Decibel Magazine Tour: Behemoth, Watain, The Devil’s Blood, In Solitude

“Are you ready for some black metal?,” the guy in line ahead of me growled to his buddy. I didn’t step in to correct them, choosing not to be ‘that guy,’ but technically there was only one black metal band on tonight’s bill: Watain. The rest, all blackish, either by association or subject matter. Devil’s in the details.

by Jordan Itkowitz & Noel Holmes (photos)

Gig was at Slim’s, in downtown San Francisco. Sold out show, packed house, crammed with black shirts from end to end. Slightly older crowd too; no ‘core kids and not a single Slipknot or BLS shirt in sight. A fairly laid-back crowd, there for the metal, the beer and ready to throw some horns. I was there mainly for The Devil’s Blood, so apologies in advance if I don’t get into much detail on the other acts.

In Solitude was up first, with their thrashy throwback sound to the old days of Mercyful Fate and NWOBHM. I don’t know their latest album (The World, The Flesh, The Devil) well, but they blasted through a good chunk of it for 30-40 minutes. Crowd was quiet and standoffish at the start of the set, but they warmed up over time, due to the band’s infectious energy and blue-jeaned authenticity. Speaking of authentic, there was a dude nearby dressed in faded jeans and matching jean jacket, with a big King Diamond graphic pinned to his back, white high-tops and short hair slicked back. Looked like he just stepped out of 1981 and seemed to be the band’s most devoted fan – spent the set throwing horns and headbanging furiously. Great contrast to all the black shirts and long hair around him, and perfectly matched to the band’s retro sound.

The Devil’s Blood was next, and came out bare-chested, bearded and drenched in blood. They changed the atmosphere in the place before they struck the first note. As the intro to The Thousandfold Epicentre boomed and swelled, the guitarists prayed and murmured devotions, silently willing the crowd to take part in their dark ritual.

Then they exploded into “On the Wings of Gloria,” which sounded fantastic. F, center stage in a long flowing gown, frequently reached her arms to the skies (or ceiling, as it were), as if channeling the spirits of the dead – or the ghost of Janis Joplin. Seeing this band in San Francisco was even more special, given that their dark psychedelic shtick plays like a Black Mass during the Summer of Love. Some of the intricacies of the heavily-layered recording were lost in the thunder of the live performance, but all in all, the band was mesmerizing.

“She” was next, off the new album, and while not as dark or magisterial as “Gloria,” kept things rocking. Then the band chose what I think was the wrong direction for their final song – a minimalist and softly crooned version of “Voodoo Dust,” off of the Come, Reap EP. Now, that’s an amazing song, but the lullaby approach and long psychedelic outro drained the crowd’s enthusiasm, and just when everyone was getting really into the band’s energy. Something shorter and more hard-hitting, say “Queen of My Burning Heart” or “Christ or Cocaine” would have won more converts, and then they could have finished off the set with “Cruel Lover” from the new one, which would have delivered the same menacing mood as “Dust” but without lulling the crowd into a stupor. 25 minute set, but only 3 songs. Left everyone kind of unfulfilled.

Ah well, “Dust” just served to be the quiet before the storm, as Watain took the stage next in all their corpse-painted glory. Hellish red lights, goat skulls on the speakers, the works. The first pits of the evening soon followed. I couldn’t tell you what the setlist was – it all blurred past although a good chunk of it seemed to be from Lawless Darkness. I found their slowed-down, almost bluesy moments to be more interesting than their straight-ahead black attack, but truth be told, I spent a good amount of their set at the bar.

Final act, Behemoth, and it was who most of the crowd were there to see. I haven’t bought a Behemoth album since Zos Kia Cultus back in 2002, have barely kept tabs on the band during their rise to popularity in the last decade. Cool videos and entertaining shtick but musically they always seemed to me to be a dull version of Nile, without any of the flashy technical prowess. Good to see Nergal back up and around again though, and he took to the stage with a shaved head, looking appropriately like he’d faced a terrible disease and survived.

Again, couldn’t tell you the setlist, they pumped out an energetic set and the crowd seemed into it, but the booming bass and walls of reverb just rendered the whole performance as a colorless thunder. Plus I wanted a burrito before catching the train, so we bailed. Anyway, pictures, thousand words, Behemoth.

Kudos to Decibel for assembling a tasteful and genuine roster. As I said above, I was mainly there for The Devil’s Blood and was impressed by their showmanship but left wanting by the set itself. Hopefully they will make it back to the States sometime soon.



  1. Commented by: Odovacar

    I was planning on seeing them immediately after seeing Opeth and Mastodon in Vegas. That would’ve been an intense for me: a few hours on the road plus a few more hours of extreme metal. Plans changed and I didn’t go. Good write up.

  2. Commented by: Noel

    One of the best mosh pits ever though!

  3. Commented by: fuckstain

    without any of the technical musical prowess?

    you clearly haven’t listened to behemoth since 2002. Do yourself a favor.

  4. Commented by: gabaghoul

    I have, but nothing has really caught my attention; I’ll do another pass though. Any must-hears which would prove your point?

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