Blackest of the Black & GWAR
Blackest of the Black
Featuring Danzig, Dimmu Borgir, Moonspell, Winds of Plague, Skeletonwitch
With Kingdom of Sorrow, Toxic Holocaust
Glenn Danzig is the ultimate death-horror beefcake – with his bulldog snarl and black mesh tank-top he is, if nothing else, instantly recognizable. This patron saint of rowdy death rock took the stage at the Showbox in Seattle to a crowd rabid to simply soak in the guy’s dark presence: Devil horns raged proudly in the pit as Glenn and his sneering non-smile settled in at center stage and cranked the rock.
Starting with tracks off his debut long-player, Glenn and company stuck to a greatest-hits set list, but what the show lacked in surprise it compensated for in terms of sheer rock style. Danzig is neither the heaviest nor, indeed, the blackest of the black when it comes to heavy metal, but his ability to fuse breakneck headbanging with maudlin lyrics about suffering and death-obsessed narcissism nevertheless sets him apart from the crowd. Where other metal acts may descend upon an audience with grander sonic intensity, as odd as it might sound to those not familiar with the singer’s oeuvre, Danzig has always worn his bleak, skeleton-tattooed heart on his sleeve, and fans are drawn to that.
Ignoring much of his last few records (1996’s underrated Blackacidevil wasn’t represented at all), Danzig stayed true to the early tracks that started his demonic career a-rollin’, and aside from a couple microphone troubles, he pulled it off, showcasing his powderkeg verse-chorus-verse thrashers with brio and snarled gravitas. “Twist of Cain” sounded like a million bucks and his band was even able to infuse a sense of chug-a-lug newness to the MTV-overplayed “Mother”.
Out-blacking Danzig, though, were his openers, a set of bands that may not have the name recognition of the metal legend, but who had waaay more than enough ear-bleeding rawness to make up for it. Skeletonwitch’s speed-thrash was rowdy yet finessed,Winds of Plague’s deathcore was unrelenting, and Portuguese goth mavens Moonspell spread their satanic strains with rehearsed dominance, yet the MVP award of the night has to go to the Norweigian symphonic stylings of Dimmu Borgir.
With what seemed like a hundred guys crammed onto the small Showbox stage, this pummeling act owned its crowd from riff one: Whether it was the histrionic emphasis from the marionette-esque keyboard player or the lumberjack-steady antics of their enormous bassist (not only was the guy himself a giant, but he played on what seemed like the most gigantic bass guitar I’ve ever seen), Dimmu Borgir had everything a metal group can have going for it.
Well, I take that back. You know what they didn’t have? A baby sacrifice.
As if the Blackest of the Black show wasn’t enough for Entertainment Today’s ringing ears, just a few days later the Showbox featured the ‘Electile Dysfunction’ GWAR tour, and truth be told, these guys out-blacked anybody on Danzig’s bill. From the band-logo panties that my GWAR-conspirator Christina purchased at the t-shirt stand – located just beyond the borders of the heavily-tarped pit – GWAR’s Seattle presence was the stuff of metal legend.
We recognized the strains of “Crush! Kill! Destroy!” from RagNaRok, but it was apparent just after a fake infant was torn in half and gored on the giant space-ivory back tusks of lead singer Oderus Urungus’s costume that audience musical recognition was simply not important – what mattered was the splatter. With a terror-storm of a mosh pit swirling at bloody speeds (we saw at least ten or fifteen pour souls emerge beaten, broken and bruised from that maelstrom), GWAR played their excruciatingly loud monster-rock with gusto, all the while spraying various substances out of the ‘bile-driver’ on stage. Remember, GWAR splatters every crowd they play in front of with blood and guts and stuff (don’t forget to bring your grandma).
It doesn’t stop there, though. Their election-themed show – somehow doubly bizarr-o seeing as the show took place the week after the USA’s presidential race ended – featured equal-opportunity dismemberment that no doubt pleased both liberal and conservative GWAR-heads. John McCain’s torso was peeled off and his innards strewn into the mosh pit, Barack Obama was beheaded with apocalyptic glee, and poor Hillary Clinton had to suffer being torn in half at the waist and beaten senselessly over the sides of the wrestling ring fashioned at center stage (oh, and this was after her breasts were ripped off).
Those unfamiliar with the GWAR ethos may read descriptors like this and gasp with puritan disgust, but the otherworldly hyper-gore of GWAR’s live show is so far beyond ‘bad taste’ that it’s impossible to find real offense to it. After all GWAR’s intergalactic mantra is dedicated to (and I quote) ‘the destruction of the human race and the eradication of existence itself’.
What’s not to love?