Marduk – Tour report: South America
by Niklas Göransson
Tour report from a Marduk campaign through Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Chile and Brazil, translated from Sweden Rock Magazine #107 / 2013.
– Thank you Mexico City! This is precisely why we keep returning here.
Mortuus‘ approval incites the audience to further levels of madness and when “Womb of Perishableness” starts rumbling it’s more akin to a riot than headbanging, at least to someone used to a Scandinavian crowd. Another notable difference is the security guards’ approach to maintaining order – anyone lamenting zealous Swedish counterparts is advised to undertake a study here. As an approximately seventeen year old girl crowd-surfs over the riot fence, she is briskly yanked up and punched in the face by one of them. Morgan Håkansson, MARDUK‘s guitar player and founder, manifests his disapproval by dropping his instrument and administering a sturdy wallop to the stunned brute’s face.
– I do not accept outsiders telling our fans how to show appreciation at our gigs, he tells me after the show. Alas, a reprimand had to be distributed.
Morgan‘s prickliness stems from a tour start of uninspiring persuasion; during the first meal after landing he managed to chip a tooth. As a result, the following morning he was forced to employ an interpreter and boldly venture forth into the untrodden paths of Mexican dentistry.
– I was quite concerned as to how this would end, he grumbles with a mouth still anaesthetised, but all went well thanks to Carlos – my Mexican associate and head honcho of Marduk Legion Mexico. Without him I would have been in serious trouble, the dentist spoke as much English as I do Spanish.
The misfortune does not end with orthodontic calamity as bass player Devo unwittingly joins the ranks of the indisposed. Devo is the proponent of his own peculiar culinary strategy, dubbed ‘basic’; extravagance such as local cuisine is scorned with an ample measure of disdain, in favour of ‘safe bets’ like pizza or global hamburger franchises. One shouldn’t complicate matters when there’s no need to. Consequently, the news of his food poisoning is greeted with hearts not entirely cleansed from joy. The burger he had for dinner the night before, while scoffing at our choice of traditional Mexican food (a gastronomical foundation Mortuus refers to as ‘gristle, beans and blood’), was off. Hence, nocturnal emissions of intestinal rather than slumbering origin took precedence during the night. Come morning, we find him pale and clammy in the airport shuttle.
– How are you Devo, asks Morgan.
– I suppose I’m alright now, the afflicted one replies courageously, as long as I don’t move.
Having passed Colombian customs we’re greeted by the promoter, about ten of his friends and a multitude of fans wanting pictures and autographs. This is the third time hitherto I chastise myself for not having memorised ‘I’m not in the band’ in Spanish. Having capitulated to the path of least resistance by posing for pictures and signing tour posters, I barely make it into the mini-bus. One curiosity I’ve noticed is that promoters from these countries don’t mind bringing along friends that would like to hang out with the band, which makes for a highly intimate drive to the hotel. The following day we note another cultural peculiarity as we explore Bogotá by foot and visit a random tobacconist in search of water. The shop’s walls feature a host of framed pictures and the first cluster we observe contains the movie poster for The Matrix, an IRON MAIDEN poster and a portrait of Hitler.
– Eddie and Adolf – fair enough, Morgan muses, but Keanu Reeves?
Sound check: several sources of confusion appear in swift succession. For instance, the riot fence is placed about four meters from the stage, which looks absolutely ridiculous in the modestly sized venue. A possible explanation emerges when what appears to be a film crew assembles metal scaffolding with a sliding video camera attached to it. Mortuus rapidly informs the promoter that any form of video documentation of their gig is strictly prohibited, especially if it means pushing back the audience. No problem, the promoter assures us – this will be rectified before the evening.
A few hours later we get a taste of why Bogotá is regarded one of the world’s most dangerous cities. At a red light, commotion ensues outside the minibus as several people try to pry the doors open. Our designated driver, a South American equivalent to Death Wish-era Charles Bronson, remedies the situation by producing a firearm and aiming it at the premiere antagonist. He scurries off, after ripping the mirror from the car door. One of the promoter’s friends (who as per usual grace the automobile) informs us that you can sell virtually anything on Bogotá’s black market.
We arrive safely at the venue, only to land ourselves in additional turmoil. The street is filled with fans and the venue’s bouncers appear to be auditioning for film roles as Secret Service agents, protecting their Commander-in-chief from incoming sniper fire. They form a protective ring around the vehicle, hollering and gesticulating, pull at us and bark commands.
