Auckland really came out for this one. Arriving at The Studio, I was greeted with twin lines of patch jackets and dark clothing stretching a fair way back from the venue doors. It was a sign of the palpable anticipation in the air, and the beloved legacy of the two headliners. As a buddy was keen to point out to me, he and many others attending had been listening to these bands since before I was born.
The music started almost immediately after doors opened, the harsh guitars of Exordium Mors ringing across the Studio and signalling it was time to approach the floor. I knew Exordium through reputation and through their recorded material, but this was my first time seeing them live.
Simply put, I was a big fan. Their punishing black/thrash is actually closer to my personal tastes than either headlining band, just cause I’m a sucker for a sinister atmosphere. The four instrumentalists put on an impressively relentless march of riffs and blast beats. Not only violent, they were musically tight- these guys have been playing a long time, and it shows in their quick, easy tempo shifts.
Frontman Scourge Witchfucker (God, I love these black metal monikers) took on the task of channeling that assault directly to the crowd. Draped in a Satanic-looking monk’s habit, he embraced the dark theatricality of his role, variously raising his hands in benediction, leaning over to snarl at the crowd, or shrieking over the mic in a crouch. He showed off some nice variation in vocals too.
Mostly sticking with a mid-range black metal rasp, he could easily shift to a harsh shriek or deeper gutturals. My favourite vocal moments were during one song which saw him launching into a high, chillingly clean scream that reminded me strongly of King Diamond. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the instrumental mix- the murkiness added well to the violent atmosphere, but also partially obscured some really nice flourishes on the solo guitar. Overall Exordium Mors kicked it off by reminding us that our local talent can very much hang on an international stage.
Vader stormed the stage next, and goddamn their set is the most raw, exhausting fun I’ve had at a gig in a long time. For the veterans, their music is an old friend, but for distinctly un-veteran metal fans like me it’s too easy to take a band like Vader for granted.
Solid death/thrash stalwarts, the continuity and consistency of their output can make them just one of many in the “classics” line up. The live impact of these riffs immediately strips any of that complacency away. This is music written for a crowd, existing only to get blood pumping, heads banging and bodies flailing.
The chaos in the pit was immediate and near constant, and I felt compelled dive in and out of it through most of the gig, getting tossed and shoved about by fellow grinning faces. Frontman Piotr Wiwczarek was quick to acknowledge and encourage the exuberant aggression. “New Zealand! You guys are fucking crazy, you know that?” he flattered us. Even more flattery: “Someone in Europe warned me, ‘when you hit New Zealand, you will see what is metal’, now I know!”
The crowd responded to his gratitude and camaraderie throughout the set, with roars of adulation. Piotr himself was a consummate frontman, performing with a rock and roll grin and swagger, but a sense of happy self-awareness and appreciation for the fans that dispelled any thought of arrogance.
Fellow guitarist “Spider” also played the rock star, swinging his guitar out over the crowd or lifting it in high in the air while thrashing strings furiously. The low end, meanwhile was rumbling and rolling away deep in our stomachs. Closing with the crushing Send Me Back To Hell, exhorting the pit to one last stew of violence, Vader bowed out to the Imperial March, the genuine grins on their faces mirroring the feeling of their fans.
As high as Vader left Auckland’s spirits, Kreator took that mania and lifted it as soon as they took the stage. Their stage show played even more on their star status, light show flashing along to the chanted anthems of songs like Total Death and Satan is Real.
Kreator’s standard of galloping, thundering thrash was superb, and the sound mix was particularly good, allowing for heavy impact as well as space for the lead guitars to soar and shred.
Physically worn out by Vader, I was hanging back, but could see the pit was even more manically impressive than before, with crowd surfers being tossed feet in the air, and heads leaping falling constantly. Mille Petroza seemed to want to up the ante from Piotr’s crowd work, encouraging fist-pumping chants, winding us up to song intros with call and response howls, and actively curating the pit with calls for walls of death and circle pits.
His voice was in fine form as well, managing to rasp jaggedly and somehow also soar impressively. Newer songs like Phantom Antichrist and Civilisation Collapse sounded crushing and got enthusiastic response, but it was the beloved old material that got the wildest appreciation, with Extreme Aggression and encore closer Pleasure to Kill leaving the atmosphere at fever pitch.
This was a night of metal for metal’s sake, with both headlining bands calling explicitly on the camaraderie of the metal community, and there was a real sense of that unity and joy in the sweaty faces that poured out of the Studio when it was over. One to remember.
Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Conan Fitzpatrick: