CONCERT REVIEW: Watain – ABBATH – Tribulation – Bölzer Live at Poppodium 013


Back in the saddle after a prolonged hiatus I got to cover some Black Metal for Ghost Cult Magazine in 013 Tilburg on the 29th of September 2022. It’s good to walk the halls of the familiar venue again after a few years of mostly quiet, and several months since Roadburn. Tonight we come for Watain’s new album tour, The Agony & Ecstasy of Watain. They are joined tonight by Bölzer, Tribulation and Abbath, an excellent package.


Getting the short end of the stick, opener Bölzer hit the stage at half past 6, which means the venue is still only half full. Furious, fast and intense, Bölzer shake us well awake. It’s incredible how much noise and complexity two guys giving it their all can make. Switching between howling cleans, gravely grunts and plenty of ughs, vocalist and frontman Okoi Jones is remarkably emotive. He doesn’t get drowned out too much between the furious guitar and assault of the drums. The duo definitely deserve a much bigger crowd, and I can highly recommend seeing them if they come through.

Second to take the stage are Tribulation. The melancholic Gothic leaning Blackened Metal band have always been an excellent show and I had seen them before the pandemic performing with Gaahl’s Wyrd. However, since then guitarist and incredible stage presence Jonathan Hultén has left the band to pursue his solo career. While the band still plays excellently, some of the melancholy and dramatic flair has definitely left with Hultén, as well as some of the more melodic and floaty musical elements in new material. It’s a real pity, but maybe the band still needs to get used to the new talent they have aboard now. For me they couldn’t hold my attention the entire time as is.

Abbath, the man, the meme, the legend. Though his self-named band isn’t as great as Immortal once was, many of the defining features are still there. Abbath definitely found his style in the 1990s and stuck to it. This includes, but is not limited to, the foggy stage presence that leads to panda’s in the mist. Thundering drums, high treble guitars and scratchy vocals accompany the misty visuals. Though it isn’t exactly my style of black metal, Abbath gives an excellent show. The band is remarkably tight and on the ball, something that hasn’t always been the case with this act. But let’s be real, the main reason people go to see Abbath is for Abbath himself, who is very well aware he is THE black metal meme, and owns that magnificently.


Watain as always open their show by devoutly lighting the fires of their tridents with a torch. This torch is then thrown into the audience, a new feature which sends the man who caught said torch ecstatic. If the rest of the audience was particularly happy to be pelted with flame is another question, but black metal was never meant to be safe.


Leading the charge with the excellent new single “The Howling,” the crowd joins in with “Beneath, beyond, behind, below!”. The new album, The Agony & Ecstasy of Watain, that this tour is based on is absolute fire, which makes the live performance a joy.  Reverently turning to the altar on the stage between screaming, frontman Eric Danielsson eventually does come forward with his well known cup of blood to anoint the front row of the audience. Somehow whenever Watain performs there always is a sense of something deeper, greater and very dark being in the room. Called upon by Danielsson as the goddess beyond the dark, in the time of harvest and death, it is hard not to be swept up into the mysticism infused in Watain’s performance.

And so as the fires go out and Watain bow to their bloodied audience, we all slowly file out of the venue, taking a little piece of that strange, dark and devout energy with us.