Wednesdays are always the best time to see metal concerts, because the crowds are reduced to diehard fanatics who will accept a groggy Thursday for a blistering Wednesday night. While the devotees of heavy metal were more than enthusiastic to be there, the club was spacious as this particular night brought half the attendance of last week's Finntroll concert. Perhaps it was because the bands on the bill were mainly black metal acts from various parts of the world. Or perhaps it was because this particular Wednesday happened to be the Ash Wednesday; the most holy of mid days devoted to repentance and cleansing of excesses. Jaxx was empty and the management felt turning on any sort of heat would be silly for the 30 patrons milling around. The bartenders were forced to don coats, and the band members shuffled around in black hoodies. This is the scene for the first day of Lent, as well as the kick off for the "Apostles of Darkness" tour with Rotting Christ, Melechesh, Hate, Abigail Williams and Lecherous Nocturne.
As I age, I've noticed Wednesday concerts have become more inconvenient, especially ones which start at 6:15. I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to miss at least one of the opening bands. Over the course of a few years, I have found the supporting bands at metal shows to hold much interest and quality. Because every band starts at the bottom, it is entertaining to project, wager and theorize which of these supporting bands will be headliners in the near future. One of these bands will have either a break out record or slowly gain enough of a fan base for critical attention. Since Poland's Hate canceled their slot, it opened a small opening space for Virginia's The Ziggurat. The Ziggurat is a traditional death metal / thrash act obsessed with Sumerian occultism and Lovecraftian lore. I was extremely excited to see The Ziggurat and ultimately enraged when my arrival to Jaxx was greeted by the band saying goodnight to a crowd of five people. Dear Azathoth, I apologize for not getting to the show sooner, please let the Old Ones spare me this one time.
The crowd spiked in numbers to ten attendees (including myself and fiancée) for North Carolina's Lecherous Nocturne. They may have the drawl of southern gentlemen, but their music is nothing less than a head splitting massacre. Within the standard typhoon of noise that defines technical death metal were passages of teeth clenching grooves. These torrents of rhythm sent the ten members of the audience into synchronized spasms before breaking into erratic noise. One of the more positive aspects of the show was lead vocalist Jason Hohenstein presenting the music as if it were a packed stadium and Lecherous Nocturne entering their second encore. Regardless if there were nine people (my fiancée left to go look at the Melechesh shirts), and only three people in the mosh pit, the band still played like their lives depended on it.
During the end of Lecherous Nocturne, I saw two people suiting up with implements of destruction. The costumes included spiked gauntlets and comically large nails attached to black leather shin guards. I thought the high black metal armor went out of fashion at the close of the 1990s. Perhaps I was wrong, and Abigail Williams was obviously prepared to play music as well as participate in public lacerations.
The Abigail Williams I saw at Jaxx was completely different from the one I read about on the Internet. I thought I was seeing symphonic black metal with sympathies towards metalcore and a Dimmu Borgir style of lunacy. What I saw that night was a cold, textbook tribute to black metal's second wave, with allegiance towards the atmospheric style prevalent in North America. What I read about Abigail Williams was full of slanderous criticism, ranging from accusations of inauthenticity to being a bunch of lame-ass mallcore brats. Abigail Williams, however, seethed evil during their entire 25 minute set; and while half as technical as the band previous was twice the unbridled hate. Ken Sorceron's vocals were a flattering homage to Emperor's Ihsahn with Wolves in the Throne Room's Nathan Weaver thrown in for good measure. The North American black metal aspect became more dominant during their closer "The Departure". The delayed tremolo picking and dark crescendos was enough to convince me everything I once thought about this band was wrong.
Melechesh's set up took half the time as last year's setup during Maryland Death Festival. There were no costumes, incense or long choral chants before their entrance; just a short fanfare before the band took the stage. Melechesh's embrace of ancient Sumerian mythology has gained them slow notoriety over the past five years. It is also the reason why I am here tonight. Since the discovering their 2004 release _Sphynx_, I have been trying to integrate cuneiform into my everyday life. Melechesh destroyed last year's Deathfest and made no plans to falter tonight. The use of Persian chords within the black metal template gives the style a particularly razor sharp edge. Riffs and choruses rip through the skin like scimitars thrown from camelback. The band played a healthy amount from _The Epigenesis_ as well as crowd pleasers from _Sphynx_. I, like any red blooded American, enjoyed the entire set, but waited in disciplined patience for "Triangular Tattvic Fire". The song is perhaps Melechesh's strongest, as the mid-song break opens an inter-dimensional vortex liberating ancient deities. There is no need for any chanting build up for the double kick back into the riff comes in the form of an uppercut delivered by the lord of the constellations.
I believe this would be the time where I will have to admit a painful revelation. I never had the opportunity, like most, to fully understand the headliner, Rotting Christ. I know some people would cut off their right arm with one of Melechesh's scimitars to see this Greek black metal band in concert. It took me halfway through "The Forest of N'Gai" to really understand what was happening. The night was full of comparisons, as Rotting Christ's sound of 1000 Aegean soldiers charging was a change to Melechesh's fluid air attacks. Rotting Christ's blend of black metal with gothic tendencies was thicker than Melechesh's and noticeably more warm than Abigail Williams. The band's set, while strung together by newer songs, spoke of tradition -- the type of legacy which only a Greek black metal band from the early '90s could possess. I feel at a loss for criticism or even comment, as the concert was one of my first experiences with this band. While the rousing seafaring "Noctis Era" closed the set, it was merely the beginning of my time with Rotting Christ.