Top 5 Shows of 2011 by Metal Injection Photographer Aline Miladinovich
We asked Metal Injection Photographer Aline Miladinovich to reflect on her Top 5 Shows in 2011. You can check out some of her favorites, as well as all her other photos in our gallery section.
Whittling all the epic shows I was fortunate enough to see in 2011 into only five choices, then prioritizing them in order of awesomeness was more of a challenge than I anticipated it would be. In all honesty, these truly are "in no particular order" with the exception of #1, which is for obvious, and outstanding reasons.
#5 – Immortal
April 14, 2011 – Inferno Festival, Rockefeller Center, Oslo Norway.
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This was my first Inferno Festival ever, first trip to Norway, and first time to ever see Immortal live. Having loved this band since their inception, but somehow never managing to be able to catch a live set of theirs prior to this date, it was an almost surreal experience for me to be seeing them on their home turf at such an amazing festival. Say what you will about Immortal and their "shtick", they put on a great live show, and are extraordinarily entertaining to watch. Aside from all their theatrics, (or perhaps in addition to) they write some pretty damn catchy tunes, as well. The only reason this show makes it to only the #5 spot on my list is because it was a bittersweet experience for me, as my camera ceased working halfway through their first song and spent an arduous 30+ days in the repair shop, rendering me useless as a photographer for over a month following Inferno fest. Despite having the opportunity to shoot them for roughly 90 seconds, I nailed one of my favorite shots ever in the history of my career, which accompanies this article. I later was able to shoot them again in August at Bloodstock, and fared a bit better. However, my first Immortal show will always hold a special place in my black little heart, despite that dodgy "camera incident".
#4 – 1349
August 14, 2011 – Bloodstock Festival, Catton Hall, Derbyshire, England.
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This was my second time to see 1349 live, having caught and shot them the previous year in San Francisco. Extraordinarily impressed by their live presentation, and the sheer, raw, muscular, brutality of their sound in a small club, I was all "pants afire" about the opportunity to see them owning a large festival stage and ripping the sky off of an open air event. They did not fail to do just that. Opening their blistering set with one of my favorite tunes of theirs ever, the catchy-as-fuck-all "Riders of the Apocalypse", they were ear-gasmic from opening note to closing. I was jittering so hard I could barely shoot…if there is anything not to like about 1349, I have no idea what it is. Huge, cacophonous, and completely raw, they rearranged my feeble little mind. 1349, I love you.
#3 – Mayhem
November 21, 2011 – Rickshaw Theater, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Support: Keep of Kalessin, Hate, Abigail Williams
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Another band that I have loved since inception, yet never seen live before, this show was the first of seven I would cover on this tour, and hugely, insanely meaningful for me. My first experience with Mayhem was in late 1988/1989 when I received an extraordinarily BAD, thrice copied cassette tape in the mail through a "tape trader/pen pal" program via the now defunct "Metal Edge" magazine. It was from a Swedish kid named Ingar, whom I corresponded with regularly. We were both wee tots at the time. It was a copy of "Deathcrush" and was the heaviest, most insane thing I had ever heard in my life, and at the time, satiated my relentless thirst for anything and everything that was more brutal, obscure, and outrageous than what my peers were listening to. It was love at first listen. And…it was a love that lasted, and continues to persevere to this day. The bloom is still very much on the rose when it comes to me and Mayhem, and despite various tragedies, scandals, and line-up changes (or perhaps, somewhat, BECAUSE of them?) Mayhem are, and always will be my first "metal love". The fact that now, 23 years later, I was finally seeing them live for the first time, is still something I'm trying to come down off of, and may need a course of "metal methadone" to truly recover from. MUST. LOVE. MAYHEM.
#2 – Watain
November 6th, 2011 – Club Tradgarn, Gothenburg, Sweden
Support: Degial, In Solitude
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This being my eighth Watain show, I was by no means a "virgin " to this spectacle…but this particular show held special meaning to me, above and beyond all the others, for reasons I'm not 100% sure I fully grasp. Perhaps it was the "home court advantage" and the confidence and self-assuredness Watain possess on their home turf, or the energy of a hometown crowd that really fueled their hellfire. One never knows, but this show was a night to remember in ways I'm not confident I can fully articulate. I have always been pretty moved by the "hugeness" of Watain's live show (and really, the carrion stench and the blood really do take a back-seat to "the force"…that "feeling" you get from seeing/hearing them live.) I've never NOT been mesmerized by their live set, but the show in Gothenburg was kind of transforming for me. It really was one of those odd moments where you sort of get swept away in some transcendental thing that you can't quite describe, but it's somewhere outside of the realm of "normal experiences and feelings" – and just a bit otherworldly.
Normally once the shooting is done, I'll go mingle and have a beer with friends, check out the merch/club, what have you. On this night, however, all I could really do is stumble back behind the barricade and watch the remainder of the set, from the front row, in awe. I think I had a full bladder, but really just didn't feel it. What I did feel was an insane rush of massive, colorful, glorious euphoria that kind overrode any other sensation that might have been present. I remembered seeing them in Seattle, WA late last year, and experiencing a similar feeling – great lighting, good show, but Gothenburg was the pinnacle, really. I could not take my eyes off that stage, and even though I am not one to scream yell, gesticulate, or act out at shows, I felt like I was screaming so loud on the inside that I was going to catch on fire. It was…AWESOME. It actually made me sad in retrospect that I cannot see, hear, and shoot them pretty much every night of my life.
October 15 & 16 – Mega Club and Klub Eter, Katowice and Wroclaw, Poland
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Understandably, these two Behemoth shows in Poland cannot help but win the top spot in my heart for obvious and well-deserved reasons. Being my tenth and eleventh times to see Behemoth, these were hardly virgin experiences, either. What set these two shows apart is that they were the first times to see Behemoth live after front man Nergal's miraculous recovery from a very tough battle with an aggressive and debilitating form of leukemia just the year prior. Having learned of his diagnosis just hours before departing to Sonisphere, Finland, 2010, and Bloodstock 2010, (both events Behemoth was slated to perform at, but had to withdraw from at the last second, due to Nergal's health) it had been a tenuous, stressful time to say the least.
Now, for these Poland shows, Nergal would be taking the stage for the first time since falling ill, on their ever so aptly named "Phoenix Rising" Tour.
I'm not just giving empty platitudes and extra credit here when I say that Behemoth absolutely floored it in Poland. Killed it. Slayed it. Took it by storm, grabbed it by the proverbial balls, and swung it around – however you want to word it, they came back with a tense, screaming, motherfucking vengeance.
In an interview that I did with Nergal and Orion between the Katowice and Wroclaw shows, Nergal mentioned feeling that Behemoth were no longer the "well oiled machine" that they had been prior to his diagnosis. He stated that he felt they needed some time to "come back fully".
I'd say it was hardly evident to myself or the rest of the crowd they they'd missed even a single beat. Their performance was spot-on, madly powerful, and as huge, weighty, and dense as ever, if not more so. Playing to "packed to the gills" houses on both nights, they really came into their own in a way that I have never seen them do before.
Most inspiring, however, is the fact that the man fronting the entire operation had been lying on a death bed, just months prior, uncertain as to whether or not he was going to emerge alive at the end.
Not only did he do just that, he did so with such seasoned aplomb, and immeasurable fury, that it brought goosebumps to the skin, and tears to the eyes.
Nergal, welcome back.
Well done, horns up, we salute you. Keep it coming.