REVIEW: Behemoth/1349, Live in New York

It has been two years since the last Behemoth US tour and the buzz around this Metal Alliance Tour (featuring 1349 and Goatwhore amongst others) is louder than a storm of hornets on speed...

1349 have something grim for everyone…

There are bands that can blend ‘nu’ and old-school together and make you believe that you’re watching Darkthrone with a dash of Satyricon thrown in there, too. Skilled at the art of shaking their fans’ core in such fashion are 1349, one of the few bands with Darkthrone drummer Fenriz’s stamp of approval. They may sound like a fruit and veg juicer on its last legs to the untrained ear, but there is a great deal of rehearsing and highly trained musicianship behind their relentless pounding and shrill shredding live. This was the clearest sound they have had in a long time and notwithstanding the fact that vocalist, Ravn had a cold, you’d have to be aurally challenged if you moaned about not recognising any of their tracks: I Am Abomination and Sculptor Of Flesh were perfect introductions to a stellar set.

…but you never know who is going to be behind their drum kit.

Frost, the drummer 1349 share with Satyricon, continues to have to second-guess the US Immigration system as they keep changing entry rules, therefore delaying his visa applications. So his drum stool has randomly become available to those who can keep up with his insanely unrelenting style. Not many can, but in recent times Tony Laureano and Jon ‘Charn’ Rice (ex-Job For A Cowboy) have both filled in capably. This time, however, they gave one of their fans, 20-year-old Sondre Drangsland, a chance to tour with one of his favourite bands for a couple of weeks (until Rice could join them again, after this very evening). Awww, sweet. They manage to make up for this temporary lack of grimness by performing new song, Slaves from their as-yet-untitled new album, due for release in the autumn. That got the audience so excited that the mosh pit expanded into the shape of Christina Hendrick’s breasts. Not a bad sight.

Behemoth have put life back into death.

As Behemoth performed their first couple of tracks - Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel and Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer - a bunch of people in the crowd reached into their pockets for (blasphemy!) earplugs to cope with audio levels going well over 11. Frontman Nergal introduced the next track by making a reference to his own health-related struggle - “It’s good to be back, but it’s even better to be alive!” - to loud cheers from the 1200 capacity crowd. It’s been four years since Nergal’s leukaemia scare, but that does not appear to have stopped his band from developing into a brand new force of nature or their vocalist from dancing to his own musical cues…. at least, that was what Nergal’s upper thoracic area appeared to be doing during Conquer All. The band’s fan base have not only stuck with them through it, it seems to have expanded.

Behemoth’s stage show is now even more stylised.

The Polish band have always had a special feel for theatrics on stage. In fact, they used to look as sexy as a bunch of Pin Head and Eyes Wide Shut groupies up until four years ago, with one set of costumes that would last for the whole gig. This time they went one louder. Perhaps since vocalist Nergal has become a television personality in Poland and the band’s popularity has continued to soar internationally due to those more mature musical offerings, Behemoth can afford a bigger budget even when it comes to wardrobe? Whatever, the band went off stage and returned wearing different outfits at least three times and they ended the show wearing the black masks off the cover of The Satanist. At that point, I could swear everyone was hit by an unshakable need to own one of those demonic disguises in order to wear it on the subway home. Stylish stuff.

Behemoth is a very rare example that worshipping Satan is not always counterproductive.

Behemoth’s 23-year-old career dedicated to all things Luciferian has got stronger and bolder. Hanging off of Satan’s coattails has obviously paid off and unlike many others, their ability to be musically adventurous has endeared them to a wider audience since the release of their seventh offering, Demigod, ten years ago. The Satanist further elevated the Polish iconoclasts’ professional deportment within the scene and rumour had it that, in order not to lose stocks in the market of the Horned One, everybody and their dog had to own a ticket to Saturday’s show. The Poles came, showcased at least half of the material off the new album for the sell-out crowd, shimmied around to the sound of their own sonance and left New York panting for more. Thank you Satan!