The atmosphere is lively in Birmingham, for a number of reasons. Birmingham is hosting its St Patricks day parade and the pubs are bursting at the seems. Through this I see a thread of black clad alternative metal types winding down towards the Institute in Digbeth, headed to the same event I am, SATYRICON AND SUICIDAL ANGELS.
Disclaimer – I am no black metal expert. If i enter a conversation about the finer points and subtleties of the genre I’m likely to look like a tit. However, I’ve been around the block too many times and followed the early days of Venom (hence my signed copy of ‘Black Metal’) and I obsessively collected Bathory releases until Quothorn veered in to Viking metal territory. I mention this as these are two acts cited as influences for Satyricon. Then I feel out of love with ‘pure’ black metal, but carried on an sporadic affair with those bands who took black metal past its confines and into more expansive realms. I think it is for this reason that I have a fondness for Satyricon and their version of the sound that has been described as ‘black and roll’
Suicidal Angels provide the support, and they sound good. They punch out a series of high octane tracks that to my ears give a healthy nod to Slayer, Testament, Death Angel and so on. The pace is unrelenting, the delivery tight and muscular and I am impressed, as are the crowd.Suicidal Angels have honed their craft over their 17 year 6 album career and they are one of the best thrash acts I have seen live in recent years. I raised a slight right eyebrow to their very metal set ending but overall a strong showing from these Greek thrashers.
The anticipation of the crowd is very tangible and increases further when the famed trident mic stand is set out on stage. Finally the lights dim, rousing sounds emanate from the PA and the stage is lit in cold whites and blues. Then, we step into Satyricon’s dark version of the world.
If I were to describe Suicidal Angels as a race car with a boot full of vipers then I’d have to describe Satyricon as a Juggernaut hauling huge logs and monolithic boulders. They excel when the tempo is creeping, the material has more torque, to use another motoring analogy. Furthermore, Satyricon play on the fact that you need the breakneck moments to really appreciate the power that lies in the slower grooves. The crowd seem to agree as when they hit one of these grooves, all I see from my position in the upper level is a see of synchronised nodding/banging heads. I am taken back to my many hours listening to Celtic Frost, another band that excelled in this dynamic approach.
The sound is plenty beefy enough once the band hit their stride though I would perhaps preferred Satyr’s voice to be higher in the mix. The snare sounds sweet, almost hefty enough to be a tom and the guitars are full and crisp. Early on the set pulls tracks fairly heavily from last year’s ‘Deep Calleth Upon Deep’ with ‘Blood Cracks Open The Ground’, ‘Deep Calleth Upon Deep’,’To Your Brethren In The Dark’ and ‘Dissonant’ all sounding immense to my ears. The older material steps to the fore as the set progresses, lighting shifting to reds and yellows before returning to the earlier glacial hues. This minimal use of the colour palette works a treat. I may be hearing material which I am less familiar with but the crowd is feverishly lapping it up. Sometimes when listening to a band I am not intimately familiar with my ears and mind can become fatigued and interest can wane. I suffered no such thing tonight and enjoyed the entire set. The closing barrage of ‘The Pentagram Burns’, ‘Fuel for Hatred’ and ‘K.I.N.G.’ were brutally impressive. Satyricon are a band that can faultlessly deliver their brand of heaviness with grace, heft and style.
This about wraps up my review of the performances, and I would like to make it clear that I thoroughly enjoyed both bands on offer. There is one further paragraph below that I feel must be written, but consider it an addendum to the review which ends here.
See the full gallery from the gig by Midlands Metalheads photographer Damian John
There is one negative aspect to tonight’s gig that is not directly linked to the band performances but still worthy of mention. As some of you will know I am deaf/blind and where I know there is a disabled area at a venue I will use it to avoid crowds and obstacles. Tonight, an additional merch stand was set up in the area normally reserved for those with mobility issues. Venue staff reportedly tried to get it moved but the vendor stayed put. This meant that I and a fair few others watched the gig from the top of a stairwell and frequently had punters trying to squeeze past wheelchairs and so on to get to the merch. Not a great experience.