By Lisa Burke
February 17th 2017, The Regent, Los Angeles CA: Contrary to popular belief, black metal fans are among the most gentle creatures I’ve ever encountered in and out of the heavy metal scene. The creators and players of the music themselves are usually of the same mindset, however a few tales have been told throughout the history of it all that say otherwise. Some of it is based on fact and some of it is based on hearsay completed by total bullshit. In my personal opinion, the music of black metal itself in all its varieties and genre mixes is so wildly interesting, entertaining, enlightening, and deep rooted that I have yet to see a black metal band performance live that I didn‘t enjoy in one form or another.
On Friday February 17th 2017, I attended the Marduk headline show at The Regent in downtown LA with support by Incantation, Svart Crown, Icon Of Phobos, and Highland. Marduk was expected to play in 2016, but had visa troubles and couldn’t make it into the USA from Sweden, so Rotting Christ took over as headliner and that was still an amazing show plus turnout that also took place at the same location. This time around, with the new line up I actually thought all in all that it was an even better fit for the nature of Marduk. Of course, as if it wasn‘t enough for them to have trouble the first time, on this evening there was severe rain and wind all day and into the night that was causing chaos in certain areas including power outages, not to mention there were threats from an Anti-Fascist group Antifa rumored to protest the show. I happened to live in a power outage zone, and ended up rushing around putting my eyeliner on in the dark to go catch this show, but once I arrived there and passed a fairly hefty security check, all was right with the world as blackened death metal band Svart Crown ravished the stage. The place was packed to the maximum with black and death metal fans and there was absolutely no fighting or protesting that I was a witness to. The show after this was scheduled for Oakland and that venue decided to cancel because they choose to live in fear, I suppose. I would have been royally pissed off if that happened here, and I am happy we didn‘t let hearsay ruin our night. First of all, Marduk is one of the more simplistic black metal bands in terms of stage antics. They are much in the same regard as Behemoth where they look completely badass, but really don’t have extreme amounts of added fun that include church burning, animal sacrificing bloodbaths, and extreme Satan worshipping.
Getting back to the musical standpoint which is what it is all about, French band Svart Crown who were formed in 2003, proved a very worthy addition on this bill. Their deep and heavy sound resonates with the black metal crowd cohesively, and although not much really unusual takes place, they excel at the highest skill level along with any band in competition. The sound was pure gold all night at this venue and this band was shining through the red lit stage in all their blackness. For the majority of the crowd, this was an introduction to Svart Crown and the band definitely walked away having made a strong impact as well as acquiring fans.
The next excitement came from the USA in the form of Pennsylvania’s Incantation, and even though there is plenty of good death and black metal out there from our own country I find it hard to believe this band isn’t from Europe with all the old-school black metal references in their music. This band will blow your mind with their variety of tempos and rhythms that are complimented with the heavy guttural vocals similar to that of that of Dying Fetus, yet this came first since this band burst into light in 1989. The best part of the vocals was the banter between songs that would either be so black metal that you couldn’t make out the words, or it would be clear as day American English. The guitar in this band ranged in style and tempo from death riffs, to doom riffs, to a little groove metal, to industrial guitar squeals, and then circling back to old-school Venom style black metal. The fluidity and combination was wonderful, and they had the potential to beat out Marduk for interest although they did not quite succeed. If there is a death metal band out there who can win the prize for sparking the most invisible oranges out of the audience, Incantation would be the one.
As the rain dissipated and the crowd multiplied, Marduk finally hit the stage in the most profound way and then threw me in an unexpected loop. They started off with two songs off their latest album from 2015 called ‘Frontschwein’ which is far more White Zombie and dark industrial sounding that any of their other more death oriented or speedier black metal songs of previous years. I for one do not think of Marduk in that light and I definitely thought it was not a good representation of who I know them as a band to be. Basically after I cringed a little for the first two songs, I got to relax and really enjoy the rest of it which gives off an air of dominance and power, as well as a sense of freedom. As I was watching the set in part from the balcony I kept staring down at the sea of welcoming black metal loving people down below and despite my usual tone of slight caution before entering a pit after thirty years old, my preserved youth took hold as I handed my purse to my male friend so I could go crowd surfing. At a technical death metal show I might have had an increasing chance of landing on my head, but for Marduk I just soared above and landed on my feet and there wasn’t even any inappropriate groping. For a so-claimed Nazi band, these guys sure draw a peaceful crowd and I felt right at home. To further comment on that inappropriate accusation, the band has songs written about WWII, and so what if they do? They never claimed to be Nazis, and again, any of their Satanism is mild in comparison to most of the other non-violent black metal bands out there. As for Marduk, they are nothing but professional musicians on stage and I for one am proud to say I witnessed such a strong-minded and one-of-a-kind band. The machine gun fire drumming with the satanic screams send forth a prolific anger that is represented in the most freeing way. Of course, they traveled into ‘Wolves’ and ‘Panzer Division Marduk’ for the major kill in the latter part of the set. The glowing backdrop from the red lighting was an eerie touch, and on another note, Sweden has spawned out of its groin so many talented original metal bands from quite a few genres that haven’t shown any signs of stopping anytime soon.
Black metal is here and living, no doubt, and black metal better be here to stay. It often suffers the punishment and bad reputation of an unwanted and misunderstood outcast, but to me it is one of the closest friends I can relate to. As far as all the shows at The Regent go which range from psychedelic to black metal there is no size crowd that is too big or too small for me to enjoy the space as it has accommodations for anyone’s needs, including a family of five with three small black metal loving children wearing headphones, as was the case on this night. In the end, black metal fights only the good fight, and therefore I am on its side shooting off cannons of victory, as perhaps should you.
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