It’s a warm afternoon in the Emerald Isle, July 16th of 2014, and though the songbirds are busking happily in the trees and the sun is throwing us a wink and a smile, my mind’s eye is concentrated on a thick, sinister fog in the distance beyond the hills of sleepy Rathdrum. It’s a dark one and it’s threatening to block out whatever little tidbit of summer we’re having today. That colossal fog, I imagine, is emanating from our capital city, and most likely because black metal titans Inquisition have brought it with them.
In about three hours I’m going to hop onto a bus en route to Dublin for the Inquisition show in the newly refurbished Voodoo Lounge, a venue that has seen some serious shit in its time. My last visit was for a Gorgoroth and Vital Remains show which ended abruptly when Gorgoroth/Taake vocalist, Hoest, smacked a bottle of wine across a man’s face, leaving a pool of blood and shards of teeth all over the pit. So to say that I’m both terrified and excited for tonight would be an understatement. There’s no feeling in the world quite like knocking back plastic cups of the devil’s ambrosia and wondering if you should get your dentist on the phone before or after the gig.
Considering the recent controversies surrounding the band, which in my opinion are completely ridiculous, I’m not sure what kind of reception Inquisition will get or what kind of crowd will show up to the event or if there will be any kind of trouble like the last time I was there. What I do know is that tonight’s line-up is more dangerous than any one drunken arsehole with a blunt object.
We arrive at the Voodoo Lounge about twenty minutes before the first band are to hit the stage, and much to my relief, as soon as we enter the venue we are met by four leather-clad dudes chilling out and chowing down on some chicken noodles (the venue seems to double as an eatery). So noodles are here, this is a good sign. I can think of no possible conflict that cannot be abated by a warm bowl of noodles. We hear the screech of amplifiers and a howl of drunken approval from the hallway, the show is about to kick off. We make haste.
Our opening act, Zom, have become a staple part of the Irish metal scene in their short few, but turbulent years. They’ve consistently delivered each time I’ve seen them perform, a power-trio that hammer out some of the most ghastly, knuckle-dragging death metal you could fathom. Theirs is the sound of primitive man discovering fire and immediately using it to burn his fellow man alive. This is a band who draw their water from the well of barbaric old school death metal, harking back to a time when speed, brutality and ghoulish ambiance alone were slung into the cauldron. The blood of Brazilian archfiends Sarcófago and Mutilator run through their open veins and that’s apparent from the moment they start blasting away into their set. There’s nothing fancy here whatsoever, just unrelenting barbarism and blast beats. Tonight is no different.
The crowd is thin, as is common for the first band of the night, but there is of course the one enthusiastic reveller (we all know the one) standing alone front row, banging his head and punching the air as though his life depends on it, and rightly so. I’ve never known Zom to interact with an audience, they simply arrive, crush all whom dare stand close enough to them, and leave. Again, tonight is no different and no one is left disappointed. Actually, the only disappointing occurrence during the set was the mistake I made in thoughtlessly ordering a pint of Stella while caught up in Zom’s “The Horror from Beyond”. Turned out that the Stella was served in those tiny plastic cups for babies with anemia. It’s a mistake I won’t be making a second time, I promised myself.
Much like the majority of promises I make to myself, before Malthusian have even hit the stage, I’ve already guzzled back another pygmy beer with giant’s price tag. Malthusian, whose 2013 demo “MMXIII” sent shivers through the spine of the Irish death metal scene, seemed to take to the stage like men with a very grim mission at hand. Their malevolent sonic assault slows only at times to allow the audience to breathe in the poisonous levels of bleak density that is the undercurrent of their sound. ‘Bleak’ being the key word when describing the music of Malthusian, unsurprisingly so as this is an outfit comprised of members of some of Ireland’s most heavy and funereal bands (Mourning Beloveth, Abbadon Incarnate, Altar of Plagues, to name a few).
For some reason though, my heart wasn’t in the show. Maybe it was because I’d chosen to relocate to the bar and allow photographer, Julian Palmer,(who, due to insurance issues, was reduced to using a mobile phone. We’re very professional) to go about his business front row. So I propped myself up by the bar and nodded my head to a music that, on any other night, I would’ve been basking in like a dog on sun-baked patio. Malthusian’s brand of frenzied demonism was exactly what I was looking forward to, but something came over me during their set, and so I sat for the remainder of their set. Even though I could feel myself sinking into my pint, there was at least one other person in the building who I knew wasn’t fairing half as well as I was. I spotted him, we’ll call him “acid guy”, for the first time towards the end of Malthusian’s ritual. He attempted to throw his arms around two pretty young ladies, who promptly shuffled away from him as though he had just crawled from the leper pit. It was the first I saw of him, but most certainly wouldn’t be the last.
By the time Inquisition had made their way to the altar, I had picked myself up and was more than ready for the final act in what had so far been one of the most bestial gigs I’d attended in recent memory. I was already very much aware of Inquisition, the band, but nothing could really prepare me for Inquisition, the live band. Never before had I heard a black metal band, never mind a duo, perform as intricately and with as much white hot fury as Inquisition did that night. Not a single beat was missed, not a moment’s worth of ambiance lost to poor sound and not a pair of eyes straying from the hypnotic spectacle taking place on stage. With a set-list comprised of songs new and old, you could tell that the band were bent on doing much more than simply promoting their latest release, they were all about putting on a show, and a show they did give. What struck me most about their performance was singer/guitarist Dagon’s perfect vocal delivery, his famous and powerful croak crowned the sonic offensive and gave the overall display a character that one would be very hard-pressed to find in another band of Inquisition’s kind.
I stood there among the modestly sized crowd and, maybe it was the booze, but I couldn’t help but feel as though we were all experiencing a rare moment of community. That what we were seeing before us was incredible, and even the most joyless and indifferent of us couldn’t raise a nose in the air or let out a scoff. Though Inquisition have been dished out some negative press as of late and have no doubt been dealt all the trouble that comes with such negativity, it most certainly didn’t show in their live performance. This band was simply spot on, and no controversy can supersede their ability to absolutely fucking tear your local metal den a new arsehole.
As we were leaving the venue, all smiles and laughs, I caught a glimpse of acid guy, a deflated and defeated look on his face. As though the world around him was collapsing, or he was coming down way too early for his liking. I found out later on the next day that he’d taken four knuckles to the face from a member of the crowd who had simply had enough of his touchy-feely approach to socializing. And so it was, noodles and all, that violence lurks in every corner of our bleak, crumbling society.
Words by: Liam Doyle
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