Marduk, 1349, Withered, Weapon, Black Fucking Cancer, DNA Lounge, San Francisco, CA. June 17, 2012.
This show did not sell out, nor was it particularly crowded. I was surprised but I’m not complaining. I’m not a big fan of large crowds or being bashed into. It’s nice to be able to move freely around the club and watch the show from wherever you want. The DNA is a fine place to see bands. It’s got a high stage, good lighting, and an above average sound system. So, I got there early, pounded 4 Red Bulls, and was ready for some METAL!
I’d wanted to see Marduk live for years. The last time they played in SF I missed them but saw video clips on the web of vocalist Mortuus throwing a guy from the stage. It looked like an insane show. Demand had been building for years, as they were unable to get work visas to enter the U.S. for over 8 years following September 11, 2001. In that time, the band has gotten better and better, hitting their stride with strong releases like ‘Plague Angel’ and ‘Rom 5:12’. Guitarist and main man Morgan reshuffled the lineup following ‘World Funeral’ in 2002 and breathed new life into the band just when most fans thought they were in terminal decline. The new drummer is absolutely amazing. He is one of the fastest drummers I’ve seen, but funny to watch, as he’s one of those guys who looks totally relaxed, almost bored, while playing. He barely moves. He just sits there calmly and looks like he could be reading a magazine, but what you hear coming from the kit is a lightning barrage of blast beats, intricate fills, and cymbal crashes. The mix was spot-on and the band sounded as precise as a CD. For as tight and well-rehearsed as they were, they still conveyed passion and a burning anger. Mortuus is one of the best vocalists in Black Metal, and live he sounds just as good as on recordings. His stage presence is as intense and intimidating as the material. They played a few songs from the new album ‘Serpent Sermon’, of which the title track sounded especially good, plus another new song from the ‘Iron Dawn E.P.’; ‘Headhunter Halfmoon’. These new songs are quite good and stand up well live alongside the older classics. Most of the hour-long set covered the band’s long career and numerous albums, going back to 1992’s ‘Dark Endless’. The only notable song that was absent from the set was ‘Bleached Bones’. They closed out the night with an encore of ‘Wolves’.
1349 played directly before Marduk and did an equally tight, equally intense performance. This was my second time seeing them and I think they were better this time. I don’t know who they had on drums for this tour, unfortunately it isn’t Frost, but whoever it is, the guy is incredible. He recreated Frost’s drumming exactly. Ravn’s angry rasp sounded perfect live, and his brief passages of clean vocals were impressive as hell.
Marduk and 1349 are two bands that go great together live. Both are fast, aggressive, corpse-painted Black Metal with similar stage presence. The two support bands, Withered and Weapon, go great together: they look and sound similar. However, the two former bands do not go well with the two latter. I wasn’t really into either of them and felt they didn’t fit on this show. Both bands are excellent musically, very professional, and I respect them for what they do; I just found them both boring. Maybe if I heard them on CD I would appreciate what they are doing, but seeing them live did not impress me. I found their music generic and their stage performance lacking (standing in one spot wearing jeans and T Shirts doesn’t quite cut it in my book. I grew up in the Bay Area, where if you did anything but wear jeans and T shirt and looked normal, people didn’t like you. I have the opposite attitude. It’s supposed to be a SHOW. We are musicians, not carpenters)!
In the interest of full disclosure I must say that the opening band, Black Fucking Cancer, is the ex-band of me and two of my current band mates. So I feel strange about reviewing them. I’m not sure if I can really give an accurate account of their performance. Let me simply say that I thought they put on a really good performance and sounded full and powerful. The crowd responded well to them and I can see their popularity growing quickly from here on.
It was a memorable night and a great show. One more thing I can check off my list: I finally got to see Marduk live.
“The Norwegian National Opera”
|1.The Moon Piece
3. Let the Children Go
4. Little Blue Bird
5. Rock Massif
6. For the Love of God
7. In the Red
10. Excerpts of Silence
11. A Memorable Fancy
12. Hallways of Always
14. A Cold Kiss
15. Like Music
16. Not Saved
17. The Leg Cutting Piece
Ulver knows a few things about redefining expectations. At one time they were a straight black metal with shredding riffs and pounding blast beats but in the nineties but they disposed of that and morphed into an entirely different beast. For many years the band has been releasing acclaimed works that mix progressive electronica with neo-classical music and psychedelic rock. Mainly being a studio-based outfit Ulver was lured onto stage for Norway’s Festival of Literature in 2009 which then led them to a series of sold out shows throughout 2010. “Ulver: The Norwegian National Opera” was recorded in Oslo at the end of their touring cycle.
