A Night to Remember, a Bill to Forget
CoC attends Tristania, Rotting Christ, Vintersorg and Madder Mortem
in l'Antipode, Rennes, France, on October 4th 2001

by: David Rocher
Obviously, for a mildly cantankerous individual such as myself, something was not right from the very second I checked this night's bill out: from what I grasped, Finntroll were cancelled owing to their "Joik" singer Jari falling ill, and worse -- why the hell were Rotting Christ not announced as headliners to this show? With this rather irritating interrogation in mind, I nonetheless was very eager to check at least three of the bands on the roster this evening out, and was also rather intrigued to see whether Vintersorg would succeed in boring me out of my shoes in five minutes flat, as they had done at the Wacken Open Air this year -- quite possibly, fans will argue, owing to the rather averse conditions at the "Kult" German festival.

I didn't really know what to expect from Madder Mortem. Much as I truly enjoy their two full-length releases, _Mercury_ [CoC #37] and _All Flesh Is Grass_ [CoC #54], I was very unsure as to how they would fare on stage; they did, in fact, fare pretty damn well. Their attitude, for one aspect, was very appreciable -- the Norwegian quintet seemed honestly chuffed to be playing that evening, and the intrigued crowd, gathered in small numbers around the stage, reacted enthusiastically. Madder Mortem focused essentially on the more muscular excerpts of their second album, and devotedly stormed through powerful renditions of tracks such as "Breaker of Worlds", "To Kill and Kill Again", "Ruby Red", "Turn the War On", "4 Chambers", as well as a track from their debut _Mercury_ (maybe "Under Another Moon" -- my memory fails me). All throughout their set, Madder Mortem's frontwoman Agnete M. Kirkevaag energetically strode, jumped and headbanged around the stage, and seemed delighted to notice that the band's performance had got a few headbangers going; Madder Mortem in fact broke into an unreleased track, one of their heaviest so far, which a beaming Agnete fittingly announced with the words "Here is a track for you to headbang to!", a commandment which the few metallers gathered at the front were only too glad to heed to. Obviously, the half hour or so which Madder Mortem spent on stage in Rennes was as appreciated by the fans and intrigued observers as it was by the band itself; their unpretentious, convincing and surprisingly heavy posture does them great credit -- I look forward to seeing them again, and wish them well, for they are truly a deserving band.

Rather nonplussed at the prospect of seeing Vintersorg live again, and having heard some of their material being aired on a car stereo on the Antipode's parking lot, I nonetheless let curiosity wash over me, and proceeded back to the stage as the Norwegians took to the stage. Well, I admit I was more than pleasantly surprised that night, as Vintersorg amazed me by the quality of his vocals and his general presence on stage, more than just partly due to the angered expressions that played across his face as he sung lyrics that were obviously very meaningful to him; in fact, all musicians that night put on a great show, playing both tightly and emotionally, and Vintersorg delivered a very entertaining three quarters of an hour of epic, blasting and melodic metal. The most impressive point was the insane ease with which Vintersorg shifted between vocal styles, moving from rasping black metal screams to perfectly on-key melodic, epic chants in the space of a split second -- wow! Surprisingly to me, Vintersorg concluded their very convincing performance that night with an equally convincing cover of Uriah Heap's "Starshooter". Another in-depth listen to a CD of theirs has since then proved to me that I'm not much of a fan of theirs when they aren't on stage, but I can only concede that with the right conditions gathered as they were that night, Vintersorg are an excellent, distinctly potent live act.

The next on the list were Greek black metal legends Rotting Christ, who were the main reason to my presence that night; I was obviously not alone, and as they appeared on stage, the small crowd attending their set (insanely enough, many wimps and poseurs had actually left the hall after Vintersorg concluded their set) erupted into a throaty welcome roar. During the forty-five minutes which they were granted up there, the unholy five-pointed star played an array of material from all their albums, bar _Passage to Arcturo_ and _Thy Mighty Contract_ -- a bit of a letdown to me, especially as they instead concentrated on their rather indigent works _A Dead Poem_ and _Sleep of the Angels_. Although those songs, despite being distinctly soft in the knee, actually sounded quite convincing on stage, I was totally elated when they played "The Fifth Illusion" from _Non Serviam_, "King of a Stellar War", "Archon" and another track ("Diastric Alchemy"?) from the brilliant _Triarchy of the Lost Lovers_. Seeing the Hellenic sorcerers live was a bewitching experience for all the followers they had gathered that night -- their set was flawless, beautifully unholy and extremely powerful, and totally failed to subdue the lingering feeling of anger the clung to my stomach when I first noticed they were merely -opening- for Tristania.

After Sakis and his brethren left the stage, I was torn between two choices. The journalist in me felt that he should attempt to withstand at least two tracks of gothic goo-metal (which he finally did, forcing me to act akin), while the seething, outraged Rotting Christ fan in me screamed at me to turn on my heels and bluntly ignore the Norwegian romantic-metallers' performance. Well, as I just evoked, the journalist in me pulled it off, and I stood my ground -- or at least, I tried. I had only ever heard two tracks from Tristania, so, I thought, my resentment was maybe unfounded. Wrong, and totally so. Tristania, my friends, are terrible on CD, and are absolutely -pathetic- live. Their cheap, keyboard-laden metal was as tedious to me as it was sadly successful that night, and their frontmen did nothing to lighten my heart. Whereas their very diminutive male screamer, sporting one of the silliest looks I have ever witnessed, rasped, headbanged and raised countless signs of the horns to the attending crowd, Tristania's lead vocalist put on a (very feeble) alluring glare whilst attempted to lasciviously sway her hips, when she was not standing three feet back from the mike to indulge in some playback chanting. I am aware that her tentatively arousing stances may provoke rather drastic testosterone surges in many a male fan of theirs, but they totally slipped over me, and after two tracks, I got bored of being pelted with sickeningly sweet tragicomic metal and frilly-collared velvet clothes, and headed outside with a blase shoulder shrug and a deep furrow barring my forehead.

The most sickening consideration strikes me as being the fact that Rotting Christ released their _Satanas Tedeum_ back in 1989; now, I agree I'm probably pushing it -hard-, but a wild stab in the dark would suggest that when Sakis first raised the sign of the horns grabbed on his unhallowed path to Greek black metal supremacy, Tristania's members were little more than a malicious gleam in their respective parents' eyes; yet, that night, they had Rotting Christ -opening- for them. Obviously, business embodies an ever-increasing segment of the metal world, but a bill such as this evening's is as offensive to me as it is disrespectful of a pioneering band's genius.

(article submitted 14/1/2002)

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