Belated Tales of the Unexpected
CoC haunts Morbid Angel, Enslaved, The Crown, Dying Fetus, Behemoth and Hypnos in l'Olympic, Nantes (France), December 19th, 2000
by: David Rocher
To awaken the familiar ghost named "poor organisation" that usually lurks around underground metal gigs, well, this day is going to be remembered as a pretty classy appearance of this not-very-unearthly phenomenon. With the concert room doors initially meant to open at 5:30pm, many extreme metal addicts from lands afar (including yours truly) had made sure to turn up at 4:30, so as not to miss any bands... which basically then left us a full two-and-a-half hours to relish to the taste of cheap watered-down beer at an adjacent bar, as the Olympic's doors in fact only opened at 7:15pm.

The best was yet to come: about one minute after the doors opened, Hypnos arrived on stage, and obviously faced a virtually empty room, as the one thousand plus attending metalheads gradually started flooding the concert hall.

This of course just goes to say that I barely managed to catch the last ten minutes of Hypnos' set -- but don't go thinking I've lost any sleep about it. All Hypnos succeeded in doing, in the space of three songs flat, was proving they were distinctly nothing to write home about -- another decent but dully-glowing death/thrash buoy bobbing around an already hopelessly saturated sea. The closing track to their set, however, "In Blood We Trust", was a cut above in terms of quality and "kickassness", featuring cool leads, catchy rhythms and shedding a good deal of intensity onto the growing audience. But the concert was running late already, so Hypnos were mercilessly shunted off the scene as the roadies, with the concert's massive belatedness in mind, frantically started preparing Behemoth's equipment.

Five minutes later indeed, the Polish quartet invaded the stage, and kicked in fast, hard, and with murderous precision into the glorious _Satanica_ opener, "Decade of Therion", before moving on into an array of material from their new meisterwerk _Thelema.6_. I had placed great expectations in Behemoth this evening, and the band flawlessly lived up to these, as they covered material from almost the whole of their career, looming as far back as _Grom_ and _Sventevith: Storming Near the Baltic_. The show they delivered, led by the energetic and charismatic vocalist Nergal, was metal 'til the very end, and entertaining to the extreme; the audience responded accordingly, chanting the band's name and roaring with satisfaction after each track -- hmm, maybe Morbid Angel (as I will broach further down) should consider taking lessons with these guys!

As Behemoth left the stage after an elating half-hour performance, roadies once again suddenly arose from the shadows and got down to frantic work to prepare Dying Fetus' arrival. As I am definitely no aficionado of this band, I can hardly comment on the quality of the live renditions they delivered; I can, however, certify that Dying Fetus were massively heavy, totally extreme and as wildly entertaining as they could get, even though I had trouble telling one song from another after a while -- I did recognise two tracks from their catchy effort _Killing on Adrenaline_, and that's about all I could really make out. Sound and playing were both cool, and the best point was you could tell that, similarly to Behemoth, Dying Fetus were really having fun up there, as the crowd writhed, swirled and sweated to the grinding blasts of their music.

Dying Fetus then left the stage to make space for The Crown, and this is where I started getting -really- twitchy. I have been following The Crown since the time of their 1993 demo _Forever Heaven Gone_, and will unabashedly declare that they were -the- only other band -- Behemoth being the first of these -- that I was really waiting for that night. Admittedly, I was more than just slightly eager to see Morbid Angel live, but to some extent, I somehow knew that if the Americans would certainly provide professional-level entertainment -- which they didn't, actually --, the Swedes would be out for blood -- which they were, totally!

And indeed, The Crown were undoubtedly, that night, the band which wreaked the most havoc among the audience, and fittingly got the very best imaginable response from the crowd. Beginning their set with the killer opener "Deathrace King", the rabid quintet covered material from all of their albums, including their debut _The Burning_ ("Of Good and Evil") and its sequel _Eternal Death_ (the devastating opener "Angels Die" and "Beautiful Evil Soul"). The coolest, most elating feature with this band is just how totally fucking -metal- they are -- in fact, the whole band look like a quintet of Swedish sales reps in '80s thrash paraphernalia... but gone -completely- brutal; and as to the actual quality of their music and performance -- oh, man! Vocalist Johan Lindstrand's voice was absolutely -incredible-, literally oozing with utter aggression, and skinsman supreme Janne Sarenpaa put on an incredible show, providing some of the most precise, intense and thunderous drumming I've heard in a -long- time. The string section's work was also flawless, and the whole 45 minutes of the show just seemed to blow by like a totally savage maelstrom of metal! The Crown made a totally amazing appearance that night and, beyond all doubt to me, were the true headliners -- hell yeah!

