Without a doubt, the Nephilim gig in Warsaw on March 15th was quite a unique and mandatory event for anyone interested in music that is dark to the core. Carl and his band don't exactly perform on a regular basis and seeing them in the post-communist, depressive industrial setting that is Warsaw had 'once in a life-time opportunity' written all over it. It is therefore hardly surprising that looking at the crowd, it seemed like only about half of them were Polish, with the rest being visitors from such places like the UK, Scandinavia, and even the more distant Americas and Australia. Most were dressed in weather torn leather, certain cowboy attire and of course the occult-themed t-shirts that are to be expected from Nephilim fans. All in all, since Warsaw kindly provided us with particularly foul weather that day (actually a good thing in this case!), the line to the venue looked like some sort of congregation of post-apocalyptic zone travellers getting ready to partake in a mysterious ritual.
Stodola, the venue at which this whole event happened, is the Polish equivalent of the Astoria in London - an old venue with history and tradition. I cant imagine a better venue for this event in all of Warsaw. Although colourful on the outside, the interior space was more than suitably dark and industrial for this concert. The people obviously felt this too as they started to congregate around the stage very early (instead of staying behind and drinking) and provided the two support bands with a very respectable audience. It also helped that the supports were quite well chosen for the event.
Tenebris: The first band to start playing was Tenebris. I have never heard their music before this show; however, many people in the audience were obviously familiar with their stuff, often shouting enthusiastic responses to the songs that they played. Tenebris sounded to me like a mixture of prog with death/black metal with a focus on a rather dark atmosphere. At first I wasnt sure if an extreme band like this was suitable as a support for the mighty Nephilim, however, it soon became apparent that their fast and heavy music acted as a great way to rouse the people and awaken them from the pre-show slumber, get them going and prepare them for the fun to be had in the following hours.
Daimonion: Daimonion, the second support and also a Polish band, was another story altogether. Whereas Tenebris was a great way to get people excited, Daimonion was all about setting the mood. And set the mood they did, with their very dark form of progressive/gothic rock. To be honest, I was quite impressed with how professional this band sounded, they are obviously quite capable of being headliners and it is a shame that they are not very well known. Either way, their slower, more nuanced music acted as the perfect counterpoint to Tenebris' brutality and as a great gateway to the psychedelic delights that the fans were expecting to follow with the headliner's show. The band's frontman controlled the audience very well and the band was spot on, besides having some technical difficulties (the snare broke at some point; however, I didnt notice the band struggling particularly with this mishap).
Fields Of The Nephilim: Finally, the stage began to get drowned in waves and waves of smoke, as the instrumentalists of the Nephilim entered the stage and began playing "Shroud", the intro track from Mourning Sun. At this point, the crowd was already quite delirious, chanting "Carl, Carl, Carl!!" (and more amusingly, the Polish translation of the name "Karol, Karol, Karol!!"). Eventually, McCoy made his entrance and... all hell broke loose.
Anyone expecting the nuanced, psychedelic and trance inducing performance that can be seen in various YouTube videos of the Fields' performances in the late 80s and early 90s would be sorely disappointed with the sort of show that Carl offers in AD 2008. The Nephilim right now are a downright scary and terrifying entity, projecting intense negative energy on the crowd with their music. Carl was an intimidating presence on stage and the whole show had an air of the post-apocalyptic about it. Let me tell you, it took me a while to get over the shock of how heavy and menacing the Nephilim sounded; however, I soon understood what was going on and really got into it. No, we didn't get that transcendental experience hinted at by Elizium (in fact, no songs were played from that album); however, what we did get was a performance calculated to be unsettling. The band achieved this with quite subtle means too, without any gimmicks or controversy, but simply by establishing a certain mood and projecting an image with the way they looked and acted. This is what I call the "real deal" - professionalism and class all the way. The ever-present smoke and excellent light show helped as well.
Frankly, this approach was overwhelming to me and to quite a lot of people in the audience. I have never experienced so much negative energy at a concert, even those given by black metal bands that specialize in this sort of thing. Someone expecting a rapture or even just no more than a good time at a rock gig would find the show to be a huge let-down; however, there is no denying that the approach that the Nephilim had this time around was extremely memorable. The performances of "Penetration" and "Xiberia" were particularly successful in this regard, although it was in fact the 'metalled-up' versions of "Last Exit For The Lost" and "Moonchild" that really propelled the whole experience into another level. Carl's vocal performance was absolutely top notch and the band was very tight, which was surprising considering this particular lineup hasnt been together for a very long time. In fact, I heard a lot of opinions that the show was up to par or even better than the famous live performances in the early 90s.
Sadly, not all was perfect on this night. First of all, I feel that the Nephilim could have been a bit louder. Don't get me wrong, the volume was adequate and allowed for an extremely clear sound; however, I feel that given just a few more decibels, the band would be capable of completely crushing everybody, even at the expense of some sound clarity. Secondly, the Nephilim set was rather short. They also didnt play too many old songs and considering how rarely this band plays, I would have thought they would at least try to appease the old fans a little bit more. Still... The songs chosen here were perfect for achieving that evil atmosphere I discussed earlier (and the length of the set also contributed to the negative energy) so perhaps it is a good thing that it was the way it was. After all, one should praise a band with a clear artistic vision and the conviction to do everything to achieve it. Although many of the feelings running through my mind during and after the show were negative ones, it all contributed to a real sense of catharsis later on. Ultimately, I am even more happy about this than if the band went through the motions and served nothing but a set full of hits. I was surprised and thus convinced that the Nephilim are still very much a relevant band today.