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Watain Stole The Show While Mayhem Marveled The Crowd With Classic Material

Photo of Rotting Christ

Band Photo: Rotting Christ (?)

All the best metal on day two took place in the clubs as part of the Nites extension at Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin, Texas. Black metal Warfare II tour featuring Mayhem/Watain/Rotting Christ stopped at The Mohawk. Black metal is a seldom seen commodity at FFF, so it was exciting to see three legends in the black metal camp play. With Venom playing on Sunday, black metal has singed its mark on the annuals of the decade-long festival.

Gaia’s tears could not hinder music lovers from attending day two. I did not arrive at Auditorium Shores until around 4:30. By that time the rain had dwindled down to a drizzle but its effects were evident in the mud. The sets of major acts Jane’s Addiction, NOFX and Wu-Tang Clan monumentally clashed.

I did not stay for any of those bands. I left early to get down to the Mayhem show. Before leaving, I caught stoner comedian Doug Benson’s act. He reeled off funny slogans and got the crowd wired in to his Twitter page. He read off tweats from his followers in and out of the tent. He did not seem as stoned as he usually is, his delivery of jokes was too fast, but did beckon an E-cig filled with Mary Jane juice, which he graciously accepted and toked.

There were not any bands that piqued my interested on the Black Stage during day two, and after leaving cramped Yellow Stage tent, I stumbled into something I did not expect on the Orange Stage. Popular singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist Ty Segall played with this stoner rock band Fuzz on that stage. I was surprised to see something of such a heavy nature anywhere besides the Black Stage. Here was a band true to their name. They played furry toned psychedelic stoner rock, proto-metal. Fans of the modern rock god were given a treat seeing Segall play drums instead of his usual Fender guitar. While he was the man behind the group’s hard-driven rhythms, the man of the hour was guitarist Charlie Moothart whose riffs summoned the undead spirit of Tony Iommi.

American Football blared horns in the background before I embarked on the trip to The Mohawk to see Mayhem, Watain and Rotting Christ. While waiting for the show to open Tom Hamilton, bassist of Aerosmith, stood outside chatting with a few musicians he befriended around town. I asked him why he was at the show and he said to see Watain. He said he had previously seen the two groups play together back east. Hamilton, surprisingly a black metal fan, was spotted at a local black metal show where he took in the menacing force of Skan. Skan’s front man Joseph Merino was conversing with Hamilton when we approached the venue.

Black metal Warfare II was a gathering of international black metal groups. Watain represented Swedish BM and of course, Mayhem are the fathers of Norwegian black metal, but Greece’s Rotting Christ adds a whole other chapter to the annals of black metal. Not only did they put Greece on the map for black metal, they have a sound separate from the Scandinavians, one mired in atmosphere. In fact, they’ve changed their sound quite often over their near-thirty years. Grind, black metal and gothic metal all made appearances on Rotting Christ records. Sakis Tolis possessed a deeper shriek than that typical of black metal. Like a gift from Zeus, their keyboards radiate divinely.

The spirit of Sparta is alive in this band, too, as evidenced in their militaristic exultation. While many of their riffs center on mid-tempo chugging, which got heads banging, there was an occasional burst of swift picking and blasting drums. Having seen the band with Melechesh and once with Immolation, I knew they put on a great performance. Nothing was different this time. Seek out their recent double-disc live album from their home town, “Lucifer Over Athens” to hear songs throughout their career.

Even though concert goers may equate Watain’s stage production as a horror show, front man Erik Danielsson sees it as something more profound and ritualistic. Death certainly had its cold, unforgiving hands around Watain’s stage tonight. Two cages held skeletons with a scythe placed above the cages. An animal jaw bone was impaled upon a trident point. Pig heads sat grotesquely on inverted crosses. Danielsson brought out a skull filled with blood, which he used to baptize the crowd in its foul essence. Musically, the band was tight and sounded great. Their energy was more apparent than Mayhem. From their speed to their melodies to Danielsson’s haunting wails, Watain showed why they are true great black metal acts. Their set list is as follows:

1. Underneath the Cenotaph
2. Black Flames March
3. Angelrape
4. Outlaw
5. Sleepless Evil
6. The Golden Horns of Darash
7. On Horns Impaled
8. Devil's Blood
9. Legions of the Black Light
10. Malfeitor

The familiar kettle drums of doom from the “Deathcrush” intro sounded the arrival of Norway’s most infamous export. A mysterious Teloch walked forward with guitar in hand shrouded in a hood. Cheers of “Necrobutcher” accosted the bassist as he joined guitarist Charles Hedger on the stage. Attila wore his own brand of corpsepaint, mired in symbols, and a large, iron inverted iron cross hung around his neck. Like Watain, pig heads were affixed to large inverted crosses. Once the bizarre percussion of “Silvest Anfang” ceased, an explosion of ominous tremolo tones and blasting drums as the band played “Funeral Fog.”

The band played many classic cuts like “Freezing Moon,” “Deathcrush” and closed with “Pure Fucking Armageddon.” Also post-Euronymous tracks like “Time To Die” from “Grand Declaration of War” and “Whore” from “Chimera” made it into their set. Attila narrowed his vision to mostly savage screams when the group played Maniac-led numbers. However he employed his full range on songs such as “Life Eternal” and “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas.” His voice was mournfully operatic during the clean parts of “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas.” His theatrics were a spectacle to behold, too, brandishing a noose or kissing a skull while he morbidly sung to it. Decked out in a cape, he loomed like Dracula during their epic rendition of "Freezing Moon"

Hellhammer’s drum rolls, fills and blasts were bewildering fast and barbaric. Helllhammer released so much energy when the speed kicked in on “Funeral Moon” and “Life Eternal” He deserves to be in any conversation about who the best black metal drummer is. Necrobutcher gave the group attitude. His finest moment came during the slow build up at the beginning of “Chainsaw Gutsfuck,” when the group isolated the boding evil tones of his bass. Teloch brought atmosphere to the band and deftly played Euronymous’ sinister solos. Charles Hedger looked the part of a soldier from Satan’s army, an intimidating combination of bald head and goatee as he picked furiously.

The consensus seems to be that Watain stole the show. They put out more energy than Mayhem, but Mayhem still has it. The speed is still there. The infernal atmosphere and Attila’s varied, distinct tongue and antics that’s at a level that can not be compared to other groups. As most fans, I did not see Dead, so I can’t comment on his performance. Maniac had a great voice, but was boring compared to Attila. Hearing their classic songs played live is a tremendous experience. Those songs were innovative and defy usurpation.

Mayhem’s set list is as follows:

1. Silvest Anfang
2. Funeral Fog
3. Whore
4. My Death
5. To Daimonion
6. Deathcrush
7. Time To Die
8. Illuminate Eliminate
9. Life Eternal
10. Chainsaw Gutsfuck
11. Freezing Moon
12. De Mysteriis
13. Carnage
14. Pure Fucking Armageddon

Join us tomorrow as we recap Venom's performance.

Rex_84's avatar

An avid metal head for over twenty years, Darren Cowan has written for several metal publications and attended concerts throughout various regions of the U.S.

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