I never got around to write down something like my ‘top albums of 2017’… but if I had, Carach Angren’s Dance And Laugh Amongst The Rotten would have made the first place without a doubt.* So when they announced this European tour, needless to say I had to go to more than one show. Certainly didn’t hurt to have another great band on the bill too, the legendary Rotting Christ! Small clubs, small stages, and speaking for Hamburg, many faces in the crowd that I had spotted at Septicflesh’s gig just a few days before…
Even if Rotting Christ were the head-headliner (so to say) on this co-headliner tour, it seems like there were far more Carach Angren shirts in the crowd. My excitement before the show in Hamburg was limitless and I definitely wasn’t the only one, the tension was so high you could feel it in the air. Quick stage preparations after the opening act, and sooner than expected the lights went out. Wait… they surely didn’t want to start the show when the microphone cable wasn’t even plugged into the mic? No, Seregor surely didn’t want to start the show like this, but he was left with no choice… when he realized after a few lines that something was odd, he had to fiddle the cable into the mic himself… although the show had started so fucking cool on the visual side, with the projection of a ghostly little girl on the black backdrop and the introduction of Ardek’s seemingly floating keyboard.
Yes, Hamburg remained a purely visual show, or rather an instrumental show. Because even after Seregor had connected his mic to the cable, there was nothing to hear. Well, actually, being right in front of the stage, I could sometimes make his voice out coming straight from his lungs instead of the PA, but that was it. The mic wasn’t switched on, or when they finally switched it on the volume was still so low that there was nothing to hear. A pity, and one of those moments when it’s really a relief to know you’re going to see the band a second time, but on the other hand a good opportunity to listen to the instrumentals and to observe that they sounded great! That said, if you really needed to complain about something (on a very high level) – there were a few moments when I thought that a second guitar wouldn’t be a bad idea… Their live guitarist “The Butcher” certainly did a fantastic job at reproducing as much of the original songs as possible, but at some points it was simply impossible to cover all of it (oh how I missed that beautiful hauntig lead guitar in the verses of Charles Francis Coghlan, for example…), and here and there the power of a second guitar (or even, behold, a bass?) might just have been the missing cherry in the sound. (However, at least in Berlin the stage was so small that I’m pretty sure that not even the tiniest additional musician would have found space on it…)
And then there was Seregor of course. Even with his vocals inaudible, his performance was one of the most fascinating I have ever seen. His movements were as wild as Carach Angren’s music with all its sudden changes of tempo and time signatures, he looked scary with his corpse paint and even scarier when it all started running down his face and left nothing but a layer of dark grey. Besides, he sported some very cool masks on select songs. Of course it got even better in Berlin without the mic problems (or let’s say, with only minor mic problems occurring during the set), when we could actually hear him. Seregor doesn’t just scream some lyrics, he tells a story, and he lives that story in his performance. The horror is real!
All in all a brilliant show of a kind that you wouldn’t expect at such small gigs. Carach Angren apparently aim at bigger stages with their production, and as long as everybody keeps spreading the talk about them, it’s very likely that they will get there very soon!
Time for the Greek masters afterwards, the mighty Rotting Christ. Even if their music can roughly be placed in the same genre as Carach Angren, they were the complete opposite here. Where Carach Angren’s sound lives from complexitiy and the above mentioned sudden changes, Rotting Christ’s music is in many parts rather simple and often repetitive. But that’s exactly how it has to be, this way they create a ‘black mass’ like atmosphere without even needing any make up or stage props and such. The songs themselves work like a spell that drags you into the blackest depths of hell and doesn’t let you go.
So like I said, no big stage production for Rotting Christ, just four sweaty guys with a rather static performance. Lots of headbanging, some crowd animation here, some hand gestures there, and of course their sound that they executed in perfection. Enough to make the whole show feel very intense! (I noticed that I didn’t even mind that guitarist George Emmanuel whipped his sweaty mane of curls right across my face several times… maybe I’m on my way of slowly becoming a proper metalhead after all… 😃)
Rotting Christ too had to deal with technical issues in Hamburg. Halfway through their set, all the power on stage went out. The band left the stage (drummer Themis Tolis wasn’t willing to fill the whole break with a drum solo although the crowd begged him to 😉) and it took about 20 minutes until they were able to continue. Fortunately I didn’t feel like this did the show much harm, but surely not the greatest situation for the musicians.
Last but not least, speaking about co-headliner tours: When two bands get a reasonable amount of time (60-90 minutes) for their set, then even more than with a ‘regular’ line-up (one main act plus one or several support acts that only play 30-40 minutes) it is important that these two bands match well. In my opinion it’s not the best idea if these two bands are very similar in their style, because they will take away from each other and you will automatically start ranking them. On the other hand, the bigger the similarities, the bigger are the chances that the majority of the audience will like both bands. It’s all about the balance… But for me, Rotting Christ and Carach Angren are a good example for a great combination. They both fit somewhat into the black metal category, but like I said above, they are still very different in many aspects. And that’s partly because they both are quite original and interesting bands in general. So even if most people surely had their favourite band at these gigs (which is perfectly okay!), most of them will probably have found something in the other band as well. Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing a co-headline package like this again!
*In case you were wondering: other top positions would have gone to Myrkur, Leprous, Mastodon and Chris Catalyst…