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AAA Music | 24 June 2017

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Behemoth + Cradle Of Filth – Live @ The Forum

| On 11, Feb 2014

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Behemoth – Photo by Sarah Tsang

Monday 10th February, London

Behemoth’s ascension to the mainstream has been an unusual, tumultuous journey. Although they have been one of Poland’s premier extreme metal bands since the early 1990s, and a staple part of the international black metal underground for at least ten years, it was only with the release of 2009’s critically acclaimed Evangelion that Behemoth broke through to the metal masses. Following this, in March 2010, frontman/songwriter Nergal became tied up in an everlasting, formal freedom of speech court case in Poland, charged with blasphemy, and then five months later was diagnosed with leukaemia, underwent a successful bone marrow transplant, and took some much deserved time away from the band and spotlight to recover. Naturally, and almost distastefully, or at least diversionary, Nergal’s cancer survival story has prompted a significant increase in international media interest, with even publications such as The Guardian reviewing their new, tenth studio album – The Satanist. Just how far they’ve progressed over the past five years is evident tonight in the fact that their set is preceded by our very own Cradle Of Filth, one our biggest extreme metal exports. All this, however, distracts from the point; the point being that The Satanist is one of the best heavy metal albums of the last decade, and that Behemoth more than deserve their headline status and mainstream approval.

First up, however, is the ever dependable Dani Filth and his band of merry metallers, Cradle Of Filth. Although billed as co-headliners, the Suffolk-formed extreme metal band have the difficult task of going onstage ahead of Behemoth. That being said, they are rightly allocated the same set duration and have brought their full production tonight. And boy, what a production it is. Cradle Of Filth are often derided by the oh-so-serious heavy metal community for being too theatrical, but this is who CoF are; a tongue-in-cheek, gothic pantomime act, armed with serious musical ambitions.

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Cradle Of Filth – Photo by Sarah Tsang

That’s right; behind all the makeup, leather, smoke, lights and visuals (including a screen of near-spoof-like video) is a canon of melodic black metal masterpieces, all of which are aired tonight during this greatest hits set celebrating the 20th anniversary of the release of their debut album, The Principle of Evil Made Flesh. Although slightly hampered by initial sound issues (the bass is quickly pumped up), opener ‘Cthulhu Dawn’, from Midian, sets the tone – operatic thrash metal played by a group of committed and talented musicians who, while taking the craft extremely seriously, don’t take themselves particularly seriously. They are the black metal Judas Priest; a fitting comparison given their penchant for classic metal riffing and Dani Filth’s piercing wail-scream…thing.

With only one cut from their 2012 album The Manticore and Other Horrors, ‘For Your Vulgar Delectation’, this12-song set covers all their greatest moments. The keys add real depth to ‘Summer Dying Fast’ and ‘Nymphetamine (Fix)’, arguably their most commercial single, while the classic metal guitar work (note: with both official guitars absent, session guitarists were drafted in for this tour) sounds best on ‘Haunted Shores’, ‘Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids’ and over-the-top encore, ‘Funeral in Carpathia’. The highlights come courtesy of a rare outing of ‘Beneath the Howling Stars’, a triumphant ‘Born in a Burial Gown’, and, of course, Cradle’s crowning moment, ‘Her Ghost in the Fog’, which predictably provokes the biggest reaction from the audience as it closes the main set. As ever, this is the Dani Filth show, and the prowling ring leader with a penchant for rampant hopping is in fine voice this evening – effortlessly switching between death metal growls, extreme screams and that distinctive high-pitched yelp. Come back soon, Cradle Of Filth.

Behemoth - Photo by Sarah Tsang

Behemoth – Photo by Sarah Tsang

Although Nergal and co. favour a decent dosage of theatrics, Behemoth’s similar use of makeup, lighting, recorded intros and horror imagery avoids any element of farce – whereas CoF may forgo any true sense of danger through the use of their characters and production, Behemoth look and sound formidably evil. This is authentic black metal, and the crowd-chanting and movement noticeably moves up a gear once the band emerge. While I expected a set centred on material from The Satanist, tonight’s show sees the band cherry-pick from eight of their ten studio albums. Fan-favourites like the extremely fast ‘Slaves Shall Serve’ (Demigod), the devastatingly heavy ‘Christians to the Lions’ (Thelema.6), and the headbang-inducing, main set closer ‘Chant for Eschaton 2000’ (Satanica) are all death metal masterworks.

However, it is Behemoth’s most recent material that truly marks the band out as one of the most special forces of our times. The opening couplet of ‘Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel’ and ‘Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer’ from The Satanist is breathtaking; with the opener in particular already sounding like the modern-day extreme metal anthem it really is. These two songs are matched only when the band launch into the tracks aired from 2009’s Evangelion: ‘Ov Fire and the Void’ and ‘Alas, Lord Is Upon Me’, performed in succession – with the crushing, doom-laden riffs of the former being tonight’s standout cut. This newer material is still as black as Dani Filth’s nail varnish, but the death metal urgency has been replaced with a more groove-orientated, thrash-laced dynamic; this lack of unrelenting aggression, along with the decipherable delivery of Nergal’s lyrics, allows for a more menacing atmosphere.

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Behemoth – Photo by Sarah Tsang

Nergal is an incredibly confident performer; one whose charisma stems from genuine humility. He stares intently at the audience as he roars his lyrics, and strides across the stage summoning crowd participation with a simple nod of his head, all the while smashes out intelligent guitar riffs. “It feels good to be alive London!”, he exclaims early on in the set; a sentiment of course made all the more powerful with the knowledge of his cancer battle, but one that feels particularly true and relevant because of the perfection on display in both the band’s performance and the reception of the audience.

They finish with a lone encore of ‘Father O Satan O Sun!’, the most operatic and progressive thing on The Satanist, riding it out standing stationary wearing satanic masks with elongated horns, while a recorded spoken word outro propels the doom and gloom of the post-metal instrumentation. When they finish, there is an eerie but intensely powerful silence from both band and audience, while the crowd members throw their devil horns at Behemoth without a whimper; it only lasts a matter of seconds before the roaring applause kicks in, but it’s a moment that will stay with me for a long time to come – a moment where I truly comprehended Nergal’s sentiment about feeling alive.

Review: Clive Paris Rozario

Photos: Sarah Tsang

Cradle of Filth Setlist

  1. Cthulhu Dawn
  2. A Dream of Wolves in the Snow
  3. Summer Dying Fast
  4. The Principle of Evil Made Flesh
  5. Beneath the Howling Stars
  6. For Your Vulgar Delectation
  7. Haunted Shores
  8. Nymphetamine (Fix)
  9. Born in a Burial Gown
  10. Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids
  11. Her Ghost in the Fog
  12. ENCORE: Funeral in Carpathia

Behemoth Setlist

  1. Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel
  2. Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer
  3. Conquer All
  4. Decade of Therion
  5. As Above So Below
  6. Slaves Shall Serve
  7. Christians to the Lions
  8. Driven by the Five-Winged Star
  9. The Satanist
  10. Ov Fire and the Void
  11. Alas, Lord Is Upon Me
  12. Furor Divinus
  13. At the Left Hand ov God
  14. Chant for Eschaton 2000
  15. ENCORE: Father O Satan O Sun!