Archive for March, 2011

Watain et Shining a Savigny Le Temple, France, Samedi 5 March 2011

Posted in Gigs, Travel with tags , , , , on March 15, 2011 by Noise Road


Its Saturday night, on the outskirts of Paris.  A couple hundred black-cloaked onlookers are baptised in blood, as a dude raises a goat’s skull to the altar…  Father Bowler didn’t see this sh!t coming back in 1992, when he confirmed Mrs Moody’s little boy into the catholic church.

I’ve read much underground hype on black metal band of the moment, Watain.  Comment boards are full of arguments as to whether their Satan-worshipping shows are rituals or gimmicks.  However, I had not invested much time in their music.

I had heard less about Shining.  What I had heard  was similar arguments over performances vs gimmicks.  The Shining tales included reports of their frontman slashing his own arms onstage.

So why did Noise Road travel so far for bands that we do not follow? The answer is a £30 return ferry to France.

Noise Road has been based, on and off, on the south coast of England since May 2010.  Only now that Noise Road is leaving this base have we discovered ultra-cheap ferries to France.  My Odin.  We’ve squandered 10 months of Franco opportunity.

The trip didn’t quite go to plan.  These adventures wouldn’t be any fun if they did.  Hours before the scheduled sailing hour, my employment contract was terminated and the ferry to Le Havre cancelled.

After a replacement ferry to Caen and bus to Le Havre was organised, and an impromptu 5 farewell pints from colleagues squeezed into a couple hours, we were drifting to sleep on the train to Portsmouth ferry terminal.

I woke on the deck as the ferry pulled into Caen.  Every time I opened my eyes it was a new town – Southampton, Portsmouth, Caen, the coach to Le Havre, the train to Paris and finally the train to Savigny Le Temple.  I was descending into layers of sleep, the fog from reality becoming thicker as I travelled further up the Seine.

Consequently, I was sleepwalking for much of the weekend.  I saw very little of France except through the windows of moving vehicles.  However the day after the gig, I seized the opportunity to take a brief look at Le Havre.

Le Havre


Under the cover of darkness, you are dumped into the back ports of Le Havre.  But if you are lucky enough to enter (or leave as I did) in daylight, Le Havre is an impressive entrance to the European continent.  Across the water, the pebble beach leads to stately post-war, modern architecture.

Hills ring the port city.  It was well worth the climb to see the expanse of the town.  In the distance, a bustling port – the gateway to Europe.  On your right, the pebble beach eases into the English Channel and at your feet lays a large centre.  I didn’t even visit the centre and I still enjoyed the town.  The beach, the hills, the marinas and ports were enough to wet my appetite for a future lazy weekend in Le Havre.

A lazy weekend would be nice.  As I near my the completion of my debut year in the thirties, I can’t help but think it continues to reek of the desperate, bipolar energies of my late twenties.  The way I travel is like a young skunk unable to control its spray.

All these bands that I’ve never seen.  All these places I’ve never been.  And a fear that this immature window is shutting.  30-year olds don’t do this sh!t.  You’re 31 in a month. How much money have you spent on travelling?  How much on all these silly bands that no one has ever heard of?  You could have put a deposit down on a house?  You live in a shoebox under the Itchen Bridge?  And what is this silly blog you keep sending me links to?

Even if this skunk is in continual motion, we need to embrace the local culture.  At the train station in Paris, we picked up une cafe allonge et un croissant, like all the other morning commuters.  Back in Le Havre we took a lunch break in the park, with our baguette avec jambon et fromage…  and for token sake we whipped out another Camus.

In my head, I’m embracing France – but when you would visit, you should probably be less of a pretentious twat.

Savigny Le Temple

I still don’t know if Savigny Le Temple is in Paris, or if it is a town in its own right.  According to the train map, it is Zone 6 of Paris.  Zones of big cities always make me think of rings of hell.  You don’t know what fresh hell you’re going to find out there on the borderline.

If it is Paris, it ain’t the Paris that appears on any postcards.  Its a Paris of warehouses and streets named after elements – Rue du Zinc, Rue de l’Aluminium.  Right there, that’s pretty metal.

Despite the metal connections, it does seem like an odd choice for a venue.  But I guess L’Empreinte is within 100 metres of a train station, on a line to central Paris.

