Thursday, October 1, 2009

GIG: The all powerful Kreator

I don't think I've ever stopped being sixteen.

Nights like this one in question remind me how the decaying exterior I drag around really only occludes the unchanging, immortal sixteen year old inside. It's a sort of Dorian Gray-type thing. Sort of.
I was excited enough when it was announced that Kreator were returning here, I really dug the new record, but when the news came through that one of my all-time favourite Australian bands, Mortal Sin, were supporting them I was overjoyed. This was the sort of gig I wouldn't have even dreamed of back when I was High School, it just didn't seem possible. Mortal Sin's 'Face of Despair' is still a treasured album, a top-notch thrasher, probably one of the best of its' type in fact, and to have them re-united after such an absence and still as strong as ever, with Kreator really in top form, this was almost too good to be true.

It's night like this that really make me wish my old mate Rohan was here still. We got into all this stuff together, swapping tapes and and it's a shame he isn't here to experience all this.
Kreator. Mortal Sin. Together. Awesome.

Inspite of the best counsel I persisted in my attempts to overbook myself on what was supposed to be a fairly easy Wednesday night.

Did I work, go home, have a quick bite to eat, and a few ales before heading back into the city to the gig?
No. No, I wasn't that clever.
I thought that I would be able to get to see the Salvador Dali exhibition at the National Gallery, then head back into the gig with time for a beer before Mortal Sin came on. Too easy.
The best laid plans of mice and mensch usually end up in the loo.
For my part I ended up in line.
For two hours.
Two hours of waiting just to buy the damned tickets, only to realise that I was never going to be able to indugle in the delights of the athletically moustachioed Spaniard's early ouevre, and make it to the gig in time for Mortal Sin's support slot. I prayed that another band had been added to the bill, without notice. Equal and opposite forces prevailed and I yielded to my lack of genius, and bid a hasty retreat back across the city. I convinced my accomplices in this trial of patience, CV and Magoo, who had endured the ballbag-shreddingly bad burlesque, and the gruelling, grating gypsy music, for the duration of my interminable wait, that they needed to buy me a beer, or two, to placate my shattered sensibilities.
Cabinet, overlooking Swanston is my fave haunt at the moment, so to Cabinet we went.
There the deliciously camp chap behind the bar prostrated himself in apology for serving me a Hellishly hot Heineken, having just been ripped straight from the carton, and offered me an ice cold alternative, full of grace. I forbade all pinching, for if it were a dream, let it remain so.
Shotgunning the two ales I left the girls to their own dear vices, and raced up to the Billboards venue on Russell Street, praying to all the Metal Gods, who may actually be heeding me, in spite of my folly, that the show had not yet started.

Alas, my invocations were in vain, as Mortal Sin were well and truly underway by now. In spite of my own self-flaggelation I still managed to boggle at the ball-bags gathered outside smoking while the band were performing. Waste of money, waste of an opportunity. I never cease to be astounded by the ignorance and stupidity of some people.
Anyway...where was I?

Mortal Sin, yes. Mortal Sin were on.
( permission to wobble bottom lip...)
Rather than flaying myself any further I necked another quick Heineken and enjoyed the remaining three songs. That's a hot Heineken I'll point out. An eight dollar fifty hot Heineken. I doubted lighting would strike twice, and that the muppet behind the jump would twig to my dissatisfaction and offer me something in the range of ice-cold rather than hot coals.
NB: I'm going to keep mentioning Heineken on the off chance that I can receive an endorsement from them. Here goes:
"When I go to see live metal...I always drink Heineken..."
Any second now, the phone will ring...
Any second now...
Any second now...

Adding to the already complex emotions I was feeling was the frustration at my inability to maintain the charge on my shoe-phone. I can lug it around for days, never need it, and then when out and about and actually requiring the damned thing it keeps karking it on me.
Mensa, here I come.
Next time you are watching a cast of not-so-bright young things being carved up one by one, by order of wage and significance of acting resume, in one of those threadbare slasher picks that still get made ( and even re-made), and the heroine pulls her phone to discover there is no charge remaining in the battery which means she isn't able to call for help and now she is going to have to run another 300 miles through forest, and you find yourself groaning going 'as if...', then think of me, and my clapped out phone. Life-imitates-art, or perhaps it is the other way 'round.

Dave-of-Metal sent a message earlier relenting, confirming he was indeed coming. After having spent the last month or so prevaricating, he had decided with proverbial two-minutes-to-midnight that he was going to come. When I received the message he had about 2 hours to kick off. He was going to cut it close. For the purposes of historical accuracy I was still in Cabinet when the first message came through. He was in Cranbourne, five time-zones south-east of the CBD. I had to turn the phone on, quickly check for messages, updates of his progress, and then turn it off agin, lest it died all together. As he traversed the several thousand miles between the city and Cranbourne, I sipped into another slightly cooler beer, and continued to grumble at myself for my foolishness.

