TVD Live Shots: Watain, Abbath, and Tribulation at the Troxy, 9/30

I’ve seen some metal shows in my time, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything as hardcore as Watain. These guys take the cake in terms of embracing the old-school death metal mentality as they bring together all the things we love about the often misunderstood genre.

Pyrotechnics, candles, Satanic rituals, animal carcasses, and yes, even real blood, which they’ve been known to hurl at audiences during their live shows, is a batteries-included approach to an epic metal show. Apparently, this show was moved from several different venues as I heard rumours that it’s becoming increasingly difficult for the band to find a suitable venue as they tend to leave a mark where they play. I think that’s pretty fucking cool.

Enter London’s famed Troxy. The last place you would ever expect to see an extreme metal show. This place looks like it could have hosted a residency from the Rat Pack back in the ’60s. It’s massive, and it’s got carpet. So I guess the pig’s blood is out, then? Either way, it seemed to be a bit tamed down from the other shows I’ve heard about, and that’s okay. Watain “tamed” is still about 10-times more extreme than the mass of other so-called death metal bands. These guys still turned it up to eleven.

At one point during the show, eclectic frontman Erik Danielsson seemed to be conjuring up a spell of sorts with his back to the audience. Then out of nowhere, I get doused with a handful of ashes with some hard bits mixed in. My guess is crushed animal bones scattered across my camera and black t-shirt. I’ve shot Gwar a number of times and had a direct hit of space jizz from Vulvatron, so that didn’t really phase me (although it’s a bitch to get out of wool).

But what about the music, you ask? These guys are legit with their fan base. Their latest album, The Agony and Ecstasy of Watain, hit the top 10 in Sweden and France upon its release, and rightfully so. It’s the band’s most accessible record to date, almost as if they are leaning less on the theatrics of their image and more on the song’s melody. Don’t get me wrong—this isn’t for the fate of heart; you really have to enjoy your metal to go down this road, but I stayed to the end. Although the crowd and band looked a bit out of place at the most un-metal venue in London, it did feel like we were all there for the same reason, to celebrate a night of extreme metal from some of the best, both old and new. 

While I missed the first band, I did get there in time to see fellow Swedish metallers Tribulation. Easily the most accessible band on the bill that evening, I’ve always thought these guys did a great job balancing the demonic low rumbling screams with the overall straight-up classic metal sound. They stand out because the songs are there and keep their death metal street cred with the vocals. It’s an interesting mix that works for those of us not ready to go all in.

Last year the band released Where the Gloom Becomes Sound, and they delivered several numbers from that one, including the standout track “Funeral Pyre.” These guys bring the magic and folklore back to metal, and the guitar work is extraordinary (think King Diamond without the falsettos). Even though famed guitarist Jonathan Hultén left the band last year, a perfectly capable Joseph Tholl stepped in and didn’t miss a beat. While not as animated, he made a statement. 

Abbath as a co-headliner was an interesting one as well. They are sort of the Motörhead of death metal, with frontman Abbath Doom Occulta playing the role perfectly. It’s an old-school metal feel that bridges the gap between new and old. Abbath’s latest album Dread Reaver keeps that spirit alive and well. While Abbath has had his challenges over the past few years, he certainly looks to be in top form. Let’s face it, most of our rock ‘n’ roll and metal heroes have had a misstep over their careers and that keeps them interesting. The critical question is always how they come out on the other side, as deep down we all love a comeback—and that’s what I saw at this gig.



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