Anniversaries are always a great occasion to celebrate what has been and what is, with an eye on what is yet to come. It doesn’t even feel like WATAIN has been around for over 25 years (remember “Go Fuck Your Jewish ‘God'”?), and yet when thinking about it, there has been so much going on, and the band itself has gone through a long evolution and transformation to become what it is now.
Some proper celebration was in order, and over two nights (the first of which was sold out immediately), the Swedes put up an incredible spectacle in front of their home audience – as well as all the other foreign fans gathered here, including us.
It took several days to set up the stage for this weekend, which also explains why the opening bands performed in a different hall. Pelle and Gottfrid Åhman of PÅGÅ (best known for IN SOLITUDE) gathered the early crowd, performing their “psychedelic noir rock” tunes from their highly acclaimed albums “The Evil Year” and “Magnetic Agent.” It was a very interesting choice of music to start the night with. The two brothers have pushed their style far beyond what one could have imagined in their early days, but they had always been able to create captivating music, and this project is further proof of that. Their set was relatively short, so after a quick changeover, it was Attila Csihar‘s turn to entertain the crowd with his solo project VOID OV VOICES. Haunting and otherworldly vocals filled the venue, where by the way, a lot of people had been queuing for the merch stand all the way through the hall until the entrance on the opposite side. The hooded singer did his magic on stage, performing tracks from “Void Ov Voices: Baalbek,” his solo album. The album resulted from a journey that started over 15 years ago and ultimately led to the recording of these songs at the homonymous archaeological site in the Middle East. As intriguing as this sounds, the music required a certain atmosphere and mood that didn’t quite fit in this fancy and “shiny” massive concert and congress center. It was easy to imagine this music in a cave or a small, dark club.
There was still a long way to go before WATAIN‘s show, held on the 6th floor (the 7th being the balcony area of the main hall) of this modern building in the center of Uppsala. When it was finally time for the show, the audience was certainly in for some good surprises, starting with the intro (VON‘s “Veadtuck”).
Following their familiar ritual of lighting fires on stage, the band presented us with another rarity, “Hymn to Qayin,” not your typical entry in a WATAIN live set. As the atmosphere grew more heated with the audience divided between the standing area in the front and the many rows of seats in the back and upstairs, “Malfeitor” led us to the heart of the show, with Erik showing up on stage shortly after a very brief break to play as the third guitarist in “Lawless Darkness.” He continued to do so when Farida Lemouchi (THE DEVIL’S BLOOD) took the stage to sing “We Remain,” which was by far one of the highlights of the night, followed by “Septentrion,” the last song in tonight’s set from “The Agony & Ecstasy of Watain.”
There was room for one more guest, and it was somewhat expected, given that he had just performed a couple of hours earlier downstairs: Attila Csihar joined the guys to sing TORMENTOR‘s “Beyond,” as the show neared its inevitable end. An end that followed the now-traditional pattern with the magnificent “Waters of Ain” (in a set that included one-third taken from “Lawless Darkness”). The audience once again hesitated to leave the venue, hoping for an unlikely encore, but the lights turned on, and people began clearing the stage.
What else can be said? WATAIN delivered a great show, as expected, and celebrated their career in style in front of an enthusiastic audience. Despite the uniqueness of the venue, things worked extremely well. It’s always special to see a band as successful as this playing in front of their home fans. There was a strange atmosphere in the air, with people appearing strangely happy and smiling throughout the night. Many familiar faces gathered tonight in Uppsala.
In the end, everyone crowded the escalators, descending seven floors down (sounds like hell) to retrieve their belongings and scatter into the dark autumn night. The show on the following evening was likely equally great, but there is always a certain something that makes the first night the best. Or at least, we want to believe that.
VOID OV VOICES
Photos by Marco Manzi