Oblivious to the pouring rain and the rather annoying news that co-headliners Six Feet Under would not be turning this evening as was scheduled, some 500 metalheads, among which Paul Schwarz and myself, had gathered this evening to witness this crushing metal line-up, which would also allegedly see the legendary Mayhem setting foot on French shores for the first time.
Things started up pretty well, since Darkseid's appearance had been mercifully cancelled; I don't think anyone really missed a helping of their lame poseur deathrash that night...
I only saw little of Thyrfing's set, but they sounded like little more than another synth-driven blackened metal outfit. Surprisingly enough, though, considering the imagery developed on their two albums, Thyrfing live were definitely as un-Viking as they could be, with their singer appearing clad in jeans and a Metallica t-shirt. In the 25 minutes they were granted, Thyrfing did succeed in making their music sound a lot more interesting live than it does on their albums _Thyrfing_ and _Valdr Galga_, but definitely failed to convince me they were a band the now hopelessly saturated extreme metal scene couldn't live on without.
Unsurprisingly, everything heated up considerably as the ultra-brutal Nile took the stage over and lashed out in sheer fury at rather startled audiences with their half-hour long track listing, essentially covering material from their latest output _Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka_, and one track off their first album. Nile proved to be very convincing on stage, but their set was sadly hampered by the constant flow of egotistical show-off stage divers continuously climbing up on stage and then standing there for almost a whole minute at times, trying to act evil and aggressive, but mostly succeeding in looking downright childish and unfailingly knocking the mike off its stand. Despite this distinctly infuriating feature, Nile seemed very satisfied by the welcome they were granted, and flawlessly interpreted war hymns such as "The Howling of the Jinn", "Pestilence and Iniquity" and the crushing "Ramses Bringer of War", all of which received a very positive response from the attending metal masses.
Canada's own sonic shredders Cryptopsy then invested the stage, and proceeded, throughout their 45-minute set, to meticulously crush the audience with energetic renditions of tracks from all three of their albums; their ultra brutal technicality proved to be perfectly played in live conditions, with their massive vocalist Mike DiSalvo storming around the stage like an angered bear in cage. Mike proved to be an excellent replacement to Lord Worm, so impressive was his growling or aggressively yelled vocal delivery on the tracks "Benedictine Convulsions", "Leechmistress" and the godly "Slit Your Guts". Judging from Jon Levasseur's and Eric Langlois' satisfied comments, spoken in perfect French (with their great, thick trademark Quebec accent) to the sweating legions attending the gig, Cryptopsy's first visit to the old continent would be an experience to remember for all. With the support provided by a label finally doing their immense competence and rapidly growing recognition justice, the Canadian six-piece is going to be a band to keep more than just one eye on.
After a fifteen-minute break, it was Norway's mighty Vikings Enslaved's turn to appear for the first time in Rennes, as they played a selection of material extensively covering the whole of their influential career, from the _Hordane's Land_ split-CD with Emperor to their latest offering, _Blodhemn_, with many excerpts from their acclaimed masterpiece _Eld_. Sceptical as I am when it comes to live black metal acts -- I have, after all, been "lucky" enough to witness Mystic Circle on stage --, I was nonetheless definitely impressed by the sheer -metallic- conviction and technical skill Enslaved demonstrated that night. Former Gehenna skinsman Dirge Rep's drumming was absolutely flawless, performed at insane speeds, and created solid rhythmic foundations which the guitarists Bjornson and Kronheim could easily lay their distinctly thrashing guitar lines on. Additionally to their excellent scenic appearance, I must speak a word of thanks to bassist and vocalist Grutle Kjellson, who mercilessly booted the faces of two stagedivers as they attempted to climb up on stage, thus repelling them back down into the pit, and discouraging any eventual followers from acting likewise. All hails, Grutle, thanks to whom the 500 people attending Enslaved's set could actually enjoy the great show without goofs climbing up all over the place and ruining the goods.
Definitely the band I was most anxious to be confronted to that night, Vader then began their soundcheck, which alone did not fail to gather some 300 silent fans, who watched them warm up with a near-religious degree of silent respect. The lights went out, the intro sample started playing, and Vader then were free to nail everyone to the back of the room, as the whole of the Antipode succumbed to an irrepressible urge to headbang. Covering material from their classic _The Ultimate Incantation_ right up to their questionable full-price mCD _Kingdom_, not forgetting classic skullcrushers such as "Carnal" and "Sothis" from their awesome _De Profundis_, the Polish technical death metal masters' playing was razor-sharp as always, and frontman Peter's impressive charisma contributed to make their show distinctly enthralling, despite the aforementioned egotistical vermin succeeding in knocking the mike off the stand at such crucial moments as the beginning of the awesome song "Sothis". Regardless of this, Vader were simply majestic, as always. Due to personal problems, drummer Doc had not made it to Rennes on this tour, and had been efficiently replaced by Yattering's skinsman; if he did not, that night, succeed in equalling the startling velocity of Doc's blast beats, his drumming technique proved to be just as energetic and devastating. Vader were, as far as I am concerned, the best act that evening; so majestic, in fact, I have trouble in grasping why the hell Six Feet Under could possibly be preferred to them when it comes to the headlining role.
However, with Six Feet Under's set unfortunately cancelled, black metal legends Mayhem now appeared on stage, and only succeeded that night in showing what a mistake the organiser Heic Noenum Pax had made when a) merely inviting them and b) giving them the headliner role, which was simply shameful. I was certainly not alone to rapidly realise that the only valid musical element to remain in Mayhem undoubtedly is their drum god Hellhammer, and according to this general assumption, Mayhem's sound balance had in fact clearly been woven around his fantastic skin-pounding; the drum sound was however so loud that Blasphemer's guitars and Necrobutcher's bass playing could scarcely be heard. Turning up in a state of desperate inebriation, Maniac was also despairingly funny, as he dropped his mike into the public for various fans to grunt into, or as he threw water bottles into the overheated audience, succeeding, on a first throw, in soaking the lyric sheets he had placed all on stage at his feet, and on a second throw, achieving to unplug a whole rack of the lighting system, giving his partners on strings the opportunity to grope around in the dark for the rest of Mayhem's appearance. Maniac's vocal performance was also a rather despairing feature, and the whole of the show provided by Mayhem that night was sadly nothing the late Euronymous would have been very pleased about.
With this rather humorous ending to the show, all in all, and despite the infuriating repeated interventions of 1% of the audience that night, it was unanimously decided, as a pair of catatonic, deafened and vocally strained CoC journalists returned home to the comfort of a large slab of pizza and a beer or ten, that this '99 edition of the Summer Clash gig had turned out to be an evening to remember.