Wednesday, October 7, 2015

TNM Goes To A Show: Bölzer, Watain and Behemoth at Metro Theatre, Sydney

Here at TNM, since we apparently refuse to learn our lesson, we occasionally decide to voluntarily subject ourselves to the marathon of armpit stank, shirtless fat guys and 8 dollar beers that is the public gathering of metal fans at your nearest small-to-medium-sized venue. I'm talking, of course, about metal shows.

Jesus Christ, what an absolute fucking sham. You can barely convince most metalheads to part with 15 bucks for a decent record that you get to own forever, yet we're more than happy to shell out half a hundred clams to go and stand with a bunch of complete strangers and be violently shoved around for 3-4 hours just to be reminded of the fact that most of our favorite bands can't even play their own music properly.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the reason we go to metal shows isn't because we want to listen to live metal, it's because we want to show off. If you wear your cut-off denim jacket covered in patches from underground Scandinavian black metal bands to work (assuming that by some miracle you actually have a job), you're going to get sectioned.

But a metal concert is the one place on the planet where anyone even comes close to giving a shit if you've ever listened to Lich King.  It's the one place you, as a modern day metal elitist, can forget for just one night that your parents are bitterly disappointed in you and everything you stand for.

In Australia, we only get maybe one or two metal shows a year (if that) which warrant even the casual raising of an eyebrow, so when I heard that Bölzer, Watain and Behemoth were coming to a city within driving distance of my house, I brushed the Cheetos dust off my lap, put on some pants and hopped right on to it.

There's three crucial parts to every decent metal show: the band sets, the crowd, and the venue, and being the journalistic equivalent of a turgid, throbbing, unyielding erection that I am, I am going to bestow upon our unsuspecting readers a review of each of the above aspects of the concert.

Ladies, three at a time, please.

The Venue

When myself and the complete poseurs I've allowed to assume are my friends arrived at the Metro, being that we were from out of town, I have to admit we were pleasantly surprised. We climbed the stairs and were greeted by a huge open bar area completely separated from the theater itself. I ordered my usual Jack and Coke and the bar staff were efficient and helpful, I waited about 45 seconds in line. The drinks were strong and reasonably priced ($7 for a Jack and Coke at a gig in Australia is a fucking steal) and the bar was intelligently placed far enough from the performance area that the barmaid could hear you placing your order and you could drink it in peace while verbally undermining your fellow metal fans and without being barged into by the token wannabe Pitmaster General and having it spill all over your combat boots.

After downing about 3-4 drinks apiece we headed inside to catch the last half of Bölzer's set (my biggest regret of the evening, more on that later) and were greeted with what is without a doubt the most intelligently constructed metal venue I've ever laid eyes upon. It appears that whoever built the Metro is a fan of Brenocide's, because the glorious oasis for the withering metal fan known as 'The Back' was basically a tiered staircase with seats and railing to lean on at each level, leading up to a top floor that had a second, equally badass bar and a gallery that stretched all the way around one side of the theater.

But if, like me, you are young, virile and in possession of a huge swinging dick, the area dedicated to pit-based shenanigans was large enough that no one was being face-slammed against the wall or buried in a pit viking's arm pit, but still small enough that everyone who wanted to be close to the band was able to do so, there were multiple staircases that lead outside if you wanted to duck out for a smoke, and the merch table was reasonable with pricing, well stocked and staffed for the duration of the show. No matter why you came to the show, the venue had you covered, and I know that liking something is not funny or metal, but I could not think of one single thing wrong with this venue. If you get a chance to check out a show at the Metro, do it, or you're a fucking idiot.

The Sets

Bölzer: I hadn't heard much about Bölzer before the show, and given that they were the opening act, we figured based on previous experience with openers that we'd be pretty safe missing half of their set in favor of drinking excessively at our hotel prior to heading in.

