Marco Aro Dances for the Cat People
The Haunted, Stampin' Ground and December at the Glasgow Cathouse, February 28th 2003
by: Adam Lineker
Sometimes a journalist really appreciates his privileges. Upon arrival at the Cathouse I am greeted with one of the larger queues of metallers I have ever seen. At the door one learns that this multitude of blackened, spiky figures waits in line for the eight remaining tickets. It would seem that word has spread about the majesty of The Haunted and most of the Glasgow scene want to know what all of the fuss is about. Once through the doors, I don't look back.

With the venue jammed to the rafters, December are welcomed by an expectant and buzzing audience. One of the more un-uniform bands I have witnessed, December perform adequately. The band would seem to have quite a 'no-frills' approach to slamming out their death metal and this strikes a chord with the audience, who remain attentive throughout. When not casually addressing the throng in an American drawl, the bespectacled vocalist lurches between deep guttural roars and dog-bothering screeches, never failing to cut through the noise and grate on your brain. The rest of the band perform tightly and efficiently, and although somewhat linear in style, December are blessed with a strong sound and good form. Their presence on this bill seems appropriate.

With the foundations firmly laid, Stampin' Ground are left to take the evening to the next level, which they do in style. Delivering an inspired and energetic performance, one could be forgiven for believing they are the headliners; in their own words, "for the next forty minutes, this is Stampin' Ground's time". Sinewy vocalist Adam Frakes-Sime is truly at ease in the heated and claustrophobic environment, taking great delight in exchanging banter with a mock-patriotic Scottish audience. Spending as much time in or on the crowd as on stage (as per usual), the frontman's efforts provoke one of the most joyous and chaotic moshes I've ever had to escape from. With the bouncing riffs and thumping hardcore grooves matched by the pogo-ing guitarists, the band seem almost synchronised with the beat. Special mention must go to bassist Ian Glasper, who commands a zen-like presence through his musical and physical performance. Incorporating much of their most effective material and stylistic trademarks, Stampin' Ground are truly awesome. As the show climaxes with Frakes-Sime splitting the crowd in two and smashing them together, one is left wondering how The Haunted can possibly top the evening. If anything, this proves exactly how caught up in the moment I was.

As a devout fan of the headliners, I should have known that tonight's performance was going to be no less than excellent. Yet, in truth, it is far from merely excellent; it is a phenomenal, almost revelatory experience. From the moment guitarist Jensen strolls onstage to the furious ending rendition of Hate Song, The Haunted maintain a crescendo that begins with awe and ends in euphoria. Blending the strongest material from new opus _One Kill Wonder_ with an abundance of older favourites, The Haunted seem nothing short of titanic as they thrash out songs like "Chasm", "D.O.A." and the anthemic "In Vein". Oft regarded as the modern Slayer, the band show exactly why they possess such a title with a display of musicianship and solidarity that defies belief. Marco Aro seems to take particular (and peculiar) satisfaction from the fact that he is playing at The Cathouse, meowing at the girls in the audience before "Hollow Ground" and inexplicably skanking like Michael Jackson, but aside from these bizarre moments of japery he holds an unquestionable presence on the stage, delivering his vocals with confident power and ferocity. The intricate lead interplay between Jensen and Anders Bjorler is flawless and thankfully well supported by the sound; one should expect so as producer Frederik Nordstrom is seen lurking behind the onstage equipment. Underneath the axemanship of these two virtuosos thumps the rhythm section of Jonas Bjorler and Per Moller Jensen, who efficiently keep the reigns taught and still find space to pull off blinding fills. As the band close their set it seems believable that they are able to put the ghost of At the Gates to rest; in response to shouted requests, Marco Aro distractedly replies with "C'mon Guys, that band aren't around anymore". One can only commend them for this; tonight is theirs and they know it. Grinning appreciatively throughout and lovingly praising the ecstatic audience, The Haunted remind everyone present just why they fell in love with metal in the first place. As the lights come up, there is a triumphant smile on every face in the building -- including the Bjorler twins.

(article submitted 8/6/2003)

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