My return to the Rail Club on the evening of February 26th was impressive, to say the least. I hadn’t returned to the venue since they redesigned the entire interior, so when I arrived and saw the stage had been raised and relocated to a more easily accessible area, I knew the night was going to be a good one. Local acts Reaper Crew, Asylum, and A Devil’s Daydream opened the night, drawing the early arrivals in with thrashy, meaty, and sometimes hauntingly blackened metal tunes.
The first band on the tour package to perform was Abigail Williams. Originally of a more black metal influence, when they took to the stage with their 6 and 8 string guitars, I was surprised by the different direction they’ve taken. The sound was much more of a droning, slower but swirling maelstrom of black metal inspired riffs, paired with the occasional blast beats. They conquered the stage and let loose the sound of a war machine. Their vocalist, going by the name “Sorceron” and playing the 8 string, led the band forth, trudging forward in his hood like a dark priest to the sound of violins playing over the PA, his voice reverberating in a cacophonous vortex of sound. As their evolution has shown, they may no longer be the high BPM black metal entity I expected, but as their set progressed, I found the less familiar sound almost more intimidating, playing through songs such as “Radiance” from their album “Becoming” and “The Accuser”, the title track from their latest release of the same name in 2015. Near the end of their set, fog machines spewed out and the drummer took to a slower, almost tribal and ritualistic drum beat on his toms and kick drum while the lead guitar played an emotional guitar solo to lead into their final song. It was a perfect transition. Their set was a good indicator of the tone of the night; a war cry led and carried by intimidating and haunting, almost inhuman, performers.
Next up was Carach Angren, a symphonic black metal band from the Netherlands. As a huge follower of the band, my excitement to see them perform at the Rail Club for the second time was inexplicable. Looking like ghosts risen from the grave, the horror story band theatrically came to the stage, crawling from the darkness to the sound of violins from the intro for their newest album, “This Is No Fairytale”. Carach Angren’s stage presence has always been a favorite of mine, as both the vocalist Seregor and the keyboard player Ardek move and thrash so swiftly and precisely; their movements look almost as inhuman as their white painted faces shrouded in classical era button coats. Commanding the crowd like a ghostly general, Seregor orchestrated a “wall of death”, where opposite sides of the mosh pit run directly into one another at the given queue. The lights dimmed for a moment, with the string introduction to “Spectral Infantry Battalions” playing over, and as the stage lit up, the drums and keys led the skeleton mask-clad vocalist as he harshly berated the crowd with the chant “dead, but still wandering ahead”. Having witnessed their previous performance, I was surprised and pleased to see the addition of a touring guitarist to allow both challenging parts of vocals and guitars the realization they required. The very jerky, constant-time-change feel their music has made it difficult to achieve, with the vocalist pulling double duty last time, and this time around their set was album quality tight. As inferred multiple times, Carach Angren simply cannot be human. The ghost stories pouring from the band made many in attendance question if they weren’t ghost themselves, with the visual aid of their spectral appearance and movements implying they very well may have BEEN an apparition from beyond.
The clock struck midnight, and Fleshgod Apocalypse hit the stage like a storm, with immeasurable ferocity and aggression spawning from the calm. As a band that focuses very intently on the performance aspect just as closely as they do the actual music, it was amazing to watch them play a large range of their catalog while resembling the music they put out. With corpse painted white faces, and attire reminiscent of dead classical composers in coats and cuffed white shirts, they were clear with spreading their mix of Baroque and death metal influence. Joining them on tour was female Soprano opera vocalist Veronica Bordacchini, dressed in a masquerade ball dress and feathered mask to complete their live show. At key points in the songs, Veronica held an intricately designed metal staff, slamming it down to emphasize beats or changes in tempo, and it was intimidating to say the least. Leading the crowd in multiple chants, both the harsh vocalist and guitarist Tommaso Riccardi and Veronica maintained excellent chemistry on stage. Moments of a calm pit area were few and far between, likely to blame on the tight and punchy drums punching through to shake your bones. They opened their set with the instrumental “Marche Royale” intro to their newest album “King”, and led into the first song following, “In Aeternum”. Not much later, the classical guitar interlude “Prologue” played as an intro for the emotional “Epilogue” from the album “Labyrinth”, and seeing the songs performed live with the operatic female vocal backing was chilling.
The crowd interaction was constant and intense, with the pianist Francesco Ferrini standing up from his instrument to lead the crowd in a fist pumping chant intro to the following song. The tightness of Fleshgod is hard to describe, but after speaking with Tommaso before their performance, his emphasis on how focused and aggressive the band has been with perfecting their art from day 1 was quite apparent. Nearing the end of their set, he announced their next song as the first song from the first album, “In Honour Of Reason”. The multi stringed introduction over the lightning fast guitar chugs and bass pedal kicks gave me insane goosebumps. It seemed almost impossible how accurate and on time they had remained, even after having performed relentlessly for an hour. Fleshgod finished the show with their final track being “The Forsaking” from their album “Agony”, acting as a perfect closer. After finishing the show with an emotional and slower, piano driven song, like all true performers, they bowed to the crowd in thanks and shook hands with many from the stage.
To understate, it was a night to remember. It still remains difficult to fully explain the otherworldly atmosphere, but every band on the bill played off of each other. Whether it be slow and ritualistic, a collection of spectral horror stories, or pure aggression and emotion, those on the stage hosted a war with the crowd. To see bands keep a resounding theme throughout an entire performance was amazing. Seldom do tour packages fit so perfectly together, each collectively showed how talented and artistic they all can be. I simply cannot wait to see each of these bands again.