The established meeting between the Athenian crowd and the death metal juggernaut of DEAD CONGREGATION was set this time just as the year was about to expire, one day after the winter solstice. Still remembering the mythical gig that took place three years ago (together with EMBRACE OF THORNS), around the same time, we wouldn’t miss it for the world. With ticket sales moving fast a second date was announced, again in Temple club; its theme being the 10-year anniversary from the release of “Graves of the Archangels”, which would be presented in its entirety. The dilemma on which of the two nights to attend was wiped out within a second; the answer was clear: “Both!”. This weekend was destined to obtain the mark of a historical event…
FIRST NIGHT: CONTINUING THE ETERNAL WAR
Upon entering the Temple, DREAMLONGDEAD had just begun their descent, amidst a fitting suffocating atmosphere, towards the catacombs of doom/death. With “Umbra”, their latest release, having just emerged, it was reasonable and fair enoughfor it to occupy most part of their setlist. I’m under the impression that,as of now,they lean a bit more towards the warlike feeling of BOLT THROWER and a bit less to the mysticism of early CELTIC FROST; however this element adds more awe to their live performances. And those double vocals may well be some of the most substantial ever heard in terms of extreme metal.
RESURGENCY, who followed with their thunderous death metal, stripped from any fancy bits and pieces, were a respectable bridge towards the DC appearance. Theirnecro-metallicformsare reminiscent of a fine blend of technicality and immediacy not unlike that of SUFFOCATION or the “Covenant” era of MORBID ANGEL. Although that certain style is something that doesn’t personally move me as much as other versions of this genre, I must acknowledge that their performance was a storming one, without any prejudice.
The DEAD CONGREGATION version which stepped on the Temple stage that Saturday was the world renowned one; the one everyone in the underground (and not only that) pays respect to, despite any musical preferences;the band that has paved its way to the throne of death metal during the last 15 years and be now has become, fair and square, the main act of numerous important live events of the extreme sound. Under that prism, their setlist on the first of these two nights couldn’t but be a nonstop back-and-forth along their releases, beginning with the demented “Quintessence Maligned” with Haasiophis’ marvelous lyrics. Themighty “Promulgationof the Fall” record, one that has been constantly growing within its followers over time, was honored almost to completeness with its starting trilogy constituting a 15-minute highlight of continuous transcendence.
Thereafter, of course you’d get several references to “Graves…” as well as the EPs (although I’d like a bit more of “Purifying…”), however the most important of it all weren’t the tracks themselves but the totality of a performance that would not lose a single bit of intensity whether the track being played was the raw “Vomitchrist” or the labyrinthine “Redemptive Immolation”. Everyone could witness a band where straight-forwardness (yet without anything being casual) and obscurity (yet without the need of ritual robes or a hundred black candles) co-existed. Those were DEAD CONGREGATION on Saturday and their appearance can only be described by the word “Grandeur”.
SECONDNIGHT: ONLY ASHES REMAIN
As far as SOULSKINNER, who opened the evening, are concerned, what I wrote about RESURGENCY -regarding my attitude towards them- is applicable here too. Not exactly my cup of tea but total respect for what they stand for as a band all these years. Although this time Gothmog was not part of the line-up, SOULSKINNER relentlessly performed their dry, more European rooted and in-your-face death metal; I’m pretty sure they satisfied their audience and for me they were a fitting entrance to the events of the night.
My personal surprise for the weekend answered to the name of RAPTURE. Not having any significant contact with nowadays thrash scene, I had no idea about these guys that stepped on stage and unleashed a ton of adrenaline with their old school death/thrash that payed homage to early, rabid KREATOR and DESTRUCTION and, of course, on a second level to eternal mentors CELTIC FROST. Kudos to them and I’ll keep them in mind from now on for good and meaningful thrash is rare to find these days.
The band that followed were, at least to my eyes and ears, the DEAD CONGREGATION having travelled back in time for 7-8, even 10 years ago. Byperformingan(almost)complete “GravesoftheArchangels”, AV and his fellow companions were transformed again to those maniacs that blew us off as the support act of PRIMORDIAL on the now distant 2008 and practically stole the scene from SADISTIC INTENT a few years later. They were the band that, carrying in their luggage only an EP and that monumental full-lengthalbum, would appear somewhere in the middle of a Nuclear War Now festival billing and would cause more panic and awe than all preceding and following acts combined.
Memories aside though and returning to the actual gig, it’s pretty much useless to say that “Graves…” was performed in a glorious way, from the agony created through the opening, crawling notes of “Martyrdoom” to the morbid psalms that crown the uproar of “Teeth into Red”. To remind us though were they are now, the trilogy of “Promulgation…” was performed once again amidst frenzy (how much more haunting can the “…Fallen Angel is rising…”phrase sound?) before the end came as the fundamental satanic statement of “Vomitchrist” was cast upon us. The weekend was now complete and in everyone’s conscience (mostly those that attended both evenings) another transcendental experience was recorded. Yes, DEAD CONGREGATION had just sold out the Temple for two nights in a row. They weren’t “anniversary shows” (even if one of them was typically dedicated to “Graves…”), we had no kind of party nor fireworks were lit… It was in the simplest, most plain manner, the two faces of a group that performs the heaviest satanic death metal one can find out there…