CELTIC FROST and 1349 at the Opera House, September 18. Attendance: 400. Tickets: $37.50. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNNN
Extreme metal shows are definitely not for everybody. I wouldn't recommend bringing your mother or local priest along for the ride, mostly because these concerts can be spectacularly aggressive and cathartic events that don't bode well for the faint of heart. Not to say that there's anything wrong with that, since any good music should make us feel something, but metal strikes that chord louder and more excitedly than just about anything else out there.
So when Celtic Frost, Swiss godfathers of the heavy (and one of three bands, along with Venom and Bathory, pretty much responsible for black metal) come to town, you know leather will be worn, many beers will be consumed and almost everyone will be practising their devil-horns hand salute.
Deservedly popular in their own right, Norway's 1349 (the year the Black Death spread into Norway) did everything a self-respecting misanthropic metal band could do to open, including a quick pre-show fire-breathing stunt by their singer, Olav Bergene, who calls himself Ravn.
Musically, 1349 are both brutally heavy and melodic, and they use that juxtaposition to their advantage in songs that tend to sound like Wagner played with guitars and machine-gun-fast percussion (seriously - the drummer's hands looked like a hummingbird's wings).
But black metal certainly isn't about putting on a fancy show, or even moving much. It's kinda just about sounding as pissed off as possible, which 1349 did in spades. The band may not have millions of fans over here in Canada, but the ones who like 'em like 'em a lot, especially when they drop crowd-pleasers like I Am Abomination and Chasing Dragons, which I don't mind saying fucking killed.
Maybe if it was any other band, 1349 would have stolen the show, but I don't imagine Celtic Frost were worried about being upstaged, since they fill their live set with equal amounts of intensity and pure, unfiltered anger.
After a perplexingly lengthy intro consisting of pre-recorded music complete with troll-esque vocals, the obligatory smoke machine and a decent light show, the band took their places and basically just soaked up the kudos and adoration for a good two minutes before actually playing anything.
Relying heavily on their latest album, Monotheist, and their earlier masterpiece, To Mega Therion, which sounds awesomely heavy 20 years later, the band played with plenty of fire in their bellies and weren't embarrassed to stomp around menacingly or do some exquisitely good headbanging/hair-twirling for show.
Vocalist/guitarist Thomas Gabriel Fischer revelled in his command of the fans, while his guttural voice asserted its uncontested dominance in songs like Necromantical (embodying the traits of a necromaniac?) Screams.
The virulent anger of bands like 1349 and Celtic Frost isn't for everyone, but I can't imagine that anyone at the Opera House left disappointed.