Words by Jason
Pics by Rob Stanley
The Asylum is appropriately named. It’s a schizophrenic, multi-faceted beast, housing a succession of exquisitely twisted and macabre inmates. Tonight, this disturbed dwelling is resident to a vicious cacophony of face-scraping instrumentation and maniacal rants.
First up is extreme metallers Anaal Nathrakh
. Distortion and noise appears from somewhere, an indication – or perhaps a warning – of the demonically-charged bile that will soon ensue. The band walks on. Eschewing masquerade in favour of a direct and brutal honest approach, Anaal Nathrakh press their agenda from behind a wall of sound too great to be contained within these walls.
Opener “In the Constellation of the Black Widow” is a tour-de-force, setting the level for the rest of the set. Metal martyr Dave Hunt, aka V.I.T.R.I.O.L., shrieks with enough force to squeeze the crowd’s bleeding eyes from their splintered sockets and the backline can barely cope with Mick Kenney’s distorted chops, bawling with warped anguish at every misshapen note.
Anaal Nathrakh’s approach to terrorizing and surviving among the rubble of the all-too-prevalent apathy towards existence itself that dominates our society is organic, working-class. References to Hitler’s cowardice – and, by extension, all tyrants – in “The Final Absolution”, to unwavering courage in “Submission is for the Weak”, to the Nietzschean transvaluation of all values in “When the Lion Devours Both Dragon and Child”, and to Orwell’s dystopian visions in his prophetic 1984 in “Do Not Speak” fuel a set that bites off the hand of those that would prefer to sit with their fingers in their ears in complacent silence. Their set is a sonic onslaught and Hunt defiantly invites the crowd up on stage, insisting that an extreme metal show will not be dictated by some overzealous, clipboard-carrying, politically correct fascist. And so the stage is soon packed with an army of amateur kamikaze pilots. Anaal Nathrakh don’t deliver their set. They thrust it down your throat. And you thank them for it. The apocalypse is here and these lunatics aren’t running the asylum: they are tearing it down from within.
Set list: In the Constellation of the Black Widow, Bellum Omnium Contra Omnes, The Final Absolution, Submission Is For the Weak, More of Fire Than Blood, The Lucifer Effect, When the Lion Devours Both Dragon and Child, Do Not Speak, Pandemonic Hyperblast
Though not a feature in the philosophy of black metal – and so perhaps an unwelcome comment – I pity Marduk
. Having to follow what has just happened is not going to be easy, yet their satanic majesties deliver a set that is fast, intense, loud, dissonant, and brutal, one of churning, thrashing, and blasphemous glee.
Mortuus, center-stage, is a giant of dark splendour and sinister radiance, and is flanked by the black magnificence of guitarist Evil and bassist Devo: a wall of irreligious potency backed by Lars’ drums uniformly galloping at the pulse rate of a hummingbird on crystal meth. Marduk have been around a long time and the hordes of rabid black metallers here tonight are treated to a set that is a mix of old and new, going all the way back to 1992’s “Still Fucking Dead” from their debut, Dark Endless, to “Phosphorous Redeemer” and “Into Utter Madness” from latest Wormwood.
Between songs, the band disappears into darkness and re-emerges with their next salvo into a light show that frankly doesn’t suit the aesthetic of black metal. It’s too glamorous, streaming with colour and the kind of dynamics more suited to a Pink Floyd tribute act. But still, the ceremonial discharge of all things sacred is performed with all of the shadow, mystery, and evil you’d expect from these stalwarts of the black art.
But I’m still reeling from Anaal Nathrakh’s set. They were the band of the evening, probably to be named one of my best shows of 2010, already. And Marduk, though everything that black metal should be, were no match for Birmingham’s best.