Behemoth - April 12, 2012 - Mr. Smalls Theater, Pittsburgh, PA
By: David E. Gehlke
Visa issues sidelined Watain for the first five dates of the inaugural Decibel Magazine tour, leaving headliner Behemoth, cult rockers The Devil’s Blood, and throwback metallers In Solitude to pick up the slack. Even without Watain (who are a fraction as popular as Behemoth in America), the bill was strong enough, and it probably didn’t deter many from staying home. It was a bit of bummer not having the Swedes around to douse the crowd with pig’s blood, though. Better luck next time.
Prior to In Solitude taking the stage, this scribe met up with our own Dan Barkasi, who was adorned with his trademark Kalmah Canadian tour hoodie, of which we are infinitely jealous of. And since Barkasi was one of the few people in addition to Blistering who wasn’t in an inebriated state (Blistering's 'guest' for the evening ran into the pit wearing a Pittsburgh Pirates hat and went home without it...you figure it out), we were able to make sense of the shoddy sound job that In Solitude had to endure because they were the opener. While the band might not be all that refined on record, in this instance, their Mercyful Fate/proto metal blend was lost in the cavernous space that is Mr. Smalls. The band’s guitar sound was messy, and vocalist Pelle “Hornper” Ahman was barely audible, although the downright rocking “To Her Darkness” was able to get some heads bobbing and fists in the air. This happens to a lot of opening bands – the sound guy is basically asleep at the wheel. Quite the shame, for these lads know how to rock.
After dumping $25 on a The Devil’s Blood tour shirt, we made our way to the front for the aforementioned Satanic rockers. Because there was no Watain on the bill, the TDB were afforded additional set time, allowing the band to go deep into their catalog for elongated jams and traditional cuts like “Evermore,” “On the Wings of Gloria,” and the title track from their excellent 2011 album, “The Thousandfold Epicenter.” Singer F/TBD/MOS was stationary, only raising her arms to put emphasis on a particular line…or exalt Satan. Either one works. Guitarist and main composer Selim Lemouchi was both a marvel and scary to watch at the same time. His face was caked in blood and at certain times, it appeared as if his eyes were going to bulge out of his skull. Definitely a unique visual, but when set closer “Christ or Cocaine” dropped, all everyone wanted to do was rock, no matter how tweaked-out they were.
On their first North American trek since frontman/guitarist Nergal was diagnosed with Leukemia (which he eventually overcame), Behemoth were clearly the main draw of the night. Even before the house lights went down, chants of “Nergal!” “Nergal!” Nergal!” rang throughout the hall, a tremendous sign of support for one of the underground’s most enduring figures. Behemoth’s set left little to be desired, with the monstrous “Ov Fire and the Void” kicking things off with a dazzling light show and synchronized stage movements. There was no let up from there, as the brooding “At the Left Hand ov God,” “Demigod” and “Moonspell Rites” were played with massive intensity – perhaps more than we’re used to seeing from the Poles.
Little mention from Nergal regarding his illness, outside of him thanking the crowd for their support, which helped launch into “Conquer All.” Aside from being much more gaunt than in previous go-rounds, the man stalked the stage with his usual energy, while guitarist Seth and bassist Orion’s heads stayed in perpetual twirl-motion. And frankly, this sort of appearance shouldn’t be that surprising – Behemoth has long been one of the more indomitable acts in extreme metal, so how is a little bout with Leukemia going to slow them down? On this particular night, they were back and better than ever.