Reviews : Shows : Watain @ Drunken Unicorn - Atlanta, Georgia USA

May 18, 2007

"God is not in this fucking house tonight!"

Thus, the ceremonies were blessed, thanks to an ageing Hessian (wearing an eyepatch) in the crowd during the middle of Nachtmystium's set. Tonight the Antichrist Vanguards tour featuring Nachtmystium, Sweden's Watain, Gravewurm, Negative Plane and the newly reformed Angelcorpse hit the south, laying waste to Atlanta's dungeon-esque Drunken Unicorn.

My journey started much earlier as I piled into the car for the uneventful four hour drive; by myself no less (thanks guys!). After stopping to see some family and a free meal, I arrived at the venue promptly at 7:00pm, as the doors were to open at said time. At 8:45 we were finally given entrance, after standing in the parking lot for what seemed like an eternity. Apparently one of the bands was late, pushing the soundcheck back. I again met Nachtmystium's Blake Judd at the door as I gained entrance, and to the bar I went. Soundcheck was still underway, but Virginia's Gravewurm quickly got things started a little after 9:00.

For a band that has been in business since 1990, Gravewurm are not in the dealing of letting you know it. Basically, by having zero stage presence, these guys offered no chance of being able to really get into the music. There is a certain effort that goes into performances of this kind of material, and Gravewurm, while tight, their brand of plodding black / war / death is not bad on record, fail to engage the audience at all. They also are now prime example numero uno of why not to talk in raspy black metal voice in between songs. Some bands can do it. Gravewurm cannot. Couple that with the fact that these guys looked like they just walked in off the street, threw on some instruments (Turquoise Warlock!) and lazily played through a set. It was almost laughable, but the music was fine. Go figure.

Every band of the tour shared the same drum set and bass amp, so the interim between sets was virtually nil. This quickly brought up Nachtmystium. I asked Blake if there was a band missing, leaving them in the second position, but found out that since this was their last stop of the tour (NM is leaving after this night, opting out of the Florida shows, due to obligations at home) they were moving up a slot so Negative Plane could play to a larger audience. After finding a seemingly hidden (although inoperable) toilet in a small dungeon behind the stage, I expelled the first of the night's alcohol intake. This was almost a blessing, the club's only other bathroom was the summit of an endless line, and I was literally about to piss my pants. Judd's Nachtmystium quickly decimated the audience, their brash, upbeat inhumanity loud and clear. It was now that I noticed the excellent sound offered, while standing behind the monitors to take pictures (a place in every other club where you will always be unable to hear vocals, among other things) the vocals stayed audible, and every instrument still cut through, unhindered. This performance was triumphant tenfold over March's gig in Jacksonville, Judd's vitriolic blackened psyche engulfed the crowd, and new bassist Zion (Forest of Impaled) was enrapturing. Goatwhore's drummer Zack Simmons provided stellar skin work. This band is really coming into it's own. With the new Century Media deal, huge things are on the horizon.

Negative Plane were next, a band I was not extremely acquainted with, I only heard in passing of the strength of their new one, Et In Saecula Saeculorum (Anja Offensive). Negative Plane really brought the atmosphere this small place needed; The Drunken unicorn literally sits underneath a parking lot, buried at the bottom of a small staircase; the dank, rotten abattoir was soon engulfed in fog and Negative Plane took the stage, burial cloaks donned. It is here I almost was completely overtaken by their drone / blackened meandering, until abject tempo changes and riff changes began to lose me. For these guys to lock into the direction they started with, they would have sold me (or bought my soul?). Regardless of my personal indiscretions, Negative Plane were mighty, their trance-like black mass was undeniable.

AngelFuckingCorpse. I had the chance to tell Pete Helmkamp after the show that I had waited ten years to see them and it was pure (black) magic. After seven years off, you would never know. Helmkamp commanded the stage, his presence enough to drive the listeners into a frozen pallor. There is no act with this band. They are Angelcorpse; there is no need for theatrics. The amazingly tight three piece magnificently plowed through every record, the new songs, "Machines of the Cleansing," "Antichrist Vanguard," and "Hexensabbat" falling into place perfectly alongside "Phallelujah," and "Sons of Vengeance." Anyone doubting the magnitude of this record will have their opinion promptly changed hearing the songs along with their older brothers and sisters. Many were assaulted from every album, the array of material they covered could not have been better, along with the performance and professionalism of this highly underrated act, they have firmly cemented themselves at the top of my greatest performances ever. As I said, I waited a long time to see them live, and it was nothing short of enlightening. Watching Gene Palubicki caress those classic riffs out of his seven-strings was purely monolithic. The intensity and propaganda of this ritual was nothing less than archetypal.

Sweden's Watain bring death to the air, their stench has been the thing of legend surrounding this tour; their stage carcasses and supply of blood nauseating. This was to be a true ritual of unfettered disease. Bassist / Vocalist Erik possessed himself and the crowd with his oratory and dementia, their accursed set filled this small, dank shell of a venue with callousness; wretched unforgiveness. It was an extreme honor to be in the presence of a band that literally brings forth an air of tormenting black lust. It would be a grave injustice of me to say that the atmosphere this band creates is nothing less than a true offering of the earth's sinister belly. Unfortunately the sound by this point had been compromised, the sound emanating from the monitors was a trebly, static roar. The drums and Vocals were absolutely unfuckwithable, but the guitars were very hard to wrap your head around. This is a minor fault, Watain are the next progenies of the dark might of the earth, and anyone who was able to see this ceremony should consider themselves anointed.

I stumbled into the night and got to catch up with Nachtmystium's Blake for a few minutes as well as chat up a former band mate and friend who showed up to the show at the last minute. The Antichrist Vanguards Tour 2007 will surely go down as something that was a honor to have seen, Angelcorpse's triumphant return to the stage, Nachtmystium's teetering on the brink of total domination and Watain's first journey to American Shores, where they were more than appreciated. It is not often that we Americans are garnered access to experience the real deal from the Scandinavian depths, so it was a true experience not to have been missed.

Special thanks to Blake Judd for his hospitality and friendship, Watain for coming over and certainly to Angelcorpse for fulfilling all those dark nights I spent spinning their sacrament. A truly unforgettable journey, indeed.

Justin.S