Gorguts and Marduk in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

30.04.2001  :: АрхивАрхив статей Автор: Chris Alfano

Live show review: Gorguts & Marduk

By the time I arrived in Winston-Salem for Marduk’s first show in North Carolina, I had unfortunately missed the two opening bands. The first was an outfit from north of the border (a.k.a. Virginia) called Cryptomaria, and the second was the New York-based Withered Earth. Thanks to a couple of intoxicated (yet talkative) metal freaks who stood by the venue’s entrance, I was able to get a quick update: Cryptomaria were a young five-piece who seemed to have been a bit out of place on the bill. Their style was described to me as «goth-metal» (a genre I usually despise), although the singer (whose corpse-painted face was offset by his suit and tie) apparently made the show worthwhile with his dynamic stage presence. I saw at least five people wearing Cryptomaria shirts in the crowd, so they apparently had a devoted following in their home town.

I did manage to catch the last half of Withered Earth’s final song, although I decided to quiz my two inebriated compatriots anyway, just to see if I had missed anything significant in the early stages of their set. What they told me essentially confirmed what I had seen: Withered Earth play fairly typical death metal, but the vocals (which sound natural, but are processed with heavy reverb) give them an extra boost. After taking down my mental notes (as I forgot my pen and notepad), I began looking at some of the merchandise for sale. This was the first time of the evening in which I would almost hit the floor.

Among the usual smorgasbord of CDs and official tour souvenirs was Marduk’s top-selling t-shirt, which featured the artwork from their legendary «Fuck Me Jesus» CD. I had fully expected the local Christian conservatives/Thought Police to picket the show (as they had threatened to do the last time Deicide played in Charlotte), but the Bible-bangers opted to stay home, thus preventing any altercations with the legion of fans who sported Marduk’s blasphemous t-shirts. Given the band’s current association with Century Media (whom I now believe are only handling distro for them), I was sure that the only potentially «offensive» Marduk t-shirts available would be ones bearing their logo, with a few inverted crosses added for effect. I was dead wrong, and for this, I am glad. The appearance of the occasional nu-metal geek (complete with baggy pants, and a semi-exposed ass crack) wearing the aforementioned t-shirt was annoying at first, but became rather amusing as the evening proceeded. I guess it is now «cool» to be into underground black metal, according to the standards of Deftones and Machine Head fans, at least. Nonetheless, these kids stood out like Arabs at a classified Mossad briefing.

Okay, now on to the bands…

I anxiously made my way to the stage as Gorguts were doing their final sound check, and was surprised to see that they had been reduced to a three-piece. Second guitarist Daniel Mongrain was noticeably absent, and I immediately began to wonder how they would put on the technically-demanding performance that their set list required. All my fears were quickly put to rest when guitarist/vocalist Luc Lemay removed his glasses, offered a brief introduction, then launched into the opening riff from the song «Inverted» (from Gorguts’ latest release, From Wisdom To Hate). Sadly, the crowd (which was somewhat under-populated in the first place) offered only a lackluster response to the songs and stage histrionics displayed by Lemay, and especially bassist Steve Cloutier. But when you’ve attended enough weeknight shows in the Southeast, you come to expect this kind of fair-weather mentality.

Despite the incredibly intricate song structures and complex riffs, Gorguts plowed through their set flawlessly. I am still at a loss to explain how they did it (particularly Lemay’s seemless performance on the title track from 1998’s Obscura), but Gorguts delivered in spades. The set consisted mostly of songs from the two most recent albums, but there were a couple of treasures from the earlier albums (Considered Dead and Erosion of Sanity) which helped to balance things out. Specific highlights also included «The Quest For Equilibrium», and «Unearthing the Past». After a solid 40 minutes, Gorguts tore down their gear, and the road crew began assembling the stage for the evening’s headliner.

Since attending this gig, I have thought several times about the perceived change in atmosphere as everyone stood around, waiting for Marduk to take the stage. The best adjective I can offer is «uneasy». While several «veteran» black metal fans (who earn this designation only because of their bullet belts and faded Darkthrone shirts) moved forward as the anticipation mounted, it seemed as if the remaining attendees were stepping back. They all seemed excited about the upcoming performance, but I guess it was «fear of the unknown» which prompted such a response.

Vocalist Legion and guitarist Morgan Hakansson were the first to arrive on stage, in all of their corpse-painted splendor. Legion appeared shirtless (as usual), displaying the large inverted pentagram tattoo on his chest. As they toyed around with their respective instruments to make sure the levels were set, bassist B. War and drum god Frederik Andersson arrived. With the audience screaming out miscellaneous song requests, Marduk kicked things off at full speed. Everything was moving along beautifully, with the crowd flashing devil-horn salutes and maniacally banging their heads, until Hakansson’s guitar started fading from the mix in the middle of «Azrael» (from their newest release, La Grande Danse Macabre). There was no apparent explanation for the problem, which fortunately proved to be minor. Nonetheless, Legion was outwardly peeved by the resulting loss of momentum, and was not afraid to let it be known.

I am glad to say that the remainder of Marduk’s set was a glowing success, with no further sound problems. The new La Grande Danse Macabre CD was represented by «Funeral Bitch», «Death Sex, Ejaculation», the aforementioned «Azrael», and «Jesus Christ… Sodomized» (which was preceded by Legion’s strong diatribe against the presence of Christianity in education). Their previous full-length disc (the ultra-speedy Panzer Division Marduk) contributed the title track, and a dramatic rendition of «Christ-Raping Black Metal». The audience was further treated to a tune off 1998’s Nightwing, in the form of Blood Tide (XXX). To my disappointment, Marduk were not overly physical during the show, but I have recently learned that a couple of members were fighting off a bad case of influenza at the time, so all is forgiven. However, it is worth noting that drummer Frederik Andersson provided a stellar display of inhuman speed, with every beat corresponding perfectly with its recorded counterpart.

Closing out their lengthy (well over an hour!) set with a double assault of unholy rhetoric was «Obediance» (from the single of the same title) and of course, «Fuck Me Jesus». As the band members shook a few hands and left the stage, the crowd began chanting for an encore. The four Swedes never did return to the stage, but everyone got a good laugh out of the traditional Christmas music they played on the PA as an outro.

All things considered, this show was one to remember. Four very different bands came from all over the US, Canada, and Scandinavia to give fans a taste of what the metal genre has to offer these days. In spite of relatively low attendance, the event was handled with professionalism and integrity by each artist. It is strong ethics such as these that will prevent our music from fading into obscurity.

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