Gig Review: Abbath + supports, Melbourne

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Abbath + Ruins + Hybrid Nightmares
Max Watts, Melbourne
Daniel Tucceri
Photo by John Raptis

That’s it. Immortal are f*cked.

After watching Abbath and his corpse-painted cohorts destroy what used to be known as The Hifi Bar, there’s no other way of looking at it. It’s impossible to imagine Immortal without what is one of the most distinct voices in black metal and perhaps the genre’s only showman. Note to Demonaz and Horgh; give it up, no Abbath equals no Immortal.

Taking a leaf from the incomparable black metal legend, Hybrid Nightmares vocalist Loki took a similar approach in terms of stage banter. The only difference is that I could’ve done without being reminded they had merchandise for sale every five minutes. Aside from their choice of fluorescent corpse-paint, little else set them apart from countless other bands their ilk. When Loki walks onstage with what looks to be an oversized marital aid, his band mates begina bizarre tribute to Saturday Night Fever. Or maybe that was meant to be that weird two-fingered Christ salute? The message was lost on the more cynical observer, but Hybrid Nightmares had enough of a following on the night to generally get their point across.

Ruins ascend the stage and delivered a flawless set, as is to be expected when Dave Haley is pounding the skins. Once they kick into Where Time is Left Behind, the hordes respond accordingly and hasten to fill the gaps toward the front. If there’s to be any criticism of Ruins, it could be argued the appeal of black metal involves a lack of precision. It’s meant to be violent, messy and over-the-top. Ruins were by contrast somewhat self-contained, despite Haley’s percussive efforts being entertaining in their own right. It wouldn’t have hurt vocalist Alex Pope to perhaps get in our faces and spray a little spit our way. In any case, Ruins are a reminder that there are bands here that can match it with the best in Europe.

Abbath and co. finally take their rightful place as the kings and progenitors of all that is grim, frostbitten and discordant. There is absolutely no going past the Immortal classics, such as All Shall Fall and Tyrants, especially when played by Abbath’s exceptional group of musicians. Masked skin pounder Creature proved his worth; making the nitrous-fuelled blast beat patterns look easy. King ov Hell on bass and Per Valla on lead guitar were the perfect foil to the inimitable Abbath, who commandeered the audience much like he did with his own band.

At his will and behest, we raised horns aloft and screamed the calls to the winter moon above. The crowd was under his spell and wouldn’t have it any other way. A massive guitar sound, which sounded as crisp as a frozen cadaver made it impossible to avoid being swept up in Abbath’s maelstrom. Even after the encore, the blackened revellers screamed for more. Disappointingly, this did not involve any fire breathing, but at the very least Abbath did no less than take us to hell and back.

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