Marduk – Tour report: South America
by Niklas Göransson
Tour report from a MARDUK campaign through Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Chile and Brazil in July/August 2013. Translated from Sweden Rock Magazine #107.
– Thank you, Mexico City! This is precisely why we keep returning here.
Mortuus‘ encouragement incites the audience to further levels of madness. As “Womb of Perishableness” starts rumbling, it’s more akin to a riot than headbanging – at least to someone used to Scandinavian crowds. Another notable difference is the approach to maintaining order. After an approximately seventeen-year-old girl crowd-surfs over the riot fence, she is briskly yanked up and punched in the face by a security guard. Morgan Håkansson, MARDUK‘s guitar player and founder, is not impressed; he drops his instrument and punches the bouncer in the head.
– I do not accept outsiders telling our fans how to show their appreciation, he tells me after the show. As such, a reprimand was fully warranted.
Morgan‘s prickliness stems from a rather unfortunate start of the tour: while eating his very first meal after arriving to Mexico, he chipped a tooth on a bone fragment. As a result, the following morning he was forced to employ an interpreter and venture forth into the untrodden paths of Mexican dentistry.
– I was quite concerned about how this would end, he grumbles with a mouth still anaesthetised, but all went well thanks to Carlos – my Mexican associate and the head-honcho of Marduk Legion Mexico. Without him I would’ve been in serious trouble, seeing as how the dentist spoke as much English as I do Spanish.
The following morning, I’m informed that the hotel restaurant has claimed a second victim. Bass player Devo is the proponent of his own peculiar culinary strategy, dubbed ‘Basic’. Extravagances such as local cuisine are shunned in favour of ‘safe bets’, like pizza or multinational fast-food franchises. One should not complicate matters when there is no need to. Scoffing at his bandmates’ choice of traditional Mexican food – a gastronomical foundation Mortuus refers to as ‘gristle, beans and blood’ – Devo ordered a hamburger with fries. But as he would find out a few hours later, while sleeping, the meat was off. Come morning, we find him pale and clammy in the airport shuttle.
– How are you Devo, asks Morgan.
– I suppose I’m alright now, Devo replies, as long as I don’t move.
After clearing Colombian customs, we are greeted by the promoter, about ten of his friends, and a horde of fans requesting photos and autographs. Once again, I chastise myself for not having memorised ‘I’m not in the band’ in Spanish. After opting for the path of least resistance – posing for pictures and signing tour posters – I can barely make it into the shuttle bus, which is filled to the brim with friends of the promoter who want to hang out with the band.
After a highly intimate drive to the hotel, we get some sleep and then heat out to explore Bogotá. In search of water, Morgan and I enter a random tobacconist. The walls of the small shop is full of framed pictures; the first cluster we observe is adorned by the movie poster for The Matrix, an IRON MAIDEN poster, and a portrait of Adolf Hitler.
– Eddie and Adolf, muses Morgan, fair enough. But Keanu Reeves– really?
Sound check: confusion reigns. The riot fence stands 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 arrives and begins assembling metal scaffolding with a sliding video camera attached to it. Mortuus swiftly informs the promoter that any filming of their set is strictly prohibited – especially at the expense of the audience. ‘No problem’, the promoter assures us; nothing of the kind will be done.
A few hours later, having stopped for a red light, we get a taste of why Bogotá is considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Commotion ensues outside the minibus as several assailants try to open the locked doors. Our designated driver – a South American equivalent to Death Wish-era Charles Bronson – produces a handgun and aims it at the closest bandido. Having just torn the side-view mirror from the door, he scurries off. One of the promoter’s friends, who as per usual have invited themselves along, informs us that you can sell virtually anything on Bogotá’s black market.
We arrive at the venue and find the street filled with MARDUK fans. At the sight of our shuttle bus, venue security springs into action. Several bouncers – who appear to be auditioning for film-roles as Secret Service agents protecting their Commander-in-chief – form a protective ring around the vehicle. As we step out, they begin hollering, gesticulating, pulling at us, and issuing commands.
– What absolute nonsense, Morgan exclaims, I’m not afraid of our fans – stand aside, ape.
Flanked by his band mates, Morgan shoves his way out of the iron ring and makes his way inside. It is so packed that we only barely make it to the backstage. In accordance with European safety regulations, the building would be licensed to host 350 people at most; the promoter has sold 900 tickets. The venue, which has not a semblance of ventilation, is oppressively hot and muggy.
The audience erupts as the tour’s supporting act, US death metal veterans SUFFOCATION, start playing. Crippling heat be damned, the Colombian metalheads engage in the most intense thrashing I have ever witnessed in person. This is something entirely different than the ocean of filming smartphones one is usually subjected to. Unsurprisingly, the riot fence has not budged. A professional film crew is taping the gig. Mortuus barely has time to declare his displeasure before a crowd-surfing maniac is thrown over the riot fence, right onto the scaffolding. As it collapses, parts of the video camera disperse across the floor.
– Excellent, Mortuus proclaims smugly, that 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 and the ceiling drips with sweat. Just breathing is a chore. Once it’s MARDUK’s turn, there is serious concern whether they’ll even be able to complete their set without succumbing to dehydration. Once they start playing, the audience goes stark-raving mad. A few songs in – during “Azrael” – Mortuus drops down from the stage to the floor. Swatting off protesting security guards, he stands on the riot fence. Full-scale chaos breaks out.
– The audience’s energy is infectious, Mortuus explains afterwards. Anyone who’s been on stage can attest to this: a stale crowd can make you lose your fervour and just want to get it over with – but when faced with such an orgy of violence, it is impossible not to be drawn in. It is in this collective frenzy that MARDUK truly thrives.
