Behemoth

support Decapitated + Grand Magus + Winterfylleth
author EW date 09/12/14 venue Forum, London, UK

Announced to much fanfare much earlier in the year, this mighty UK tour promised on paper to bring four highly rated, big name bands from differing genres for an evening of pure metal victory in the run-up to Christmas and in many ways did that succeed. However, in finding out in the days before that the mighty trio of opening acts were being granted pitifully short sets the varnish had worn off a little by the way I strolled into a queue-infested Kentish Town Forum to begin watching four acts I had previously seen a cumulative 33 times (8/12/6/7 respectively for those counting).

Winterfylleth

Due to the airport-style security checks being run on all entrants (fun fact: I was bag-checked on exit from this very venue just days before following At the Gates’ show) UK heroes Winterfylleth began their 20-minute set to a venue barely 10% full. Yes, 20 minutes for a band whose songs average 7 minutes thus ensured that three tracks of Winterfylleth’s trademark scintillating beauty teemed with aggression was all we got, but in that brief time the band demonstrated why "The Divination of Antiquity" is yet another superb release thanks to a highly consummate airing of it’s title track and "Whisper of the Elements" here. Aside from a bit of cable crackling coming from the guitar of frontman Chris Naughton their sound and track execution was perfect, but with so little time and absolutely no movement on stage whatsoever from any band member I must grade accordingly.

5

Grand Magus

Declaring at the outset that this Swedish trio are my most seen act perhaps gives an idea of the position their hold in world-weary metal heart. Despite that fact however, I was not amused to catch the start of Grand Magus’ set from the cloakroom queue from which I had resided since Winterfylleth’s conclusion, giving opener "I, Jury" a distant feel I wish had never been.

With only 25 minutes to air tracks from a brilliant back catalogue now seven albums strong this amounted to a mini rampage through a selection of the best band’s most catchy and enjoyable numbers, including the best that this year’s excellent "Triumph and Power" has to offer. No amount of live performances of "Like the Oar Strikes the Water”, "Hammer of the North" or newbies like "Steel Versus Steel" and the 2014 title track will ever disappoint me - not even when impromptu circle pits open up to a FUCKING GUITAR SOLO right before assembled friends and I causing freshly bought beers to spill asunder. Not. Even. Then. With limited time to make announcements from the freshly shaven headed JB this was hardly the opportunity for Grand Magus to provide a classic show but in the songs played ample evidence of their mastery of traditional heavy metal in 2014.

7

Decapitated

Though the band I was least enamoured about watching of the four, Polish death metal supremos Decapitated take me back furthest, to my youthful days of 2002 when the newly released "Nihility" was by some distance the most extreme album I had yet heard in my nascent metal career. With each subsequent album I have become less enamoured which their gradual transition into a hyper-modern death/groove metal bursting at the seams with choppy staccato rhythms as heard in the likes of "Instinct" from this year’s "Blood Mantra", although judging by the intensity of the crowd reaction infront of me I was probably in the minority with this opinion. The energetic nature of Decapitated’s furious material naturally enticed large throngs of the audience to engage in violent pitting and headbanging, in-keeping with dreaded vocalist Rafał Piotrowski, a man whose hoarse vocal style to these ears lacks the necessary punch for someone in his position, thus making my live reviewing perspective greater than my opinion of recent albums. Yet still, there is only so long my attention can stand a procession of crunching death metal time signature formulas and by the closing stages my mind had swung towards making a beeline for the bar.

7

Behemoth

To say reaction this year to "The Satanist" has been strong is like stating the Pope probably isn’t a fan - both gross under-exaggerations of the truth. In fact my review is one of the few out there not eulogising it as one of the greatest metal releases of 2014 (it is still very good however and most worthy of your attention); that mass consensus having pushed Behemoth into position as the biggest extreme metal of today. Tantamount to this standing has always been their pulverising live show, which even with increasing years and health issues, notably on the part of frontman Nergal, shows no sign of abating. Teaming the visual drama of an Alice Cooper show with the definable outfits of Kiss and an intense Satanic oeuvre of their own making, Behemoth are the Iron Maiden of the extreme metal world - that is incapable of a dull or poor live performance.

"Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel" was always the likely opener and confirmed that the more outlandish elements of "The Satanist" were indeed to be played by the house PA, a point that takes nothing away from the intensity Nergal, drummer Inferno, bassist Orion and guitarist Seth play with. Cloaked, besmirched and menacing is the best means I have for describing the aesthetic of Behemoth’s stage look, as even in the intense heat onstage the band retain the layers for a number of songs, moving onto a more stripped down approach half-way through before donning the horned devil masks from the lead picture for a menacing "O Father O Satan O Sun!" encore, a tactic that never fails to generate an extra level of excitement in the throngs. Before then however, the 14 songs aired impressively pulled from the band’s previous seven albums (all since 1999’s "Satanica") eschewing any notion of peddling the last two or three only. Moving through "Decade of Therion”, "As Above So Below" and "Christians to the Lions" few words were spoken in between songs, the momentary lulls being occupied by an applauding audience grateful for an opportunity to regain it’s breath before losing it’s collective psyche to the next track in line.

The critical element of me is trying to balance out this report with negatives of their performance but a show that rests on stunning intensity throughout, a fantastic collection of varied tracks and brilliant quality sound leaves little room for improvement. Ok, here’s something: 90 minutes of this wasn’t enough.

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