– What absolute nonsense, Morgan exclaims while hoisting his guitar, I’m not afraid of our fans – stand aside ape.
Flanked by his band mates, he pushes through the vigilant wardens and makes his way into the venue. Our immediate observation is the preposterous amount of people present; in accordance to European safety regulations the building would at the most be permitted to host 350 people – including staff. The promoter has sold 900 tickets and every single attendee has somehow managed to squeeze in. The consecutive realisation is the ungodly heat this has resulted in, while the first band has yet to play. The audience erupts when the tour’s supporting act, US death metal veterans SUFFOCATION, start playing. In spite of the crippling heat, the Colombian metalheads engage in the most intense thrashing I have ever witnessed. This is something entirely else than the ocean of filming smartphones one is subjected to at home. It is with limited surprise we discover that the riot fence hasn’t budged and that filming is duly underway. Mortuus barely has time to declare his displeasure before a crowd-surfing lunatic is hurled over the riot fence and lands on the scaffolding – as it collapses, parts of the video camera disperse across the floor.
– Excellent, the vocalist proclaims smugly, saves me kicking it to pieces.
A few songs into SUFFOCATION‘s set the temperature has reached at least sixty degrees Celsius; everything is moist, there is a steady drizzle of sweat from the ceiling and the altitude makes even breathing a frightful chore. Seeing as I assumed spiritual foetal position merely negotiating the staircase to the backstage area, it’s an utter mystery how MARDUK pull off their entire set. Not to mention the maniacs in the crowd, who go absolutely wild. During “Azrael”, Mortuus leaps down from stage – swats off protesting security guards and stands on the riot fence among the front row, which results in full-scale chaos. Afterwards, he explains:
– The audience’s energy is infectious; anyone that’s been on stage can attest to this. A stale crowd can make you lose your fervour and just want it over with, but it’s impossible not to be drawn into and succumb to such an orgy of violence. It’s in this collective frenzy that MARDUK comes into its full right.
Lima, Peru – that the proprietor of this evening’s event is unlikely to be a direct descendant of pyramid-building Incas is evident at an early stage, only to be verified when our excellent tour manager Vander Caselli visits the venue a for pre-sound-check reconnaissance. He returns shortly thereafter, vibrating of bewilderment and annoyance.
– Never in my seven years in this business have I seen the likes of such incompetence.
On stage is a drum kit and a broken guitar amp – naught else. The promoter retorts with minimal surprise, shrugs his shoulders and speculates if the remaining gear or the audience will make an appearance first. 6:30 pm; the eagle has landed and MARDUK can sound check, five hours behind schedule. Once done, Mortuus enters the backstage in search of alcoholic beverages. He inspects two coolers on the floor – one containing soft drinks and bottled water, the other beer.
– Water, the promoter declares triumphantly pointing to the first cooler.
– Yes thank you, Mortuus replies, I can see that.
– Beer, he continues with a sweeping motion over the other.
The vocalist turns to me.
– Is he retarded?
Shaking his head, he heads for the table and surveys the content; Absolut Vodka, Jack Daniel’s and a bottle of red wine. Nothing eludes the hawk-eyed promoter; he grabs each bottle individually and stridently articulates in slow motion:
– Vodka. Whisky. Wine.
Mortuus glances down at him, then at me – he seems to be on the verge of replying with further rhetorical toxicity but suffers a short-circuit in the brain’s sarcasm glands.
– Really? I never would have guessed. Welcome out of my life.
As I undertake a mid-gig backstage visit I catch the promoter – now astoundingly drunk, pouring the last of the band’s whisky into his own glass. He mumbles something about Swedish metal, pats me on the shoulder and stumbles out. His antics do not end here – after the show he declares it imperative getting his picture taken with the band. Sadly, the photo opportunity is mitigated by an unfortunate balance malfunction, prompting a brief slapstick performance that sends the content of a beer can pouring onto Morgan‘s guitar.
– No problem, the promoter protests as he is brusquely escorted out from his own backstage area.
The aesthetics of Chile’s capital Santiago seem like another world compared to the previous three countries, besides the ruthless traffic. The venue is huge and spacious and the event well organised. For someone who’s begun to genuinely appreciate South American chaos, it’s almost a bit of a let-down. It is therefore with great relief I discover that the approximately thousand Chilean metalheads present are just as savage as their neighbouring counterparts. Another trait they share is enthusiasm for intrusive photography, leading to some regrettable percussional disagreement. Upon finishing crowd favourite “Christraping Black Metal”, drummer Lars Broddesson turns around to ask for assistance with an unruly cymbal, only to spot the drum tech with a smartphone aimed towards him.
