Photos by David Rubene
I’ve done sold out shows before. Hell, all week has been sold out or next to sold out shows but last night was beyond sold out. I was honestly shocked. Not trying to lessen the talent of any of the three bands on Saturday night’s bill but they were up against a show from hometown heroes After The Burial just down the road. It was one of those nights where a decision had to be made and I thought I had a good feel for what decision that would be for majority of the metal scene up here. Oh man was I wrong but after tipping one of the security guards to get my friend in (because, of course I had told him, yeah, you can get a ticket at the door no problem!) my friend and I found ourselves pushing through a sea of people to get to the back of the venue where, even then, there was very little personal space.
Kicking the night off as soon as we had grabbed our drinks was Olympia, Washington based Wolves in the Throne Room. Their music and the sage burning on stage instantly catapulted me into a world of darkness, aggression, and passion. It was a familiar feeling and one that I had been missing for quite awhile due to my lack of metal shows lately so I welcomed it with open arms. Their thirty minute set was short but definitely packed a punch and got the sold out audience warmed up for the rest of the night. Wolves’ music is very peculiar in the best way possible. I’m not sure how to explain it other than calling it atmospheric black metal. It’s still heavier than heavy with screeching guitar riffs and powerful drums that never seem to end but there’s also this almost airy feel about the music that I’ve never heard from a metal band before. I wouldn’t call it doom but it’s really not too far off from that scene. It’s clear that Wolves are doing music on their own terms and that made them a highlight of last night’s show with ease.
Following Wolves in the Throne Room was At the Gates– a band that has been around since the 1990’s (although with multiple breaks and hiatuses thrown in) and has truly become and influence in the international black metal scene. Hailing from Gothenburg, Sweden, there was something very real about their performance. Just like the opener, At The Gates was clearly not trying to be anything other than what they are and that led to an unforgettable set of true Swedish black metal sounds and an endless stream of energy. Although clearly dark and intense, the music had a bit more thrash in it than the previous band did. It kept the night moving and feeling fresh. You could feel the excitement in the air as the band powered through their set. Although I was most excited for the headliner of the show, it was obvious that there were people in the audience that were just there for this band and, after hearing them and seeing them perform, I get it. At The Gates is a solid band with a solid live show that has clearly influenced many of the bands that have come after them. I didn’t know it walking into the show due to my lack of research (per usual) but it was made clear as I was standing there watching them that I was watching legends on stage.
Where do I even begin with the headliner of the night- Behemoth. Having seen this Polish band over and over again, I can tell you that this is one of the few bands that I could see over and over again, night after night, and not get bored with it. The darkness that they bring to an audience is something that can’t be put in words. Sure, their music is beyond intense and heavy but there’s also something heavy and intense about just the members and the way they stand on stage. A bit intimidating, and scary, there’s something almost magical about this group and I’m not talking about fun-loving Gryffindor magic, I’m talking like dementor magic (Finally got to use a Harry Potter reference! YES!). I’m sure that you’re super confused by what I mean but, if you were there or if you’ve ever seen Behemoth before, it would definitely make sense to you.
With over ten albums out, countless singles, splits, and other random releases, Behemoth could have easily played into the wee hours of the morning and still not have played everything everyone wanted to hear. With long songs, they were only able to play around fifteen songs in their set which left the audience wanting so much more. That being said, they did a great job of picking the songs that they knew people would want to hear and then sneaking in some b-side songs that I honestly thought I’d never heard them perform live. That’s part of the magic of this band. I feel like every time I see them I get a different set list of songs that I had forgotten over the years but they clearly hadn’t. Nothing about their live shows has ever felt recycled and last night was no different.
Did I have nightmares about vocalist Nergal Darski’s corpsepaint and black hood that he wears on stage (which at one point turned into an intricate headdress that was super impressive and definitely a show stopper)? Absolutely. Was a bit weirded out by the guy in a clown mask behind my friend and I? Most definitely. Was last night a hell of a show? 100% yes. All of the elements of last night’s show came together to create a great night full of dark yet amazing music and vibes. It may not have been the feel-good show of my week but it was definitely a great one.