Photos by Nicole Smith-Walker

Words by Callum Doig

It may depend on what bands you see in what part of the world you’re in, but while Black Metal still remains musically blasphemous to this day, its controversial yet intriguing use of rituals and theatrics have been somewhat scarce — whether they be tame with crevices of fire upon surrounding candles hoisted on pewter, or utterly obscene with the involvement of blood and gore from that of a dead animal. Depending on how Watain choose to methodise their performance, one can expect the Swedish Metallers to bring the most hellish performance one could ever perceive. The Swedish sextet made their return to Australia for their first ever headline tour in the country, and promised to exhibit a night of Black Metal in multiple cities. With such an opportunity to arise, we made the decision to witness Watain in the flesh to see what they had to offer for those attending on a cool, calm night in Melbourne.

Entering the premises of Max Watt’s, many of the patrons would find an extensive setup of the production. The stage had been decorated with a plethora of ornaments including rusty tridents, banners, candles, as well as skeletal remains of animals scattered beneath the platform of the drum kit. With the first act later commencing, no dramatic introductions were needed for when local quartet Eskhaton stormed the stage. Immediately, they erupted the next half hour with an array of abrasive Death Metal tracks; where they had a great cataclysmic aura fluently pulsating within their sound. Each member of the band performed at a frantic pace, accompanying the sound with a barrage of stimulating distortion. Being the opener of the evening’s formalities, Eskhaton earned a most loyal, and euphoric audience that showered them with praise during their 30 minutes of spotlight.

With all the lights turning red prior to their performance, local legends Nocturnal Graves then proceeded to deliver an abundance of Death Metal that was ultimately fierce and abrasive. Overdriven guitars accelerated along with the pulsating percussion and became distinctly equivalent to that of a machine gun. The quartet executed a majority off their latest release ‘Titan,’ with many in the crowd synchronising a series of headbanging from start to finish. Having been around for nearly 15 years, Nocturnal Graves fluently proved why they remain one of the most gifted in the technicality of Australian Death Metal. To this day, they stand as an excellent, and undeniably talented army of aggressive troubadours who are fit for the most savage, and brutal acts in this current age of heavy music.

Soon after the epilogue to Nocturnal Graves’s set, two large inverted crosses were placed in front of the stage, along with more skeletal cadavers of animals hanging from above the drum kit; all of which were as part of the preparation for the main event. The stage would later be enveloped in a thick cloud of smoke just before Watain would make their appearance in front of an ecstatic and bewildered audience that gestured horns in the air. The moshpit would then be filled with mania as the crowd grew excitedly rampant to the orchestration of Swedish Black Metal. From there on, Watain recited a myriad of tracks that consisted mostly of 2018’s ‘Trident Wolf Eclipse’ and 2007’s ‘Sworn to the Dark,’ while including a handful of other compositions such as Puzzles ov Flesh, Malfeitor, The Child Must Die, and a cover of Bathory’s The Return of Darkness and Evil.

As the evening progressed, the congregation before Watain became increasingly ferocious. Speed was constant, and inexplicably persistent as was the aggression in every fragment of Watain’s Satanic litanies. While theatrical, they implemented a furiously demoniacal presence throughout the 80 minutes of their time slot; especially with the additional use of props onstage. Such an example would be exhibited after Sacred Damnation had been presented by the band, where vocalist Erik Danielsson would then bring to the stage a cup full of pig’s blood that he later used to sprinkle a majority of the front row. The blood would eventually find its way as far as the front of the sound desk, splashed onto many of the patrons’ skin and clothes.

Having seen Watain when they supported Mayhem and Behemoth in 2014 and 2015, and while they still displayed their grim, cinematic nature both times, seeing them in their own territorial disposition as a headliner made the occurrence all the more enticing, and utterly astonishing. Whether as a support or as a headliner, one will still be able to maintain the aesthetics of Watain; but the most enthralling experience is mustered when Watain are given the lead role. Should your own curiosity become apparent, it isn’t too late to catch Watain in their element, for tickets are still available for Sydney and Brisbane via Soundworks.

Get tickets for the remaining Australian and New Zealand shows from Soundworks Touring HERE!