Watain/In Solitude/Tribulation at Baltimore Soundstage

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Friday, November 15, 2013

Watain recently completed a tour around North America in support of their newest album The Wild Hunt and they brought fellow Swedes In Solitude and Tribulation along for the entire trek. I had seen Watain two times prior to this tour, and while their on-stage energy and showmanship was impressive both times the sound quality left a bit to be desired. The tour concluded with a date at Baltimore Soundstage on Sunday, November 3rd and I decided a proper headline set would be a great way to check the group’s live performance out again and see if the third time was the charm.

There weren’t any local openers on this date of the tour so that meant shortly after the doors opened Tribulation was ready to take the stage. I was excited to finally have the chance to see the group as they have made quite an impression over the last few years, beginning with 2009’s The Horror and this year’s The Formulas of Death which took on a more experimental approach and saw the instrumental work branch out considerably. Since they were the opening act and the majority of the tracks from The Formulas of Death skew towards the long side I wasn’t sure how much material the band would be able to play during their set. It seemed like they were able to get a decent number of songs in there though, and I recognized a number of different arrangements from the new album which makes sense considering how recent it is. Despite the fact that this was the last date of the tour it didn’t impact Tribulation’s performance at all, as the sound was on point and the band members all had so much energy that one might think this was the very first date they were playing. They wasted little time between songs, often launching right into the next one rather than talking to the crowd between songs, and I appreciated this quite a bit. It was hard to gauge how into the material the audience was and I’m guessing some of them may not have heard of these guys before, but hopefully people were won over by the group’s intensity on stage and the killer riffs and harsh vocals that sounded almost exactly the same as their recorded counterpart. I’d love to see Tribulation return on a non-opening slot that lets them play even more of their discography, and hopefully this tour helped generate some much needed exposure.

In Solitude took the stage shortly after Tribulation had finished playing, and I had seen the Swedish heavy metal band about a year and a half ago when they opened for Behemoth and Watain on the Decibel Magazine Tour. That set was plagued by sound problems, and thankfully this time that wouldn’t prove to be an issue. However, despite the fact that the band members were energetic on stage and a good portion of the crowd was into the set something about the performance just wasn’t doing it for me. The vocals seemed a bit off at times and Pelle Åhman’s comments in between songs were impossible to make out. It definitely wasn’t bad by any means, and the instrumental work was as tight and coherent as you would expect but the sound seemed a bit thin to me and it didn’t always deliver the impact I had hoped for. In Solitude’s set included quite a few tracks from their newest album Sister as well as a number of others from their previous two releases, giving the audience a chance to get a taste of everything they had to offer. But something about it just didn’t resonate with me, and this isn’t something that I’ve typically encountered during a live performance. Perhaps for me, this is one of those bands that are best experienced on album and just don’t impact me in the same way when I’m watching them perform live. After all, Sister’s gotten plenty of spins in my stereo and I do still like the overall sound that In Solitude is going for. Or maybe it’s the fact that they were between two much harsher groups, and despite having a similar aesthetic and occult vibe were just a bit too mellow for me to fully appreciate in between the black/death metal. Either way, I’d definitely give them another shot on a different tour and will be continuing to give Sister plenty of listens despite being a bit underwhelmed by this particular performance.

There was a bit of extra time between the end of In Solitude’s set and Watain’s performance as the crew had to get the stage ready. Each time I’ve seen the group their stage setup has gotten more and more elaborate, and this tour was no exception. There were not only pig heads at the front of the stage, but a backdrop that had real animal bones as part of its design and a small altar directly in front of the drum riser. It’s the closest I’ve seen Watain’s stage setup come to the videos I’ve seen from their European tours and it made an immediate impression. With everything in place the band launched into a lengthy set and what I noticed right from the start was that there was a level of clarity to the sound that hadn’t been there on previous tours. The last two times I saw this band perform the overall sound was a bit muddy and I felt like my brain was piecing together the individual riffs because I knew the songs well enough rather than actually hearing the details. This wasn’t the case on this evening though, as everything was crystal clear and the instrumentals sounded incredible, offering the perfect level of intensity while making it possible to pick out specific riffs. Erik Danielsson continues to be one of my current black metal front man, as he is able to channel a level of aggression and energy on stage that’s even more powerful than on Watain’s albums and it helps put the performance over the edge. He really fits the black metal aesthetic, as during a few points during the set he would pause from screaming and fill a chalice of blood before throwing it all over the crowd. A good amount of the set list was focused on The Wild Hunt, but the band played for nearly an hour and a half and included well known tracks like “Casus Luciferi” and “Sworn to the Dark.” It was not only the best I’ve ever heard them sound on stage, but the increased productions of the stage set ups really helped to further the dark vibe of the performance and made it stand out in my memory that much further. For me it was clear that Watain has really reached the point of being a headline level act that can play for a lengthy period of time and keep the audience entranced for an entire set, and I’m already excited for the next opportunity I’ll have to witness them again.







Leave a Reply