There are plenty of black metal acts coming to town at the moment to keep us aurally terrorized but Watain are well renowned for attacking other senses too being the most stinky band on the planet. However we could breathe deeply on entering the venue as first it was a case of the support band to contend with before any descending stenches. There had been many a rumour of who might be playing this show with the Swedish headliner but they were all pretty much proved wrong as we found earlier it was to be Northern English doom act Coltsblood. This was a great result for the band as recently they had been playing the much smaller confines of the Black Heart down the road; big step up. The trio looked slightly swamped on the stage with most of Watain’s set up towering behind them. The drummer was hidden on the right hand side by a much smaller drum kit, guitarist Jem seemed to want to be tucked away on the left pretty much out of sight too leaving vocalist / bassist John to grab any limelight at the centre. Light may not be the right word at all though as the stage was bathed in deep red with minimal lighting.
Despite the front man’s Emperor shirt this was not black metal in the slightest and whether it was the wisest choice of support is something many were discussing as they hid behind the bar. I do have a tolerance for such things but others most certainly did not. Coltsblood are an exercise in forging monolithic and expansive slabs of plateau shifting, fuzz laden doom and that’s the review pretty much written. They shook the foundations of the far from busy venue with reverb and heavy bass tones rumbling away like an earthquake aftershock. This was perfect music for those that like chewing Mogadons for breakfast and the howling vocals were an edgy addition to the music. As for that, well the band played the same riff pretty much continuously and it did begin to grind me down but the one saving grace is that at least they didn’t quite hit the brown note, things were just about to get a whole lot smellier as it was.
Having said that and having witnessed every London Watain show from the Verge to this it was not really that bad a stench and in the photo pit it was no doubt at its worst. The stage was not the most clattered we have seen from the Swedes in the past, in fact it was if anything a little stripped down with just the constant fiery tumult of blazing tridents to light things up. Musically of course and with recent album The Wild Hunt behind them things were going to be full on as they blazed away and as the band entered to the classic Swedish sounding riffs of ‘Night Vision’ we knew things were about to explode. That they did in the form of ‘De Profundis’ and the new tracks were quick to bite in and consolidate their position in the grand scheme of things. It was down to that horrible red light to cast a bloody hew over pretty much the whole set and although it made things a little one-dimensional in that respect it added to the bloodlust fuelling the set. Erik naturally commanded at the front with the rest of the band digging in and unleashing their musical hellfire as he brought the unholy sermon to death vocally. With ‘Malefitor’ furrowing away I wondered what sort of chaos was going on behind me in the pit. Thankfully we were not soaked in blood thrown off the stage (saving me throwing more clothing away), but the singer anointed the heads of those dumb enough to want to be tinged with foul ichor from his bloody chalice at the front. Naturally security chose that exact moment to throw us out ruining any photo opportunities.
Someone said about this being the transitionary show for the band, frankly when I took in the complete picture I did not see this. There was absolutely nothing to fault about the performance but the venue was all wrong, sterile and lifeless meaning the dark atmosphere was not coming through and the audience seemed to be not really making the most of it either. Perhaps the fact that it was far from full did not help and I found the security tonight were completely overbearing and it felt uncomfortable in that ‘big brother is watching you respect’. Numbers like the rabid ‘Reaping Death’ should have had everyone like wolves but it was all rather sheepish. It did however make it seem quite acceptable to step back from it all and sip a beer to the ‘The Wild Hunt’ itself and enjoy the dark majesty of the clean vocals. Perhaps he says it at every show but maybe Erik also felt something amiss as the crowd again seemed a little subdued rather than ‘Sworn To The Dark’ making him shout out that he wanted an end to this ‘peace gathering’ and to see some ‘good old fashioned British violence’ for ‘Outlaw.’ It was more a case of Chelsea pensioners than Chelsea Headhunters here tonight though so although the band gave their all it was not returned so any devils agreement was truly not fulfilled. ‘Waters Of Ain’ should naturally been a celebration but as it gracefully ebbed and flowed people began to filter out, not on a high like the fantastic Bloodstock show left us in but a bit on the despondent side unfortunately.
(Review and photos © Pete Woods)