I made my way to North London having not been to The Dome before, however, as soon as I left Tufnell Park Station knew I was in the right place, with artwork and band names you couldn’t read nor pronounce on t-shirts as well as proudly displayed inverted crucifixes.
Up ahead, outside The Boston pub was a small queue waiting patiently in the cold. The Dome is a very small and intimate hall located above the pub. As I entered the security were surprisingly polite, not quite relevant but honestly something which I have not often come across, so it stood out in my mind.
Inside, the bar was flowing and the Watain merchandise stand was extensive, a large variety of shirts, jerseys, a hoodie and various stickers and badges all at quite reasonable prices.
It was a long while after doors that the band emerged, around one hour and 20 minutes. The stage setup was pretty good with support band, Degial’s logo on the backdrop and a few stands with their artwork. The smoke machine started up and filled up the stage area giving it an element of mystique, like a bleak frozen fog. The band certainly looked the part, covered in corpse paint and blood, the vocals were great but the sound mixing was off, in my opinion. The guitars were not registering with me enough and the drums seemed to overpower the rest of the band. During the show, it sounded like the mixing was adjusted and readjusted but ultimately I think the band suffered as a result. That said, the crowd were into it. Generally, each song was like the last, with a melodic series mid-set which I enjoyed more than the songs either side of it. Other than a few fists thrown up now and then, there was no interaction with the crowd nor commentary from the lead singer from start to finish.
The techs were quick to uncover the iconic Watain stage, spikes, tridents, spears, inverted crucifixes, animal heads, skulls and an altar in front of the drums. The fog had filled up the stage area and a pale light was shining on to it making it look like a frozen wasteland.
Erik Danielsson (lead singer) lead the band on stage with a flaming torch lighting the candles one by one and passed it off stage… The invocation had begun. This being the tour for the new album, Danielsson addressed the crowd stating this was the birth of a new era, the era of the Trident, Wolf, Eclipse. An “are you ready London?”, to which the crowd went crazy.
During ‘Devil’s Blood’, Danielsson mentioned it had been four long years since the birth of The Wild Hunt, their previous album, and this song was dedicated to their brother who had passed away during the time. This performance also included the iconic and infamous blood sacrifice. Danielsson filled a chalice with blood and after holding it aloft to the crowd threw the contents over the front row which they embraced gladly. After inciting the crowd again by shouting “raise those fucking skulls”, he filled another chalice and performed the act again.
‘Furor Diabolicus’ was next, from the new album, with Danielsson stating, “from the past to the power of the present. Many hundreds of years ago, there were stories of warriors going into battle possessed with a fire of something unknown, something unclean and something very, very powerful. It is our firm belief that these warriors still exist today”.
The band included tracks from the first album through to the latest with picks like ‘Angelrape’ and ‘Outlaw’ in which Danielsson threw something towards the inverted crucifix causing a flare-up of the flames. Returning with the flaming torch, Danielsson addressed the fans, “many times words are not enough, we are here as a proclamation, we will always be here”, before launching into ‘Lawless Darkness’. The crowd was in awe.
‘Sacred Damnation’ from the new album had Danielsson starting by saying, “things as they always do, are coming to an end, join us now in damnation, sanctified.”
In the end, he thanked everyone for another night of victory, including many great souls. With a last black metal onslaught, the ritual had ended and Danielsson took a bow to the crowd.
I have been to a few black metal shows and it is my favoured choice when it comes to metal but Watain’s show is by a long shot the best I have witnessed. The stage setup, the presence of the band and lead singer, the ritualistic nature of the performance and the interaction including the blood-filled chalice are a rare experience not to be missed. Next time Watain are in London, get your tickets quick as it’s a stone cold, blood-infused, Satanic frenzy of a sell-out show!