The Night After the Night Before
Immortal, Hypocrisy and Holocausto Canibal
at the Hard Club, Gaia, Portugal, on April 21st 2002

by: Pedro Azevedo
On the aftermath of the previous night's awe-inspiring My Dying Bride gig [see above], I dragged my knackered self back to the Hard Club for a promising double-headliner featuring Immortal and Hypocrisy.

The news that support band Warhammer had cancelled did not distress me in the least: I had never heard of them before, and in fact I'd rather skip the support bands altogether and move on to Hypocrisy immediately. Tough luck, though: local death/grind outfit Holocausto Canibal not only did play, they played for over half an hour and started two hours late. A massive crowd gathered and waited outside, watched the tour bus arrive and was finally allowed inside the venue, which looked very close to capacity.

With the release of their second full-length imminent, Holocausto Canibal blasted through their set with considerable aggression but also a great lack of variation, originality and interesting songwriting. They did prove to have matured considerably since I first saw them a few years ago -- which was the least one could expect, considering the mediocrity of that early performance --, but they don't seem to be going anywhere particularly interesting with their rather generic gore-obsessed death metal. Perhaps the new record will be more revealing of the qualities they may have.

The 45 minute break that ensued was a pain to endure, to say the least, but seeing Hypocrisy live for the first time should more than make up for the effort. It -should- have, but alas it did not. It annoys me to the point of feeling like thrusting my copy of _Hypocrisy Destroys Wacken_ into orbit (or at least giving it a good try), but Tagtgren and his men (including what I assume to be a touring second guitarist) failed to live up to the expectations said live disc had created in me. This is not the band's fault for the most part, however, but rather the sound engineer's. Hypocrisy's sound never seemed right, mainly because the bass guitar was so loud in the mix that it hampered both guitars with its distortion and it all came out too strident and blurred. Hypocrisy without a significant part of the guitar detail only works for the older, simpler songs. At this stage I hadn't yet heard a single track off their new _Catch 22_ album; the new tracks they played seemed very rhythm-based, chunky riffs replacing their more involved guitar work. Having said that, Hypocrisy still have a highly impressive repertoire and Tagtgren was an energetic frontman throughout, so in spite of the sound difficulties and a rather debatable setlist, they still managed to produce an entertaining set -- just not as memorable as I expected.

Hypocrisy opened with "Fractured Millennium" off their eponymous album, which suffered considerably from the poor sound quality, followed by new tracks "Don't Judge Me" and "A Public Puppet". Crowd favourite "Apocalypse" (the opening track from _The Fourth Dimension_) was next, followed by "Fire in the Sky" from _Into the Abyss_. The band then tore into "Penetralia", "Until the End" (from _Hypocrisy_), "Pleasure of Molestation", "Osculum Obscenum" and "Destroyed". They wrapped up their set with the classic "Roswell 47" (from _Abducted_) and the emotional title track from _The Final Chapter_, both of which again could have been far more memorable under different sound circumstances.

I expected a lengthy old intro before Immortal stared playing, but they certainly surprised me there: out of the dark and silent stage suddenly came the sound of powerful drums, followed by thundering guitar and bass as the lights came on and Immortal walked onto the stage, tearing into "Triumph" (_Damned in Black_). The sound worked much better for Immortal than for Hypocrisy: powerful yet clear enough. The trio's stage presence is rather befuddling at first, as one realizes these strange creatures actually live and move around like regular people. Immortal's make-up and poses on paper have never failed to amuse me, yet live they carry an entirely different aura. Furthermore, their music speaks for itself. As they moved onto _Damned in Black_'s title track and the powerful _Sons of Northern Darkness_ opener "One by One", it became clear that the live Immortal are a force to be reckoned with. Abbath's snarls were somewhat repetitive, as usual, but his guitar playing was impressive -- especially considering he was the only guitar player on stage and had to handle the vocals as well. Potent bass guitar complemented a sound driven forth by Horgh's intense percussion.

"Solarfall" off _At the Heart of Winter_ was next, followed by a _Sons of Northern Darkness_ double: the title track and "Tyrants". Very impressive. Back to _At the Heart of Winter_ then with its fine opener "Withstand the Fall of Time", and then _Sons of Northern Darkness_ again with its closing track "Beyond the North Waves", a somewhat slower but equally intense number. Amidst some decent but not particularly amazing fire-breathing courtesy of Abbath, Immortal finished their set with two crowd favourites from _Battles in the North_: its blazing title track and the epic closer "Blashyrkh (Mighty Ravendark)". A thoroughly satisfying performance that managed to make up for Hypocrisy's sadly sound-hampered display.

All in all, the gig proved to be a worthy conclusion to the weekend, although one that made me arrive home at 4am on a Sunday -- and yes, I did have to somehow trudge along to work that morning...

(article submitted 3/7/2002)

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