Live Review: Vader / Marduk - The Castle & Falcon, Birmingham
16th March 2022
Support: The Risen Dread, Impalement
Words: Matt Noble
Vader and Marduk are two bands that would be considered extreme and scary by any death metal or black metal maniac. Their announcement of a co-headliner in Europe this spring was, then, a treat for any lover of the brutal and heavy. The ‘United Titans’ tour stopped off in Germany, Holland, Belgium, London and Glasgow before taking to Birmingham, the birthplace of heavy music, on a suitably dismal and rainy evening. Dublin’s The Risen Dread treated early attendees to their blend of death and black metal with groove metal and hardcore, as the room began to fill up, before Swiss black/death metallers Impalement showed the crowd why their slot on tour with the two legendary headliners was justified. By the time Vader’s spooky intro tape began to roll, the atmosphere at the Castle and Falcon had an intangible sense of electricity and excitement in the air.
It’s jaw-dropping to think that Vader have now been in business for almost 40 years. Over that time, they seem to have not lost a shred of musical intensity. From each blastbeat to each shrieking guitar harmonic, Vader are incredibly in sync, not a single note out of place. Most of the set is dizzyingly fast, a hugely impressive show of technical virtuosity from all four members. An important part of Vader’s identity is still their dark, evil aesthetic. A terrifying rendition of ‘Hymn To The Ancient Ones’, complete with demonic guitar squeals and blasphemous, ritualistic chanting makes this clearest to those who (still) might be unsure of this, matched visually by the inverted cross on Piotr’s mic stand. Still, Vader mix it up with a few mid-pacings, with groovy number ‘What Colour Is Your Blood?’ a particular moment of headbang heaven.
Vader still revel in the moment after all this time. You can tell by the way they energetically strut their stuff on stage, grinning, pointing at audience members and throwing out guitar picks, playing live is still incredibly fun for them all, no longer to be taken for granted after a period without any gigs whatsoever. ‘Thank you, cheers, dziekuje’, enthuses Piotr between songs. The crowd feed this back to them, with a moshpit taking near-permanent residence at the front of the room and loud, appreciative roars emitting after every song. Vader know what their fans want, playing a set drawing mostly from classic 90s or early 2000s material, particularly from sophomore effort De Profundis, recently reissued by Nuclear Blast. There’s a reason why the album is so highly revered and tonight’s gig-goers know that they’ve been subject to a real treat.
It’s perhaps strange to see an exodus of people wearing death metal merchandise as a stream of black metallers wade into the venue - but regardless, Marduk are greeted by a sea of adoring fans as they take to the stage and burst into the pounding ‘Werwolf’, from 2018’s ‘Wiktoria’. Though it’s their eighth consecutive show this tour, as Vader before them, they command the stage energetically, putting on a show in the truest sense. They’re another great example of a well-rehearsed, watertight musical machine, showing no signs of aging or complacency over thirty years into their career. Their style allows them to vary the pace of the set a little more - epic slow-burner ‘Bleached Bones’ a particular highlight for me - but these moments let the most extreme songs punch even harder, with some of the blastbeats sounding astoundingly fast in the room.
Marduk enjoy the utmost adoration of their fans throughout. Frontman Mortuus gets close to the crowd, shaking hands with members of the audience during instrumental moments and feeding their energy back to them. Before starting their encore, he demands that the crowd roar louder and louder before the band launch into the one-two assault of ‘Slay The Nazarene’ and ‘Panzer Division Marduk’, two stone-cold classics that have helped cement their reputation as black metal overlords. In return, the crowd chant the band name between songs and fill out the barrier at the end of the set in hopes of snagging a setlist to take home as a memento of the night. A particularly engaging moment comes over the chorus of the frantic ‘Viktoria’, as Mortuus points his mic at the audience, getting them to join in and shout the lyrics back at him. The crowd are into it, sure, but you couldn’t take them for granted. Their performance is completely deserving of the reception.
A stunning lesson in extremity delivered by the true masters.