Review of Marduk gig at Sonar

Monday the 23rd of November 2009 was a rather grim and rainy day, perfect for a black metal show. Luckily Swedish black metal band Marduk was playing at the Talking Head Club inside Sonar in Baltimore that night, the closest stop to Washington DC on their US Plague Tour. I had a couple friends flake out on me, but since Marduk failed to get into the US for Maryland Deathfest back in May, and I missed their Baltimore stop on their 3 show mini tour back in August, I was determined not to miss them for a third time this year. So I drove up to Baltimore in that dreary cold rain by myself blasting metal all the way. When I got there Nachtmystium was setting up. They’re ok, sort of a thrashy black metal band. Not my favorite but worth checking out while drinking a beer or two. The final song of their set was a cover of GG Allin‘s song I Kill Everything I Fuck, which I gotta say was pretty fucking cool. Wasn’t expecting that one, wish I’d had my camera ready, I’d like to have that one on video. They’re scheduled to play with Kreator and Voivod at Jaxx in early March, so maybe I’ll get my chance then.

When Nachtmystium’s set ended I moved up to the front of the stage as everyone was clearing out to go smoke, order more beer, piss, etc… Got right up there and was chatting a bit to the people around me during the final sound check. Glad I did cause 2 of the guys next to me were throwing mad elbows all during Marduk’s set and fucking people up from the pit, but I got in good with em before that so I didn’t have any probs. Kinda dick of them, but it did keep people from the pit from fucking up my camera. Plus that latino guy wearing eyeliner and a shirt with the sleeves cut off looked like he could use a few bruises. Marduk’s set was pretty good, they played a good assortment of songs from a variety of albums which was cool. I’m not a huge fan of when bands play most of their new album and a few classics live, I much prefer the career spanning classics with a couple songs from the new album thrown in approach. This show was a pretty good example of that. During their long set they played songs off just about every album except for, oh yeah, my fucking favorite Marduk album Heaven Shall Burn… When We Are Gathered. Seriously, the whole time I was driving up there I was thinkin to myself how it’ll be worth all the stress of dark, rainy interstate traffic just to hear Infernal Eternal or maybe even Glorification Of The Black God live (basically a cover of Modest Mussorgsky’s classical piece A Night On Bald Mountain as arranged by Leopold Stokowski for the Disney movie Fantasia). Well, that didn’t happen. They did play some classics like Wolves, Funeral Bitch, and Baptism By Fire, but still, Infernal Eternal fucking rules. What the hell? If you like black metal and you haven’t heard those 2 songs do yourself a favor and listen to them right now by clicking their names up there. Fucking brutal! Anyways, the show was still fun and if not for the events on my drive home I’d probably say it was totally worth the trip to Baltimore on a Monday night (even tho the show ended after midnight on a weekday and I had to drive home afterwards). About 5 minutes outside of Baltimore on 95 my car decided it was going to stop running. Seriously, of all the times? I’ve had very few problems with this car in the 3 years I’ve owned it, but dying in Maryland was not awesome. A $200 tow truck ride got me back home at about 5am, plenty of time to be fucking exhausted for work the next day. Still, the set was good, the show was fun and I think I got some good pics too. I thought it was odd the drummer, Lars Broddesson, didn’t use 2 kick drums but instead had 2 petals set up on a single bass drum. That’s pretty uncommon for metal bands. By the end of their set, which was about an hour and a half, their corpse paint was smeared and the audience was running out of energy. They did the typical walk off stage encore thing but came back really quick, like 1 minute later, to play the final song of the night, Panzer Division Marduk. You can watch that video below. Overall I’d recommend any fan of old school black metal to go see Marduk, it’s a brutal show definitely worth the money.

Review of Sunn O))) gig at Sonar

On Wednesday the 23rd of September 2009 I got off of work and met up with a friend of mine to head up to Baltimore to catch Sunn O))) at Sonar. Sunn O)))They didn’t play the main stage, but the much smaller “club stage”, which was fine by me as it was much more up close and personal. Sunn O))) is a strange band, they rarely tour and when I heard they were coming to Baltimore, a city within driving distance, I had to get a ticket. People either love this band and think that what they are doing is really groundbreaking and genius, or they think it’s just boring ambient noise and a total waste of their time. I’m not a huge drone fan but these guys are one of the best at it, and when describing their music I often think of abstract art in music form. It’s hard to define “songs” of theirs, as it all sort of melts together and the songs don’t really have any structure, well not in the normal sense at least.