Talk about a rookie mistake. Bölzer are hands down the most promising new death metal act I have heard in years, and I immediately wished I had turned up for their whole set. They're a two piece band consisting of a drummer and a guitarist/vocalist that manage to produce a more interesting and complete sound than just about any similar band working today. This band got a notoriously cynical crowd of Australian metal fans (99% of whom had never heard of them) going absolutely fucking apeshit. Do your Periphery-worshiping ass a favor and add some Bölzer to your diet.

Watain: Oh, fuck. The best thing about Watain's set was that it didn't really go for long. I have never seen a band try so hard for an audience so indifferent. Out of the thousand-ish people in attendance, maybe 5-10% of the audience could have given a shit. Most of the people in the designated fun zone for Bölzer filtered out to the bar or joined the line for the merch table while Watain were playing.

It's not that it was a bad set, it's just that the people who clearly came solely to see Watain were such complete rectal emissions that it ruined anyone else's chance of enjoying the band. The pit for Watain's set was full of 19 year olds wearing corpse paint who thought that the very fact that a black metal band was playing in Australia gave them license to quite literally throw punches at one another in the pit, and the band condoned this behavior from their fans. These little shits threw full beers from the pit into the rest of the audience on purpose, which not only (criminally) wasted beer, but drove anyone who may have wanted to enjoy the set far away from the action.

They probably put on a pretty good show, but all I can tell you is that after the third chest-high lip ring sporting poseur decided to try and plant a haymaker on me for daring to be in the first half-dozen rows at a metal concert, I decided to head on out to the bar to get extra drunk for Behemoth.

Behemoth: Chances are, if you've ever seen a Behemoth set in a reasonably intimate setting, you've seen something pretty close to their set at The Metro. There's a reason these guys are one of the most enduring metal bands working today. They know how to put on a show.

It's pretty tough to beat Behemoth when it comes to showmanship. Their stage presence is one of the best I've seen from a metal band. Shit was set on fire, blood was literally rained down upon the first few rows, their costuming and lighting cues were perfect.

Musically, they aren't even close to the best black/death metal band around at the moment, but it's easy to see why 90% of the people who turned up to the gig came purely to see Behemoth. They understand their audience and their image. They played the music their fans wanted to hear with the theatrics we've come to expect from them. In terms of who played the best music, Bölzer probably has them beat, but Behemoth definitely put on a show to remember, and it was probably worth going just to see Nergal blindly throw his guitar over his shoulder at the end of their set only for it to be caught mid-air by his waiting guitar tech (seriously, no matter what that guy's earning, it's not enough).

The Crowd

Overall, I was amazed at the crowd's ability to uphold the tenants of true metal. I was not forced to bear witness to one single superfluous neck tattoo; spin kick; thumb sticking out or douchebag headbanging in the bathroom.

With the exception of Watain's set, the pit was solid. Those who fell to the ground were picked up, very few people tried to bring their beers up to the front and people who didn't want to mosh (generally) stayed out of the moshing area.

But holy shit, people, do we have to tell you all again that you're not supposed to bring your girlfriend to shows? I've never seen anything like it. No less than a dozen corset-clad harlots managed to force their boyfriends to shield them as they awkwardly shouldered their way to the front row, and these dudes then proceeded to bitch incessantly when their raven-haired fuck holes got sideswiped by metal fans possessing the gall to have a good time.

News flash, sweetheart, if you want to get to the front, get there early, and if you don't want a bunch of dudes rubbing all up on your girlfriend, don't bring her into the pit at a fucking metal show. Owning a vagina does not mean I have to stop enjoying the band and part the red fucking sea to make sure your 5'4" ass gets a closeup of Nergal dropping the opening riff to Slaves Shall Serve.

When it comes down to it, the Australian metal scene can be pretty lackluster and I was very surprised to see that we could all get together and not completely embarrass ourselves. Kudos to you, Sydney. Together we managed not to be one giant collective neck beard.

The one and only time it's ok to take a selfie. [From Behemoth's Facebook page]


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