Live gig review by Alan Daly
© Olga Kuzmenko
Photos by Olga Kuzmenko
No “Act of God” was ever going to prevent Polish extreme metal giants Behemoth from performing tonight’s show in the Academy, Dublin. Stormy weather and cancelled ferry sailings kept original support acts Decapitated, Grand Magus and Winterfylleth trapped on British soil, but thanks to trojan efforts and expenses from promoters DME and the band themselves, Behemoth are here, and happy to be so. They have openly expressed a kindred affinity with the people of Ireland, including the many fellow Poles that have settled here in recent decades.
Enlisted and mobilized at short notice, two local bands Malthusian and Aeternum Vale proudly step up to fill the vacant support slots. A small number of disgruntled malcontents bemoaning the absence of Decapitated and Grand Magus prove that you can’t please all of the people all of the time, but the Irish lads seize the day and deliver two solid sets of black and death metal to the formidable crowd that have gathered early. Without time to attract their own fans to the show, and the majority of the audience apparently unfamiliar with their music, engagement is generally weak, but most show support and appreciation for the performances.
Headlining not only tonight’s show, but a spectacular week that has seen Saxon, Sabaton and Morbid Angel draw spoiled metal fans to the Academy on successive nights, Behemoth return after an absence of nigh on a decade to promote what is undoubtedly the most successful album of their careers to date; The Satanist. An eternity seems to pass waiting for the stage to be readied despite the lack of elaborate props or trademark metalwork which makes this show ironically unique (you know how much Ryanair charge for oversized baggage!) But as soon as the hooded harbingers of evil creep onstage in the darkened venue, there is no doubt that something memorable is about to happen. The smell of burning kerosene wafts from burning torches carried by frontman Nergal, whose presence completes their dramatic and theatrical entrance.
The instantly rrecognizable slow building, heavy riff of ‘Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel’ prompts immediate and spontaneous chants from the crowd. The dazzling spotlights both emphasise and contrast the dark, tattered attire of the pale-faced four-piece, as they reach out to the front row fans, tempting them to join them in their evil choir. The theatrics continue as Nergal kneels, arms outspread, for the intro to the second track ‘Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer’ (Pray For Us, Lucifer), also from their latest offering. Screeching guitars, blistering solos and rapid fire drums fuel the frenzied fans in the turbulent mosh pits that spawn, keeping the security staff on their toes. The fourth song of the night, ‘Decade of Therion’ from their 1999 album Satanica, manages to step energy levels by an order of magnitude, casting a curse on all within earshot, compelling them to bang their heads in unison.
In one of his very few interactions with the fans, Nergal; who defiantly defeated advanced Leukaemia a few short years ago; explains that it is a privilege for him to be here in Ireland because his own home country limits his freedom. His speaking voice is in stark contrast to the guttural growls expelled during his performance. The sound in the Academy is perfectly balanced and the entire spectrum can be clearly heard; a feat sometimes difficult to achieve when listening to Behemothstudio albums, and their live sound experience tonight is possibly better than some of the album versions. The crowd are loving every minute of it, cheering and applauding enthusiastically between songs.
While tracks from The Satanist unsurprisingly feature prominently in the setlist, accompanied mostly by others from the last decade, they do make time for older tracks including their debut album opener, ‘Chant of the Eastern Lands’ before posing for a group photo and exiting the stage. Encouraging chants of “Be-he-moth” summon the foursome back to their ranks for a finale of ‘O Father O Satan O Sun!’, dressed in the eerie hooded robes and horns seen in the graphic ‘Blow Your Trumpets’ video. Thus ended a show that is surely the favourite for the title of “Best Irish Metal Event of 2014”, and massive appreciation is due to all who made it happen.