It’s Tuesday around 18h45 when we get to a relatively quiet Kortrijk after a sunny day. The night however promises to be dark, pitch black in fact. With Melechesh and especially Gorgoroth on the schedule there’s no doubt the grimmest of nights is about to start in De Kreun.
You can find the photo-report by Nera right here.
The Australians of Earth Rot get the honour to open the night. It’s a pity they had to start so early because even those trying to get there in time for all the support acts -ergo, yours truly- only arrive just in time to see the closing minutes of their set. Be sure to check out their website though, because they just released Renascentia earlier this month and it is quite awesome. After the show the twenty-somewhat people who managed to catch the openers seem rather tired as they walk to the entry hall were the bar is located.
I on the other hand make my way towards the stage as Richie Cavalera and his fellows set up their gear rather quickly. All bands seem to share a back-line and with some attention for detail you can see the Gorgoroth logo on the bass drums is covered by a black piece of cardboard during the first three bands. Incite released Oppression back in April last year, which sadly enough went rather unnoticed here in Europe. After the show, Richie would tell me the promotion on this side of the Atlantic wasn’t really what they had hoped for. After the monitor sound check, which they apparently like to do with some dubstep tune, the band left the stage for a quick shirt-change and almost immediately walked back on.
Especially Cavalera seems really determined to kick this tour of with a lot of enthusiasm. Guitarist Kevin McAllister gives a rather chill vibe wearing the baggiest of pants and drummer Derek Lopez and bassist Christopher Elsten were busy looking bald, bearded and badass. Even though the playing was tight throughout the set, performance wise Richie’s energy only makes the rest of the band catch fire during Witness the Aftermath.
Personally, I would’ve loved some more tracks from The Slaughter album, but their newest songs really added some extra dimension to their setlist. Some parts were reminiscent of some hardcore, more specifically Madball comes to mind, without losing touch with their thrashing death metal roots. And while more and more people arrive it’s still not easy for these Americans to get the crowd going. Luckily it doesn’t affect the bands attitude at all and they keep on delivering their fine riffs and grooves.
The set comes to a close with the words written on their frontman’s shirt saying ‘religion poisons everything’ followed by Welcome to Jamrock blasting through the P.A. and the drummer making hand movements that are difficult to interpret incorrectly. After the long flights and a heavy show the guys are clearly in search for some smokeable vegetation.
A fairly quick change-over takes place before Melechesh hits the stage. The band around frontman and main songwriter Ashmedi released their sixth studio album called Enki back in 2015 via Nuclear Blast. From the front row, I managed to take a peek at the setlist taped on the floor revealing a third of the nine songs are from that latest album.
Not only the enchanting intro sample creates an entirely different atmosphere then what Incite fired at us, but also the awesome opening riff of The Pendulum Speaks sets the tone for the next sixty minutes. As Ashmedi walks on, joining in on the groovy guitar-play, the venue fills up until we find ourselves in a cozy but not very packed crowd.
The stage performance of Melechesh seems to focus on Ashmedi, which shouldn’t be too much of a surprise as the band has often hired different musicians to fill up the other spots. Both the bass player and lead guitarist take only few steps back and forth to their pedal boards and focus on headbanging and their play. Although I must say both are undoubtedly very skilled musicians, it’s the drums that are very much the backbone of the Sumerian Occult metal band.
The majority of the songs start with either of the guitar players introducing the opening riff, and the rest of the band filling in after a couple of seconds. Ladders of Sumeria however has a bass intro that makes every bass player in the room (including myself) wish they were in Melechesh. One of very few remarks I should make though is the fact that the backing screams are rather unclear, at least on the front row, as opposed to the grunts crushing through that very same microphone and the sharp yet powerful screams of Ashmedi.
The groove in a 6/8 time signature towards the end of Grand Gathas of Baal Sin is a definite highlight in an otherwise very strong performance of the Dutch based Assyrians. Multiple Truths brings us their catchiest song and for the fans of the rawest tracks in their repertoire Defeating the Giants is undoubtedly raising heartbeats. A technical malfunction forces the singer-guitarist to replace a cable in the middle of closing track Rebirth of the Nemesis but a quick fix makes sure the pace doesn’t get interrupted too much.
