Blood/Fire/Death: Watain douses Brooklyn

Brooklyn Night Bazaar – June 15th, 2014 Photography by Rodrigo Fredes of PhotoTerco

It was Father's Day, so I arrived early and called my pops outside the venue. I informed him I was seeing a Swedish metal band named Watain shortly, who would likely spit animal blood at the audience. “Well have fun, enjoy your night,” was his mild reply, like I just said I was going out for Thai food. It's tough to shock the parent of a metalhead.

It was my first time at the Brooklyn Bazaar, a sprawling indoor space with picnic tables and an arcade in a separate wing away from the stage. Ventilation was problematic so fans huddled below the ceiling fans for some relief from feeling like they were suffocating themselves just by breathing.

Local hallucination-conjurers Kosmodemonic opened the show with a stellar set of blackened doom and psychedelic sludge, jamming out for a too-short half hour. They had some cassettes at the merch table and I’ve learned that they’re limited to 200. Jump on them shits fast, because this is a band to watch. Mysterious black noise project T.O.M.B. followed with a brief set, lead by their anonymous (and hooded) mastermind. A quick Google search brings up the first two options for the acronym: Total Occultic Mechanical Blasphemy or The Old Man Band. I’ll let you guess which one played at a Watain show. [Hint: They appear on page 42 of dB issue #118.] Their abrasive industrial dirges felt like the churning gears of a doomsday device.

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Promising a Bathory-approved “wild ceremony of blood, fire, and death,” the stage crew set up war banners and pyro-rigged sculptures that drew roars from the crowd each time they crawled with flames. Scheduled as a one-off show on North American soil, it's their only date in the United States before a series of festival appearances throughout Europe. Taking the stage with “De Profundis,” Erik Danielsson screamed and gestured while wobbling side to side, eyes rolled back and face streaked with red. He delivered lyrics like he was the vessel of another (sinister) power, smirking at jokes only he heard, only regaining lucidity between cuts from The Wild Hunt and Lawless Darkness long enough to shout, “Brooklyn, New York!”

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After “Malfeitor” roared to a close, Håkan Jonsson pounded a hypnotic beat while Danielsson drank from a horned skull chalice in front of a bone altar. He held the cup above his head to a chorus of cheers. That elation crashed into shrieks as he spat pig’s blood into the first few rows, with impressive projection. TMZ reported people vomiting and crying, but I witnessed nothing but people proudly showing off their stained shirts. From that chaos they redirected the manic energy into the well-received ballad, “Outlaw.” Watain have been working from this set list for a while for good reason, as the balance between fiery ragers and sky-punchers seems to take the audience’s stamina into account. Thrash and start shit in the pit, catch your breath and bang your head. “Black Flame March” specifically had the whole room chanting and throwing fists in unison.

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There was certainly more fire and blood than the last Watain tour with In Solitude and Tribulation, but it wasn’t the orgiastic gorebath the venue may have secretly feared. A part of me was expecting people sloshing ankle-deep in blood, puke, and puked blood, slipping and sliding while trying to start circle pits. I pictured roadies extinguishing fires spreading on the stage as Danielsson watched the mayhem approvingly. What the crowd got instead was a band transforming a night market into a Satantic ritual, health hazard, and sanguinary spectacle. Those should be black metal prerequisites, according to some. After closing with “Holocaust Dawn,” Danielsson spoke unheard words to the bone altar as the band left in a procession. It was a suitably quiet moment of reflection as fog lifted from the middle of the floor and the crowd waited to provide their final cheers. The end of the ceremony.

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With the crowd swarming to the exits, I knew my arm was doused, but wasn’t aware of the splatter across my face until I hopped in a photo booth. The lines for water to properly rinse off were long enough that I decided I’d rather stink like a slaughterhouse for the ride home than be inconvenienced a whole minute and a half. Sorry fellow subway commuters, I had to lie and tell you it was fake.

***Many thanks to Rodrigo Fredes for sharing his amazing photos. He braved the blood with some very nice equipment.

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