Lima, Peru. Our excellent tour manager Vander Caselli returns to the hotel, bewildered and annoyed, after a pre-soundcheck reconnaissance to the venue.
– Never in my seven years in this business have I seen the likes of such incompetence.
We arrive to the discovery that the stage contains a drum kit and a broken guitar amp – nothing else. The somewhat lackadaisical promoter shrugs his shoulders after being asked whether the gear will arrive before the audience does. At 6:30pm, five hours behind schedule, MARDUK are able to soundcheck. Shortly thereafter, Mortuus enters the backstage to survey the selection of booze. There are two cooler boxes on the floor; one contains soft-drinks and bottled water, the other is filled with beer.
– Water, the promoter declares triumphantly while pointing at the first cooler.
– Yes, Mortuus replies, thank you. I can see that.
– Beer, the promoter continues with a sweeping motion.
The vocalist turns to me.
– Is he retarded?
Shaking his head, Mortuus inspects the various bottles on the table. Absolut Vodka, Jack Daniel’s, and red wine. The promoter grabs each bottle and articulates in slow motion:
– Vodka. Whisky. Wine.
Mortuus rolls his eyes.
– Really? I never would have guessed. Welcome out of my life.
Two hours later, during MARDUK’s set, I head into the backstage for a drink. It is empty, save for the promoter – who is now completely off his head. It is only with the greatest of concentration he’s able to pour himself the last of the band’s whisky. After muttering something incomprehensible about Swedish metal, he pats me on the shoulder and stumbles out. Once MARDUK have finished playing, the promoter returns. He produces a camera and begins gesticulating with it, but an unfortunate balance malfunction puts an end his hopes of a photo with the band. The content of an opened beer can on the table he lands on spills out over Morgan‘s guitar.
– No problem, the promoter protests as he is brusquely escorted out from his own backstage area.
Compared to the previous three countries, Santiago – the capital of Chile – seems like another world. The venue is huge and spacious and the event well organised. Having now developed a genuine fondness for South American chaos, it’s almost a bit disappointing. It is therefore with great relief I conclude that the approximately one thousand Chilean metalheads present are just as savage as their neighbouring counterparts. Another trait they share is the inclination for intrusive photography. Upon finishing crowd-favourite “Christraping Black Metal”, drummer Lars Broddesson turns around to request assistance with an unruly cymbal – only to find the drum-tech aiming a smartphone at him.
– No filming, Lars growls.
Annoyed, he starts reassembling the cymbal himself.
– Stop, the drum-tech protests, that’s my job!
Once the set is over, Lars heads outside for a cigarette and is immediately swarmed by a crowd of fans. As I walk by, he is gulping down some manner of local spirits straight from the bottle – spurred on by his surroundings. Lars is typically not very fond of socialising but is unusually jovial thanks to the amazing response.
– I’ve been known to make exceptions, he says later, but I can’t say I play black metal to travel around being friendly to people.
Curitiba, Brazil. We find ourselves in what the local promoter claims to be the city’s best restaurant. It is a churrascaria: an all-you-can-eat Brazilian buffet that, besides a vast selection of appetisers, entails charcoal-grilled meat from a great variety of different animals. There is a table-served barrage of 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: no entrees, no salad, no gravy. Visibly dubious, he inspects the spit of greasy meat presented to him by a waiter. Not wanting to accidentally consume the cadaver of a creature deemed too adventurous, he attempts to interrogate the waiter about the fauna of origin. Sadly, the language barrier proves a bridge too far. Flustered, he turns to the promoter instead.
– What is that?
– You don’t say? I thought it was a lounge-room carpet. Idiot.
An hour or so later, all band members – including Devo – have stuffed themselves so full that they can barely communicate. Everyone is so lethargic that the promoter starts getting visibly concerned. He was once forced to postpone a concert by two hours after the band had eaten themselves comatose at the same establishment. Determined not to suffer the same fate, Dr Håkansson prescribes hard liquor to aid digestion. After the show, a dedicated fan waits outside the venue, holding a framed tour poster from MARDUK‘s previous visit. Besides photos and autographs, he is given Morgan’s backstage laminate. The young man looks almost overwhelmed.
Rio de Janeiro, the tour’s final outpost. Following some confusion during the soundcheck, there are concerns about the venue’s stage-tech. He’s been proclaimed a suspected cretin by Mortuus, who asks me to keep an eye on things once the show starts. Apprehension yields to confirmation a few songs into the set as the stage-tech hands me a remote control, pointing to the fog-machine. He needs to visit the toilet but assures me of his imminent return. By “Baptism by Fire”, the second encore song, he’s still missing. A wrathful Mortuus, who’s been struggling with a faulty microphone stand for the last few songs, asks the audience.
– Has anyone seen the fat, idiot stage-tech?
After the show, the man is still nowhere to be found. In his absence, Morgan asks me to retrieve his pedal board. The security guards vanished the moment the last song was over, so fans are now wandering freely around the venue. While collecting Morgan’s gear from the stage, I am approached by a gentleman of colour sporting a shaved head, a swastika necklace, and a t-shirt which would render a multi-year prison sentence if worn publicly in Sweden. He grabs my shoulder with one arm – more enthusiastic than aggressive – while holding the other in a stiff-armed salute. The awkwardness of the moment is solidified as he bursts into song: Sweden’s national anthem, its words barely recognisable over the thick Portuguese accent. At first, my attempts to relay the meeting backstage is met with some disbelief. Fortunately, I am vindicated soon thereafter, as Lars steps outside for a smoke and receives the same treatment.
An after-party at the hotel, loud enough to wake up 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?