Walking into Max Watts on the night, you wouldn’t have thought there was a triple headlining show about to commence but for openers In Malice’s Wake, that was the impression given. Unfortunately, this just wasn’t their night but certainly not for a lack of musicianship, preparedness or presentation, they more than admirably executed a great show! They played to a near empty venue for half of their set and whoever was mixing them failed to do the band justice. Undeterred, the band gave everything they had and steadily gained momentum as the hall filled out. By the time they were done they had a few hundred people nodding along approvingly.
Before I continue, sound engineer Olle Sandqvist helmed the desk for the remainder of the night and did an amazing job! I’m used to Max Watts being a bit of a wooly sounding bass trap but the clarity of the rest of the night was impeccable.
Witchery took the stage to an enthused crowd and annoyance of guitarist Patrik Jensen who’s instrument seemed to be malfunctioning for the first few songs. A quick change later and he was much happier. Vocalist Angus Norder appeared after the band introduction in full face paint garb and stood atop a stage box, screeching to the crowd to come forward and raise the energy. He was obliged.
Initially I found his stage antics to be a bit distracting; he started off as a very tall, imposing figure but descended into a bit of a manically wandering presence. It was just strange to see him approach a wall several times throughout the set only for him to turn around and walk right back to center stage. Once he changed gears and became more comfortable he visually integrated better with the band and entertained everyone with his witty banter between songs. The Max Watts stage can be a little cramped when you have 4 people out front so I can understand him having a bit of trouble negotiating it at first.
They went on to play a pastiche of killer songs from throughout their career with the songs Witchkreig, Lavey-athan and Nosferatu in particular causing somewhat of a riot.
From what I hear of their outings on the other dates of the tour, Witchery would have been very pleased with the reception they received and I wouldn’t be surprised if they penciled up plans to return on their own in future. They’ve earned the title of drawcard on their maiden tour of Australia, one to be respected.
The lights at the back of the stage went dark and the logo of The Haunted was illuminated on the stage rear display. Last time they were in Australia, the room became thin as they played, this time things were very different. When vocalist Marko Aro demanded that those at the front not be a “pussy, start this fucking pit!” The crowd became entranced swaying back and forth violently like a bay hosting a cyclone. The band as a whole stood firm and ushered a confidence over the crowd that was frankly infectious! After opening the set with “Fill the Darkness with Black” and “Brute Force”, Aro explained the absence of Jonas Björler. There was some kind of family emergency that required him to return home however he recorded bass tracks for both The Haunted and At The Gates. We at Overdrive send our very best wishes!
Live bassist for Witchery Victor Brandt took to the stage to play a few tracks, being introduced to the crowd by Aro as a “Capricorn, and has never been laid”.
For the remainder of the set, Jensen (in his second appearance of the night) and Ola Englund executed their parts with near unfaltering precision, veteran drummer Adrian Erlandsson showcased for the fourth time these eyes why he’s one of the best drummers in the history of death metal. Aro was pretty much all smiles throughout the set when he wasn’t tearing faces of with his vicious vocal style, taking occasional breaks to rile up the already out of control audience even further. Towards the end of the set, they were re-joined by Brandt for a song as well as Martin Larsson from At The Gates playing a few tunes as well.
Ending the set with “Hate Song” saw the crowd lurch into overdrive, Aro jumped into the barriers and shove his mic in everyone’s face and turn it into somewhat of a song along.
With a blue hue drenching the stage, orchestral intro playing out and the familiar red logo appearing on the stage screen, the crowd held it’s collective breath as At The Gates emerged, launching into “To Drink from the Night Itself”.
Tomas Lindburg was without doubt, frontman of the night! His energy and charisma was enough to push the crowd over the edge and spit sweat and fists in all directions. If The Haunted was a cyclone in a bay, then ATG were akin to the scene in Independence Day with the White House blowing up!
After a few songs, Lindburg echoed Aro’s mention of Björler and informed the crowd of their intention to bring out someone to play some older songs, a moment later Englund walks out with what I can only assume (safely) is a prototype Solar bass guitar and the band smashes into “Slaughter the Soul” with TONS of crowd interaction that Linburg not only noticed but offers a microphone to.
Their set was what should be expected of such a legendary act, every note, percussive hit and vocal was delivered perfectly and the crowd was in a near constant state of being in the floor from knocking each other over repeatedly.
What is of note is, they only played songs off Slaughter of the Soul, At War With Reality and To Drink from the Night Itself (aka, Slaughter of the Soul II). This is by no means a bad thing, all three albums are insane! It just reinforces quality over quantity to me.
Photos: Nicole Smith-Walker
At The Gates
In Malice’s Wake