Thursday, October 17, 2013

Behemoth in Bangkok, 10.16.2013

Early into the set, Nergal took to the mic to roar, "It feels good to be alive! It feels so fucking good to be well and alive in Bangkok!"

While the audience in Bangkok's Hollywood Club may not have understood the significance of the first part of that statement, they definitely understood the second part. Behemoth was in Thailand. 

Prior to Behemoth, I'd never flown to another country just for a show; sure, I'll take advantage of being in a country to see whatever band may be there at the same time, and every so often I'll take a bus to Singapore for a concert. But taking a flight overseas requires a band that either a) I don't think I'll get a chance to see again or b) I'd go anywhere to see. Behemoth is one such band. So when their Pacific tour was announced, the chance to raise my fists in the air and scream "HAIL SATAN!" was too good to pass up. My choices were either book a flight to Bangkok, or light some black candles and hope dates to be announced in either Singapore or Malaysia.

Hahahahahaha... of course Behemoth aren't coming to Malaysia. Nothing good ever happens here. The Singapore show was confirmed only after I'd booked my Thai flight and accommodations, so Bangkok it was.

The Hollywood Club is a strange place to have an underground metal show. Located in one of the seedier parts of Bangkok, its usual entertainment appears to be scantily clad women dancing robotically for drunk tourists (to give a sense of the area, the club across the street is called "Pimp Sister"). As soon as I saw the stage set up, with its catwalk extending halfway into the room, it suddenly dawned on me that the venue was chosen so that Nergal and co. could walk out into the middle of the audience and rock out like they were Metallica. Did they go for it? Fuckin-A, they did.

The setlist was equally divided between their faster/older material, and the slower Morbid Angel-ic anthems that have won them so many fans in recent years. The re-worked version of "Moonspell Rites" was thrown in as a token from the old days, but let's face it - no one in the venue that night was ever a part of that era. The high point for me was the inclusion of two songs from Satanica - my entry point to Behemoth, and still one of my favourite death metal albums of all time ... even if "Ceremony of Shiva" is a personal request that yet goes unrequited.

Sadly, there was nothing as gonzo that night in Bangkok as as when I saw them cover a Turbonegro song at Mayhemfest in 2009 while their confused young fans asked each other, "Did he just say 'I got erection?'" Then again, with most of the intros being pre-recorded, the song selection may have as much to do with the constraints of Behemoth's DAT machine as it did with pandering to their new millennial followers.

The slower material brought home the fact that Behemoth have effectively usurped not just Morbid Angel's style, but their place at the top of the death metal totem pole. (It helps that Morbid Angel have sucked for a decade). Then again, as far as metal gods go, Nergal is more engaging than David "Just For Men" Vincent ever was. His Nietzschian outlook is made even more credible by the fact that he stared death in the eye and still raises his middle fingers to Heaven at the end of "Slaves Shall Serve".

Despite Nergal's growing pseudo-celebrity, the concert was far from a one-man show. All the band members were allowed (maybe even encouraged?) to share the spotlight, with bassist Orion being particularly showy - pounding his bass with his fist, spitting water into the air with his giant frame looming over the audience, my buddy Ben summed him up when he exclaimed "he looks like a freaking Ork!"

Though their music wandered firmly into death metal territory over a decade ago, Behemoth's stage theatrics remain pure black metal. Corpsepaint, costume changes, and spitting blood were all done with relish. And then there's Nergal's chicken feet necklace. Part of me wishes this was worn in honour of South East Asia, where those things are considered a delicacy. My friend Metal Mike suggested it was because Watain already took all the good body parts. At any rate, I hope these necklaces replace bullet belts as the ubiquitous fashion accessory of elite heshers.