(Our man BadWolf turned out for the Watain / In Solitude / Tribulation show in Detroit last month and provides these impressions, and some pics.)
A Watain tour always causes a ruckus, in more than one way: For one, the band always puts on a killer live show. For another, their use of live animal blood and much-publicized visa troubles, not to mention blasphemous musical content, have cemented Watain’s reputation as outlaws—and gotten them banned from more than a few venues in the process.
Their fall tour, however, got me especially excited, thanks to the addition of two perfect touring partners. Show openers Tribulation released a powerful black metal album in early 2013, one which blended the black-thrash sound Watain has popularized with psychedelic and film score elements. In Solitude played second fiddle, fresh off a Decibel cover, while supporting the recent release of their third album, Sister, which has already been called album of the year by a few metal journalists, particularly Adrien Begrand [http://social.entertainment.msn.com/music/blogs/post—a-fond-farewell]. I think it’s pretty damn good, despite (or perhaps because of?) only containing clean singing.
I caught this most satanic of road shows at The Magic Stick, one of Detroit’s finest venues for metal. There, Tribulation were already closing up their set, inside a fine-looking stage decoration, which resembled a high school choir backdrop made of bones. Plastic Bones. Either way, for all of one song Tribulation brought serious creep factor, courtesy of a semi-hollow-body jazz guitar emulating orchestral stings and watery atmospheric solos.
In Solitude, however, made the night their own. The Swedish trad-metal five piece has some serious stage presence, particularly bassist Gottfrid Åhman, who as I understand composes most of the band’s music. I know some people find his exaggerated approach a bit unnerving, but as long as he keeps guiding his band through songs like “A Buried Sun,” and “We Were Never Here,” I’ll support him. His brother, Pelle, looked more nervous behind the microphone. He has a pretty great clean voice, but on occasion I could not tell if his twitchy gesticulations were nervous tics, or some sort of music-inspired trance.
I cherish the opportunity to see In Solitude in such an intimate venue—the way things are going, they’re headed to major market waters by the time another album support cycle rolls around. As for Sister, I like the album up to a point. Yes, it leaves behind most of the uncomfortable Iron Maiden and Mercyful Fate comparisons, and in so doing pushes old-school metal forward into a new direction, which is a feat in and of itself. That said, it’s not the rocketing success some have claimed it to be. Instead of Album of the Year I’d just say: this is what happens when a classic metal band tries to make an Echo and the Bunnymen album.
As for Watain, they took the stage to enforce the rule of their own new release, The Wild Hunt, which I quite liked. I suppose the local butcher shops had been forewarned—it was my first bloodless Watain show. Without the plasma stench, Watain loses a bit of the atmosphere, but none of the showmanship. Erik Danielsson is still a great frontman, and Watain know how to stack a set list. Wisely, perhaps, they avoided much of the more progressive material off their latest album—but I still tossed the horns when they chose to dedicate “Outlaw” to Detroit.
Their 90-minute trek drew heavily from my favorite Watain album, Sworn to the Dark, including “Storm of the Antichist,” “Satan’s Hunger,” and of course the almighty “Stellarvore.” The show lacked a bit of the vital energy of when I saw them last, but if the turnout was any indication, I expect to see Daniellson and his fellow outlaws again, soon.