Nicking off to the loo I ran into Scott, a recent mate whom I met through Dave-of-Metal. Those two have known one another for donkey's, and we've all been trotting to gigs a fair bit lately. Strangely I thought I had seen him walking up the street ahead of me as I was racing for the venue, dismissed it, only to discover it actually was him. We caught up, talked the new Megadeth, shot the shit, and discussed Dave-of-Metal's progress, only to be startled at teh journeyman's sudden appearance. Only his hyperventilation and scarlet face prevented me from believing he hadn't teleported into the venue, so immediate was his arrival. An armpit-temperature ale soon set him straight. Five minutes later Kreator strode out onto stage.

Lights down, background music fades out, crowd roar, and...

Before I go into the gig, I'll just give a brief history of time:

I not too sure which the first Kreator I ever heard, maybe 'Fatal energy' from the 'Extreme Aggressions' album, or something earlier like 'Riot of Violence'. I can confirm that I picked up the 'Terrible Certainty' record first though, no doubt about that. A Black Swan records purchase ( see " 'Tis the Deth of me." ). And isn't that just an absolute mongoose-down-your-dacks album of unbridled thrash mania? Every track a nailbomb: 'Behind the Mirror', 'Toxic Trace', 'Blind Faith'. The subsequent record 'Extreme Aggressions' has a much better production, and some massive songs, but 'Terrible Certainty' is still my fave. It has special siginificance too, for me, as this was the album that not only marked a turning point in the band's career, and perhaps too for the metal genre, but most definitely for me. Kreator tacked into the wind, moving away from death and mayhem, fantasy lyrics, and Mille, the singer and vocalist, began writing about real-world issues: the environment, politics, current affairs. When the hot water my adolescent fervour found me in started to boil ,the likes of Slayer's 'Hell Awaits' was called by the prosecution to question the merit of the music I was listening to and if, indeed, this was having some undue influence on me. Kreator came to the rescue, as well as some high falutin' hyperbole, and saved the day. It may be noisy, and all of that, though bugger me if it couldn't be erudite, and literate.

The Slayer vinyl in question was sold to my oldest-and-blondest friend Richard, who still has it; the cover is tacked onto his wall.

Kreator become one of my big bands in High School. Iron Maiden, Overkill, Megadeth, Kreator and Sodom, were pretty much my staples for years. Kreator were a sort of AC/DC of thrash, the name of the song was the refrain singer Mille would shriek, for shriek he will, and they had a particularly no nonsense head-down ferocity that matured, and expanded, over the years. Complexity and atmosphere have been flirted with, and embraced, but the energy and anger has never been dismissed. Recently, they are even more political, every album a powderkeg of polemic and power-thrash.

Oh the heartbreak when I was forced to miss Kreator way back when they toured supporting the 'Renewal' album. For my beloved Tueton thrashers were playing a scant week prior to my eighteenth birthday, and considering the venue was licensed, making the show 18+, and I didn't know any forgers likely to provide me with the sort of documentation that would have seen me able to walk the streets of Nazi occupied France in relative safety, or at least permit entry to the gig, I had to sit at home watching the video from the 'Extreme...' tour ( filmed in the lee of the fallen Berlin Wall no less ) and dream of what could be. ( What a cruel time that was; so many bands touring that I either couldn't get in to see, couldn't afford to see, or transport myself to see. It was like that for so long. Thankfully it's just expense and apathy that stand in my way these days, or if the show is at Festival Hall; which always shits me.)

That video I just mentioned copped such a flogging. It cost me fifty bucks, back then, and was worth every penny. What an indelible experience: Mille in tight faded grey jeans, bare chested, hair almost to his knees, (another) black V ( a recurring theme ); Ventor's drum solo and a set list of pure perfection. I doubt there's much left of that tape now, though I watched it so often I'm sure I could recite it all for you with backtracks and glove puppets.
( I think I just heard the sound of a gauntlet being thrown down somewhere...)
Needless to say when they toured here a few backs I was beside myself with delight. The band were back at their ballistic best, as if they had that mongoose back down their dacks, and in a year that witnessed tours from Exodus, a reformed Mortal Sin, with Sodom, Celtic Frost and Testament around the corner, this was the time in which I found myself reaching a strange delirium to finally be seeing my adolescent album collection (whatever the record player had left intact ) live, alive and in the flesh.
The show at the HI-Fi Bar was everything I could have ever wanted. Liane and I were positioned right at the front, pressed up against the barrier, off to the right, standing as close as humanly possible to the mad-as-a-cut-snake main-man Mille Petrozza. I could see every explosion of spittle, every eyeball-rolling exclamation, every fulminating frustration that Mille erupted with. The set that night was pretty much everything I had wanted to experience since I was sixteen; the greatest of greatest hits: 'Love us or hate us', 'Behind the mirror', 'Extreme Aggression', 'People of the Lie', Ventor singing 'Riot of Violence', 'Awakening of the Gods' and Mille feverishing foaming, shrieking at us as he incited us to raise the 'Flag of Hate'. It was the track list from the video concert, plus some of the newer cooler tracks from the two most recent albums. Glory be.
I opted not to go to the imminent Slayer/ Megadeth show feeling that I had 'been-there/done-that' ( a decision I'd regretted until I heard what a shemozzle the show was ), and to be honest I was entertaining similar feelings about the Kreator show as well. The last time was truly fantastic, I was doubtful that this time would be as fulfilling. The addition of Mortal Sin to the bill was clincher. That why I was chiding myself so severely for having shot my night in the foot. Anyway, enough of that!

