House of Growls: Behemoth, Septic Flesh, Lightning Swords of Death @ House of Blues LA, 1/16/10

I’m flying down the 5 at 90 mph, alternating between listening to the bands I would later see that evening and the Juliet, Naked audiobook, Nick Hornby’s latest work, which is, in part, about what it means to be a fan. It would be my first of two nights of Behemoth shows, where I would drive to and from LA in less than 24 hours to see them. I guess you could say I’m a fan.

My friend who let me crash at her place accompanied me to the show even though she’s more of an Eagles of Death Metal fan than a death metal one. Before the show, we had a nice sushi dinner, as anyone should before a show of this type.

This would be my first time at a House of Blues. I’d always tried to avoid them- it’s the venue equivalent of a chain restaurant, they’ve banned some of my favorite bands in the past, and I just always imagined them being overwrought with rules. The massive line to get in and the metal detector wands we encountered seemed to verify this. But once inside and settled in, I ended up really liking it. We scored a great spot on the right side of the stage, standing on a short flight of stairs, so we were slightly elevated above the crowd but still essentially front row. There were only two security guards in front of the rail, and no one ever told us to move. I was really impressed, and it’s always feeling like I’ve scored the best spot in the house that makes or breaks a show for me.

Lightning Swords of Death were on stage at this point. They definitely look like they walked right off the pages of True Norwegian Black Metal, even though they are from LA. They’ve got the sound down, too- that kind of muddled production quality of Darkthrone or Burzum. The sound seemed weird to me, and I only caught the last two or three songs of the set. I think it’s tricky to pull off being a black metal band that’s not Norwegian. I personally like to see where a band is from reflected in their work, and this is a tough genre to maneuver.

I was very excited to finally see Septic Flesh, from Greece, despite reading some negative reviews. They have a strong symphonic component to their sound- which is a turn off for some- but to me this is their Grecian spin on death metal. It reminds me of Chthonic. I was really impressed- they are dramatic and energetic and everything sounded fantastic. I really liked Seth as a frontman- there’s something different about him and the way he handles the bass is quite impressive. He’s a tall guy and he can play it upside down and hold it out on top of the audience with ease. He does a fair amount of instructing the audience to throw their devil horns in the air- but I wouldn’t say it’s much worse than other bands. So maybe the one thing that is a bit much is that they do refer to themselves as Gods….so I guess they are Grecian Gods. I can deal, especially because I’m about to rave about the drummer, Fotis Benardo, but only because he has the talent to back it up. He’s a seriously amazing drummer. But he’s also seriously good looking…to quote my friend who I sent his myspace page to before the show saying ‘look at who I’m seeing this weekend!’, she stated, ‘wow- that guy is Megan Fox hot…is he real?’. So everyone around me got a good laugh when I squealed when he stood up and removed his shirt at the beginning of the set. So, yeah, I’ll objectify men every once and a while- they do it to us all the time…..so somebody’s got to do it 🙂 My favorite Septic Flesh song is Anubis- not only because it’s a great song, but also because it’s my cat’s name. I managed to film it below, but I was also banging my head, so it’s a bit shaky and my proximity to the speakers makes the audio not ideal.

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Anubis
My soul is so light
And as this feather I can fly

Anubis
Don’t let me wither and die

As the time for Behemoth to hit the stage approached, the floor became even more packed with very large men. This was my first metal show in LA- and I was very interested to see what the crowd would be like. I found it to be even more male skewed than SF, and a bit more diverse in ages. In SF I feel like everyone is either significantly older or younger than me. We were standing near the stairs to go up to VIP- I thought there might be some good rock star sightings considering that NAMM was going on, and it’s LA- but I didn’t catch a glimpse of anyone.

Behemoth. They come out on stage and stand there, staring at the crowd. And then they launch in ‘Ov Fire and the Void’, which might be my favorite song of theirs. It’s a full throttle auditory and theatrical assault. Immediately someone comes from behind me, jumps onto the speaker and then the stage, and dives off. The security is absolutely overwhelmed. Several other divers would make it onto the stage over the course of the evening.

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I’m in the zone- my body moves involuntarily along to the beats I know so well. The pit is pure chaos, surfers are coming over the barrier, which is moving closer to the stage. The power and energy of the band and the room was almost competing with each other, getting more and more intense with each song.

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It was great to hear more of Evangelion, as only one track was played at the three Mayhem Fest shows I went to last year. It was also great to see them in the proper dark environment- though watching their set in the sunlight did have its charm. I did miss the massive amount of blood they spit out at the end of the set in those day shows…..this time around I only saw a trickle from Nergal at the end. Minor complaint.

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Nergal: frontman of epic proportions. “Thank you California for always treating us like this is home”. Before ‘Christians to the Lions’, he brought out a bible and tore some pages out of it. He has come under fire in their homeland of Poland for this recently. This time I really focused on his guitar work- it’s impressive he can be that good while giving so much to his vocal duties. Usually one suffers as you can’t give 100% to both. Not the case here. I was especially impressed with ‘At the Left Hand Ov God’ and ‘Chant for Eschaton’.

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I tried to film parts but kept getting bumped….here’s what I could salvage…it’s actually quite nice.

As they wrapped up their set with the epic ‘Lucifer’, I started thinking about how much I love them, and how this is hard to understand for some people. What is it about Behemoth? Am I a Satanist? Is it just because I think the bassist is one of the hottest men alive? These are questions I get from both non-metal types who think it’s just weird, and metal types that accuse me of being into ‘hipster metal’. To me, Behemoth is technical prowess, it’s pure intensity, it’s subversive theater, it’s anti-organized religion, it’s well composed songs that have actual hooks. And it comes down to this: Behemoth makes me feel alive. Someone once told me “everyone is weird about one thing”. Perhaps I just happen to be weird about five or so things….and Behemoth is one of them.

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After the show, we filed outside and were deciding what to do with the rest of our evening since the show ended at an early 11pm. This is when, in true HRC fashion, the douchiest guy in the entire place saunters over, phone in hand, and just flatly goes, “hey, give me your number”. Seriously dude? Wow.

Somehow we ended the evening at some ‘hot’ new nightclub called Voyeur, since I was meeting a friend there. We were escorted in past the velvet rope in our metal attire while a hundred designer dressed faces glared at us. Once inside the room, which used to be a strip club, and still had mostly naked women dangling from the ceiling, I found one similarity between the death metal show and the posh club- hostility. Get a bunch of model types into one room and the result is pretty brutal.

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