First gig of the year and it was destined to be one that won’t be forgotten in a hurry. Watain are playing a few select shows in honour of new album Trident Wolf Eclipse and reports from the first of these in Tilburg had been more than positive. The show had caught many on the hop selling out well in advance and people had been scrambling around to try and find tickets. There’s a big queue snaking round the Dome and expectations and atmosphere are high.

Woe-betide anyone not bothering with the support, there is only one but they are not to be missed. Uppsala upstarts Degial released an absolutely savage album ‘Predator Reign’ at the tail end of last year and it totally blew me away. Having seen them play a free show at The Unicorn previously I knew they were going to go at it all guns blazing and had even prior to them being announced stated that they would be the perfect support band. There’s a faint recognisable whiff emanating from the backstage area, anyone who has been to a Watain show will instantly recognise it, it’s not pleasant but puts us in the frame of mind for what is to follow. There is a photo pit here for once and bin bags are laid out on ground, it doesn’t bode well for those at the front. Degial hit the ground running with savage fury and intensity as they unleash that title track from the new album. The band are glowing in a seaweed radiation greenish blue colour and up close they suitably smell like they have crawled out a swamp. Any subtleties and the glorious clamouring riffs of the album are at first obliterated in a wall of devastating noise; the drumming is monumental from Emil Svensson who is on double duties tonight. Sound improves with the riffs squealing away and the snarls of Hampus Eriksson, lost in a sea of hair behind the microphone, creating a virtual ‘Hellstorm.’ The band have a good lengthy set and are able to dip back in time to ‘Savage Mutiny’ which comes hard and fast with blood red lighting. Its rammed, so it appears most had managed to get in and see the band and looking around everyone seems to be getting into things. Those who have not encountered them before are certainly going to be looking Degial up in the morning. There’s plenty of the new numbers played, ‘Crown Of Fire’ elementally blazing away with vitriolic finesse, the ‘Savage Covenant’ enforced with its bristling riffs fired out with swaggering bravado. Fully deserving a headline slot of their own there are few that could have followed this show of strength but not even last number ‘Thousand Spears Impale’ couldn’t stop what was about to follow.

The stage is decked out infernally and there’s so much to take in before Watain even tread the boards. Various skulls deck things, an altar is glowing and tridents bedeck the place. The band come on, front-man Erik carrying a lit torch and setting various things alight. They are resplendently grotesque and smeared in claret. We take a deep breath and they are off, the ‘Legions Of The Black Light’ in full force in all its devilish glory. Yeah I know calling a performance a ritual is all de-rigueur but when so much is put into it, what else can you call it? With blood mist in their eyes the audience certainly know they are watching something special and it’s hardly a bunch of faceless students going through the motions here. New songs are not forced upon us and the extensive list takes through all periods, on unleashing ‘Nuclear Alchemy’ the first from ‘Trident Wolf Eclipse’ though it’s kind of obvious everyone is expecting it and knows it well already as there is a volatile charge running through the pit. The scent of blood just slightly lingers as it has done all night, hanging in the air. The venue has witnessed the stench in full force in the past and it is natural they did not particularly want to do so again. ‘The Devil’s Blood’ is however to be shared in both song and more literal sense. I did not see it flung out but apparently it was a couple of times. I did however witness a few ichor smeared patrons but was not so blessed myself this time. Having been so in the past, I was more than happy to let others have their taste this time.

There is plenty to watch as songs like Angelrape come from the mists of time whilst we bang heads along. Set Teitan grimly strums along on our stage left, Erik bristles with a frenetic energy almost seemingly possessed, the grizzly Pelle and Alvaro look dead scary as they dig in on the right. Taking the wild hunt in from the side and focussing on it more it’s great to rock out to ‘Outlaw’, the frontman delivering it in rabid and gibbering fashion and the band looking like what can only be described as the ultimate biker pack straight from the bowels of hell. Another observation is that the sound levels dropped a bit from what they had been like for Degial which really helped the clarity and made everything sound perfect. Many have their favourite numbers and I doubt there were many disappointed with the selection taking us into ‘Lawless Darkness’ and beyond. It’s the scent of incense that lingers as things build to a climax. ‘The Serpents Chalice’ is nearly drained but not quite yet as it is time for a very respectful version of Dissection classic ‘The Somberlain’ performed by the only band who legitimately deserve to do so. There’s little more to be said, the ritual is complete! Blood, fire and death has been delivered in true Swedish style.

Review and Photos Pete Woods