Dead by Dawn
Deicide, Rotting Christ, Aeternus, Ancient Rites and Behemoth
by: Paul Schwarz
A bill containing this many extreme metal bands rarely hits London at all, so it is rather ironic that Valentine's Day should see the arrival of such a horde of demons. Deicide once again did us the honour of bringing a killer line-up to London. Lots of bands meant an early start, though, and I managed to arrive a tad too late to catch all of Behemoth's set. However, the three songs I did catch were enough to indicate to me that Behemoth have some talent and certainly seem to have some luck or expertise at their disposal when it comes to mixing a live sound, since their percussive death/black attack was coming out of the speakers more like crystal clear spring water than the murky sludge an opening band usually gets for a sound.

Ancient Rites were the next to take the stage. They are not a band whose music I am familiar with, but, as with Behemoth, the sound was thankfully of a quality where I could at least hear what they were playing. The band's central focus is black metal, but with a considerable amount of melody used, and death metal-esque sections thrown in here and there. They had a keyboard player, though he seemed somewhat under-used, and the vocalist interspersed his screaming with varied vocal emergences. Overall, the band were not bad and played competently, but their music made little impression on me.

Aeternus were the first band of the bill whose music I had previously enjoyed. Their _... And So the Night Became_ album [CoC #33] is a sprawling, complex, diverse and epic work of black metal and not the kind of thing I expected would reproduce well in a live environment. Aeternus were evidently not attempting to re-create the full effect of their most recent album since no keyboards or even acoustic guitars were used; instead, the band opted to play only the heavy parts of their songs. This wasn't exactly bad, and considering the limited time and the length of this band's songs, it was probably necessary, but the performance did detract from one of Aeternus' greatest strengths: their ability to meld dark, violent, percussive playing with melodic and melancholic passages. The band played well, the drummer's time keeping being particularly impressive, and frontman Ares managed some invigorating contortions while playing which enhanced the band's stage presence. The band were let down a little by the sound quality, which was a tad murky and lost some of the subtleties which lie within their otherwise virtual whirlwind of a sound.

Returning to these shores were Greece's Rotting Christ, and they played a set which I would go as far as to call triumphant. Beginning with "Cold Colours", from their new _Sleep of the Angels_ album, and continuing with a set composed primarily of new material, but also drawing from nearly all of their other releases, the band not only had a crisp, powerful sound bestowed upon their instruments; they also had a lot of energy on stage and were quite invigorating. Sakis held a striking presence, sometimes standing, almost proclaiming his lyrics to the crowd, sometimes head down thrashing on his guitar and often finishing songs with a mighty chop of the axe occasionally intentionally sounding the drummer's cymbal with his own hand. The two other up-front members of the band were energetic, though not to such an impressive extent. One problem I noticed, however, was that the vocals were not loud enough; they didn't match the volume of the guitars, drums, or even keyboard sometimes, and too many times were lost in the mix. Overall, though, a group of very worthy live performers who played a great set.

Considering the amount of people crammed into the LA2, it would seem that Deicide's following has hardly waned since their early '90s heyday, despite what I would regard as a dip in the quality of recordings since 1992's _Legion_, and the chants of "Dei-cide, Dei-cide" before the band even hit the stage would seem to confirm how strong their following is. With a crisp and viciously percussive sound behind them, Deicide belted out an hour of material which included: "When Satan Rules His World", "Bastard of Christ", "Blame it on God", "Children of the Underworld", "Lunatic of God's Creation", "Serpents of the Light", "Deicide", "Slave to the Cross", "Dead but Dreaming", "Trick or Betray", "Behind the Light, Thou Shalt Rise", "Oblivious to Evil", "Father Baker's", "Sacrificial Suicide", "Once Upon the Cross" and "Dead by Dawn". Though this setlist is similar to the one they've been touring for a while now and rather neglects the aforementioned 1992 classic, the band had good news for those of us who wanted to hear some of their other material. Glen Benton said that, along with not selling out like Metallica and Slayer (I personally disagreed with that one) have and spending the rest of the year working on a new album, they would be re-introducing many of their old songs (he mentioned "Behead the Prophet" and "Blaspherion", among others) into a new setlist which they would be touring next year, when they will return to the UK. Returning to the subject of tonight's performance, Deicide were technically perfect, but lacked motion on stage -- the brothers Hoffman being particularly static. Steve Asheim never missed a beat and Glen Benton's voice was in prime condition, his screams and bellows still being some of the most brutal on the planet. Overall, the band did suffer from seeming a little un-animated, but the music and playing were totally there and the net effect was abrasive, to say the least. For myself, though, I'm holding my breath for next time.

(article submitted 14/3/1999)

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