It begins with a single spotlight that shines upon a man hanging by a noose (performance artist Ian Johnstone), misshapen, deformed and attired in archaic garments with a vicious clot of blood slowly dangling out of his mouth as Ulver is hidden below in darkness. Soft, lamenting piano begins to play while rumbling effects flow throughout and a sunrise appears on the screen. Kristoffer Rygg steps up to the microphone and begins with “EOS” from “Shadows of the Sun”. Spectacular visual imagery accompanies the music on the mammoth screen behind them showing scenes of mankind’s atrocities, nature’s majesty, matching both perfectly it makes it very impossible to separate the visual from the musical. This is part of what makes this show so beautiful, the music is one but also the focus on humanity and our own need to fulfill our own destiny. They take that and sweep it all together in one mesmeric force. You can see that the audience is completely drawn and just letting it all come over them as they sit in silence until the end of the songs. With many songs bleeding into one another Ulver take you on a skillfully paced and sweeping voyage with a gradual increase of intensity that locks you into a hypnotic state. The show ends with Ian Johnstone coming out completely naked, only being able to be seen from behind with the word Earth written on his back as a question flashes up on the screen, “What Kind of Animal Are You?”
Ulver has always been a perfect example of the transformative beauty of artists dedicated to creating music that innovative as well as imaginative. This is a firm example of the transfixing power of authentic music. Words can’t praise this DVD highly enough, you need to see it for yourself!
Serpent A Seraph
Living in the Bay Area I’ve been able to see some really excellent shows. Death, Slayer, Vader, Possessed, Exodus, Venom, Morbid Angel…just to name a few. The eighties and early nineties was the high time for metal and there was never a lack of bands to pick from to see live. The mid-90s happened, shows didn’t come to a screeching halt but they sure slowed down. It was kind of a take what you can get situation. So I picked from what I could and still managed to see some really great shows. Things picked up in the late 90s and pretty much all the way through the 2000s giving us hope that metal was still alive and thriving once again.
Bringing us to present date, it seems like shows have been coming through with a vengeance and the show we got to see a couple of weekends ago was simply amazing. On Saturday September 28th the death metal legends Possessed and Insanity rolled into town to play at The Oakland Metro. A show that could not be passed up by any means; the first band we saw playing when we entered the club is named Cultural Warfare and I call this type of metal “Gym Metal”. Because when you hear it you can imagine some big muscle head at the gym pumping this through his earbuds as he bench presses his 200 lb. barbell and grunting as loud as he can. Not really my cup of tea but I ain’t gonna bash them. Next up was Serpent A Seraph, a very cool symphonic female fronted metal band. The vocalist KAS has a fantastic voice that goes from clean operatic clean vocals to death metal growls in seconds. I was really impressed with them; they reminded me of Nightwish but way better. After that was Psychosomatic who I honestly was not paying close enough attention to give them a fair review so we shall move on
Finally up on the stage was Insanity and you could just feel the energy rip through the air. These guys date back to the mid-80’s and are one of the pioneers in the death metal scene. Dave Gorsuch sounded completely insane on vocals bringing old school death metal to the present masses. The crushing riffs from Dave and Ivan Munguia were both brutal and technical and killed in every song. After all the problems they’ve had with all the split-ups and line-up changes, it’s really good to see Insanity back up on stage and just shredding with complete ferociousness.
The headliners and death metal legends Possessed finally made it up to the stage and the crowd was going completely insane. The last time I saw Possessed was back in 1989 before Jeff Becerra was tragically shot and paralyzed from the waist down and permanently putting him in a wheel chair. Seeing them and hearing Jeff’s guttural growls once again made this experience even more amazing than before. The whole band looked amazing and Jeff’s energy was at top peak, giving the audience everything that he could. Another band that I am really glad to have back in the scene and excited that they recording new material!
All in all it was a really awesome show; the only thing that surprised me was the lack of people that were there. I don’t know if it was because of the ticket price or what but there was definitely a less amount of people I was expecting to see there. That didn’t take anything away from this amazing show though and I am very grateful that I got to be there to see these iconic bands on stage.