After the hour train ride from Paris and the trains, bus and ferries directly before it, I was spent.  I visited the local boulangerie and supermarche and passed out for a couple of hours in my budget @rse motel.  The motel was located 5 minutes walk from the venue.  I woke up as doors opened, threw on my trusty Dillinger hoodie, and in mumbles of bonne soiree, I was out the door.

The whole day was a little surreal, so many towns and so many microsleeps.   I was sleepwalking, still rubbing crust from my eyes, when I walked in to Shining’s set.

Shining

Shining, the black metal band from Sweden, is not to be confused with Shining, the jazzy/spazzy metal band from Norway.  The Norwegian Shining wield a saxophone.  The Swedish Shining wield Jack’s and cigarettes.

My only previous experience of Shining was listening to their latest album, VI – Klagopsalmer, a few weeks previous.  I had missed the last train home from London, and decided to get my drink on with a friend.  Shining was the soundtrack the next morning as I battled a brutal hangover from his flat, through Margravine cemetery to the local tube station.

Shining was not at all what I expected.  Like the gig it was far from straight-up/tr00/kvlt black metal.

Their live approach had a rock and roll swagger, or at least an old school metal swagger.  The stage left guitarist wore sunglasses and pointed at people moshing suitably hard enough.  The frontman switched hit between swigs of Jack’s and swigs of wine.  He force fed his reluctant guitarists Jacks and cigarettes.

Whilst tonight he did not self mutilate, he did put out his cigarette on his arm twice.  In a variation on the “Just Say No” talk, he encouraged the kids to not mess with the cocaine or marijuana tonight.  Instead they should “inject the heroin”.

Shining’s set used black metal, but as part of a wider set of tools.  Soft and slow dynamics weren’t just atmospheric pieces between blasting songs, they were integral to the pieces.  The guitarists unashamedly wailed like rockstars.  The frontman demoned, but he also whispered and sang.

Most of all their show was fun.  They didn’t take themselves too seriously.  I think the black metal purists in attendance were a little put off when Shining ripped into the intro of Guns n Roses’ Welcome to the Jungle complete with a falsetto “You know where you are? You’re in the jungle, baby.  You’re gonna die!!!”  That intro quickly segued into a Shining favourite – but in some eyes, the damage was done.  The mask of evil had been lifted.

Similarly they started another track as an ode to the beautiful French women.  Once again that tainted them in the purists’ eyes.  Some left for the bar, a smoke, whatever…  Their loss.

Watain

In preparation for the Watain gig, I listened to their latest, Lawlessness Darkness, a handful of times.  I quite enjoyed it.

The thrashy groove that I found on record, came through live too.  Despite the theatrics that surround it, the music itself is quite fun stuff:

The only issue that I had with the music was that a little sameness set in after a while.  Granted, I was fatigued and I am not an educated Watain fan, nor a particularly educated black metal fan, but after a while my attention began to drift.  Watain delivered an 80 minute set, but I probably only needed 40 minutes.

Although it was partly why I was there, the non-musical aspects of the performance were silly.

Fresh animal heads adorned the stage (I couldn’t tell what animal they were – I ain’t no butcher).  Flames shot up inverted crucifixes.  At the front of the stage, a goat’s skull was worshipped.  The vocalist spat blood into the front rows.

On the surface, I could see a metalhead saying this all sounds pretty cool, but it didn’t come off that way.  And it certainly didn’t come off as a black mass or a ritual.  In any case, the music doesn’t really suit a ritual.  I could see Wolves in the Throne Room’s trance like vibe maybe working as a “ritual” or a trippy zone out type deal, but not this thrashy gear.  It has too much groove for Satan.

Masses of any kind bore the sh!t out of me, be they black mass or catholic…  Fr O’Kelly’s sermon on the evils of the TV show Seinfield bored me back in the 90’s, and so do sermons on dungeons and dragons.

I saw fellow po-faced black metallers, Immortal, at two festivals last year.  They came off as a little KISS-like, with their painted faces and pyro.  Watain came over less KISS-like and more like a medieval themed restaurant, or one of those haunted tours.

I can look past the silliness, if the music did it.  But it didn’t quite.  I’m happy to catch them on a bill or at a festival, but I can’t see myself going out of my way for Watain.

Unless out of the way is somewhere really cool – like France.

So I suppose I’ll see you in France.  I’ll bring the goat’s skull, you bring the croissant.