Once again I travelled to this hallowed venue, where not so far ago I got blessed with the insight that metal is actually better than sex. This time I went to see the heaviest package to tour German soil at least in 1999, if not in the '90s. Many concerns occupied my mind previous to the gig and I was trying to be mentally prepared for some major disappointment. From my point of view, especially a death metal show with such extreme competitors as in tonight's line-up is the ultimate quality test. Nowadays there are so many capable studio producers and engineers around that the record itself is less representative of a band's real capabilities than ever. Is it possible to reproduce both the technical and the "stomach" part of the music? And, dear readership, it's confession time again. I might have arrived as an infidel, but left as a true believer. A believer in the greatness of Nile and Cryptopsy, who can both repeat the technical wizardry and even top the brutality of their records easily. Something I didn't even dare to hope previous to that show. But let's focus on the events now.
There were six bands on the bill and Thyrfing began very early. I missed most of their set -- only catched the last two songs. That's not enough to really judge the band and I won't comment on them here. After a couple of minutes it was already time for Nile.
Beginning with a short intro, unsurprisingly Egyptian style, they unleashed "Barra Edinazzu" upon the crowd and simply blew me away from start to finish. Ultra wicked and technical riffing in conjunction with their slower and doomier parts worked perfectly well in the live situation. A crystal clear sound was the icing on the cake. Attention never focused on a single member of the band because both guitarists and the bass player delivered their share of the unearthly growls. Nile's performance was breathtakingly brutal and precise and they ended their 30 minute set with "Smashing the Antiou".
The merciless onslaught continued with Cryptopsy. Unfortunately, I did not own their first two records at this point in time. Considering the complexity of their material, which normally needs a couple of spins to really sink into your mind, it was amazing how effective even the unfamiliar songs were. Singer Mike DiSalvo roamed the stage like an angry pitbull, more hardcore in his appearance than death metal. This might have caused some criticism from the more conservative section of death metal fans, but fits their unique style perfectly. The guitar work was flawless and both guitarists were churning out their technical yet brutal to the max material while still banging their heads like madmen. The rhythm section was equally amazing and man-machine Flo Mounier precisely propelled them through the set. It was really a delight to witness how tightly they executed songs like my personal highlights "Cold Hate, Warm Blood" and "White Worms" from _Whisper Supremacy_. Like Nile, Cryptopsy did not play for more than 30 minutes, but these 30 minutes were so intense and insane that other bands wouldn't be able to achieve this in a three hour set. I think it's very safe to say that with these two bands I've seen the future of death metal and I think it's a very bright future. Both showed a very down to earth attitude and hung out at the merchandising booth, talking to the fans and each other for the whole rest of the evening. I had a short conversation with Cryptopsy's bassman Eric, who told me that the band will soon stop touring to focus on the songwriting process for the next album, for which only one song has been written so far.
Next on stage were Enslaved. Unfortunately for them, the audience was a pure death metal crowd and only a few people gathered in front of the stage. I do believe the most important thing is the music, but like with the other "Viking metal" bands I've seen so far, I did have a serious problem taking this Viking thing seriously when looking at their stage outfit. The two guitarists Ivar and Roy looked like a couple of skinheads, complete with camouflage trousers, army boots and bad tattoos. Grutle Kjellson at least wore some "Viking clothes" while Dirge Rep pretty much looked like the average metaller. They started with the _Blodhemn_ intro, followed by "I Lenker til Ragnarok". Other _Blodhemn_ material did sound rather uninspired and dull this night, whereas older stuff, especially from _Eld_, sounded far more aggressive and convincing. Playing after Cryptopsy and/or Nile is no fun at all for any extreme band. In comparison to the technical wizardry of these two bands, especially Enslaved's axemen appeared as if they had gotten their first guitars for Christmas 1998. It was drummer Dirge Rep who saved the Vikings in the competition. Dirge is no match for Flo Mounier or Pete Hammoura when comparing technique, but he can go impressively fast while still playing really powerful and tight. There was no increase in crowd participation or interest until the end of the set and no one wanted an encore. In summary I have to say that Enslaved had the most unfortunate slot in this billing, but also didn't manage to prove themselves and do not deserve a better rating than average.
Vader came fifth and they somehow reminded me of early Sepultura. I think it's fair to say that there are slight musical similarities between Vader's material and the death/thrash style Sepultura had on _Schizophrenia_ to _Arise_, but that's not all and I felt a similar vibe in how the band came across. A certain sense of professionalism which does not compromise the close relationship with the audience and also a high level of enjoyment of their music. Vader received the best crowd reaction so far and played a cool set with lots of highlights: "Carnal", my favourite Vader tune, "Kingdom", "Creatures of Light and Darkness", etc., etc.. Looking at this material, their technical abilities and their sympathetic attitude, Vader could be much bigger than they are and I'm wondering a bit what has hindered them to reach a far higher status than what they already have achieved in the underground. If you find their records to be more on the average side, then I highly recommend checking them out on stage -- this band rules!
Germans like their death metal simple. That's about the only explanation I have for the success of Six Feet Under, especially in Germany. Sure, this band is professional and their slow to medium paced crunchers are a headbanger's delight. On the other hand, I have the impression that no riff is worn out enough for SFU to make a whole song (or two) out of it. The lyrics are also way too cliche for my taste: yelling along to "Kill motherfucker, die, die!" is probably cooler for a 14 year old than for me. The performance was quite OK, even if the group acted a bit static. They played tight, but considering the rather simple nature of their material that was not too difficult to accomplish. Looking at Chris Barnes' outfit -- baggy pants with chain, skater shirt and dreadlocks --, I was wondering if he's attempting to become the Jonathan Davis of death metal, but his vocals sounded good and aggressive. I left halfway through their set because I increasingly felt too bored to stay longer. With a few exceptions, the rest of the audience loved the band and the whole place was headbanging like crazy when I headed to the door. I would have stayed until the end had there not been six bands. Despite this criticism, overall it was a superb package and a fantastic show!