Watain – Chariots of Fire European Tour – Troxy, London. 30/09/22.6th October 2022
Watain are one of the most infamous live bands in the extreme metal scene. And for good reason.
Their menacingly Satanic stage show is defined by flames, blood, skulls, corpse paint and blood. So much blood, in fact, that a 2014 case of blood-spraying (a ritual/gimmick they haven’t abandoned completely) gained them worldwide attention. Mostly negative. But will tonight’s London show live up to the extreme heights of their reputation?
After menacing opening sets from Bölzer and Tribulation, ex-Immortal frontman Abbath and his band take to the stage. I last saw Abbath when they snuck onto the bill of the indie/electronic festival Primavera Sound in Barcelona this year.
While they felt out of place, the incredibly devoted audience they attracted absolutely went for it.
It was more of the same tonight. A similar set of Abbath tracks, permeated by Immortal covers and even ‘Warriors’, a track from one-time black metal supergroup I’s only album, Between Two Worlds. As you’d probably expect, it was the triple threat of ‘In My Kingdom Cold’, ‘Tyrants’ and ‘Withstand The Fall Of Time’ that really took their show to the next level.
The Immortal devotees loved it and swarmed to the middle of the pit for a manic final few minutes. Abbath himself was on fine form, prowling the stage with guitar in hand, making their flamboyant, complex music look easy. I mean, he’s been doing this for more than thirty years, but his command of the audience is still second to none.
With candles, incense and skulls in place, Watain finally appeared to roars of Satanic adulation. Tonight’s show is half-heartedly billed as a co-headliner, but everyone is really here for Watain.
I last saw them at Bloodstock 2018 when they closed the Sophie Lancaster stage and rounded off the entire rainy weekend. They were bloody brilliant, even if I didn’t actually manage to get doused in the substance during my time in the photo pit.
It’s their first time in London for four years, but it’s like they never left. Their setlist was understandably skewed in favour of tracks from their latest album, The Agony & Ecstasy Of Watain, but it works. ‘Ecstacies In Night Infinite’ is a rip-roaring opener, while the subtle groove of the album’s centerpiece, ‘The Howling’, might well be one of the night’s highlights.
Between tracks, Erik Danielsson wanders around adding even more fire to the already incandescent stage, performing little rituals involving skulls along the way. It’s flamboyant and theatrical – funny even – but you don’t get the impression that it’s an act. He seems fully invested in his band’s long-standing take on a live show, and their dark lyrics and tritone-filled music matches the vibe.
Much like Abbath, the audience responds best to the final couple of tracks. ‘Nuclear Alchemy’ from Trident. Wolf. Eclipse. first sees the mosh pit pick up pace, but it’s the immortal (no pun intended) first notes of ‘Malfeitor’ that sends the standing area into a frenzy. Aside from one lump of a man who stood emotionlessly and arrogantly in the middle of the pit letting people bounce off of him in an attempt to show how hard he was, it’s always surprising to see such aggression and darkness juxtapose the massive smiles of every single person in the pit. Plus, lump-man got absolutely sent to the floor in the show’s dying moments. Every cloud.
The slightly-predictable downside came right at the end of the show, when Erik Danielsson raised his legendary goat skull as part of one final ritual, but… didn’t douse the audience in blood. Sure, they were probably told not to due to the carpeted floor of the ex-cinema venue, but come on! Black metal bands used to burn churches! Live a little!
It didn’t matter that much though, because while the stage continued to burn away like the entrance to hell, hundreds of metalheads left Troxy beaming from ear to ear.
Ecstasies in Night Infinite
Black Flames March
Not Sun nor Man nor God
Before the Cataclysm