For a devoted follower of the Swedish death metal genre such as myself, the 9th of February 2001 was more than likely going to be a day to remember -- condemned as I am to live with the rancorous insight that I will very likely never get to see At the Gates on stage, the prospect of beholding a full set of Jenssen and the Bjorler brothers' energetic material live was definitely getting me to grow more than just twitchy as I waited for the venue doors to open. Finally, running a full hour late -- I am, in time, getting the inkling that this is a recurring curse punctually bestowed unto me for every each underground metal gig I attend --, the doors opened, and the assembled hairy crowd rushed in to meet tonight's openers, The Forsaken.
I am rather perplexed about The Forsaken's debut, _Manifest of Hate_ [CoC #52]. The high 'n' mighty praise cooked up by Century Media's press releases prior to the album's release had somehow succeeded in really firing me up -- what death metal addict could fail to be allured by a band that supposedly, to state their official bio, fuses the "untamed power of the sadly defunct At the Gates, the songwriting wit of Arch Enemy and the obscure atmospheric twists of Morbid Angel"? Well, all in all, _Manifest of Hate_ is a great, intense death metal album, showcasing brilliant musicianship and great songwriting, but The Forsaken simply seem to have occurred -too late- to the metal world to really leave an indelible mark in it the way Arch Enemy's _Black Earth_, Morbid Angel's _Blessed Are the Sick_ or At the Gates' _Slaughter of the Soul_ have. Therefore, it was with great curiosity I awaited to be enthralled or be rebuked by The Forsaken's live appearance. Fronted by Ominous' vocalist Anders Sjoholm, the five-piece very professionally went about rendering a fine selection of tracks from _Manifest of Hate_ on stage, and proved to be precise, efficient, incisive and entertaining. Tracks such as "Seers Hatred", "Demon Breed" or "Manifest of Hate" really worked, and definitely succeeded in opening my ears wide to The Forsaken's cool death metal. Their sound was also fittingly powerful and clear, and completed the five-piece's flawless playing.
After a very intense and successful twenty minutes, The Forsaken cleared the stage for labelmates Carnal Forge, who released their _Firedemon_ on Century Media after their rather mitigated debut _Who's Gonna Burn_ was released on Sweden's WAR Music. Fusing hardcore-influenced thrashing metal with Swedish death metal tones, Carnal Forge are capable of writing some very good tracks, just as they are quite as likely to produce some clumsier, less interesting tracks. So, Carnal Forge arrived on stage, and went about their performance with a very honourable dose of enthusiasm and conviction, which made them, for the first few tracks, a worthwhile experience. However, Carnal Forge live suffer from the same defects as Carnal Forge on disc, and after a few tracks, a form of sameness and deja-vu seeped in, dulling my interest for the rest of their show, despite the inflamed passion this band obviously have for their music and, more generally, the metal genre. Their track listing covered an array of material from both their outputs, with some particularly convincing tracks such as "Too Much Hell Ain't Enough For Me" and the title track "Firedemon", and also some rather less convincing material, where they bluntly reverted to sounding like a tachycardiac Pantera on a Swedish death metal spree. I didn't succeed in paying them due attention throughout all of their set, and I deserted the room to give my ears a bit of a rest before The Haunted, the band I had -really- been awaiting, took to the stage.
As The Haunted appeared on stage, and immediately proceeded to play the opener "Dark Intentions", followed by the very muscular and catchy "Bury Your Dead", the first striking point was that, as I knew, former Mary Beats Jane vocalist Peter Dolving had been replaced by the sadly missed Face Down's Marco Aro, but as I knew not, At the Gates' skinsman Adrian Erlandsson has also been replaced by Per M. Jensen, of who I know nothing. The Haunted then went through a tasty sample of material from both their albums, including "Leech", "Hollow Ground" (on which Marco Aro's vocals were somewhat flat and disputably pleasant to my ear), as well as "Three Times", "Chasm", "In Vein", with however a wide majority of material from _The Haunted_. The crowd's reaction was amazing, as a huge moshpit formed at the front, and stage divers continually launched off the scene, which unfortunately, as many a time, turned out be a blatant pain. The catch is, I don't mind stage-divers, but some egotistical wannabe showmen just can't refrain from lingering on the stage, sometimes for as much as a full fucking minute -- a minute during which they often succeed in getting in the musician's way, and sometimes also in damaging some equipment, as was the case here, since one of the speaker racks cable was partly torn out at some point, which resulted in a series of minor sound problems that somewhat hampered both The Haunted's and Nile's performance that night. Nonetheless, The Haunted's show was compelling enough to take my mind of these issues, and all seemed more than satisfied with the chaos they stirred up that evening. As The Haunted finished their set with the excellently violent "Hate Song", the audience cheered, roared and raged for an encore, which took the form of a very cool moment indeed -- Marco announced that they were about to play a track specially for Rennes, and, pointing at the sweaty Bjorler brothers, hinted that it was "a track written by these two fuckers here"... And here it came, the awaited and hoped-for crowning final blow, as The Haunted launched themselves into the killer opener from "Blinded by Fear", from At the Gates' godly _Slaughter of the Soul_. At this point, I was totally elated -- although Marco's vocal delivery failed to constantly impress me throughout the whole gig, his rendition of Tompa Lindberg's screamed vocals were spot-on, and made this live performance track an unforgettable two minutes of metal brilliance which I will very likely never -forget-. After this, The Haunted saluted and left, leaving a sweaty mass of fans of theirs dazed and gasping for breath. Totally wicked, to the very bitter end! It was now up to roadies to begin the lengthy setup for Nile to take to the stage, so I sauntered off to the overcrowded bar for a beer or ten during the twenty-something minute wait which preceded Nile's appearance.
Finally, as waiting time drew to an end, the lights dimmed, and Nile's memorable intro started playing, foreshadowing the brutal, enrapturing forty-minute set which was to come. Cruising with amazing ease through insanely intricate material off all their releases, Nile were simply enthralling that night. Whether on "Black Seeds of Vengeance", "Pestilence and Iniquity", "Ramses Bringer of War", or "Stones of Sorrow", Nile's performance was flawless, powerful and literally hypnotic. Although a few particularly bovine members of the audience still persisted in wearily moshing and elbowing around, most of the attendance were simply mesmerised by the -perfect- show Nile put on that night. The technically astounding, atmospheric and violent music was perfectly completed by Nile's characteristic three-throated vocal assault, and by ex-Angel Corpse skinthrasher Tony Laureno's totally awe-inspiring performance. I don't think I have, -ever- in my life, seen four musicians play this hard, this fast and this... perfectly. For a full forty minutes, Nile very literally -entranced- the attending crowd with impeccable restitutions of the tantalising "Masturbating the War God" and "Multitude of Foes" from _Black Seeds of Vengeance_, "Opening of the Mouth" and "Howling of the Jinn" from _Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka_, plus various other tracks whose titles I fail to recall. Although the very predictable encore gimmick was played, I was elated when the ginning four-piece Nile reappeared on stage after a due two minutes of the crowd chanting and growling, and happier still when they kicked into the murderous "Defiling the Gates of Ishtar" -- much-awaited and oh so predictable, but nonetheless, a final, crushing blow to the neck which left the extenuated gathering of fans to slowly descend back the glum reality of modern times after a truly bewitching journey to the Egyptian battlefields.
Sadly, shortly after the gig, it was learned that Chief Spires had left Nile -- although Nile's songwriting shall apparently not be hindered by his departure, his warlike scenic presence and wild mass of red hair will be missed direly during Nile's appearances to come.