Thursday, March 27, 2008

Old friends & new wounds

Last Friday we were flown in to Calgary, Alberta, to play an exclusive engagement with Watain and Cephalic Carnage. Despite the dubious nature of this combination we were pleased to be reunited with Watain. I myself had seen them on various occasions over the last couple of years but we had not performed with them since our now infamous Stellar Descension Infernal tour of 2003. The flight was uneventful though it dragged a bit but we were literally waved through customs (ruefully so, as we would have brought more merchandise had we known) and soon acquired by Terese from Scarab Productions. She took us to a four-star hotel in the center of the city and I confess we were taken aback by the accommodations. We are not exactly strangers to nice hotels, but to have a promoter provide us with such luxury was definitely a first. Watain had arrived earlier that day, which we discovered since every airport security agent we met had commented on them. They tend to attract attention wherever they go. After a savory meal in Chinatown, we discovered that the band had the room adjacent to ours so before long we were in their suite and catching up. Soon after there was a knock at the door and guitarist Set answered to find the lead singer of Cephalic Carnage and a roadie. They invited themselves in and began making overtures to us about partying and smoking pot with them. Mere minutes before they arrived we had all been discussing the incongruous choice of this act as the other headliner, and we also wondered why they were set to go on last. We also resolved that since we and Watain played back to back, we would deliver a unified front on stage and leave Cephalic with no way to compete. With that in mind, Watain politely declined the offer of drugs and invited the duo to leave but they did not seem to take a hint and seemed puzzled at the idea that people might actually be tired and want to go to bed. Guitarist P. of Watain, ever the diplomat, stood up and stated that he'd smoke with them even though he did not like their band. Instantly the mood changed and our festive new friends were suddenly not interested in a good time. "Well fuck you then," snapped the singer, "I don't like your band either!" They left the room and P. followed them in an attempt to explain that there was not a problem but that he was just being honest, etc. The Cephalic people weren't having it as most Americans are deeply threatened by directness, particularly the European variety. Set became agitated and also walked into the hall and for a moment I expected beatings to commence. More fuck-you-mans mingled with Set's sharp and snakelike tone but no violence occured. Set and P. returned to the room with many choice comments about "life metal" bands.

The Carcass had his own room and had gone straight to bed upon arrival and soon a very drunk P. insisted to see him. It was 3am but Sanguine and I felt that an ambush was in order so we led the sotted Swede down to his room and let him announce himself first with tentative knocking, and then with punches and kicks that we feared would raise alarm. Finally the door was opened a crack and P. burst into the room and grappled wildly with a startled and bleary Carcass. This is how he says hello. They are both large men, and as they pitched about the room we laughed but also wondered if all the expensive furniture would survive. Ultimately order was restored and more proper greetings were proffered. Generally everything P. says is offensive and hilarious, and his deadpan delivery only furthers this so we were sufficiently amused by the time we led him back to his room and then promptly passed out in ours.

Saturday - we slept in late and took our time getting ready. After a hearty meal at the downstairs Irish pub, Terese arrived and drove us to the venue which was a ballroom on the University of Calgary campus. The night before there had been some predictions on whether or not Cephalic Carnage would attempt to sabotage Watain or simply start a fight. Based on what I knew of that band's reputation, I advised that nothing like that would likely happen. Sound check was a bit rocky as the ballroom (as usual) was a mess of booming sound, and despite our best efforts to communicate our needs with the monitor levels nothing sounded right when we left the stage. From there we mostly stayed in the backstage area with Watain and talked while E. Watain and roadie Johan assembled a bone mic stand from the bones of local roadkill. Watain's bassist had been detained in Germany so once again E. would be handling bass and vocal duties.

Everyone in the Swedish outfit was jetlagged, so drummer H. slept on a couch and P. ended up repeatedly vomiting in the adjacent restroom with accompanying heaves that sounded like they were coming from the very depths of his soul. The show had been on for a couple of hours at this point and I stuck my head out to get a new Watain shirt among other things. I was surprised to find that all of the shirts they printed were already sold out, save for the display shirt which I promptly grabbed. It turns out we did almost as well with our shirts and CDs, with only a couple of size XLs left over at the end (only Americans seem to need that size). I also managed to locate our old ally Sabazios Diabolus of Lust and the guys from Weapon, with whom I was until then unacquainted. The promoter had ordained that no animal matter would be allowed in the venue due to insurance reasons, so Watain would have their most sanitary show in some time (relatively speaking, anyway- all of their gear and guitars were encased in dried and scabrous blood from many previous performances). Cephalic Carnage also arrived and were not confrontational with anyone, so the unpleasantness of the previous evening was left behind.

After the local support acts had finished I and my bandmates headed to the stage only to find that the stage crew was moving and all but disassembling the drum kit to center it on the large rear riser. The Carcass had to intervene before his trigger module was damaged, and the whole ordeal set us back on on schedule by almost twenty minutes. We finally took the stage as the first of the headliners and were met with much headbanging and pit acrobatics upon commencement. The audience was great throughout, though our sound was still strange and uncomfortable and we simply could not hear each other. There were a couple of near-miss moments that we soldiered through, and while it was not anything discernible to the audience it hampered our ability to go full-throttle at points. Nevertheless, the set was a success despite the extra work it demanded.

Watain hit the stage with full regalia including banners with attached chains and their famous inverted crosses. Their sound was as odd as ours, and it seemed that they had to approach the lack of audible drums with a similar degree of caution. There were a few places early on where it seemed like the performance was about to slip off the rails, but they quickly got things back under control. Their response was predictably great and they played well overall. E. actually tossed the bass aside on the closing song and his subsequent attack of the microphone injected a more venomous energy into the performance. I see now why he prefers to perform this way. Earlier we had all been discussing how sometimes when the circumstances leading up to a performance are too comfortable it leads to a degree of malaise. We are all used to having to drag gear around and sit in a van or an alley waiting to play, and the quality of our current surroundings may have disarmed us. I also cannot discount the inherent exhaustion of international travel and P.'s green-faced discomfort leading up to their set. The fact that they still presented with their usual degree of conviction was admirable indeed. The other strange aspect of both sets was that we all felt like we were playing on an unmoored boat. I cannot better describe this except that Sanguine and Set both complained of dizziness as they moved about the stage, and H. and The Carcass were both made nauseous from the wobbly instability of the drum riser. In any event, the final outcome was still a positive one for both bands.

The end of the evening was not the outrageous finale I expected; Watain was very tired and E. stated that while he was fine to spend more time with us he wanted to otherwise be out of reach. There was a small party for the bands and crew down the hall from our respective rooms and while Sanguine and I visited briefly with the guys from Warmarch, The Carcass and the Scandis stayed out of sight. We joined them presently and ended up staying up almost until dawn despite our blistering fatigue. It had been five years since my bandmates had seen anyone in Watain, so we were anxious to log a few hours together before leaving the next morning. We did exactly that at 10am and unfortunately missed Sabazios Diabolus' offer of meeting for breakfast as well. Once again we feel the sting of a one-off show in that we have to leave too quickly and there is so little time to spend with friends.

The past couple of months have felt like another period of growth for me in terms of my passion for metal in general. It is barely April and already it has been a fantastic year for Averse Sefira. To commemorate this, I decided to once again make my flesh a panegyric to our work and enlisted the help of the masterful Jonzig to this end.

The Body says, 'It is only through Me that you are realized. I am that which makes you known...' -Sanguine Mapsama

Block not my path! You futile walls of flesh and blood. For I have seen your structure clear and I know where to stab. - E. Watain