Dopethrone, Belzebong, Sadhus, Automaton // An Club, Athens, Greece // 30.04.2015
How often do you get a line up like this, really? I’m talking about the perfect amount of “undergroundness” and premium quality in the genres the bands represent. For me it was a 4/4 package, two of my favorite Greek support bands and for the main course the fuzz-a-holic demon priests of heaviness BELZEBONG, plus the best sludge act money can buy you right now, (for my taste at least) the Canadian sinners DOPETHRONE.
I had made two promises to myself for this night and I think I was not the only one. Step 1: Get inebriated to a corpse-like state (which I never do, due to the obvious fact that I have the task to convey as soberly as possible the live experience to the readers, yet this time I thought that I was allowed a little mischief and more importantly that my indulgence to debauchery would help me experience the two headlining – and debauchery praising- bands to a greater and more honest level). Step 2: Have enormous fun; they were both completed.
First things first though, there we have on stage a band I’ve praised countless times, AUTOMATON in what was perhaps their loudest performance. Their ambient version of droning doom never fails to excite me, especially when the monstrous ENTOMBED sounding vocals kick in after the first four minutes of “Going Down” (truly, what a mesmerizing song). On their next two songs (called “Fear” plus a new song under construction) , they explore a new side of the band, which seems to drift a bit further from their awesome “Echoes of Mount Ida” EP, and swimming in the rivers of the noise scene, with some sparks of ambient black and of course their trademark spaced doom always lingering above. That part of their set was a bit hard to follow I admit, yet as it’s obvious they are a band heavily into experimentation, having the demand to stick to what we know would be arrogant. Good job once again and I believe that these tracks will also grow into us.
Next up, the Greek version of DOPETHRONE (with a bit of EYEHATEGOD and IRON MONKEY sauce on top of course) lines up on stage. I’ve also testified my affection for these rotten, hairy bastards time and again, but this time they took my scalp. SADHUS sound this time was like good old SLEEP decided to jam with IMPALED NAZARENE (I have a vivid imagination, I know) and the outcome was something like punk meets sludge, meaning party all around. I don’t know how (perhaps it was the alcohol effect on my mind) but this time their filth element was slightly toned down and the groove element was turned up a lot, making songs like “Burned by Hand” or “Stevaro” sound ten times more entertaining (and not “ten times better” since that’d signify they are not good songs to begin with, which is a fucking lie).
Then again, you can never get the filth out of tracks like “The Smoking Community”. Their disease ridden, twisted and muddy version of the blues portrayed in this song probably had a lot to do with not feeling my neck the day after. Also, it’s a song where their beast of a singer, Stavros, whose vocals are some of the most “sick” you can find out there, really shines. I mean go look it up on YouTube; the dude holds a scream for 20 seconds god damn it! And of course, the combination of this voice, the guitars sounding like slow firing machine guns and the wood-banging drums could lead to nothing more than perhaps their best performance of my favorite track, “Foondamentalist”, a true underground hymn that always sets a venue on fire. Sadly, after “Colombian Boat Blues” it is time for us to stop moving violently to their tunes and, happily, start preparing for the Polish attack to come.
Meeting up with Vincent of DOPETHRONE outside, we had a delightful conversation about everyone needing to be utterly hammered during this concert and I think that the BELZEBONG set could not be described better than that. These guys style of a live performance is as a hazy as a drunk brain, and as a heavy as the brain the morning after (despite the fact they praise other forms of recreation). I can vividly recall the green color surrounding my existence and for an hour there was no turning back from that state. They do better at hypnotizing the crowd with “Bong Thrower” and “Diabolical Dopenosis” than a magician would ever do and “Names of the Devil” concludes the first part (in my mind) of their fantastic, instrumental, fuzzy ritual. Although their song titles show that they don’t take their selves too seriously, their notes do and that’s why I think “ritual” is an apt word to describe their set. They aim at a deep, bass, ritualistic atmosphere, with tones of reverb, evil attitude and leisure groove, that loosens the mind and lets it fly to whatever place it finds most trippy.
Honoring the masters of stoner who influenced them, they manage to build a trance like state and that is the time when they see fit to introduce us to some new songs (besides the one mentioned earlier), “Inhale in Hell” and “Goat Smokin’ Blues” and reassure us once again that they are working 24/7 (or maybe 4/20?) to become the most stoned band out there. This cataclysm of groove will conclude with their magnum opus, the 14 minute “Dungeon Vultures” and after the amps have silenced and the green has faded from the screen, I can only wonder why would anybody who likes themselves some trippy, slow and traditionally evil stoner metal would not want to get their hands on a copy of “Greenferno”. Farewell smoky dudes, we hope you come by our country quite soon…
How do you get ready for war after a 3 hour battle? Easy, get another beer cause you’re about to see fucking DOPETHRONE! Seriously, no poetic stuff in this section of the report, those bastards are like a war or a drug. They lift you and throw you down whenever they see fit. They kick off and the sound blasts the skin off our faces. They are amazing, they are they quintessence of taking the sludge rot and misery and mixing it with the stoner attitude for the grooviest party you can imagine! They also have the luck (or the skill if you will) to be packing heat with their new bombastic album “Hochelaga” and songs like “Sludgekicker”, “Dry Hitter” and “Chameleon Witch” give one and only message to the crowd; get shitfaced and BANG. YOUR. HEAD. When those ingredients are mixed with “old” favorites like “Tap Runner” and “Devil’s Dandruff” you know you got a recipe for destruction.
We knew that the rhythm section on their albums are one of the best (if not THE best) you can find in the sludge underworld, but the live experience is an explosion of energy, an undeniable invitation (or a command rather) to move your body, scream and lose your shit. All of the above happened in great proportions after when, after an agonizing minute of patience the majestic intro of “Dark Foil” sounded. This song turned AN Club into a fighters’ arena and how could it not? Just listen to this thing coming out of the worst nightmares of BLACK SABBATH! Seriously, when you hear these riffs and lyrics like “I need a beer so I can cope with your lies”, you don’t need much more to act like a rabid animal.
The bass is literally shaking the ground, Carl Borman on the drums plays things that can simply be described as “epic” in essence and then you have the showman with the dirtiest voice there is, Vincent Houde. The guitar seems like a lethal weapon to his hands, his badass attitude urges the crowd to give everything they got and his voice seems like a stoned zombie from hell. How can you not follow their lead? The description “deadly for the faint of heart” would be an understatement if used to describe what happened at “Scum Fuck Blues”. A choreographed headbang for 4 minutes and 500 people screaming simultaneously “SMOKE! DRINK! DIE!” is the absolute best memory I can keep from this live. You may be “never satisfied” mister Vincent, but after that indescribable thing, I think I was. Surely golden moments like the cover of “Ain’t no sunshine” (which at their hands sounds like an invocation to a virgin raping demon but what the hell) or the stupendous “Riff Dealer” may be etched in other attendants’ memories but I lost my voice (and my head) at Scum Fuck Blues.
When their disgustingly beautiful set ends, I find myself so pumped up that I would not mind having another two hour set thrown at me. Trying to find some clever words to wrap this up I can only think of Vincent’s scream “FUCK IT!” in “Dark Foil” and I think this might be the best way to describe that night at AN Club. So many people gathered in one place, mentally screaming “FUCK IT! Tonight anything goes and we’re going to have a blast”. And we did have a blast, equal to the one at the fortieth second of the “Scum Fuck Blues” video clip. So, farewell to you too you lunatic trio and I hope we see you again as soon as possible.
Check S&D Photography for more photos.