With their new album The Satanist only just released (and already getting plenty of plaudits), Behemoth came to London this week to headline a show on top of a stacked bill of bands to remind people why it’s already being touted as an early contender for one of the albums of the year. Okay, technically it was a co-headline with Cradle of Filth, but there was no argument over who was going on last. Cheryl Carter hit the Kentish Town Forum early doors to catch the whole show. Well, nearly the whole show.
6 things we learnt while watching Behemoth in London:
1) Package tours are a strange beast and more often than not feature one band you couldn’t give a fuck about, one band way past their prime and another band that you’d rather you’d never heard of. Surprisingly, the Cradle of Filth and Behemoth co-headline tour is…well, the line-up is pretty good in all honesty – more on why Cradle are included in that statement later. Unfortunately for openers Svarttjern they are on far, far too early which due to curse of the package tour happens all too often and sadly we miss them also.
2) Inquisition more than make up for their non-starter show with Von last year. On that occasion, the Colombian/American pair were refused entry into the UK on their way over from France and anyone with an ounce of sense is using tonight to rectify that horror. The duo make an unholy noise with naught but a guitar and drum kit and frontman Dagon’s instantly recognisable vocal approach is glory to behold. Inquisition are a thrill tonight and they throw out newer songs as well as classics – ‘Nefarious Dismal Orations’ and ‘Crush the Jewish Prophet’ and meld magnificently with opener ‘Force of the Floating Tomb’ and final track ‘Infinite Interstellar Genocide’ from last year’s Obscure Verses for the Multiverse. Their short time on stage is marked by chants from a rabid crowd and shouts of more when they leave. It’s truly incredible to see this band suddenly getting the recognition they deserve having been around for longer than most people here have been alive (on a side note, props to the kids who are getting into black metal that’s actually decent, although one can only assume they’ve been given special dispensation to stay up on a school night – OH SNAP).
3) In Solitude on the other hand, are somewhat disappointing. They encounter sound problems early on and with their slot starting ten minutes late, frontman Pelle Åhman never seems to quite recover. His vocal often gets completely lost in his bandmates charisma and rock star posing and while he’s certainly giving it all he’s got, there’s a little magic missing. That’s not a slight on their performance, as In Solitude are disarming to experience due to their youth and outrageous ability and while they’ve played big shows at home in Sweden and on the road with Watain, the occasion often seems to get the better of them. A damn shame because for a lot of people here tonight, this was the band they were most excited to see and with their set cut unceremoniously short due to those earlier technical problems it’s obvious they’re a little unhappy with how tonight unfolded.
4) Cradle of Filth are, whether you like it or not, an important part of black metal history and particularly English black metal history. Their first four records were promising, and it’s a shame that they’ve somehow descended into laughable territory and become almost a parody of themselves. Their constantly shifting line-up has always left them caught off guard but their live show is a sight to behold. Dani Filth has one of the most….interesting vocal styles in black metal – stranger even than Dagon – and a few giggles are heard whenever Cradle kick into a new song and Dani screeches his way into it. It works for them though and everyone crushed down at the front is having the time of their very lives. The set list takes in the band’s career with fan favourites making appearances and ‘The Principle of Evil Made Flesh’ from their 1994 debut sounds as exhilarating now as it did then. Of course, they aren’t everyone’s cup of tea and if you weren’t a fan before the tonight won’t change your mind any, but Cradle of Filth have a place in black metal and a massive ‘Her Ghost in the Fog’ is testament to that.
5) Oh Behemoth, Behemoth, Behemoth. Everyone is hoping that they are going to “bring it” tonight and damn, they absolutely do. Opening with the monumental ‘Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel’, Behemoth prove just how vital they are to extreme music and with The Satanist garnering praise upon praise it’s evident that they are enjoying this new found lease of life as much as those throwing their heads around with wild abandon are down on the floor. Adam “Nergal” Darski is welcomed as a hero and when he proclaims that “It feels good to be alive London!” a genuine feeling of heart-warming humility emanates from the stage and flows over an audience more than willing to do anything and everything for the man before them. Nergal’s charm is radiant and his band sublime and tonight they deliver. ‘Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer’ stuns and a devastatingly heavy ‘Christians to the Lions’ allows Behemoth to nod to their earlier work and show just how far they’ve come. Older material is huge, new songs pound and the live stage is owned by this band tonight. Their stripped back staging (as opposed to CoF’s video feed and lights and smoke and boxes to stand on) gives the music space to breathe and howl and infest and every second is monumental.
6) Behemoth are truly a tight unit and their ability to play as one rather than as components, particularly when they have a frontman as effervescent as Nergal, is honestly lovely to see. This is a close-knit group and together they create moments of shit-eating grin worthy reactions. Whether that’s during a fiery rendition of ‘The Satanist’ or the gigantic riffs of ‘Furor Divinus’ or the incredible weight of show closer ‘O Father O Satan O Sun’. It’s the perfect end to what has been an entirely faultless performance and the split second of silence when they finish says more than words ever could. Hail Satan. It does indeed feel good to be alive.
The Satanist, the latest album from Behemoth, is out now on Nuclear Blast.