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THE DECIBEL MAGAZINE TOUR IN L.A.: GOOD TO BE ALIVE

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In entertainment, expectation can be dangerous. And no expectations could be higher than mine for Decibel Magazine’s awesome tour. Behemoth. Watain. The Devil’s Blood. Assassins. Comrades. Favorites. How did each band fare last week at a venue packed with the metal mad in West Hollywood? Did everybody have an awesome time? Should fans east of Texas drop everything to get tickets for the tour’s second half? End the suspense after the jump.

Even compared to his tourmates, The Devil’s Blood guitarist/frontman Selim Lemouchi’s presence is grave and uncompromising. So it was doubly pleasing to see the darkness he displays in quiet, controlled moments (interviews, photo shoots) countered by his onstage energy throughout TDB’s bang-bang middle set: Not often but often enough, Lemouchi’s mask of solemnity slipped to reveal a magnetic rock hero who couldn’t — or wouldn’t — suppress guitar faces or unbridled shredding. His severe philosophies, front and center offstage, really dissipated from a concertgoer’s awareness, as did the diverting sight of boobs (singer Farida Lemouchi), of sweet abs (their hunky bassist), and of all the symbols and shit cluttering their elbow-to-elbow stage space. You forgot all that stuff because, in concert, Lemouchi belongs to his jam. So do you.

From The Devil’s Blood, Watain’s awesome, unhinged set got a direct and an indirect shot: Lemouchi returned to stage right (with the requisite upgrade to corpsepaint) for second guitar duties, and the number of pumped-up fans quadrupled since The Devil’s Blood had begun their first song. And Watain throttled them. Frontman Erik Danielsson, not the funeral invocateur of my expectations, was more G.G. Allin than Emperor Of The Galactic Empire, more crack-crazed punk than seance-chanting  overlord. Thanks to Danielsson, my night’s first out-of-body experience came during “Waters Of Ain,” the sprawling, mournful finalé to 2010’s Lawless Darkness, a moment set up by a tasteful dedication to late guitar tech/beloved metal stud Armand Crump III, a moment I spent weightless and zombie-staring through curtains of purple light. Fucking Watain, dude.

So by the time Adam “Nergal” Darski and Behemoth took the now-cleared stage, excitement and gravity already hung in the air (along with lingering Watain stink). Every instance of eye contact with random dudes or the innumerable industry types (Hi Kelli!) tended to communicate this exchange: “Holy shit this is happening!” And after a few songs of Behemoth’s set, Nergal put speech to that theme by bellowing, “It feels so fucking good to be alive!” The crowd of 1250 went fuck-nuts.

Let’s back up: 13 months ago, Nergal had been in rebuilding mode after an emotionally- and physically-exhausting bout with leukemia. At that time, he told me that he hadn’t resumed playing metal riffs on his guitar and that his recovery was measured in push-ups. Then he told me about plans for Behemoth shows just a half-year later, and for that, I told him that he was insane. But at last week’s show, I felt insane for doubting it: Nergal was back and bad as fuck.

It was surreal. In the photo pit for a few songs, I felt actual repulsion from Nergal’s presence, like an unseen orb surrounded him and pushed me back even as I was crowded toward him by lunging fans on the other side of the barrier. I was nagged by the sense that he would drop to a knee and karate-chop me in the neck, such was his body language. Death tried to take this man? Good fucking luck.

And then came the night’s second out-of-body experience. After being wrung out by 12 blitzes of blackened death metal — each applauded heartily by Glenn Danzig a couple tables away — I was put under hypnosis by “Lucifer.” It was like Nergal had dangled a medallion opposite a beam of light, repeated the phrase “You are a statue,” then crouched down and turned obsidian me to face a blazing sun. Then he snapped his fingers, the lights came up, and it was all over. Surreal.

-ADF

If you’ll be in the eastern half of the US in May, get your tickets to a Decibel Magazine tour stop here

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