Behemoth returned to Melbourne last night with the determination and virulence upon which they built their career. Spitting blood, lashed in corpse paint and leering into the crowd, these Polish monoliths met every expectation they had built.
The change in venues from the Espy to the Prince may have at first irked some, but the swelling crowd filled the entire Prince Bandroom during Cemetery Urn’s set, and the thick stench of metalheads had already begun to suffocate the room. Tight, ferocious and completely engaging on stage, Cemetery Urn were an excellent choice to get the crowd riled up.
Every Behemoth fan in the room was desperately checking out the new merch, with the weird skull design being the clear favourite, as the heaving sea of black shirts got slowly more intoxicated. The crowd – a mix of Italians, goths, face-painted fans and a refreshing number of women – milled around at a healthy pace and the room seemed to shrink in size as everyone pushed forward to see Hour of Penance. With the air full of Italian bravado, they took to the stage to an overwhelmingly positive response from the crowd.
Their first ever show in Australia, Hour of Penance had a full back catalogue of songs to choose from, and the spread was well-balanced from across their discography. Opening with tracks from their latest effort, Sedition, and closing with 2008’s ‘Misconception’ (The Vile Conception), Hour of Penance displayed their hyper-technical music with stunning precision, and even gave the crowd a taste of some new material with ‘Regicide’. Although their energy waned just slightly towards the end, it was counteracted by the circle-pit, which began to peak during ‘Paradogma’ and seemed to only get more and more violent as the set went on – ten points went to HOP’s drummer James Payne, for the little twirls he did with his drumstick after every roll, and the drunk guy in the front row who kept accidentally taking selfies because his iPhone camera was reversed lost five points.
As the lights dimmed and the slow, thunderous roll of Behemoth’s mighty entrance music began, a spine-tingling shiver rippled through the room as the crowd realised what was approaching. Gliding onto the stage dressed in hooded robes and medieval inspired costumes, the concert played out akin to a demonic ritual, with Nergal the orchestrator of evil.
When their signature ‘Ov Fire And The Void’ riff rang out through the speakers, the crowd lurched forward as a sea of horns hailed the gnashing, thrashing quartet. Adorned in a necklace of chicken feet and sporting a moustache that curled up slightly at the ends, Nergal lead the stage choreography with the resolve to embody pure fury. And it worked. Every time the front-man leant into the crowd snarling, his infectious energy enraptured fans who returned his aggression in full. Orion and Seth played equal parts in effecting their evil presence in what was (and is always) carefully structured theatrics.
It was noticed but not noticeable that Inferno, the human drum machine, was absent from the ensemble, for his is an unmissable and unmistakable presence. Replacement Krimh possesses his own blackened style and his drumming was powerful, fluid and essentially flawless. What was also noticed, by everyone in the room, was one particularly wasted chick who insisted on getting her tits out so many times no one even bothered to look anymore.
In terms of sound, the increased volume made Behemoth inescapable, and the mix was perfect (as though Nergal would have allowed anything less). Overall, there was probably not quite as much intensity last night as in the 2009 tour when they were riding the Evangelion high, and the nuances in Nergal’s voice have changed a little to include more quirks, such as the short cackle he gave at the end of ‘Decade Ov Therion’. ‘Slaves Shall Serve’ was surely the most vicious song of the set, an obvious crowd favourite that was followed by the blood-spitting spectacle of ‘Chant for Eschaton’, and Nergal brought out his Evangelion mask for the finale, ‘Lucifer’.
What can be said of the question we were all wondering is that Nergal has lost nothing as a result of his sickness. He is a changed man, for certain. He is slimmer and his style has grown, forecasting the expansion into new musical territory on the new album, yet the determination and passion with which Behemoth magnetise their fans is burning as bright as ever.
At every show, the Polish legends retain their rightful seat in the vanguard of blackened death metal. Hails.
You can check out our interview with the man himself here.