ZT guest-author Caitlin Smith made her way to Berlin, reviewing the monumental third edition of the Nuclear War Now! Fest in style:
A quiet and unassuming city, Berlin harbours many secrets. The streets and subways are spotlessly clean and lined with tall, identical apartments that stand silently and impassively. It doesn’t look like much happens here. The streets do not fill at night, even on Fridays and Saturdays, but during the day on the ninth and tenth of November, 2012, a subtle invasion takes place. There is but a single destination- Fritzclub im Postbahnhof.
The venue is tucked away discreetly in an industrious-looking area, with a single, short flight of stairs leading to the entrance and long plastic flaps hanging in the doorway. A queue forms here early, and quickly grows in length. The aim is to get past security with alcohol intact and begin the weekend of blasphemy that is Nuclear War Now Festival, Volume III. After a considerable wait, it is open.
The first band to merit attention is Anatomia; a death doom mix from Tokyo with some diabolically slow riffs that is in no way impaired by the fight between the guitarist’s hair and tuning keys that goes on for several songs. They are well received and serve as a good opening to Pseudogod, who crush the audience beneath flawless performances of ‘Azazel’, ‘Malignant Spears’ and ‘Vehement Decimation’. Their cold, harrowing black metal is countered by fans with repeated chants of ‘RUSSIAN VODKA’, but the energy dies down as Canadian black/death metallers Antediluvian take to the stage. Expectations are high, but the sound quality lets them down. What is discernible on record is not in Fritzclub and a few crowd members drift away from what is essentially a wall of sound.
Disappointment doesn’t reign for long, though, as Blasphemophagher quickly take over and treat the crowd to some skull-shattering black/death metal all the way from Italy. Suppliers of the Nuclear War Now! anthem, it’s clear that they have many firm fans in the audience as their dastardly riffs stir up quite a reaction. It’s a fantastic effort for what proves to be their final show before the band goes on hold.
Next up is Wrathprayer, who have all the power and intensity typical of South American bands and they slaughter their way through their recent, first full-length release with tracks such as ‘Through the Depths of the Phlegethon’ and ‘In Visceribus Bestiæby’. This Chilean mix of black and death goes down immensely well and it’s clear by the sheer amount of back patches on jackets across the venue that Wrathprayer are already held in high regard.
Though the posters on the wall claim that Morbosidad are scheduled to take the stage next, word of mouth tells of problems with flights and customs- whether the band experienced difficulties or just missed their flight, nobody knows. They aren’t here to play, however, and the fest continues without them midst rumors that they will be added to the line-up tomorrow. Picking up where Wrathprayer left off, Greek destroyers Dead Congregation propel themselves to the position of band of the weekend for many with their suffocating set filled with material from both Purifying Consecrated Ground and Graves of the Archangels. Despite their small backlog they fill their timeslot with a throbbing mass of death metal and many heads turn towards the merchandise stand at the end of the set. They do not linger there long, however, as soon enough Rotting Christ take to the stage with the intent to cause mayhem.
Many veteran fans are here tonight, as the band’s setlist has shied away from their newer sound and they have promised to play only material from Thy Mighty Contract in celebration of their upcoming release of demo and EP material. However, ‘King of a Stellar War’ from Triarchy of the Lost Lovers is also played and well received, making it a unique performance that very much pleases fans of their older releases. After an encore of Thou Art Lord, Rotting Christ close the first day of Nuclear War Now Vol III on a high note.
Bestial Raids open the second day but the sheer size of the queue outside means that their crowd is small and many people miss their set. Once everybody is inside, though, British Adorior wake up the congregation with their powerful and angry mix of death and thrash metal, setting the pace for the rest of the day. Embrace of Thorns bring their blasphemous cocktail of black and death all the way from Athens into Fritzclub and they prove to be the surprise of the weekend, their performance brimming with atmosphere and what can only be described as pure evil. At the end of their set a small crowd gathers by their merchandise stand and the larger group around the Black Witchery one starts to make its way to the stage. Florida’s most famous black/death ensemble prove that they’re as savage as ever with songs from all three of their releases, including Holocaust Summoning from Upheaval Of Satanic Might and Unholy Vengeance of War from Desecration of the Holy Kingdom. Their fanbase is massive and it churns in front of the stage, fists raised in furious enjoyment, until the very last echoes of the final notes die away.
After Black Witchery descend from the stage, a slightly disheveled Morbosidad are pushed into the line-up for a short but blinding set that, being only 25 minutes long, may have left a slight bitter taste in the mouths of some fans- but the fact they still played at all is something to be admired. They are quickly followed up by one of the most anticipated bands of the weekend- Proclamation– and with their introduction of Communion of Putrescence and Atonement Cenotaph followed by songs such as Sabbat of Vengeance, they command complete attention. Expressions in the crowd are tired but happy after the set, and the upbeat atmosphere remains during death thrashers Ares Kingdom, who rip through old favourites as well as tracks from their latest offering, Incendiary, such as Descent of Man. They earn themselves numerous new fans and the band dominates conversation both inside and outside the hall long after they leave the stage.
The gap between day and night is now bridged and the very oxygen in the air is tinged with insanity as the legendary Japanese Sabbat take over from Ares Kingdom and launch into their set; there is not a still head in the house during Black Fire or Evil Nation and to finish up, to raucous cheers of appreciation, a chunk of cement is smashed up on stage. The electric atmosphere remains and even the drunkards piled up outside the doors enter the venue as finally, the evening draws to a close and it’s time for the long-awaited performances from the festivals two headliners.
Cult favorites Revenge open with Us and Them (Higher Power) and are received bya sea of clenched fists. Their chaotic mix of black and death metal whips the audience into a frenzy and tracks from Scum.Collapse.Eradication, Triumph.Genocide.Antichrist and Attack.Blood.Revenge go down a treat. The performance is unrelenting and there are fights, injuries, vomit and near-fainting in the pit, making for a truly unnerving and atmospheric display. There are many startled and frantic expressions as the Canadian black destroyers leave the stage but the audience has hardly any time to recover whatsoever as the festival’s final band are soon ready to deliver.
In terms of pure brutality, Blasphemy match and even surpass Revenge’s performance, and it’s clear that this weekend in Berlin there are many people here for Blasphemy and Blasphemy alone. It is impossible to penetrate the crowd as the show begins, with songs like Ritual and Nocturnal Slayer churning the audience into a frantic swarm of insanity. Photographers’ cameras are smashed as the band rip through classics such as Gods of War with Black Witchery’s Vaz on drums Vassafor’s V. Kusabs on bass. Like with Revenge there are a few casualties in the crowd but nobody seems to care as the kings of war metal further tighten their grip on the throne.
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