Review: Behemoth live in Cape Town

Behemoth 2016 Cape Town: Nergal

Cape Town, South Africa: Amidst a billowing cloud of non secular controversy, chocolate-covered pagan bunnies and plain old gloomy Cape Town weather, Witchdoctor Productions and Behemoth steamrolled into town. Their mission: to deliver another blockbuster evening of unholy delights!

But this was far from just another European metal band flaunting their studded balls in our faces. This was Behemoth. The megalithic pillars of Polish metal. The anointed sorcerers of legend. The adopted sons of the South African underground scene who have returned once again to what must now feel like a little piece of home. And as front man Nergal crept his way through the artificial smoke effects, reeling in a buzzing reception half way between elation and nostalgia, the stage was literally set a-blaze for extreme metal to rule over our dark continent; or at least the wicked inhabitants of The Assembly on Easter Sunday, March 27th.

An international metal act bustling down south usually signals what equates to a mini mass-migration of all variants of metal lovers, from the big ‘oak’ who loves his Black Label and braai-days more than what’s universally acceptable, to the twenties-something scene chick who decided to get a ticket last-minute, because this is Cape Town and that’s just how it is sometimes. But even with the mighty Behemoth baring down, without any supporting acts, I was pleasantly surprised when entering the venue to find that most fans had already arrived and had swamped every crack and crevice, scattering across the stage and bar areas and engaging in typically satisfying and customary bashful conversations which just naturally accompany any well attended metal gathering. I immediately ran over to the bar to investigate this unusually punctual and suspicious behavior – even checking to see if there was perhaps a Brandy/Coke 2-for-1 special doing the rounds. To my astonishment, there was none, and you wouldn’t get much change from a R50 either. Cape Town’s metal fraternity had just arrived on time, and in the numbers, and ready to tear into “The Satanist”.

Behemoth 2016 Cape Town: Nergal

A hypnotic riff sliced through the air as ‘Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel’ crackled out to finally open the show, exploding onto the crowd with crystal clarity. Thirty seconds in and all the agonizingly drawn-out months of waiting and Facebook spamming had already been forgotten and shrugged to the ground. I was in awe. After the initial shock of Omg! We are actually watching Behemoth live wore off the crowd though, an actual mosh pit broke out and any thoughts of innocently observing the show from a personal safe-zone immediately turned to dust… along with my cellphone. The freaks were starting to show their metal one by one, and like a scene out of a zombie movie, it was as if the infection was rapidly spreading, uncontrollably contaminating the room. Each thrust of Nergal’s fist, and pop of Orion’s pecks, seemed to galvanize the sprawling mass that had accumulated at the crowds center while brawny anthems like ‘Messe Noire’ and ‘Amen’ rippled across the hall.

The albums title track, ‘The Satanist’, continued to invigorate, injecting watts of energy into proceedings and feeding the hellish pit that had already taken so much from me. But we raged on, presumably remembering just how much a ticket costs in South Africa’s dwindling economy and sharing a deep appreciation for the limits of our fragile bodies. This one guy moved like a possessed dolphin, elegantly converting a series of fails and misjudged shimmies into a coherent moshing technique. But perhaps it takes a possessed dolphin to show us just how to enjoy a Behemoth show? Who knows. With limbs finally tiring, I had no choice but to duck from the rest of that wretched mosh pit – which by now had resembled something of a chocolate fountain – with meshy flesh clanging and smelting over one another, lubricated only by the sweaty bodies and sounds of ‘Ben Sahar’ and ‘In The Absence Ov Light’ vexing from the stage. The jostling and stampeding had given way to energy-conserving thrusts and compassionate body slams, and as I stood far off at second bar trying to fully appreciate the magnitude of the event and the proficiently breathtaking performance unfolding, I couldn’t help but feel proud to be part of this crazy culture and certainly fortunate to be able to witness a band of this class right here in my own back yard. I took one last foray into the abyss when they finally belted out the fan-favorite ‘At The Left Hand Ov God’, which zapped up the last tinge of willpower still circulating within my weary veins, and it was worth it. So was every ounce of energy lost to the viciously harrowing onslaught to the senses brought on by our Polish overlords.

Behemoth 2016 Nergal 02

I’ve had the pleasure of perusing quite a few international metal acts over the last few years thanks to organizations like Witchdoctor Productions, and Behemoth are right up there with the very best. Many would argue that, in fact, they are the best. For me though, there are many bands out there who can put on a world class show, but not all have the absolute monstrous presence and demented swagger that Behemoth surges into their live performances. On this night in Cape Town it was there for all to see; through every blurry image of impending doom painted thereupon, to the fire-wielding exploits of a front man in his prime.

It was most definitely a night to remember and many would have been wishing it back the moment they retreated down The Assembly’s shoddy stairway toward the exit. However, with Witchdoctor’s perpetual spooning, and Nergals blossoming love affair with South Africa, it could not be that long till they return and cause another stir, both in the aforementioned local religious circles and our blackened metal hearts.

Author: courtesy of Zain Domo
Images: courtesy of Linda Evermore
More images from the concert by Linda

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Behemoth 2016 Cape Town: fan trophies
A fan displaying his ‘trophy’
Behemoth 2016 Cape Town: Zain & Nergal
Zain meeting Behemoth’s Nergal