Watain/Revenge at Baltimore Soundstage

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Monday, January 12, 2015

2015 is looking like it is going to be another stacked year for concerts, and what better way than to start things off with Black Metal Warfare? This newest tour brings together Mayhem and Watain and Revenge on one bill, but unfortunately Mayhem ran into some last minute visa issues and was forced to cancel the Philadelphia and Baltimore dates. The result was that the show at Baltimore Soundstage featured slightly longer sets from both Watain and Revenge, which is always one of the risks of being one of the first stops on a tour featuring international bands. But even with the last minute cancellation, there were still plenty of people in the audience ready to experience the chaotic onslaught from both groups, and it proved to be a memorable way to start off the 2015 concert year.

It had been posted a few days prior that Revenge would take the stage right at 9, and this proved to be the case, which sometimes feels like a rarity at metal shows. If you have yet to hear this group, you might not be prepared for what is some of the filthiest and abrasive black/death metal out there. After a short sound clip intro the Canadians took the stage and wasted no time in launching into their all-out assault. The first thing I noticed was that the sound at Baltimore Soundstage did seem just a slightly bit muddier and not quite as loud as I’m accustomed to, but the muddiness definitely suited the overall style that Revenge’s music has. Their material barely gives you any time to breathe, and this comes out even more in a live setting as the guitars and drums pounded away with such a sheer amount of force that it felt downright suffocating. Watching Chris Ross fly through some blistering solos while delivering his abrasive raspy screams was one of the best parts of the set, and he has one of those pitches that has just a bit more intensity than most of the other vocalists in the black/death metal spectrum. One criticism that people seem to have with this group is the similar song structures that leads to some of the material sounding very similar, and while I don’t fully agree with this I do think that some of the audience members who felt this way about the recorded output were able to get into Revenge a bit more as they watched it all happening in front of them. The 40 minute assault felt just a bit too short, and with Mayhem’s cancellation I had hoped they might’ve snuck in a few more songs but this wasn’t the case. It was an impressive way to start off the evening, as despite the fact that the overall volume seemed a bit softer than usual the sheer weight and dirtiness of the tonality made this a standout set. If this tour is coming your way get there early to check out this set, as this band is one of the best at what they do.

I’ve seen Watain four times now, with the last occurrence being a headlining set in November of 2013 at this same venue. That particular performance was the best I had seen from the long running Swedish black metal band, as not only did they have an impressive stage set-up with a backdrop of animal bones but the sound was spot on and properly emphasized the instrumentals and Erik Danielsson’s raspier screams. For this tour the band once again had a sizeable stage set-up, with skeletons placed in front of the drums and tridents on each side. It’s clear that each time they come through they try something different that fits the aesthetics of their music quite well, but what confused me throughout their set was that it seemed like they kept trying to hide all of the visual elements. There was heavy use of flashing stage lights and a smoke machine, often obscuring the members of the band and the stage. As for the music, I do think that the 2013 set was slightly better but this one did come close by the end. Early on there were some sound issues, with the drums being far too loud and coming dangerously close to drowning out the guitars and vocals. I believe that Watain’s drum mics had gotten lost in the trip overseas and they were borrowing some for this performance, so that may have been the reason that the few first songs sounded a bit uneven soundwise. But from this point on things balanced out and the band was able to deliver a high quality set that was drenched in dark atmosphere and swirling, chaotic riffs. There’s something about their particular combination of guitar leads and Danielsson’s aggressive screaming style that makes me feel like I could watch this group perform for hours on end, and this time around was no different. This was also one of the better set lists I’ve seen Watain blaze their way through, as they represented just about every point in their discography. The bulk of the set was an equal mix between songs from 2013’s The Wild Hunt, Lawless Darkness, and Sworn to the Dark, but there was some space for two Casus Luciferi cuts and “On Horn’s Impaled” from Rabid Death’s Curse. It felt like a great way for newcomers to become acquainted with how the group’s particular brand of black metal has changed over the years while providing established fans plenty to dive into. While the particular atmosphere and perfect sound quality from 2013 may have made that set have a slight edge in my eye’s, the intensity and choice of songs made this another stand-out set from a band that seems incapable of a bad performance. Considering that this was only day two, I suspect that those of you who are able to catch this tour later on will find Watain getting even better, and if you’re into black metal’s darkness and chaos at all this tour is not to be missed.

Music:

Links:

Watain- http://www.templeofwatain.com/
Revenge- https://www.facebook.com/RevengeofficialSoMpage

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