A recent conversation with Watain frontman Erik Danielsson revealed that the band would be touring Australia without many of its YouTube-famous stage props and livery. Thus, an opportunity opened for Australian fans to witness Watain ‘in the raw’. The big question posed is this: How necessary are the stage props and imagery to a performance by a band whose catalogue is the vanguard of the post-millennial black metal invasion?
Well, the band’s Australian fan club did a stellar job putting together some unique pieces for the stage design. I’m sure the photos accompanying the review and elsewhere on the website provide the complete picture. I’d suggest that Danielsson may want to take the backdrop home, such as the use of vivid oranges and reds to highlight the band’s readable yet menacing logo.
To the show itself, one could choose to use ‘intense’ and all the synonyms associated with describing this performance by Watain; however, something bigger was happening as Danielsson and cohort blazed through their set, sans-encore.
Forget that Watain is, and always will be, a black metal band. Based on this gig, the outfit carries a charisma that few in the world of rock’n’roll and live music performances can match. The show was brutally fast, possessing a Ramones–style quality; the guitarist on stage left (not sure if it was Hampus Eriksson or Pelle Forsberg) had the unenviable job of keeping the rhythm locked tight against a bruising percussive onslaught. Expertly linking the marriage of palm muting and tremolo picking to the vicious acceleration that is the signature of many of Watain’s prime cuts, aspiring guitarists in the audience would do well to note that stage-craft and expert musicianship is possible if you put the many hours of practice that Watain’s musicians have dedicated.
Danielsson is a born communicator; tonight, he was in fine form. Many black metal outfits prefer the music alone to carry the band’s message when performing live, not Watain. Danielsson had a lot to say to the crowd. He offered a particularly poignant message as he dedicated “Furor Diabolicus” (Trident Wolf Eclipse– ’18) to the ‘fearless ones up the front… to all of you that make a choice, here and now, not to watch but to participate… let us follow the storm, Brisbane!’. That storm reference was made a few times throughout the performance, given the proximity of tropical cyclone Oma. However, I felt the ‘participation’ reference was a message with a deeper meaning.
This Watain performance was all about getting involved. Nod your head, raise your fist, and yell back at Danielsson as he implores the audience to join him and his comrades for an hour and a half of blackened live music celebration. The sound quality was outstanding, venue staff and security did a great job, and the crowd were on point for a stellar evening overall (except one punter who was likely making a nuisance of themselves and was ‘escorted’ from the premises).
Did we miss out due to the absence of blood, pigs’ heads on spikes and many cast iron inverted crosses that the band uses on stages across Europa and Scandinavia? No way! What Brisbane got was a leaner, hungrier and altogether meaner Watain.
Given Kerry McCoy and George Clarke bring Deafheaven to the same venue tonight (Sunday, February 25th), this weekend’s blackened one-two punch will undoubtedly leave a deep psychic impression on those on hand to witness blackened metal near its very best.