Words by Alan Daly
© Olga Kuzmenko
Photos by Olga Kuzmenko
The Dublin metal tour of the year (so far) rolls into town on a rainy first day of March, and there’s no doubt that it’s going to be a tough one to beat. German thrash legends Kreator have assembled a stellar international support crew featuring equally legendary Brazilians Sepultura, Soilwork from Sweden and the Belgian Aborted. With such an attractive lineup, Vicar Street is the obvious choice of venue, and an early mid-week kick-off is necessary.
Doors open at 5:30, and hundreds have apparently skived off work early to arrive in time to see Aborted open proceedings right on schedule at ten past six. The explosive opening delivered by the extreme death metal quintet is akin to being woken from slumber by a kick to the face. Even though they barely have room to move onstage between the three drumkits and backlines already set up for the remaining bands, they make the most of their confines and their excess energy spills into the responsive crowd from the very first track ‘Divine Impediment’. The new track, coming from their latest offering Retrogore, which was released since their last visit to Dublin just over twelve months ago, immediately gets heads banging violently. Plumes of CO2 blast upwards and epilepsy-inducing strobes lights flash as the gruesome ‘Cadaverous Banquet’ follows suit. “Make some fucking noise”, aggressive vocalist Sven de Caluwé demands, adding “Do I look like Britney fucking Spears? I said make some fucking noise. This next song is about grabbing people by the pussy”. A presidential introduction to ‘Meticulous Invagination’, taken from one of their early releases Goremageddon: The Saw and the Carnage Done. Apocalyptic breakdowns and turbulent circle pits keep the already-sweaty crowd satiated through their short (but definitely not sweet) eight-song set list. Another new track ‘Bit by Bit’ wraps up the hatred and gore-filled performance by the Belgians, leaving us looking forward to their promised headline tour later this year.
With big boots to fill, Soilwork hit the stage shortly before 7 pm. A recorded intro gives way to the drums and catchy intro riff of the title track from their latest album The Ride Majestic, released in 2015. Over a decade since their last visit to Ireland, the Swedes initially struggle to engage the audience with their more melodic metal, but gradually enthusiasm builds and within a few songs the crowd is fully committed. Frontman Björn Strid tries to impress with local colloquialisms, asking “How’s she cuttin’, Dublin?”, stressing that it’s good to be back after such a long absence. Surprisingly, just the one track from their most recent release is included in their setlist, while more tracks are chosen from earlier releases including the self-proclaimed mosh-worthy track ‘Two Lives Worth of Reckoning’ and a stomping ‘Late for the Kill, Early for the Slaughter’ both taken from 2010’s The Panic Broadcast. A good performance, but undoubtedly overshadowed by the other acts on tonight’s bill.
Next up are a band that many have come here especially to see. Having just released a much-anticipated and well-received new album, Sepultura is once again on a high-point in their fluctuating career. Gentle giant Derrick Green has now been at the fore for longer than his predecessor, yet the shadow cast by Max Cavalera regularly detracts from old-school fans’ willingness to enjoy current-day Sepultura for what they are. Justifiably proud of Machine Messiah, they perform no less than new six tracks, including set opener ‘I am the Enemy’ and the far-eastern-sounding single ‘Phantom Self’. Drummer Eloy Casagrande, who joined the band shortly before the previous album, has really made his mark on the band, and dominates the unusual front-of-stage setup, like a human drum machine. He is occasionally helped out by Green who participates in some typically percussive older tracks like ‘Choke’. While the new tracks do go down well with the audience, there’s no surprise that the classic Sepultura numbers are the ones that drive them insane. In fact, five of their eleven tracks are taken from the early albums, and fan favorites like ‘Refuse/Resist’, ‘Ratamahatta’ and ‘Roots Bloody Roots’ are obviously what people want and expect to hear. And those fans are not disappointed. Andreas Kisser and Paulo Jr. deliver guitar and bass as impressively as ever, and it’s satisfying to witness the solid performance by all four.
Last, but not least are Kreator, one of the “Big Four” of Teutonic thrash metal from Germany. Explosions of CO2, confetti, and streamers accompany the title track to their 2009 album Hordes of Chaos. Not the most “metal” intro ever, but as much as we’re ever likely to see in Vicar Street in lieu of pyrotechnics. Energy levels in the audience are still surprisingly high after the three earlier frenetic performances, as all the old school thrashers let loose for the final time tonight. Reaching back twenty years, the veterans pick ‘Phobia’ from Outcast for their second choice before serving up some material fresh from their brand new album Gods of Violence which has been getting great reviews and has even reached number one on the German music charts – a first for the band in their homeland. The first new track is ‘Satan is Real’, which draws a lot of criticism and cringing from the periphery thanks to the cheesy chorus line. However, those in the pit seem to be loving the tune and the sing-along, proving that you can’t please all of the metallers, all of the time. Thankfully the title track itself, ‘Gods of Violence’ is much less cringe-worthy, and better received all round.
With a total of five tracks taken from the new album and three more taken from their previous release Phantom Antichrist, the setlist is noticeably biased in favor of newer material. However, a wide-ranging selection of tracks reaching all the way back to their 1985 debut album Endless Pain flesh out the performance with songs to please everyone. And fun is evidently being had, with regular circle pits opening up and an impressive wall-of-death launch into ‘Enemy of God’. A massive mosh pit ensues and as the turbulence dies down, one considerate soul is seen holding a lost shoe aloft which appears to remain unclaimed. It’s just one of those shows. ‘World War Now’ is another new track that proves to be a crowd pleaser, and after a brief pause a four-track encore including two tracks ‘Under the Guillotine’ and ‘Pleasure to Kill’ wraps up this epic mini-metal-festival in Dublin.
The bar for 2017 has been set high. This is the one to beat!