, in order, but especially in the live arena, I prefer spontaneity, never knowing what comes next. In the ride by the seat of the pants world of black/death metal, unhinged moments of surprises prove all the more unsettling: balancing the line between sanity and having ventured over the edge.
No real opening ritual this time around, just Nergal, with back to the crowd, arms outstretched overhead, hands forming the sign of a triangle ("Herbert" to fans of the original Shatner-Nimoy Star Trek). Steel stair lead to landings, either side of drummer Inferno. This is where the hooded figures began the night (and made repeated sojourns throughout, although the cowls, other than Nergal's, were quickly removed). A Video screen projected its images atop their corpse-painted faces. Otherwise, the stage was bare, apart from the trio of mic stands, each with a coiled cobra figure. The mainman's centerpiece was more ornate and featured a pair of the deadly beasts.
The lighting (figurative term) was nearly as dark as the lyrical output, plenty of deep blues, almost perpetually shrouded in a mist of fog. Whenever he had a few moments away from the mic, Nergal charged around the mini-stage, guitar in tow. Rock audiences are replete with tattoos, gauges and "the great unwashed," but this was a unique collection of some of the most misanthropic individuals I've ever encountered. Sure Nergal wouldn't want it any other way!
Call me a heretic (or whatever's appropriate for anti-Satanist), but would have liked some more classics: "Christians To The Lions", "Slaves Shall Serve" or "Demigod". Know he's on a Crusade, complete with his own thurible (incense swinging prop in the Catholic Church), prior to "Messe Noire", and administering his own version of communion to the front row. Post-distribution of the Eucharist, the stage explodes in strobe lights, suddenly fully re-energized metal.
"Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer" is introduced with the guitarist center stage, on one knee, genuflecting under white spotlights. The almost pedestrian drone of "Amen" sees the return of the dark hues, punctuated by plenty of strobes. Red lights and fog on an empty stage for the pre-recorded chanting of the title track. Don't expect much discussion from the frontman (he's there to convert or slay), seemingly in a trance: wide eyed, glazed over, but in the climate of US presidential election, Nergal looks official behind his podium/lectern/altar.
A funky groove invades the "O Father O Satan O Sun!" finale, with voiceover reprise, that fades to black, with orchestral accompaniment. The crowd chants the band's name, as the previously empty stage turns yellow, heralding a return to life, aka the encore. Inferno offers a brief spotlight solo, before the remainder of the band appears in red, both in terms of lighting and the "blood" that had been smeared on their faces. "Pure Evil And Hate" sounds like a speeding train, although a locomotive probably misses more rhythmic beats. A swirling sea of green lights on "Antichristian Phenomenon" is met by a throng of thrusting fists, while onstage, it ends with musicians' guitars vertically skyward.
At short speech precedes "Conquer All", the first of two old school gems ("At The Left Hand Ov God"): pinwheeling hair, purple and white whiplash lighting changes. Blue hues and acoustic interlude greats "Chant for Eschaton 2000", which sees two drummer behind the kit, Inferno joined by openers Myrkur.