Monday, 4 November 2013

Live Review #007: Rotting Christ w/ Twilight of the Gods, Negură Bunget and Krysantemia

I don't review every single live show I see - in fact - writing about it afterwards is definitely the exception more than the rule. However, some shows, I think, are sufficiently interesting to warrant a little writing, and this seemed to be one of them. Ill as I was, with suitably exaggerated unrelenting cough, sore throat and blocked nose ov doom, there are some metal shows which, no matter how ill I feel, I would drag myself to without any doubt. One such show for me turned out to be Rotting Christ, and their formidable opening acts. On Friday the 1st of November, there certainly wasn't going to be any virus which could stand between me and the show. I ran out of cough-mixture before heading out, and turned, instead, to brandy and paracetamol, great rock and roll life-on-the-edge maestro that I am. I catapulted myself out of the door and shambled, determined, towards the train-station to get to Glasgow, and the venue therein which would later witness one of my favourite bands of all time, weaving what turned out to be, perhaps, one of my favourite live-shows of all time.

Already, as the poster illustrates, the line-up for this particular show was very much the sort which would grab the attention of just about anyone with a proper interest in metal - a line-up indeed which very justifiably resulted in the Audio in Glasgow - something of a mainstay metal venue of late - being packed almost to the back, and, from what I heard, very close to sold-out; quite an achievement for today's scene, and indeed, very impressive to witness. First on were the band denoted on the gig-poster simply as "Support"; an Italian band called Krysantemia, who were touring with Rotting Christ for a couple of dates. The crowd hadn't quite swelled to their full extend by this point in the evening, and while there was a reasonable amount of head-nodding and mildly interested enthusiasm for their accessible and modern metal set, nobody was really pretending that they were the band that any of the crowd had turned up to see. In other words, Krysantemia did do a good job as an opening band in creating a bouncy, head-nodding atmosphere for the crowd whilst they file in and buy their beers, but at the same time, when your sat below a line-up as formidable as this, you've got a tough time impressing the crowd, particularly with such a modern, groove-metal influenced approach which rubs much of the crowd - chiefly rather more purist - the wrong way. It's technically proficient, and would probably stand well in a more suitable environment, but sadly, this night, the band felt like just another opening act.

Second up were atmospheric folk-black-metal outfit Negură Bunget, from Romania. The band steadily built up interest in their imminent arrival during their lengthy set-up with the sheer number of instruments which the band brought on-stage; Huge horns, flutes, brass instruments and elaborate percussion all was placed upon the stage, and for every instrument so placed, there was a renewed feel of promise that this set was going to be at worst interesting, and at best, fantastic. Of even more interest to the crowd, without doubt, however, was the superb use which the band then proceeded to put these instruments. Negură Bunget were, in a word, superb - perhaps among the best live bands I've seen in a long time, with an enthralling, captivating black-metal performance which was dynamic enough to remain interesting throughout, but also hypnotic and absorbing. The extra-thorough sound-checks which the band embarked on certainly paid off, too, as every folk instrument - and instrument in general - was perfectly audible and clear; minutes into the first track, which slowly but surely came to life, I felt truly lifted out of myself by the music, in a way which few live bands have ever done, especially in the relatively uncomfortable surroundings of a live show. Negură Bunget were easily the most elaborate and musically diverse acts of the evening. 

In the wake of Negură Bunget came super-group Twilight of the Gods, who aren't a Bathory tribute band any more, apparently to the disappointment of a proportion of the audience. Indeed, the crowd seemed a little bit divided by the band, with a small but vocal proportion seemingly displeased by the whole affair, and in many ways, it can be seen why. Twilight of the Gods play rocking, old-school heavy metal in the vein of bands like Judas Priest and Manowar - albeit with a touch of the epic thrown in - but contain members of acts like Primordial and Aura Noir, which, I'll venture, many among the crowd would have very much preferred to see in Twilight of the Gods' stead. Of course, it's infinitely foolish to criticise a band for not being a different band; As frontman Alan Averill said during the band's set "This is about Twilight of the Gods, not the other bands we're in" - and granted, while there were some groans from the crowd which could not be ignored, at the end of the day, the man is right. Perhaps the rip-roaring, balls-to-the-wall chorus-driven antics of the band didn't quite fit between Negură Bunget and Rotting Christ, but the band played a set which was enjoyable in its own right, with memorable and fun music. Twilight of the Gods style touches both upon merriment and genuine epic conviction, whilst also breaking free of the plastic, mass-produced new-traditional-metal sound. Perhaps to many, the band didn't quite live up to the sum of its parts, but as far as I'm concerned, it still sounded damn good.

Rotting Christ are a band I've been a big fan of for quite some time, and in light of the fact that Bathory never played live, and Type O Negative have ceased to be, are among the bands very near the top of my list of bands I've always wanted to see live. Happily, I was not disappointed. Of course, Rotting Christ have an extremely thick, intricate sound, and it's not really possible to tour with an entire Hellenic choir and assortment of folk musicians. Naturally, as a consequence of this, the band make very overt and extensive use of backing-tracks. Fortunately for us, and them, the band seem to use the backing tracks very well, without sounding clumsy. Certainly, the tracks used are verbatim the synth and folk elements used on the albums, but nonetheless didn't detract from the truly live elements of the performance.

To me, one of the most rewarding facets of a live show is hearing a slightly different rendition of songs you already know very well, and Rotting Christ, for me, are the sort of band which allowed me to really appreciate this. The set-list deployed by the band was very solid, as far as I was concerned; In this case predominantly material from Kata Ton Daimona Eaytoy, their newest - in general, in fact, easily the majority of the band's set consisted of material from the aforementioned newest, and the album previous to it, Aealo - which, being my favourite two  records by the band, suited me rather well. Perhaps not quite so pleasing for the fan of the band's old-school material, but nonetheless, the setlist was solid, with everything from Non Servaim to a cover of Societas Satanas by Thou Art Lord - one of frontman Sakis Tolis other bands, and the crowd seemed to enjoy every moment of it. All in all, the band offered everything I hoped they would - solid as a rock, retaining the thick, rich atmosphere, and to top it off, performing in front of a crowd who brought a huge amount of atmosphere with them; it was a full show, and, along with Rotting Christ's music, I was also immersed in the triumphant, roaring enthusiasm of hundreds of metal fans. Words can't really capture that, but in my mind, while Greece can be credited with exporting many things over the years; Philosophy, technology, and a myriad of innovations... Rotting Christ must be up on that list quite highly.

Rotting Christ on Facebook
Rotting Christ on Metal Archives
Twilight of the Gods on Facebook
Twilight of the Gods on Metal Archives
Negura Bunget on Facebook
Negura Bunget on Metal Archives
Krysantemia on Facebook
Krysantemia on Metal Archives