I really like the Billboards venue. Years ago Liane and I went there for a rave party that a mate of ours was hosting. 'Frantic' these particular knees ups were known as. To say this was not our scene is an understatement but we came to share the night with my friend Mark, and be a bit gonzo and have a geez at how the other half groove. I was wearing my fur suit ( trousers & jacket of fake tiger fur ), Liane some PVC gear that Merrin made us. We arrived about 10:30. Started hooking into the beers, with only the staff sharing the room with us. By the time everyone else arrived, the other punters, it was two in the morning, we were pissed, dancing like your embaressing aunt and uncle at your cousin's wedding, and had finished all our fags. In contrast, all round us were ripped, athletics specimens of mankind, diophoretic dancers to the hyperdrive drumbeat. This party was just kicking out the jams, while we were ready to be spread out.

That was my first experience of Billboards. After that it seemed to be the sort of place you went to for trance parties, gangster theatrics, violence and poor quality gear. A couple of years ago though, the place underwent a renaissance and has been staging some pretty great shows. Off the top of my head I can think of Morbid Angel, Saxon, Satyricon, and Queensryche as gigs I have seen there, but plenty more have been staged: the likes of Amon Amarth, Immortal, Death Angel...and on and on. The drink prices are little short of a knife-point mugging, the dunnies the architectural reverse of the inside of the TARDIS, but the room is an ampitheatre, so it doesn't matter where you stand, you can see. Brilliant. Just what a chap of average statue like me needs, as I stand off to one side, gazing out over the top of the mosh pit at the stage, as the lights dim and Kreator stride onto the stage....

Whereas last time I had been awestruck and ebullient to the point of ecclesiastic epiphany I have to admit that this time I was less overcome. Not that there is any fault with the their presence or performance, I'd have to admit that the context I was seeing the gig in did little to help. Mille was as insane as ever, spitefully shrieking and shouting, hunching impossibly over his V, while his new band met his mark, rocking hard and fast for a good eighty minutes. Business as usual, thankfully. The stand-in drummer in particular proved a worthy addition to the rank, though I could have done without the drum solo. Impressive, but ultimately tedious. If the standard of the band was no surprise the set list was; resisting the urge to trot out the same-old-same-old, a greater number of more recent material was presented with some mandatory chestnuts thrown in. The list went as such:
'Hordes of Chaos', 'Phobia', 'Terrible Certainty', 'Betrayer', 'Voices of the Dead', 'Enemy of God', 'Destroy what destroys you', 'Pleasure to Kill', 'Violent Revolution', 'Extreme Aggression', 'Coma of Souls', 'War Curse', 'Flag of Hate' segueing into 'Tormentor'.

I was a little dismayed not to hear 'People of the Lie' or 'Love us or hate us' (my fave tracks), but I'm glad that the show wasn't a perfomance of the same set as before with one or two tunes from the new album tossed in for variety. Another couple of new numbers would have been welcome actually; 'Amok Run' was one song I was crossing my fingers for. There's something perfunctory about Kreator though; they bang out the songs absolutely bang on, and that's it. The only pyrotechnics are in the playing and Mille's skeins of saliva. Not that I mean for that to be a negative comment, I'd much rather a bunch of musos in jeans and t-shirts over make-up and wacky wardrobe anyday, but, inspite of the night I'd already had and the earlier experience of seeing them, I didn't connect with the show. I came, I watched, I rocked, but I wasn't blown away.

Matters weren't helped by the fact that I was, for all intents and purposes, completely pissed by the end of the night. I threw myself on Dave's mercy and had him give me a lift home during which i nattered nonsense incessantly, only to thank him profusely, open the door, and collapse out into the gutter. Every cloud has a silver lining, and in some dreams the streets are paved with gold, and in this case the gutter was strewn with a great glittering gathering of gold change. Nearly twenty dollars worth. Halleleujah!

Priorities. That's the moral of the story.

If, in the future, you are presented with the choice between German thrash metal, or Spanish surrealism, the choice is an obvious one. Learn from the error of my ways, let nothing come between you and your Kreator.

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