Rotting Christ, Melechesh, Abigail Williams, Lecherous Nocturne, The Ziggurat Live Review
by Mark Hensch
There's a wide divide between good and great bands in the heavy metal world. March 9's concert at the Jaxx Nightclub in West Springfield, Virginia was no exception to this rule, the five bands on the Apostles of Darkness over America tour varying in scope from solid to spectacular. Led by Greece's Rotting Christ, the evening showed the quality juncture between bands is usually one of experience and innovation.
Take Radford, Virginia's The Ziggurat for example. Formed in 1998, they didn't release their first album, Going down much the same route were Greenville, South Carolina's Lecherous Nocturne. In a fashion similar to The Ziggurat's, Lecherous Nocturne sped through a set of whirling death metal anthems. There was little respite from the onslaught – the band blazed through songs like "Just War Theory" and "We Are as Dust" with intensity and barely-contained fury. When they did slow things down – like the highlight that was "When Single Shines the Tripled Sun" – the end result was ominous guitar grooves that offered much-needed variation from the group's more typical speed-freak approach. Though many of Lecherous Nocturne's tunes blended together, those that stuck out did so with brutality poignant despite the relative brevity of the band's showing.
The night's definitive low-point came from New York City's Abigail Williams, a band suffering from serious identity crisis. Started in 2005, they initially played the mixture of orchestral keyboard effects and chilling, raw metal that characterizes symphonic black metal. Following a long string of lineup departures – and even a brief breakup – they ditched the keyboard concept entirely and switched to a more traditional black metal template.
This drastic change in styles made for a jarring set when Abigail Williams took the stage. Opening with the cinematic, sweeping keyboard bombast of "The World Beyond" off 2008's Jerusalem's Melechesh, on the other hand, could have been the evening's main event with ease. Playing their first-ever tour date in America, the Israeli band delivered an incendiary set of Middle Eastern melodies and cutting thrash metal. "Rebirth of the Nemesis," for starters, struck like a king cobra with stabbing guitar notes and a sandstorm of percussion. "Ladders to Sumeria," meanwhile, provided some hypnotic heavy metal via repetitive riffing and mesmerizing melodies. "Triangular Tattvic Fire" turned heads with its monumental guitar hooks, while "Ghouls of Ninevah" stomped its way through massive guitar grooves like the second coming of Goliath. All-in-all, when the band's self-proclaimed "Mesopotamian metal" wasn't getting heads banging, it was moving bodies in abrupt mosh pits or impromptu belly dancing. It's a testament to the duality of Melechesh's craft, a masterful heavy metal concoction that's equal parts rhythmic and raw.
Taking the stage last were those titans of Greek heavy metal, Athens' Rotting Christ. The brunt of the band's assault came from 2010's Rotting Christ's earlier material rocked every bit as hard. "The Sign of Prime Creation" struck with speed and violence of volleying arrows, while "Enuma Elish" sank into a barrage of thick, chugging riffs only to emerge unscathed with throaty wailing. "King of a Stellar War" the group flex its majestic side, orchestral sound effects swelling behind slow, graceful guitars. "One with the Forest" started much the same way, only to transform into a thundering battle cry.
The show's finest hour, however, was Rotting Christ's finale. Returning to play "Noctis Era" – another
Mark Hensch is the editor of Thrashpit. His writing also appears on his
Rotting Christ, Melechesh, Abigail Williams, Lecherous Nocturne, The Ziggurat Live
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