WATAIN - Fiendish Feast: Hell Of A Din!

March 30, 2018, 5 months ago

Mark Gromen

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Maudy Thursday, on the Christian calendar, is the last day Christ was free and alive, before his crucifixion. At the Last Supper, he predicts the impending betrayal and denial by two of his disciples. Is there a better day for a Watain show? Such was the backdrop at the TLA (Theater Of The Living Arts) in Philadelphia. Pre-game, next door, the entire band, their entourage and both opening acts sat down for some burgers and drinks. Nobody ordered them rare (or raw). Keep the animal blood for the show. On the first warm spring day, multi-colored hair, tattoos and motorcycles strutted up and down South Street, flaunting their "dangerous" individualism, while feet away, real evil lurks, unnoticed.

Although the guys are serious musicians, when it comes to Watain live, execution is only partially about technical proficiency. Vibe and aggression are paramount. The stage has chains draped from the ceiling, surrounding the drum kit, recalling the climactic scene in Clive Barker's Hellraiser movie (you know, Pinhead?). A barricade of three pronged tridents line the front of the stage, props for frontman Erik Danielsson to sing behind. Two of the pikes are adorned with an honest-to-goodness severed pig head. Plenty of red lights and fog, throughout, as Watain are unable to utilize the fire effects that are frequently part of the show, overseas.

The band storms out of the gate with "Devil's Blood". Shortly thereafter, Danielsson hoists a ram skull, spiral horns still attached, overhead, as if totem/sacrifice. While Trident Wolf Eclipse was released in January, they opt to only play two tracks, the punishing "Nuclear Alchemy" (up early in the set) and "Sacred Damnation", towards the close. The band have christened their performances "a ritual" and there is a mesmerizing effect, taking it in, as a whole. It's a blur of headbanging activity onstage, as guitar and bass switching sides of the stage. At times, one can only catch glimpses of the band, obscured as they duck behind the tri-pronged obelisks or remain temporarily invisible, beneath the intermittent darkness, barrage of strobes and blanket of fog. Come "Furor Diabolicus" and "Outlaw", most of the crowd are hypnotically rapt and fully engrossed in the sensory spectacle (although the funeral odor that accompanied previous US tours is minimal, even from the front row/photography pit).

Dangerous, exciting, fast & noisy, just how black metal is supposed to be!

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