Concert Review: Black Metal Warfare 2015
In a line up comprised entirely of black metal titans (Mayhem, Watain, and Rotting Christ), this was truly a dark night of sick sounds and wicked deeds. Albuquerque’s Sunshine Theater was one of many stops on this tour, and it will never be the same. Here is a brief recap:
Rotting Christ have a distinct aesthetic, characterized by addictively repetitive structures: Each song is all hook. Tremolo riffing, pick slides, and harmonized guitars culminate into Rotting Christ’s signature style. The mantric, cultish repetition in their music had the collective audience headbanging in lock-step with the beat. Dramatic lyrics delved into realms of nature worship, human sacrifice, mythology, and other blasphemous subjects. Although I am a devoted fan and familiar with their discography, they played some songs I did not recognize. When a band has 16 albums spanning over two decades, only the most dedicated of followers can possibly keep track of such an impressive collection.
Watain were overwhelmingly extreme. Their sound is typical of modern black metal: Atmospheric leads, dissonant rhythm sections, high pitched screams, and satanic lyrics. However, their true power lies not in their music, but in their actions. Many metalheads are familiar with the cliches of animal sacrifice, blood, and pagan rituals, yet these things are much more disturbing up close and in person. The severed heads of real pigs were impaled on stakes, and a basin of their blood was ceremoniously splashed on the audience. The sight and smell were foul. As an animal lover, I felt a cognitive dissonance between these dark rituals and my own ethics, but to paraphrase Nietzsche, “fuck morality.” Even those of us who thrive on the macabre were disconcerted by the bizarre, violent performance.
Mayhem have been through hell, yet they persevere, remaining at the forefront of black metal as innovators and champions. There were no more beasts to be slaughtered, although the stench of blood and decaying flesh still permeated the air. Their stage presence was theatrical: Hooded figures, skulls, and corpse paint were barely illuminated by the eerie lighting. All hell broke loose with an explosion of sound, so cacophonous and loud that I hesitate to call it music. Mayhem do have some catchy riffs, but they are buried deep within a chaotic mess of screams, agitated guitars, and percussive bedlam.
In it’s entirety, the show was profoundly intense, and the bloody spectacle was primitive and jarring. Interestingly, I found Rotting Christ to be the strongest band overall, letting the music speak for itself without using exaggerated visual effects as a crutch. Similarly, I have a newfound awe for the practice of animal sacrifice. We are constantly bombarded with violent imagery, but experiencing such things through the media can not possibly prepare one for experiencing them firsthand. I can never take such things lightly again. This concert was more than mere entertainment; it truly was like a grotesque ceremony. Four stars out of five.