Show review and photography by William Dibble.
There is a line gathering outside of 14 W Martin Street. To the casual observer, there’s nothing of interest there. The entrance to Kings is a nondescript door, with the back door on the opposite side of a store front. A staff member comes out of the entrance and tapes the show list for the night on the door, before vanishing inside. Tonight, people are gathered to see Italy’s Fleshgod Apocalypse headline a between-tour-stops show with Arkona and The Agonist, featuring two North Carolina bands, Æther Realm and Rapheumet’s Well.
Kings is a smaller venue situated above a bar, and two floors above a night club. The entrance can get a bit crowded, as you hand them your ticket and check in at the top of a flight of stairs and enter a tiny hallway. There’s a counter on the left for band merch, and the bar is immediately on the right. They are one of a few venues that provides a big cooler of ice water for attendees. In the back of this area are benches, where the bands sometimes sit, and the soundboard. People pile in slowly, waiting for the opener.
Rapheumet’s Well hails from the town of Hickory, NC. Self-described as “epic symphonic metal,” they take the stage in costume and makeup. Their live show is practiced and sure; every one of them clearly knows their piece on the stage, from the music they play to their presence. When she isn’t singing, Annette (keyboards) is wailing on her keys and banging her head. At one point, Jeb (lead vocals) even leaps straight into the audience, joining his fans while he continues belting out brutal screams. The sound mixing and lighting are excellent for this first act. They are fairly reminiscent of acts like Dimmu Borgir.
The opening acts have about thirty-five minutes each. It is almost too short a time before Rapheumet’s Well is announcing their last song, making space on stage for Asheville’s Æther Realm. They’re more of a traditional death metal band in the vein of Origin or Alterbeast, but with a medieval flair. As they rampage through their set, they sing about wizards, wolves, and other fantasy concepts. They are a fairly solid band, but they don’t quite have the polish of some of the other bands that played, including Rapheumet’s Well. However, they are still definitely one of the jewels of the North Carolina metal scene.
Next up is Canadian extreme metal band, The Agonist. They mix some metalcore elements with more traditional metal, giving them a fairly powerful blend. They stuck to a mix of songs that mostly features their new work. They played one old title, but it wasn’t as strong as their newer work. Vicky’s clean voice is very different from Alissa’s, and doesn’t mesh as well with the older material. Their stage presence, however, is very powerful, seasoned through years of tours. They put on an excellent show, keeping the audience interested and entertained throughout their set. As their setlist wound down to its end, they bid the crowd goodnight before heading off stage, later hanging out around the entrance area and bar.
The co-headliner of the night is Russian folk metal band Arkona. A person can try to peek at their set list, but unless they’re well-versed in Cyrillic, they won’t have much luck. As they take the stage, their outfits are quite noticeable. They would be more at home in a film about a group of rangers or bards than they would a modern band. Masha, the main vocalist, takes the stage in an outfit befitting a character in Assassin’s Creed. She immediately takes command of the stage with an almost primal presence, throwing her arms out in a powerful pose.
Their set opens with a massive blast beat as she throws her hood off, laying into their folk-laden metal tracks with both feral screams and clean vocals. She is up close at the front with the audience almost the entire time while the band plays behind her, energetic and passionate. One of their members switches instruments between various flutes and recorders, and a set of bagpipes.
Their playing is practiced, refined, and flawless, beginning to end. They close with the song “Stenka Na Stenku” as Masha locks arms with a bandmate, and the pair waltz back and forth across the stage. Several audience members at this point broke into traditional Russian dance in the middle of the mosh pit. As they finished up, the audience cheered heavily.
As Italian death metal band Fleshgod Apocalypse prepared to take the stage, a woman in Victorian dress and bird mask came out wielding a massive scepter. She walked up to the front of the stage, and in time with the backing track drums, pounded it on the floor. As she approached a microphone in the rear, the rest of the band came out. They wore aged, ragged Victorian clothes with paint to make them appear fairly zombie-like. For a short time, they stared out over the audience as they played, still appearing like zombies.
The first woman who came out is a dedicated opera singer, adding operatic vocals throughout their set. They also brought with them a dedicated acoustic piano and pianist, who sat opposite her, playing throughout. Their blend of symphonic death metal and power metal is powerful and brutal, crashing through the audience like waves. They pause occasionally to introduce a few of their songs. One introduction, for example, was for the song “The Fool.” They talked about how many people hide behind a mask of happiness, while they themselves are very unhappy. In another case, they talked about the struggle for freedom.
As they got to their last song, they asked the audience to split in two, and to “play a game we all know very well.” He ordered the two halves to wait for his signal and only his signal, before launching into the very first song they recorded, “The Pain of Earth’s Dementia.” At this point, Tommaso (lead vocals) gave his signal, and the two halves crashed into each other for a massive mosh pit. As they closed out the night, they thanked everybody for a wonderful time, bowing and shaking everybody’s hands they could reach.
For full concert gallery, visit www.wdibblephoto.com/2016-Fleshgod-Apocalypse