While Black and Death Metal bands can be found all over the map, some of the strongest and most adept come from some fairly unusual or perhaps unexpected places. On Thursday, February 22, 2018, Greece’s Symphonic Death Metal band Septicflesh and Swedish Black Metal iconics Dark Funeral began their co-headlining tour of North America at The Regent Theater in Downtown Los Angeles, California. Featuring direct support from Thy Antichrist, also on the bill were two local acts – Progressive blackened Death Metal band Witch Casket – who has had a few line-up changes since their 2013 origin – and Black Metal band Noctuary, who have been a part of the local scene since 1995. The first of 24 dates that see Septicflesh, Dark Funeral, and Thy Antichrist travel coast to coast, as well as up to Canada, the excitement was plausible inside the walls of the historic Los Angeles venue.
Speaking of which, The Regent Theater is a great mid-sized venue which initially opened its doors way back in 1914 as The National. Years later changing its name to what we know today, it features a sloped floor and upstairs, typically capable of generating high quality sound, and on this occasion it was packed to the maximum with Heavy Metal loving patrons. The vibe was dark and peaceful as the best surprise of the night was about to hit the stage, Black Metal band Thy Antichrist. Originally from Colombia, although having moved to Texas in 2011, the band’s origin truly dates back to the late ’90s. While the band are slightly underrated, upon seeing them live and hearing their latest, 2018’s Wrath of the Beast, it is abundantly clear that Thy Antichrist is a force to be reckoned with!
The amount of sheer effort mixed with professionalism that Thy Antichrist exuded right off the bat was highly commendable and could, in a different context, put many other bands to shame. They have a more modernized Black Metal sound, similar to the styling of Archgoat with the insanity of blast beats and high energy guitars, but they are one-of-a-kind from their music to their visuals. Anyone who says visual stage presence does not matter, as long as the technical skill and sound is there, has not seen how much more exciting a band can be when their costumes are as badass as their sound! While this kind of visual enhancement may not work for every kind of band, it always enhances Black Metal which, in the right context, can present as very theatrical in all ways.
The singer, who refers to himself as Antichrist 666, not only has fantastic vocal range from his screams to growls, but he also has great hair whipping skills. This is all compounded with full-detailed Black Metal body paint from his chest to face to fingertips, along with a Viking-styled fur kilt – with heavy bullet belt and dangling, three-dimensional, realistic looking small skulls – all paired with badass boots.
The other members also had great visual accessories such as black flying V’s to black leather spiked full gauntlets among other manly garb. The drumming in particular was so fast and creative that it shook the entire venue in the best way possible. The bassist also had a great and super unique playing style, his Warwick six-string was cranked to earth-shaking levels as well.
The songs from the new album rained magic onto the audience, and the entire set from start to finish was filled with the kind of perfection only a wild beast conquering a dark forest while spewing blood and flesh along its path could achieve. It must be said that if they were playing with any less than top notch bands, they would have stolen the show with flying colors!
After a semi-lengthy break, as the show was starting to wander slightly behind schedule, Sweden’s own Dark Funeral raided the stage with their perfect, old-school ’90s Black Metal sound that, despite their line-up changes over the years, still keeps the same vibe and energy. The current line-up consists of the only original member, Lord Ahriman, on guitar; Chaq Mol also on guitar; Heljarmadr aka Andreas Vingbäck on vocals since 2014; and Jalomaah on drums.
An extremely rare North American appearance for Dark Funeral, true fans recall it has been 5 long years since they saw them tour this corner of the Earth! Well, it is true that absence makes the heart grow fonder because the crowd was about to lose their mind once the the kings of Black Metal took the stage. Feeling the energy of the room, each member of Dark Funeral fit the part they were portraying excellently. That in mind, the vocalist, who has the hardest shoes to fill, did a fantastic job in all his energetic seriousness. Whether fans are more familiar with the previous vocalist or not, it can be agreed that Heljarmadr is a notable strength in the band’s current sound. Lively, he gave the fans nothing less than the great show they expected and deserved following the long hiatus from The States.
Guitarists bring so much personal style into the mix and sometimes replacements have trouble fitting in the niche of the band, but not in this case! Chaq Mol’s Black Metal background makes his transition easy and completes the band’s sound, which they enhance with black leather, armadillo-style battle shoulder armor and other uniformed garb – complete with traditional Black Metal face paint also nicknamed “panda paint.”
The band’s latest album, 2016’s Where Shadows Forever Reign was rightfully on full display with songs such as “Nail Them To The Cross” and “Unchain My Soul.” Fun for the audience to hear some new tunes, it would be difficult to deny the older tunes were always the most lusted for dose of nostalgia. Full of that classic, dark undertone, tracks such as “The Secrets Of The Black Arts,” along with “The Arrival Of Satan’s Empire,” “Hail Murder,” and the ever-popular hit “My Funeral” – which ironically is packed with all the power and punch to kick start someone’s heart back to life – were highlights of the band’s impressive set. Despite such a lengthy discography to cover, which in the time allotted could not possibly please everyone, Dark Funeral still managed to cover a vast array of material and stuck with predominantly current tunes. A successful return, hopes are they will not wait a half of a decade before visiting again.
While the set of Dark Funeral was well-played, Septicflesh were the final act of the night with a near pitch-perfect and leveled-out performance. Again, they are one of those bands that cannot be mistaken for anyone else, from their very clean and unique Symphonic and Melodic Death sound to their one of a kind battle gear and signature black Gibson guitars. A common thread with European Heavy Metal bands is in their uniformity in all regards, plus high respect for the audience which was ever so clearly delivered on this evening.
The current members of Septicflesh are all original, minus the addition of their latest Drummer Kerim “Krimh” Lechner who has been a part of the band since 2014. The other prominent members are Sotiris Vayenas on rhythm guitar, clean vocals, and keyboards; Spiros “Seth Siro Anton” Antoniou on bass and unclean vocals; and Christos Antoniou on lead guitar, orchestrations, and samples. As a whole, Septicflesh thrive as a kind of Death Metal A-team.
The powerful riffs and smoke shooting up from the stage mixed with the sinister vibe and creative backdrops – featuring a fetus inside a snake body, taken from the artwork from their latest 2017 album release of Codex Omega -further accentuated the wildly intense night of satanic Metal.
Slightly opposite from the previous band, perhaps due to the modern melodic mix in their brand of Death Metal, Septicflesh played offerings from their newest album, such as “Portrait of a Headless Man,” “Enemy of Truth, and “Dante’s Inferno.” All of the band’s musical offerings – old and new – were well-received, and, despite their ’90s origins, they are still reaching new heights musically while showing no signs of slowing down. Other highlights from previous albums and the band’s older material included “Communion” and “Prometheus,” which is a strong contender to represent the true spirit of the band.
A co-headlining show with fire, it was great to see both Dark Funeral and Septicflesh play such lengthy sets ranging over an hour a piece. After the hour strayed well-past midnight, the intense rush of witnessing three immensely proficient bands who cater to the Dark Lord with vigor and pride concluded, and the crowd was left to avenge the rest of the night in a solo mission sure to end in a satisfied slumber. For everyone else, be sure to check out this tour before it concludes on March 20th in Phoenix, Arizona.
Photo credit : Karina Diane Concert Photography