On Friday, Poland’s lords of blackened death metal played their 2014 album The Satanist in its entirety at Thalia Hall with openers Myrkur.
Photographer Bobby Talamine sent the Reader several great photos of Behemoth front man Adam “Nergal” Darski and snuck in one of Myrkur mastermind Amalie Bruun—we’ve compiled them in a slideshow below.
I was there too, and not just because I’ve seen Behemoth enough times to know they put on a great show—I’d also written about Myrkur last week and was curious to see Bruun’s Chicago debut.
My verdict? Her relatively conventional black-metal songs tend to be a little bland and short on riffs, but when she relies more on dream-pop chord progressions, she pulls off a lovely, distinctive fusion of the two genres. She’s chosen not to invest her voice with much emotional heat or character, instead going for something more spectral and ethereal, and at Thalia Hall she nailed every daredevil leap into her angelic upper register with no audible effort. It’s so rare to hear someone who can straight-up sing fronting a black-metal band, and a 45-minute set wasn’t enough time to get over how much that impressed me. Bruun’s onstage moves could be distracting—sometimes she looked like she was rehearsing a synchronized-swimming routine in slow motion—but on balance Myrkur gets a big thumbs-up.
I probably don’t have to say that I enjoyed the Behemoth concert, given that it was my fourth one. They’re ferocious and regal, and so viciously tight in execution that even at shrieking speeds their music loses very little of its detail when pumped through a giant PA. The light show was an overwhelming profusion of multicolored and strobing spots, full-stage projections, and light boxes, but managed to hang together tastefully as part of the band’s unified aesthetic—something I’ll call “grown-up occult,” with loads of vaguely sinister mystical symbolism but none of the cartoony nonsense that’s better suited to the cover of a tenth-grader’s notebook.
That’s a good way to sum up Behemoth’s stage presence too: they balance their rock ‘n’ roll swagger with solemn high theater that borders on camp. I suppose it’s hard to be properly blasphemous in a room packed with screaming fans, but Nergal gave it his best. At one point he strode onto a small platform that bridged the security gap between the stage and the crowd in order to hand out what I think were unconsecrated communion wafers to the first few rows—and to complete the gesture, he crushed a handful of them and scattered the fragments with a dramatically outflung arm. (I mean, I’m assuming they were communion wafers, given the evening’s theme. But given how little I could actually see, I guess they could’ve been Pringles.)
Behemoth have always had great shows in Chicago, as Nergal pointed out during the series of encores that closed the night. I assume this has to do with the high proportion of Polish metalheads in the local population, but honestly I don’t care what the reason is—just so long as it keeps the band coming back.