Ah, the memories….! Gathering with your mates in the brisk night air outside a dimly lit venue plastered with posters. Fishing out your ticket stubs from your back pocket as you get frisked by over-zealous security. The odours of beer and leather and the great unwashed as you head into the building’s warm, dark haven. The rancid loos, the heady crush of over-heated bodies at the bar, the rush to secure a good spot near the stage. The anticipation that hangs heavy in the air, the exhilarating rush of excitement you can almost taste, the still smoky silence as the stage lights up and the band walks on. A collective moment of pure ecstatic savage joy that is almost religious in its intensity as those first tentative notes resound…
All so tantalisingly out of reach in these disturbing times. For metal lovers in particular, the need for the visceral thrill of live music is becoming a constant unbearable itch. And while our capitalist overlords are keen to urge us back into the cumbersome chains of work, commuting and school despite the ongoing pandemic, events that are usually the only release from the horrific mundanity of this humdrum slavery still remain frustratingly off-limits with gig cancellations and postponements a depressingly familiar disappointment. Getting back to normal, it would appear, does not include getting back to anything remotely fun.
Fortunately, our favourite bands seem to be fully aware of our plight, and a plethora of livestreams, online DJs and virtual festivals have been drafted in to try and recreate, as far as possible in our own homes, the live experience. One such offering is Septicflesh’s first ever DVD release, Infernus Sinfonica MMXIX, a recording of their unforgettable 2019 Mexico City show. A metal extravaganza of epic proportions, the symphonic death titans have jumped on the trend pioneered by similar acts and performed the entire concert with a full live orchestra and choir. Whether deliberate or not, the release couldn’t come at a more welcome time; in a year utterly starved of the violent delights of live performance this is an undoubted serendipitous gem.
The DVD kicks off with footage likely to make you sick with envy as eager fans stream into the grandiose Metropolitan Theater, a neo-classical architectural beauty, excitedly clutching merch, grinning from ear to ear and happily making devil horns to the camera. However, each shot of the professionally filmed show is cunningly curated to provide an unparalleled perspective of the action on stage; leading to an intimate experience that is the next best thing to being there in person. Arguably better perhaps; even the front row of the audience would struggle to get such an up close and personal view, and the acoustics and sound are pitch perfect. As the camera pans across the expectant, feverish crowd, the orchestra initiates proceedings with an eerie instrumental that builds just the right amount of tension before the band launch into the dramatic staccato riffs of Portrait of a Headless Man.
The raw grasping vocals and whip-fast drums are perfectly complemented by the soaring classical chords, flooding the auditorium with furious waves of theatrical intensity. What follows is a carefully coordinated treasure chest of treats, as the eclectic collective of guitars, drums, cellos, violins, trumpets, trombones, guttural roars and delicate choral voices come together in a glorious cacophony to breathe riotous new life into a choice selection of Septicflesh’s most beloved tracks. The Vampire of Nazareth is a particular highlight, featuring the haunting lyrical vocals of the youngest in the choir, while the powerful, thudding ferocity of Martyr bombards the senses, the band’s head-banging fervour matched by the explosive energy of the orchestra’s conductor and the frenzied passion of the violinists. The great Anubis is similarly spectacular in this setting; the bass deep as the pits of the inferno and the classical strings tuned to a heightened pitch that could shatter glass. Closing with Dark Art, a dangerously edgy slice of unsettling death metal made yet more moving by the addition of ominous classical interludes; it’s clear that not since Satyricon performed Live at the Opera has an extreme metal act so successfully acclimatised with a more traditionalist component to send such delicious shivers down the spine.
A perfect nostalgia trip for those wonderful pre-Covid days, Infernus Sinfonica in full glorious technicolour on your widescreen will help recreate the much-missed live metal experience with the added wondrous gift of an accompanying classical orchestra. And unlike those once in a lifetime gigs, the pleasure can be repeated ad infinitum in your own front room as you keep sticking the DVD back in for another spin like the obsessive symphonic metal junkie you are. Every cloud…
'Infernus Sinfonica' is out now via Season of Mist