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June 18, 2012

Unmasking the Ritual: Inquisition Live in Auckland, NZ, Kings Arms June 2012

Brutal Tunes, Concerts & Grog Fests

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First of all, an EPIC thanks to Chaoz NZ and Internecion Productions for putting on this show.

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Unfortunately, due to some scheduling faults, I missed Winter Deluge, which sucks because I always enjoy their set. I arrived just in time to catch the full set of New Plymouth’s Anno Domini Mortus. I’ve never seen nor heard these guys before, but their lo-fi approach and chaotic riffs soon cast a spell over the bar. Their primal, bludgeoning sound is punctuated by one of the most intense vocal attacks I’ve ever encountered. I call it an “attack” because it certainly appeared as if the vocalist was battling with some kind of inner she-demon who was repeatedly squeezing his testicles, making him double over and screech with the most inhuman pain. There’s a smidge of thrash in the riffs, but it’s hard to hear over the tortured shrieking of vocalist Zekenfraut. One song bled into another – or perhaps it was all one singular piece – with a maniacal intensity that forced you to drop your glass and pay attention. Truthfully, their sound is not my kind of thing, but I admire the hypnotic relish with which they carried out their performance.

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Next up were Vassafor, an Auckland black metal band who’ve been around since the mid-90s, albeit with a break in the middle. To me, their sound epitomises what I think of as NZBM – a death-crush of powerful riffs and soot-laden vocals. Shades of Darkthronesque compositions add interest to songs that are essentially musical bulldozers, crushing everything in their path. The Vassafor sound is deep, menacing, driven as much by classic death metal as it is by the darkest of underground BM. “Makutu”, their closer with the twin bass reminiscent of Necromantia – was my favorite – and I’d definitely be interested to see what these guys can do in a headlining show with a longer set. The heavy atmosphere and bone-laden stage only added to the sense that we weren’t so much watching a concert as taking part in a forbidden heathen ritual.

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After drinks were fetched and new German friends were met, the Inquisition ritual began. I don’t get a lot out of the more spiritual side of extreme music, but for me this was one show that felt transcendental. The simple structure of the songs, the repetition of the riffs, the growled and chanted vocals, the eerily clear and full-bodied sound created a mesmerizing atmosphere. Dagon himself was less of a high priest, and more of a choir leader, circling the stage lost in the intensity of the music, crafting a sound that embodied  and made the whole crowd rise up in unison.

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Despite half the band’s merchandise and gear being lost in transit (this is why you never send stuff to NZ you don’t want nicked) Inquisition pulled out one of the most powerful extreme metal shows I’ve ever seen. Period. Dagon played a BC Rich Flying V donated by Forsaken Age’s Warren Davies with flawless intensity, while Incubus pounded out the rthythm that filled in every empty corner of the music – this isn’t bleak, cold black metal, but a warmer, more insular sound.

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As blogger Subicide pointed out, the Inquisition stage set up was interesting. On either side of the stage are two Marshall amps and two DIs. This may be a bit of an unconventional choice for a band that consists entirely of drum and guitar, but it sounded incredible – strangely clear and booming, filling all the spaces, bringing the darkness to the fore. And their sense of presence, their passion, their belief in the music flowed from every note – you could hear the passion in every riff, the emotion behind every melody. They’re not up there in corpsepaint and armour playing a part – this music, this ritual, it comes from them, and when you hear it live, you understand. They had the whole place swaying and chanting and banging their heads. Dagon spoke only twice, once at the beginning of the set, “I don’t like to talk much between songs because it affects the flow of the ritual, but thanks for all coming out to see us”, and at the end of the show he thanked us again, saying “We hope to make it back sometime … no, we’ll definitely be back.”

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Inquisition are one of those bands who I don’t think make sense until you’ve seen them live. It’s only by taking part in the ritual that you “get” it. That sounds awefully elitist of me, but fuck it. It was a fucking good show. According to the official Inquisition Facebook page, they’re going to be back in 2013 for Seasons of Mist. Believe it – I’ll be there.