November 19, 2018 Behemoth & At the Gates Set Denver Ablaze 11-13-18 w/ Wolves in the Throne Room
Few musical genres are overlooked more than Extreme Metal. No matter the subcategory, Death to Black Metal, critics are always either frightened by the various approaches, or cling to longstanding stereotypes and unable to make a unbiased decision. It is often easy for critics, and some fans, to praise and revere Metallica’s 1986 album Master of Puppets or even Testament’s 1990 classic Souls of Black, but early on attention for bands such as Poland’s Behemoth or Sweden’s At The Gates were that much more fought for. Fortunately these less celebrated titans have stood strong the test of time, and on Tuesday, November 13th, both Behemoth and At The Gates came to the Ogden Theatre in Denver, Colorado on their fall 2018 tour with Wolves in the Throne Room.
A tour that comes on the heels of Behemoth supporting Slayer on the first leg of their farewell run, this time they return to North American shores headlining what they call the Ecclesia Diabolica America 2018 e.v. Over a month long, it began back on October 20th and is set to conclude on November 24th, but not before stopping in the mile high city. Highly anticipated, Colorado was out in full support in true winter fashion, translation: they were ready to hit the pit and it was damn cold.
Kicking off the evening was none other than Wolves in the Throne Room hailing from Olympia, Washington. They may have formed in 2003 but this is anything but a ‘newer’ band. While many like to throw their material into the Black Metal category, one listen to them shows how much more vast and captivating their music is. When one reads about a band whose first practice was held in a cabin which was falling apart, one expects to catch a live show that crosses simple musical approach but is also a overall experience, Wolves in the Throne Room did not disappoint.
Pulsating drums and searing guitars were simply unrelenting, coupled with haunting keys as well as crushing vocals, this band was putting on a clinic on how to put on a truly unforgettable set performing “Angrboda,” “The Old Ones Are With Us,” and “Born From the Serpent’s Eye.” Their sound, while slower at times, was so full and captivating, mixed with the smell of burning ceremonial incense, gave it an almost ritualistic feel. While both At the Gates and Behemoth’s crowds can be tough ones for bands they are unfamiliar with, they fully embraced the show in front of them and fully served as an appropriate bar-setter for the rest of the night.
As the stage was cleared, it was time for At the Gates to take over and the audience was in full swing, chanting the band’s name. Looking back briefly, At the Gates itself formed in the early 1990s, forgeing a sound of Melodic Death Metal that till this day are unmatched. Their earlier albums – 1992’s The Red In The Sky is Ours and 1993’s With Fear I Kiss the Burning Darkness – began building a sound and approach that stood them apart from one of Europe’s core Extreme Metal cities, Gothenburg. Tomas Lindberg’s vocals were soul-wrenching, and like American counterparts Obituary, truly took on a completely different feel, not falling into the usual low key guttural style so aptly used in the genre.
In 1994, with their third full-length album, Terminal Spirit Disease, everything really started to come together, helping setup the groundwork for an album that shook the very foundations of the Metal industry, 1995’s Slaughter of the Soul. A record with complex guitar work, pounding drums, and surgical melodies, it still passes the test of time. Sadly calling it quits some time after the peak album, thankfully, almost 20 years later, At the Gates returned to the forefront armed with 2014’s At War With Reality and this year’s epic To Drink From the Night Itself, signaling At The Gates are still here to crush some heads.
This brief history laid out, At the Gates wasted no time jumping into their set with the title-track off their newest album. The audience went into a full on frenzy, the pit didn’t take long to break out, and one could just see the grinning approval of Lindberg as he belted his vocals. Following up with a classic staple, “Slaughter of the Soul,” At the Gates demonstrated just why they are regarded as on of the most important Metal acts to date.
Their songs are so ingrained into the fans’ minds that as soon as the cocking shotgun of “Suicide Nation” played, everyone let out their approval without even a note being played. Often times, bands of such importance are not given much due for their albums following a high mark in their career, At the Gates has transcended beyond that issue when they officially returned for good in 2010. Playing through newer material, such as “At War With Reality” and “Heroes and Tombs,” one can simply feel the intensity in the room, admiring how it stands next to past material. Then, closing out with “The Night Eternal,” At the Gates successfully kept the mood chaotic as everyone anxiously awaited Behemoth.
Speaking of which, Behemoth is one band that truly takes the stage in convincing fashion. Although, when the teenage Nergal began Behemoth in Poland, he had no idea what kind of force he was putting together. This was no overnight success, from their 1995 debut album, Sventevith (Storming Near the Baltic), to their eighth classic juggernaut, 2007’s The Apostasy, Nergal helped course the band steadily through label changes and lineup changes while still delivering some of the most brutal material one can muster.
Moving into 2009, upon the release of their ninth album, Evangelion, not to sound too cliché, but all hell broke loose. It seemed the band could do no wrong, their albums were selling unlike any Extreme Metal act of its background, the band itself were being hailed for their immense musical talents, their American fanbase saw a massive spike with a massive tour which included Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Tour, and their music videos were thoroughly frightening every concerned parent out of their skin. Almost bringing it all down, Nergal was diagnosed with cancer, and everything was put on hold. The timing could not be worse, but after a hiatus, Behemoth returned with one of their strongest albums to date, 2014’s The Satanist, and just prior to the start of Ecclesia Diabolica America 2018 e.v., they continued the legacy with their newest nightmare, I Love You At Your Darkest.
This all laid out, when it came time to begin their set at Ogden Theater, Behemoth were adorned in haunting skull masks, setting the stage for what was already an unforgettable night. They got their ceremony started with one of the strongest tracks from their newest release, “Wolves ov Siberia.” The haunting feel was only outmatched by the surreal need to let all inhibitions lose as was shown by a sea of headbanging fanatics and moshing heathens.
The band did not take long to jump into material that has been haunting their followers for nearly a decade with their monstrous “Ov Fire and the Void.” Granted the video for the track is something that even Wes Craven would be envious of, the song itself is nothing short of a soundtrack to an apocalyptic nightmare. However, one of the boldest highlights of the evening came with the band playing the soul-crushing “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel.” Granted, this is a staple song since the release of The Satanist, on this particular evening it sounded so much more full and uncompromising.
As the evening closed out, corpse make up washed away in a sea of blood an sweat, making it one of The Ogden’s, who is no stranger to Metal acts, finest shows to date. Fans were thoroughly exhausted and yet hungry for more. If there was ever a show to throw responsibility and caution to the wind, while picking up and simply following it on it’s future stops, this one would be it. This is one of those tours that people discuss in memories of their top live show experiences of their lifetime. So what are you waiting for? Get your ass in the pit before it’s too late.