As The Crown left the stage, seeming quite satisfied with the incredible chaos they'd strewn among the audience, the frantic roadies once again got down to settling a new world record in lightspeed drumkit installations, and pretty much succeeded, since Enslaved took to the stage within a mere ten minutes.

And a mere ten minutes is also what it took Enslaved to put me off, as their show just didn't work on me. I had just been keeled over by a searing, hammering blast session, and the Norwegians' renditions of their latest material just couldn't claim to match. I've mildly lost track of Enslaved since they moved into their "new" style with _Blodhemn_, and their show just failed to whet my appetite. It's all about chemistry, really, I thought to myself, and therefore decided to go downstairs to the bar to give my eardrums a rest, and the dubious chemically invaded local ale another try.

About three quarters of an hour later, the bar suddenly got crowded, clearly revealing that Enslaved were done, and that headliners Morbid Angel were soon to appear on stage and kick everyone's asses blue and black. At least that's what I supposed, having overheard the rather dramatic statement that Morbid Angel live were as good as... Slayer. Ah, over-emphatic fan talk -- there's nothing like it. Anyway, the lights dimmed, the quartet took to the stage as "Kawazu", the intro to _Gateways to Annihilation_, played, announcing a live rendition of the awesome opener "The Summoning". Morbid Angel played this very faithfully to the album, were technically stunning and murderously precise, but already something was wrong -- why the hell was Pete Sandoval playing in the dark, while Trey Azagthoth was already bathing in an aura of golden lighting effects? Wordlessly, the band then moved on to play "To the Victor, the Spoils" and some other track off their rather unconvincing sixth chapter _Formulas Fatal to the Flesh_, both of which received a slightly less heated welcome than the previous track had, before bassist and grunter Steve Tucker announced the glorious "Day of Suffering", which worked like a massive intravenous surge of napalm laced with adrenaline on the whole of the audience -- proof, in my humble opinion (and if proof was ever needed), that Morbid Angel's post-David Vincent new material just can't claim to unleash the same compelling, apocalyptic darkness as Morbid Angel's pre-_Domination_ tracks.

Unrelenting, the band then offered perfectly-timed renditions of "Thy Kingdom Come", "Rapture", "Pain Divine", "Lord of All Fevers and Plague" and more material off their various releases; Pete Sandoval's drumming was awesome, Erik Rutan and Steve Tucker's playing was in perfect timing, but the most eye-catching phenomenon on stage was undoubtedly Trey Azagthoth. All throughout the set, his guitar work was absolutely enrapturing, and all his stance and attitude irradiated a genuinely mesmerising bizarreness which, combined with his incredible dexterity, made for a series of rather tantalising guitar demonstrations.

However, with this very idealistic description penned, and as I readily have mumbled about before, all these individual qualities just couldn't save Morbid Angel's show from the general impression of dull boredom that gradually settled in with the whole audience; the Americans' live performance just didn't seem to -work- on more than five percent of their own fans, and this date in fact soon turned out to be a rather blunt, unexciting and motionless moment -- especially when compared to the massive, murderous adrenaline surges Behemoth and The Crown had provided that evening!

Bored and blase, I actually left the room before the end of Morbid's rather unconvinced encore, during which they stabbed at "Chapel of Ghouls", "Maze of Torment" and some excerpt from _Formulas Fatal to the Flesh_. All in all, Morbid Angel's show was a definite disappointment to me, but also provided some further incontestable evidence that the band has lost a lot more, in the worryingly obfuscous person of David Vincent, than a technically competent and genuinely motivated bassist and vocalist -- with this unholy departure, Morbid Angel have simply been deprived of that essential component in their music that was dark, choking and unearthly.

(article submitted 10/1/2001)

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