The only disappointing thing about the performance of Melechesh is its length. It would surprise me if many were to disagree it could’ve easily remained entertaining for another half an hour or more. And perhaps we should just forget about the repetitiveness of the sample in between almost every song while the band was tuning and Ashmedi had some small-talk with some drunk guy in the crowd. But that could be just me being a little persnickety.
1. The Pendulum Speaks
2. Tempest Temper Enlil Enrraged
3. Ladders to Sumeria
4. Grand Gathas of Baal Sin
5. Deluge of Delusional Dreams
6. Multiple Truths
7. Defeating the Giants
8. Triangular Tattvic Fire
9. Rebirth of the Nemesis
The last change-over of the night took slightly longer but that gave everyone the opportunity to get a beer or perhaps to check out the merch or just have a little chat with the members of the supporting acts. A slow orchestral intro with subtle references to Chopin’s death march. It could be coincidence or me connecting dots that aren’t there, but it’s Gorgoroth, so there’s a fair chance it is quite deliberate.
The typical corpse paint and lots of studs are obviously a must for this Norwegian band. But besides the occasional fake-blood (the stains on the stage didn’t look dark enough to me) and the backdrop with the album cover of 2015 release Instinctus Bestialis there aren’t too much visual distractions. No people hanging on crosses, no burning pentagrams but pure no nonsense black metal to celebrate their 25th anniversary.
I can probably count every song that didn’t begin with four hits on the reverb filled snare drum on one hand, and the ones without blast beats and skullcrushing double bass drum are even fewer in numbers. Especially the two opening tracks on the setlist lack diversity. Prayer is a bit slower and has more groove making more heads bang all over the concert hall. After its final notes, considerably more horns raise towards the skies indicating the crowd’s appreciation. Katharinas Bortgang is very straightforward again with a little too much blasting for my taste but the middle part of Revelation of Doom really gets the crowd shouting along. As the light show still consist of red flickering lights and some occasional white it’s Forces of Satan Storms that is probably my favorite Gorgoroth song so far. This is mainly because too many blast beats are not particularly my cup of tea and the storms of Satan apparently are very heavy and precise as opposed to being brutal for the sake of being brutal.
It might sound quite exaggerated but calling them a one trick pony isn’t too far from the truth if you’re being honest. Luckily around half way throughout the set songs get more variation and depth. The doom-esque parts and smoother built-up in Ødeleggelse og Undergang/Blood Stains the Circle for example bring a lot more atmosphere and groove, leading to passages where the blasts form a more natural part of the composition. It’s really a pity the guitar solo was hardly distinguishable. The spoken/shouted words are slightly overpowered compared to the screams but are, thank goodness, a lot more suitable than in predecessor Profetens Åpenbaring. Because, forgive my impoliteness, but I can’t even find the right words to describe how monotone and utterly terrible the ‘clean’ singing was during the prophet’s revelation. Cleansing Fire and Destroyer/Incipit Satan continue being more diverse and are filled with groove, the occasional blast beats, a piece of ‘fast march’, thrash and death metal riffing, some more blasts and some Immortal-esque riffs.
By now you may have noticed that I find the latter half of the setlist to be a lot more enjoyable than the first half. And when Hoest hands his microphone to a fan during Krig it becomes obvious being a black metal singer is not as easy as it may look. And though the clean vocals get better as we go and become more actual part of the song it is still my biggest remark for the man trying to be a worthy successor of Hat, Pest and Ghaal. After the classic that’s called Unchain my Heart, undoubtedly a fan-favorite, the show comes to a very abrupt close. Twenty minutes prior to the scheduled ending one could’ve expected to see an encore, but alas.
4. Katharinas Bortgang
5. Revelation of Doom
6. Forces of Satan Storms
7. Profetens Åpenbaring
8. Ødeleggelse og Undergang / Blood Stains the Circle
9. Cleansing Fire
10. Destroyer / Incipit Satan
12. Kala Brahman
13. Unchain My Heart