Given the hype surrounding the MERCYFUL FATE inspired sound (and previous tour of the southern US, opening for DOWN) IN SOLITUDE is probably better known than THE DEVIL'S BLOOD, but Metal Blade, who also has headliner BEHEMOTH in their stall, utilized the intrigue to get people into the venue early, to see the Dutch brother-sister combo (she of the blood splattered Carrie prom dress). If they'd been reversed (as is warranted) more people would have opted to show up later, to see In Solitude and thus miss The Devil's Blood. Also on the bill were the Swedish satanists WATAIN. If a photo is worth a thousand words, their rancid stench is beyond description!
In Solitude were afforded only four songs, including 'Her Darkness' and the title cut from The World, The Flesh, The Devil. The Swedes' usually frenetic stage presence, especially bassist Gottfrid Ahman and fox stole, corpse-painted frontman Pelle Ahman (aka Hornper), was hampered by the tiny confines of the stage, although Hornper sang the conclusion of 'Witches Sabbath' from his knees, parked in front of the monitors. Their '80s Euro style stood in stark contrast to what came next, the '70s extended Cali beach jams of The Devil's Blood, which didn't sit too well with diehard black metal fans, but if GHOST can play 'Here Comes The Sun', it's not too far to this sound.
On a night when the Flyers needed a win in the hockey playoffs, everyone in Philly wanted to see Devil's blood (on the ice), although that wish had nothing to do with music. Not sure that people could tell the five guys across the front of the stage were covered in blood, but when buxom Farida Lemouchi joined them, she too drizzled in red, most took notice. When she wasn't singing, which was lengthy stretches, she turned her back on the audience, facing the drummer. Her bearded, short-haired brother Selim is guitarist/ringleader. In the rarest of moments, the crowd didn't even attempt to mosh to The Devil's Blood! Gotta like a band with a song entitled 'Christ Or Cocaine'.
A pair of inverted crosses flanked the members of Watain, a mild offense compared to the olfactory atrocity generated by their sweaty/blood soaked stage clothes. Phew! Unlike past shows, the smell didn't reach the front row until the band was actually onstage. The absence of animal blood, typically a stage prop, might have had some (diminishing) effect as well. Weather reports predicting "raining blood" proved false. This certainly was THE band to see tonight, judging how the bar emptied, and floor became a swirling sea of activity, once the Swedes hit the stage. Balanced by the mic stand, Erik Danielsson was perched precariously atop the monitors, launching his side-to-side motion. The rare blue light or backlit whites were reserved for highlighting Danielsson's fist thrusting antics. Despite all the unholiness surrounding this outfit, there's certainly some strong melodies within their tunes, including a few off Lawless Darkness: a brutal 'Malfeitor' opener, 'Waters Of Ain' and 'Reaping Death'. There's more to Watain's sweet smell of success than just hype.
Behemoth were in the unique position of touring without a supporting album, although the Evangelion artwork hung from the rafters behind the band. Known Nergal since '01 and he's always been a sinewy fellow, yet never has he seemed so skeletal thin (I hope reports of his complete recovery from a bout with cancer are accurate). Short-haired in corpse-paint and his tattered outfit, he recalls WCW wrestler Sting. Despite the limited interactions with the crowd, it was obvious the founder/guitarist/singer enjoys being back onstage, The set was composed mainly of Demigod onward material, including a trio from said platter (the title cut, up second, 'Conquer All', also fairly early and 'Slaves Shall Serve'), which still seems to get the biggest response. The stage was nearly bare. Unlike previous tours, there were no light boxes, nor risers for the guitarists to stand on, but plenty of fog and red lights. In his characteristic lunched stance, Nergal was peppered by a blitzkrieg of flashing white lights during 'The Seed Ov I'. The proper set ended with 'Chant for Ezkaton' before they returned for a two song encore, the oldest song '23 (The Youth Manifesto)' off Thelema 6 and (somewhat surprisingly) 'Lucifer'. Maybe not the definitive set, just glad to have them back. "Live" probably has a whole new meaning in Nergal's lexicon!