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Live Review: Marduk, Nachtmystium, Mantic Ritual, Tyrant’s Hand @ Sonar (2009.11.23)

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All photos: Diana Lee, Special to MetalSucks.net

Last Monday was cold and rainy and depressing; perfect black metal weather. A decent sized crowd turned out for Marduk and Nachtmystium at Sonar, where they made a big circle, moshed, fought, gave each other dirty looks, made the sign of the devil and were violated in the ear-hole. I wear earplugs at metal shows: One of them fell out as I was head-banging. I did not replace it, and I paid for that decision.

I missed most of Tyrant’s Hand, but I did notice that the lead singer was not wearing corpse paint or spiked gauntlets, opting instead for a practical L.L. Bean polar fleece pullover. Was he sick? Was it an act of rebellion?

Merrimack set the tone for the evening by amending the lack of corpse-paint and spiked gauntlets, and playing a great set that was by turns fast and brutal, then deep and dark with lots of atmospheric dissonant guitars. The lead singer is eight feet tall and I thought they had a good, almost scary stage presence. Overall, a quality black metal experience, although it bugged me that they kept asking me to hail Satan. I refused, mostly because I hate being told what to do.

The big surprise of the night was Mantic Ritual from Pittsburgh. They were a surprise both because they played thrash in the middle of a black metal show, and because they were really good (even though their singer was sick and not performing). I feel bad for saying that they ruled minus their singer, but they ruled, honestly the high point of the evening. Live I thought they sounded very much like Slayer and early Sepultura, which is not the worst thing that could happen to a band. Their record, which I bought at the show, sounds a lot like a mix of the aforementioned bands, and early Metallica with less singing. They have a great on-stage energy, which I think was heightened by the fact that they were a man down and killing it anyway. It was a little awkward to get a rad, unpretentious dose of thrash when I had myself psyched up for black metal. I enjoy the spectacle of black metal, but it is men wearing costumes and makeup, and therefore it is a hair’s breadth away from WWE wrestling, so it takes a certain suspension of disbelief to enjoy it.

nacht 3If Mantic Ritual made the whole thing seem a little precarious, Nachtmystium restored my faith by playing (sans makeup) a fast, brutal, and loud set, comprised mostly of cuts from Assassins: Black Meddle Part 1 and Doomsday Derelicts. As usual with my favorite black metal bands, a lot of the depth and nuance that for me really makes the music special (on Doomsday Derelicts it is Blake Judd’s mildly distorted Black Sabbath-y leads) gets lost live, although a few songs (Hellish Overdose!) killed. I did not dig something about the sound. Usually the sound is great on the club stage, so I am guessing that it was slightly too loud for that space. I have an ongoing inner conflict regarding the volume at metal shows. On the one hand, I want it to be loud, and I also don’t want to be a wuss and say it is too loud. On the other hand, extreme volumes obscure what makes all my favorite bands unique and it makes all bands sound the same. I generally enjoy bands that play at lower volumes more because I can hear the music better (although in my defense ‘lower volumes’ still means a persistent ringing in the ear for a day or two). Nachtmystium basically delivered live and their sound mostly suits their newer material, which I would say has fewer layers than some of the earlier albums.

mardukMarduk cancelled their appearance at Maryland Death Fest 2009 so I was lucky to get to see them. Marduk live sounds basically like Marduk on record: fast, intense, loud, dissonant, and brutal. Blast beats are more central to their sound, and their music is less layered than a lot of canonical Norwegian black metal. They have a distinctive, sand-blasty sound that they share with a few other bands, like Gorgoroth and 1349. They played a long set and an encore. I could not hear anything after about twenty minutes and my ears are still ringing. It was great, but it was also a little stupefying, especially if you are stone cold sober. However it is hard to fault a band that openly professes to be dedicated to evil (they opened with “Christraping Black Metal”) for sandpapering your eardrums and damaging your hearing. I got exactly what I asked for.

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One Response to “Live Review: Marduk, Nachtmystium, Mantic Ritual, Tyrant’s Hand @ Sonar (2009.11.23)”

  1. James Gilmore says:

    Forgot to mention that Mantic Ritual’s Jeff Potts (guitar) stepped in to handle the vocals for ailing singer Dan Wetmore, Rad photos!

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