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“Disgusting” is not normally a word used to describe a concert, but Watain‘s show at Jaxx on Halloween night was, well, disgusting. The Swedish black metal band turned the Jaxx stage into a kind of Satanic shrine, with imposing banners, candelabras on which rotting animal skulls were impaled on stakes, a mic stand decorated with dead rodents, and a pair of massive inverted crosses flanking the drum kit. This was not a place for the easily offended, or those with sensitive noses—-as it turns out, rotting flesh smells bad. Very very bad.
Watain mostly played stuff from their 2007 release, Sworn to the Dark, which generated massive acclaim in metal circles as one of the best “troo” black metal albums in recent memory. To be honest, I was never really all that taken by this album, but when performed live and accompanied by all the visual blasphemy and the band’s unbelievable stench, the songs seemed to be multiplied tenfold in power. I’ve never seen a comparable show, where a band’s stage presence had such a direct impact on the potency of their music.
While Jaxx (and, presumably, public health laws) prevented Watain from unleashing a Gwar-like rain of blood on the audience, the four band members soaked themselves in the stuff before taking the stage. And unlike Gwar, Watain use the real thing—-no colored water here, this is pig blood straight from the butcher shop we’re talking about. Did I mention they smelled bad? It all added up to a ridiculously intense front-row experience.
There are those that belittle black metal bands like Watain for putting image ahead of music. I don’t really care how much time and effort a band puts into their image, as long as the music doesn’t suffer; and Watain’s music didn’t suffer. In fact, music and image fed off of one another, and off of the fact that it was Halloween on a Friday night, and it all came together for a supremely creepy experience. And I’m happy to report that, three days later, I no longer smell like rotting meat.