Last Sunday, I headed up to the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco with a great deal of anticipation. This year’s Metal Alliance tour, featuring a bill that ranged from buzz-worthy but unsigned Black Crown Initiate to the behemoth that is Behemoth, seemed like it might well be the package tour of the year.
So, first up on the bill were Black Crown Initiate. As a new band that plays such complex, proggy material, the two questions that sprang to mind about Black Crown Initiate were a) would they be able to pull their material off live? and b) would they be able to do so while offering any kind of dynamic stage performance? I’m happy to report that the answers are Yes and Yes. The band played seamlessly through their EP Song of the Crippled Bull, and vocalist James Dorton brought plenty of charisma and action to the front man role, even if he did occasionally disappear offstage during some of the longer instrumental passages. They got an enthusiastic response from the crowd, including a pretty respectable mosh pit.
Inquisition were up next, and I think they were the surprise of the night for me. First off, they sounded great. The sound was pretty good for the entire night, but with Inquisition they just got the balance of instruments perfect. Maybe there is an advantage to having fewer instruments to balance. Second, despite being just a duo, they were fascinating to watch. They set up a microphone at each end of the stage, and singer/guitarist Dagon moved between them, which was a great way to allow some movement to a singer who’s got their hands full with an instrument. The rest of the audience was equally swept up in the performance – during the performance of “Force of the Floating Tomb,” when Dagon sang the line, “Raise the chalice,” the guy next to me obediently held his plastic beer cup aloft for a full minute. I will definitely make a point of seeing Inquisition again when they play at Maryland Death Fest.
Dagon from Inquisition:
1349, on the other hand, were the relative disappointment of the night for me, although with the overall standard of performances being so high, that’s really not much of a condemnation. First, I have to admit that I was disappointed to see that they had a substitute drummer filling in for Frost. He did a fine job, but I couldn’t help but regret not getting a chance to see a drummer of Frost’s ability and reputation perform. Second, I think their sound was a little muddy. Finally (and this is getting really nitpicky), they were lit entirely with fairly static red lighting for their entire set, which I think stole some of the visual interest from the show. Nevertheless, the band performed with a lot of energy, and the diehard 1349 fans in the audience were clearly having the time of their lives. They also played a new song, called “Slaves,” from their upcoming album, and it sounded good. [Edited: I’d misheard the title as “Snakes,” but commenter Maggot Fetus kindly corrected me.]
Archaeon from 1349:
At the beginning of the show, a woman I was chatting with assured me that Goatwhore were “really boring,” because “the singer doesn’t move at all.” Well, if that was ever true, Goatwhore have mended their ways, because singer Ben Falgoust was in nearly constant motion, head-banging, fist-pumping, air-guitaring. He encouraged the crowd to get in the mosh pit, and was rewarded with one of the biggest pits I’ve ever seen. Seriously, I was standing off to the side, in a location that would normally be well away from any mosh pit, and I got jostled a bit during Goatwhore’s set. Goatwhore’s brand of thrashy blackened death metal is the perfect thing to whip a crowd into a frenzy.
Ben Falgoust of Goatwhore, whipping the crowd into a frenzy:
And then, Behemoth. The band opened with “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel.” Judging by the number of audience members singing along, The Satanist album is already well known and loved by the band’s fans. (As it should be.) After that, Nergal stepped up to the mic and said, “It feels really fucking good to be alive!” Which made me think that somewhere out there, there’s a universe in which Nergal lost his battle with leukemia, and we never got The Satanist, or this tour. That universe sucks. I’m glad I’m in this one.
Nergal and Orion from Behemoth:
Behemoth’s got enough of a back catalog at this point that it’s easy for them to cram a set full of classics. They played quite a few songs from the new album – in addition to “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel,” we got “Furor Divinus,” “Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer,” “The Satanist,” and, for the encore, “O Father O Satan O Sun.” Mixed in with this was a good selection of songs from the back catalog: “Conquer All,” “Christians to the Lions,” “As Above, So Below,” and “Ov Fire and the Void,” plus a few others.
Orion from Behemoth
Overall, it was an amazing night of metal from beginning to end. Don’t miss this tour if you get a chance to see it – and make sure to go early so that you don’t miss any of the bands.
You can find the complete set of my photos from this show on flickr here.