– No filming, Lars growls.
Annoyed, he starts reassembling the cymbal himself.
– Stop, the drum tech protests, that’s my job!
For an instant I suspect I’m about to witness the aspiring film-maker receiving a methodical tuition in the lesser known areas of drumstick application. Instead, Lars settles for shaking his head in disgust before resuming repairs. Once the set is over, he heads outside for a cigarette but is immediately swarmed by a crowd of fans that have gathered outside their room in another fine display of the continent’s noninterventionist backstage policies. As I pass the gathering I spot him gulping down the contents of a bottle of suspect local booze, cheered on by his surroundings. Lars is typically not very fond of socialising but is unusually jovial this evening after the amazing crowd response.
– I’ve been known to make exceptions but I can’t say I play black metal to travel around being friendly to people.
Having left the hotel at half past four in the morning, endured connecting flights to Curitiba (Brazil) and thereafter struggled through a sound-check that’s rendered three hours long due to faulty circuit diagrams; a meat orgy of epic proportions feels well-deserved. We find ourselves in what the local promoter claims to be the city’s best churrascaria – a Brazilian buffet that besides a multitude of appetisers serve charcoal grilled meat from ridiculous amounts of different animals. One is virtually barraged by everything from chicken hearts to quail, from tenderloin to leg of lamb, until one yields. The gastronomically conservative Devo sits before his plate of rice and chips – completely devoid of entrees, salad, gravy or similar outrageousness, and inspects a spit of greasy meat with radiant suspicion emanating from his gaze. To neutralise the slightest chance of consuming the cadaver of a creature deemed too adventurous, he’s is nothing if not persistent in his attempts to interrogate the waiter about the fauna of origin. Sadly, the language barrier proves to be a diplomatic bottleneck.
– What’s that, a flustered Devo asks the promoter instead.
– Meat, is the helpful response.
– You don’t say? I thought it was a lounge room carpet. Idiot.
An hour later all band members display a variety of known symptoms from the final stages of fatal caloric overindulgence, to an extent in which the promoter starts getting visibly concerned. He tells us that in the past, he was once forced to postpone a concert by two hours after the intended act ate themselves into a comatose stupor at the same establishment. Fully determined not to suffer the same fate Dr Håkansson prescribes a few sturdy cups of hard liquor to aid digestion, which fortunately works as advertised. We have a sleep-in the following day – not having to check out until eight o’clock is a leisurely afternoon departure compared to the previous days, so medicating continues post-show. A dedicated fan waits outside the venue as we leave for the pub, holding a framed tour poster from MARDUK‘s previous visit. Besides photos and autographs he’s given a backstage pass for the evening, which brings tears of awe to his eyes.
Rio de Janeiro – final outpost of the tour. The afternoon brings serious qualms over the stage tech’s aptitude. Suspicion give way to affirmation once MARDUK start playing, heralded by his complete inability to perform even the simplest task. During “Temple of Decay”, halfway through the set, he hands me the remote control to the fog machine and announces an overpowering urge to visit the toilet facilities. By “Baptism by Fire”, the second encore song, he’s still missing and Mortuus is sensationally unimpressed.
– Has anyone seen the fat, idiot stage tech, he asks the audience.
By the end of the show he is still nowhere to be seen, which prompts me to collect the gear from stage. As I seize Morgan‘s pedal board, an audience member grabs my arm. Looking up, I behold a gentleman of colour sporting a shaved head, swastika necklace and a t-shirt that would result in a multi-year prison sentence had it been worn publically in Sweden. My surprise transcends into something adjacent neurosis when he, still firmly gripping my arm, bursts out into a phonetically audacious interpretation of the Swedish national anthem, with his right arm resolutely aloft. Backstage; ambitious attempts at narrating the events is met by disbelief. Thus, it is with a satisfactory degree of vindication I’m treated to a rerun of the spectacle when Lars steps outside for a smoke and is assailed by the same individual.
An after-party at the hotel, loud enough to awaken VADER front-man Peter Wiwczarek several rooms away, concludes this enterprise.
– How better to celebrate a victorious campaign, Morgan comments, than with good friends, good whisky and BATHORY‘s “Odens Ride over Nordland” on repeat?