Support Acts: Grave, Death Wolf, Valkyrja
Review & Photos by Yiannis (John) Stefanis
With Morgan Steinmeyer Håkansson being the top guy that he is and Marduk one of the most energy driven and high performance black metal bands around, one would have to physically restrain me from attending one of their shows. The night of the 5th December at the Underworld, a venue that is fast becoming the band’s second home, promised to be a very special event, with the Swedes there to perform two of their most well-loved albums in their entirety – 1993’s “Those Of The Unlight” and the highly controversial, but immense aural attack, “Panzer Division Marduk”.
There was, however, more good news: Grave, the band which gave us Death Metal albums of such classic quality as “Into The Grave”, “You’ll Never See…” and “Soulless”, opened the evening with Death Wolf and Valkyrja – the former being a Motorhead-meets-Misfits horror punk/heavy metal combo in which Morgan plays bass guitar and the latter – a black metal quartet whose music is terribly influenced by the works of fellow countrymen Watain.
My early evening was quite busy as I ended up conducting interviews with both Morgan and Grave’s guitarist/vocalist and founding member Ola Lindgren so I did not manage to see enough of Valkyrja’s set to justify a proper review.
I am not sure that many Marduk fans know of Morgan’s involvement in Death Wolf since, when the band first hit the stage for their short but energy-driven show, there were fewer than fifty people in attendance. That did not detract Valentin Mellstrom, the band’s biker styled vocalist, from blowing our minds with his commanding stage presence and harsh but powerful screaming vocals.
If you like Motorhead and are not indifferent to high energy Punk, it will be fairly difficult for you not to like this band. Wearing a white t-shirt with a Bathory logo clearly pronounced and lacking his customary corpse paint, Morgan proved that his skills on the bass guitar are just as impressive as on his six string. It was really his impassioned performance that added much validation to songs like “Snake Mountain” and “Circle Of Abomination” and justified the band’s inclusion in tonight’s show.
I have been lucky enough to have seen Grave quite a few times so far in my life and one thing I can safely say about them is that they always deliver, regardless of venue settings or crowd numbers. During my interview with Ola I did ask whether he was tempted by Marduk’s approach in presenting one of the band’s many classic albums in its entirety; the response was negative and, even though the night’s set list opened with “Amongst Marble And The Dead” (from 2012’s “Endless Procession Of Souls”), the majority of the compositions on offer were from what one would describe as the band’s ‘classic’ period.
Having been provided with an outstanding sound, perhaps the best I have ever witnessed in the Underworld, the quartet simply ripped the place to shreds and, though they initially received a lukewarm reaction from Marduk’s loyal fans, it was not long before they got the venue moving to their unholy tunes. Sandwiched between the much loved classics “Chiststi(ns)anity” and “Morbid Way To Die”, “Reborn” clearly proved that Grave’s latest musical offerings are just as impressive, while killer renditions of “Turning Black” and “You’ll Never See…” forced me to drop both pen and paper and participate in the ancient art of head banging.
With ex Dismember bassist Tobias Cristiansson and powerhouse Ronnie Bergerståhl behind the drums successfully dictating the rhythm, it was left to Ola and relatively newly acquired guitarist Mika Lagrén to impress with their skills on the six string, which they, of course, did by performing impressive versions of “Winds Of Chains” and the ‘fresh off the press’ “Morbid Ascent”. One of the absolute highlights of the show would have to be “And Here I Die” and by the time the last notes of the all time classic “Into The Grave” were performed we all knew that Marduk would have to come up with something truly special if they were to reassert their authority and justify their position as the headlining act in this billing.
Marduk did manage to rise up to the challenge, assisted by an equally impressive sound and by the leading skills of Mortuus – a front man that every Black Metal band would kill to have in their ranks. Marduk’s show is as much a visual as it is an aural experience and a combination of dimmed red lights and large amounts of dry ice prepared the stage of the Underworld nicely for the oncoming onslaught. Long before the first notes of “Panzer Division Marduk” were performed every sense of personal space was totally lost and the very moment the band stormed the stage of this tiny venue, all hell broke loose!
I am not sure how but I managed to position myself quite close to the stage and survive the numerous mosh pits relatively unscathed, enjoying top quality performances of “Baptism By Fire”, “Scorched Earth” and my personal favourite “Beast Of Prey”. Mortuus was at his commanding best, keeping the crowd going at times when their energy levels seemed to be running low, while performing his highly demanding screams with great precision. “Blooddawn” was received with a great roar from the crowd, “502” truly tested Lars Broddesson’s stamina behind the drum kit, while “Fistfucking God’s Planet” wrapped up the first half of the band’s set in glorious fashion.
When “Those Of The Unlight” was first released, twenty years ago, Marduk’s line up was totally different from the one we saw this day, and most of the material on offer was never been performed live before so you could say that I was more than curious to see how these songs would come across in a live environment, anno 2013. “Darkness Breeds Immortality” provided a galloping intro, while Mortuus’ vocals blended in perfectly, much to the crowd’s delight. Slightly less urgent but rather energetic, “Those Of The Unlight” displayed the band’s old-school credentials, while the groove of the all time classic “Wolves” forced many heads to bang to its addictive mid tempo rhythm.
“On Darkened Wings” is a perfectly decent track but cannot compare on any level with either “Burn My Coffin” or the follow up “A Sculpture Of The Night”. A few people started heading towards the exist just as the atmospheric intro of “Echoes From The Past” were being performed which is a real shame as not only did they miss one of the highlights of the second half of the band’s set, but also an equally emotional rendition of “Stone Stands In Silent Vigil”, which provided a perfect ending to what can only be described as a great night for extreme Metal.
Funny how certain ideas and perceptions change over the years! Back in the late 80s/early 90s, putting together a billing with bands as musically diverse as Marduk and Grave would have been, in the eyes of many promoters, equivalent to commercial suicide, since fans were then truly protective of their chosen style of music and cross-pollination of genres was simply out of the question.
It is this greater understanding and appreciation towards the many possible manifestations of extreme music that made a night such as this possible and it was a great number of people who reaped the rewards at the Underworld on the night of the 5th of December! Once again: a great night for extreme Metal music!
Grave Set List:
Marduk Set List:
Set 1: “Panzer Division Marduk”
Set 2: “Those Of The Unlight”