Darkness descended upon Europe as polish black metal quartet (or ‘blackened death metal’ outfit as I’m often corrected in light of my naivety by pernickety sub-genre nerds) Behemoth called forth their legions to their biggest run of shows throughout January and February 2019. Supporting their latest studio effort ‘I Loved You At Your Darkest’, a quote from their favourite book [Romans 5:8] – Behemoth not only took a different direction sonically with very dark, dynamic and emotive song-writing, but upped the ante in the live arena introducing a refreshingly energetic stage presence and impressive production. Whilst being part of a scene that I’d not often lend my ear to, Behemoth has always had this charm that kept a strong grip upon my musical radar for the last few years since discovering their 2014 release ‘The Apostasy’ featuring the ruthless ‘At the Left Hand ov God’.
On this tour, the band sold out an astounding 18 out of 28 shows gracing very large venues, with the remaining 10 selling out by default due to a minuscule handful of tickets made available on the door. Vicar Street proved to be a mecca for the more extreme-orientated metal fans as Behemoth was accompanied by the renowned Swedes At The Gates and Wolves In The Throne Room from the United States.
Enter the stage to thick dense fog of dry ice and ominous lighting, Wolves in the Throne Room began proceedings creating a despair-evoking atmosphere complimenting contemporises such as Amesoeurs, juxtaposed with relentless sonic blasts native to the Scandinavian sounds of Enslaved and Dark Throne. Whilst unfamiliar with their back-catalogue, the opening epic ‘Angrboda’ best exemplified the band’s power which remained perpetual through their set.
I laughed hysterically during the changeover in preparation for the arrival of Tomas Lindberg and the lads from At The Gates. As their worker bees carried out their crew duties, the sounds of The Birdy Song amongst other whimsical carnival and retro dancehall greats lightened the mood as the punter began to flock in. The juxtaposition in sound when the lights went black was what I can only describe as a sudden smack to the face, the Swedish quintet erupted into ‘To Drink from the Night Itself’. Melodic riffs tackled assaulting rhythms, lengths of hair on-stage and in the crowd were swinging in tandem, and frontman Tomas with his signature cap-look moved frantically spurring on the masses. Amidst the onslaught, songs including ‘Cold’, ‘A Stare Bound In Stone’ and ‘The Book of Sand’ kept the room alive with appropriate physical reaction as the band unceasingly dished out the crushing riffs and inescapable grooves.
Upon At The Gates fading out their last notes across the PA, a choir of children proclaimed “ELOHIM! I SHALL NOT FORGIVE”. An omen, foreboding in character, indicated that thy time was nigh, darkness was indeed ready to descending upon the Dublin venue.
Broadcasting from the triangular screen were images of Ireland bound with an inverted cross, grainy symbols associated with the bands satanic-adjacent branding, and sparse shadows created from unexpected glitching strobes. Behemoth, intentionally bathed in purple sporting veiled skull masks, were welcomed by the excited congregation. The band carried album introduction ‘Solve’ into full bloom as the sheer bombarding drum fills of ‘Wolves ov Siberia’ triggered large nitrous oxide cannons and epilepsy-inducing lighting. The audience were immediately pulled into the dark world of Nergal and the gang. As the song entered its bridge, the crowd and Behemoth were already one, engaged in tribalistic ritual. The Polish quartet continued a punishing blow with the frenzying Evangelion-era track ‘Daimonos’ sent mosh enthusiasts into utter chaos.
The setlist was a testament to the band’s ever-present dynamic character, contrasting the intense belligerence of ‘Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer’ with the more sullen ‘Bartzabel’ harnessing monk-chants and shifting melodic passages. Between curtains of sparks, large clouds of dry ice, dress changes, sharp visuals, concentrated movements and fan-engaging positions, and confetti swarms – Behemoth carried out an incredible live production portraying themselves as a band who balance a powerful sound with equally striking visual effect, attacking the senses for maximum impact.
Highlights of their Dublin set included the vicious ‘God = Dog’ and devastatingly ‘Blow Your Trumpet’s Gabriel’ with stomped over the heads of all those present in its path. Moreover, Orion [bassist] came out of the shadows in a massive feathered headdress during ‘Lucifer‘ which saw him the centre of a massive confetti storm that enveloped the venue to the pounding war-like double kick. To round off their set, the band returned unexpectedly towards individual spot-lights equipped with drums performing the percussive piece ‘Coaglva’ – concluding their reign over the Irish legions.
If 666 is a possible rating, it’s utmost reflective of the efforts and thought put into Ecclesia Diabolica Evropa 2019 E.V tour. For those preparing themselves for the subsequent appearances in Australia and festival season, make their sets your immediate priority. Bow before the Behemoth!
Review & Photography: Steven Donnelly