Sunn O))) At SonarBefore they even took the stage they ran a fog machine on high for about 20 minutes, with a low volume recording of some sort of chants. Then at about 10:30 pm Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley came out on stage in their monk/jedi robes and started playing what I think was the beginning to the song Aghartha. Usually I’m pretty good at knowing what songs are being played, but again, this band doesn’t make that easy. Then about 10 minutes later Attila Csihar came up on stage, wearing a similar robe. This is the same Attila of Mayhem fame, and I’d actually seen him play with them at this same venue back in May as part of Maryland Deathfest VII. His performance at this smaller show was pretty outstanding, though sometimes I got the feeling he was being a bit distracting from the music itself, it was a Sunn O))) show after all, not an Attila show. Overall it was a really excellent performance from him though and it really showcased his vocal talent quite well. I always liked him better in Mayhem than Maniac, but this Sunn O))) show really highlighted his vocal range, even if I don’t think he said one actual word the whole night.
 
The set seemed to be what I’d basically call “songs” from their latest album, Monoliths & Dimensions, but I could be mistaken I suppose. It was an unreal experience though, like no concert I’ve been to before. At times everything seemed to be in slow motion, the music, the band’s movements, almost as if time was stretching as you fell into the event horizon of a black hole. The fog and lighting added a sort of murky element, like trying to look at something through dirty water. It was a really overwhelming experience, and it was LOUD. I mean I just saw Motörhead a few weeks before and that was loud, but these guys really made you feel every slow plodding note vibrate through every bone in your body. Of course I was a lot closer to the stage for this show, right up front. Sunn O))) doesn’t have a drummer but they did have a guy doing some sort of programming in the back, and I know I saw a trombone poking out of the fog at some point. The bass was thick and heavy like the foggy air in the room throughout the performance, and the whole thing almost seemed like it was from outer space at times.

Attila Csihar Of Sunn O)))Attila added to the theatrics at about midway through the set when he put on some gloves that had laser pointers built into the fingers. The lasers really stood out in the fog and surprisingly the whole effect didn’t come off as a raver thing at all, maybe it was the oversized robe. At some point Attila wandered off the stage for a bit to put on his next costume, which I gotta say what a bit over the top. It was another robe, but this time it was covered in fragments of mirrors. Attila Csihar Of Sunn O)))It also had a head piece, something like a head band with big pointy mirror shards coming out of it, somewhat resembling the statue of liberty’s head piece. He kept the laser pointer gloves on with this and did some cool things with the lasers reflecting off the mirrors, especially off the ones on his head. It was certainly a bizarre costume, not sure I’d be caught dead in that, but then Attila has always had a thing for wearing costumes on stage. The two guitarists also had some interesting poses and lurched around on stage very slowly, giving the production a feeling of peeking in on a secret ritual of some Lovecraftian cult.

The music fit this all very well and with the slow build ups and pure raw sound had the audience hypnotized. The slow singular notes building up in intensity into something almost resembling a chord progression really worked well in this setting. There were no breaks between “songs”, it was just one big musical experience. In all the show ended around midnight to an ovation from a crowd that had just had their minds melted for about 90 minutes. As I walked to the car with my friend, we caught a glimpse of the Stratovarius show, which was on the main stage that night at the club, and I remember thinking how I’m so glad I got to see Sunn O))) instead of being into that power metal crap! Damn, they had the bigger audience but those people really had no idea what they just missed only a few feet away. I’ve always been a fan of some of the more strange, bizarre and out there metal bands, of which Sunn O))) definitely fits the category of, so maybe my views on the whole thing are a bit biased, but still I highly recommend checking Sunn O))) out at least once, they definitely put on a show unlike any other band, metal or otherwise.