I was meant to write this up last week, but I’ve been as sick as a very sick dog since the day I arrived in Wellington – still am, in fact. But I can’t neglect my duties as metal blogger for long, or you’ll all be deserting me for a site that posts daily excerpts from 50 Shades of Grey …
This is the third extreme metal concert I’ve been to in as many months, and each one has been better than the last. It is actually a real honour so see international acts of this calibre perform down here, especially sharing the stage with some of our best local acts. Since my current local heroes Exordium Mors, along with Wellington BM stalwarts Bulletbelt, were on the bill, I knew this show was going to be killer.
First to take the stage were Wellington’s Bulletbelt, who pounded through a set of archaic black metal with their characteristic ferocity. Between Fergus Nelson-Moores’ banshee screeches and the Satryiconesque riffs ushered forth from Ross Mallon and Kane Anderson, Bulletbelt weave their own sickening web. At times the music slows, chugging through doomish riffs and overpowering distortion, and you find yourself feeling less as though you’re standing in a club and more like you’re standing under a tree in the forest and a giant troll is looming overhead, staring at you hungrily and banging his spoon inside his cooking pot in case you didn’t quite catch his meaning. With Bulletbelt’s latest EP, Writhe and Ascend, is out now on Headless Horseman records – and you can get a copy if you hit up the band through FB. They’ve got a full length out in September and if their doom-laced epic “In Battle” is anything to go by, it is going to be killer.
Next up were Exordium Mors, who decimated the stage, despite the Wellington crowd looking a bit lackluster in the enthusiasm department. Scourge, on vocals, unleashed a hellish barrage of barbaric vitriol, backed by a wall of tremolo abuse and galloping riffs. This is war metal at it’s best, primal, visceral, and enthralling, the charge a satanic brigade decimating everything in its path. The mixture of charging black metal and pounding thrash, drawn on with such skill by Santi and Black Mortum, bring to mind early Bathory – and I don’t ever make that comparison lightly. Exordium Mors exhibit a sophistication in their composition, an underlying order amidst their carnage, that it’s no surprise they’re gaining momentum in the international scene as a band to watch. Live, they deliver their blend of wacky solos, abrupt tempo shifts and extended, apocalyptic compositions with conviction, and their closing number, a cover of Venon’s “black metal” on acid, leaves you both sick to your stomach and dying for more. They’re currently hunting for a label to release their EP, Sacrifice, Perish and Demise (which I reviewed here), and are hoping to release a full-length this year.
Next up were Impiety, who brought their blackened death onslaught all the way from Singapore. Shyaithan, on bass and vocals, is clearly the master of the show. It is his energy, his anger and hated and desire for vengeance, that fuel the music. On stage, you can feel his dominance – in every word he barks and shrieks into the microphone, in every pluck and swipe of the strings. He has a unique aura about him, staunch and in control, but bubbling beneath the surface is the rebel, the madness. That is Impiety’s music. They played a mixed set – songs from their older albums, as well as material from their latest record, Ravage and Conquer, which has a darker, more menacing sound – if that’s even possible with this band. Experts at turning the most extreme feelings outward, pushing them through the riffs till everyone in the room can feel that infection seeping in. This is music at its most extreme, and I doubt anyone who hears Impiety perform is quite the same person at the end of it.
I was lucky to be able to interview Shyaithan before the show, if you were interested in the philosophies and ideology behind Impiety’s music, and more about the Singapore scene in general.
After some fresh air, a drink and a friendly chat to a few local metalheads, it was time for Goatwhore to take the stage. Since their latest album, Blood for the Master, is tentatively inching its way towards being on my current top ten list, I was particularly looking foreward to Goatwhore’s set. Having also interviewed the guys the previous day, I was quite keen to see just what the beasts of the bayou could do.
To say this is the best show I’ve seen this year should not in any way diminish the wickedness that was Absu, Inquisition or Ripper Owens, but holy fucking shit can these guys rock a set. There’s no shagging around with an intro, no musings to the crowd about the state of the world, the band launched straight into annihilation. The set ran through some of the best songs from the new album, from “Collapse in Eternal Worth” and “An End to Nothing” to my favorite “When Steel and Bone Meet”, as well as a few songs from Carving out the Eyes of God and, of course, “Alchemy of the Black Sun Cult”.
No theatrics, no gimmicks, nothing but pure thrash solos, chugging death riffs and Ben’s characteristic rasping vocals. Every band member gave their all in their performance – every song was flawless, and the band played off each other and off the vibe of the crowd, taking that energy and throwing it back at us. It’s gigs like these that make you remember why you love this music – because metal is brtual, but it’s also a fuckload of fun. Where else but at a metal show are you banging heads with the dude next to you at the bar and the vocalist is giving you a high five after every song?
Goatwhore’s sound is deeply rooted in their heritage and in the occult stories and rituals that fascinate them, and this resonance clings to every note. When people were first talking about them, I always assumed they were a black metal band, but the black is more an influence – you can hear it coming through in the vocals, in the structures, in the drumming sometimes. Goatwhore’s real success is their ability to weave classic heavy metal (like Ben’s heroes Judas Priest) through and between the dark, death-laden brutality. The result is death metal that refuses to sit in the background, that stands out amidst an ocean of death metal bands, each trying to sound more extreme than the last. Goatwhore make death metal look good.
To the Wellington folk who didn’t attend this show, you missed out on one of the best nights of extreme metal to have hit the capital in a long time. To those that did come, thanks for being such a friendly bunch – especially all the guys who bought me drinks (this NEVER happens when I go to shows by myself in Auckland) and headbanged like pros. Epic thanks to Ross from Headless Horseman/Bulletbelt and to Chaos NZ for organizing the whole shindig (and hunting through the whole stack for a size S shirt for me) and to all the bands who played – you fucking killed it, and hope to see you back on the stage again soon.