The Webster Theater is on the corner of Crown and Webster Streets in Hartford, Connecticut. It is a long-standing home of heavy music, and on December 13, 2019 – Friday the 13th – there was a perfect storm when Incantation, Watain, and Morbid Angel gathered for a night of Death and Black Metal.
Incantation opened, leading the crowd through warm-up exercises and showing that the band is here to stay. One of the things they are known for is speed and precision, and original band member John McEntree was flawless on guitar and microphone. Long-time drummer Kyle Severn and bassist Chuck Sherwood hit the grooves with John, and lead guitarist Sonny Lombardozzi played like he has been with the band forever. The technical difficulty of the music was matched by the obvious enthusiasm of the band and Incantation turned out to be the perfect veteran group to break the ice during this tour of iconic bands.
The first thing you notice about Watain, long before the band takes the stage, if the creeping stench. You can see the crowd reacting in a slow rolling wave as the odor flows toward the back of the room. It is the smell of rotting fish, and seems to be coming from the skinned heads set on spiked tridents along the front of the stage. They appear to be heads of sheep and perhaps other animals, and they are real, not plastic or props. I was standing in the pit and I can attest – they are real. The stage is dressed with bones and metal, crowded from left to right, front to back. From the audience you could hear intermittent cries of “Hail Satan!” Droning intro music began playing and the atmosphere started to crackle. Something really different was about to happen, and no mistake.
Many of the people in the crowd were clearly huge Watain fans, but this tour almost didn’t happen for the band. Guitarist Pelle Forsberg was detained at the border when he tried to the return to the US from Mexico. Border agents apparently did not like the look of him, and after searching his phone and social media (apparently they can just do that without reason or warrant to non-US citizens at the border), Forsberg was denied entry, his valid working visas was revoked, and he was deported, despite the fact that he had been in the US many times on tours. The remaining members – vocalist Erik Danielsson, bassist Alvaro Lillo, guitarist Hampus Eriksson, and drummer Emil Svensson – eventually were able to enter the US and they embarked on the current tour as a four-piece.
The presence of Pelle Forsberg was, of course, missed on stage but the band gave an exceptional performance. The crowd got the hear the songs they wanted to hear, see the powerful presence of the band, and experience the mystical aura of their one-of-a-kind sound. Watain is as strong as ever, and this tour is seeing peak performances from them, even with Forsberg sidelined.
The stage was cleared once Watain finished and then set up for Morbid Angel. The headliner’s show had a stripped-down look compared to the middle act, and they channeled the extra space into their thundering sound. Morbid Angel is one of the most important and influential thrash bands of all time, and they have evolved over the years into death metal mainstays. I still listen to their classic 1989 album Altars of Madness every couple of months. Founding member Trey Azagthoth continues to play guitar with the sharpest enthusiasm, and long-time front-man and bassists Steve Tucker is truly a force to be reckoned with. For the last couple of years drums have been handled by Scott Fuller and the guitar sound is rounded out by Dan Vadim Von. Together they are a unified vanguard of heavy music.
The band stands mostly in place and roars one monstrous song after another. They opened with a few new songs off the latest release, then thumbed through their extensive catalogue and performed many of their classics. They played thirteen songs (if I counted right) on Friday the Thirteenth. How’s that for on brand? I have seen Morbid Angel before, and they are always great. This Hartford show stands for me, nevertheless, and it is the one I will think about every time I listen to band from now on.
The Webster Theater is a place where metalheads can gather and bands, new and old, can play to appreciative fans. The show last Friday night with Morbid Angel, Watain, and Incantation was a fantastic experience, one for the ages. There are just a few dates remaining on the current tour, and if you can get out to see these three bands perform together, definitely do it. You don’t want to be sitting around moping in the new year sorry you missed out. Highly recommended.
All photos by Wayne Edwards.