Gorgoroth: Black Mass Krakow 2004
The Gorgoroth concert film Black Mass Krakow 2004 takes black metal out of the darkened room and out of the garage and places it on a large scale stage, to see if the music and the spectacle hold up under unforgiving stage lights and a large audience of hungry European metalheads. Does Gorgoroth hold up their end of the deal? Most assuredly. This Norwegian black metal band takes their performance cues from Slayer and Unleashed: bigger and grander. Standing out by dint of a three-guitar line and ten-foot tall vocalist Gaahl as a compelling focal point, Gorgoroth conjures up a prickly wall of submission on their albums, and their live excursions are just as punishing, precise, and unrelenting.
See that stage setup? That scale? This is how it should be done. The members of the band stride onto a stage that is, like, Clive Barker level evil, like this is the part when the Cenobites come out and disembowel the audience. It’s a nightmare diorama, demonic possession meets WWI trench warfare. Barbed wire and torches separate the band from the audience. A line of sheep’s heads perch ghoulishly on fence posts (looks way too real to me), and three Jesus-Christ-by-way-of-Abu-Ghraib full scale nude crucifixions, loom like unholy ramparts on each side of the stage. The stage is bathed in blood red lighting, adding an extra shade of menace to the corpsepainted and spiked musicians onstage. Gorgoroth don’t even look human; they’re a mess of spikes and leather and hair and nightmare kabuki deathmasks rendered in grotesque blacks, whites, and deep crimsons. Gaahl is particularly unnerving, both in terms of physical size and impassive demeanor. He perches a foot on the monitor and calmly regards his audience with an imperious disdain; he looks like he’s not even breaking a sweat up there. It was this very stage setup that landed both the band and Metal Mind in hot water with Polish authorities over charges of animal cruelty and “offending religious feelings.”
It’s a Metal Mind production, so there’s not even the remotest question of clean presentation and excellent technical execution. The camera work and editing are smooth and the directors and camerafolk are obviously familiar with the band so they know what elements to focus on and when (i.e.: when a solo break is coming, etc). With multiple cameras scattered throughout the building and near the stage, we don’t miss a thing and they’re not shy about getting a close-up to see corpsepaint peeling or gloved fingers bludgeoning the fuck out of one chord over and over and over again.
My only complaint would be that the set might go a bit overlong, with the energy level flagging somewhat toward the end, as the band’s performance becomes too static and similar. Gaahl is an imposing frontman, but not altogether engaging, and sometimes the band makes it look almost too easy, and all the electrifying tension of creating such stop-start spastic music dissipates. Definitely not for everyone, and certainly not an entry point for those uncertain about the genre. However, if you do want to see a masterclass in presenting the black metal style to a large audience without making concessions to the leering mainstream, this if for you.
Extras are slim. Almost as an afterthought, the DVD contains two songs from a 2000 performance in Germany, featuring a Gorgoroth somewhat smaller in number and raw power grinding through two numbers with bootleg quality audio and video. It mainly serves as visual evidence of how much this band has progressed in just four short years. It’s an impressive progression, suggesting some manner of transaction at a crossroads, perhaps?
MVD Visual: mvdb2b.com