I’ve totally forgotten how much I love Novi Sad. So, when a staff member at the venue asked me why haven’t I stayed for a drink when first entering the pub and discovering the band has yet to arrive, my answer was quite simple. I just wanted to go out and soak up as much of this city.
It has changed. It’s been polished up in the past couple of years since I last really visited it. It’s gotten a bit more urban than I remember it, but it’s still a lovely place to be. The spirit remains, no matter how many attempts are there on its ages old life.
By the way, the nostalgia kicked in as soon as I made the decision to travel by train. Since the current dictatorship in Serbia decided to move the central train station from the centre of Belgrade to an undisclosed location many of the locals are unfamiliar with and, at the same time, remodel the railway track segment leading from Belgrade to Novi Sad, I haven’t sat on a train which was likely my most favourite way to get to Novi Sad. This particular segment remained closed for something like three years, which is extremely ridiculous if you take into account that it’s a ninety kilometre stretch through nothing but Vojvodina plain. On top of all the assholery, some clever engineer got paid good money to project that two ticket windows are just about enough for a central train station of a city inhabiting two and a half million people. Having missed my train while waiting in line to get a ticket, I can only wish the worst of pestilences to happen to the bloating carcass of that same planner.
Anyway, one train later and I was on my way to a night like I haven’t witnessed in a while, Covid-19 or not. The heavy metal debauchery on a small, underground scale, but with a larger-than-life posture only those true of hearts can bring along.
The first surprise of the evening was the attendance. For a Thursday night which seemed to be preparing for a massive thunderstorm (a literal one, not coming from the stage) and a gig by two representatives of Canadian underground, the turnout was fairly impressive. And I cannot blame the lack of gigs due to the pandemic anymore. There’s been a good number of shows this year, so there’s none of that “the audience is missing the good old days” attitude anymore. It’s likely that they just sensed an opportunity for an awesome gig. And they weren’t wrong.
The second surprise ran late for a bit over an hour, as the show was supposed to start at 9 PM. But who cares!? The atmosphere at the venue was rather nice, so it’s not like anyone minded the delay. Bloated Pig was an unknown for me. I’m not a big fan of exploring a band prior to seeing them live. If there’s a chance to see them live, then why would I go about some streaming service trying to make up my mind about them? There’s really no need for that.
However, I’ll admit it, it can help sometimes. Sometimes, but not this time. I really feel like Bloated Pig is intended to first be met live. Now, there’s a thunderstorm! Well, not a thunderstorm… More of a desert storm. The furious rush of hot sand capable of stripping you of skin and flesh and bone should you not be careful. Or indoors. Or anywhere else, for that matter, where there’s no bloated pigs around. It was a pulverizing mass of sound, no doubt helped by the cellar in which the gig was held, that contained all the noises and circulated them back and forth, in one ear, out the other and all over again. Magnificent and maleficent.
Oh, and you’re probably wondering… Despite the name that would suggest some gore grinding death metal, Bloated Pig is a band that concentrates more on the southern, stoner metal undertones. Like I told the boys later on in the evening (or was it night already?), they sounded to me like Obituary playing stoner metal, with 1990’s Max Cavalera joining in on vocals. And it was amazing!
I have yet to further explore the band, through their studio outings to be reviewed sometime soon on these very same pages, but so far I can honestly say Bloated Pig are definitely a band to check out, at least in the live setting.
The surprises end there. Thankfully, because I definitely didn’t want Black Pestilence to come as a shock. I wanted them to come across as raw, powerful, nasty… Well, as Black Pestilence! Trust me on this, when it comes to consistency in creating not only the same type of music, but exquisite quality of that same music over and over again, there are few to rival Black Pestilence. The band keeps pushing awesome albums one after the other, with no signs of letting up. And it’s not just the fact that I’m proud to call them my friends. They are easily among the three best bands I’ve gotten to hear in the past decade and a half. Easily!
As for their live setting… Well, let’s just say the masked avengers take no prisoners whatsoever! Ferocious, unrelenting, neck breaking… Black metal punk in the best tradition. One does not simply stay still while these “urban hell rhythmics” roam about your ears. Basically, what was left of the eardrums after Bloated Pig, turned to ash.
Black Pestilence selected a set-list that had no way of not working out. Catchiness, which is the strongpoint of the band, was naturally a key figure in the choice of cuts for the tour. From the early hits, like “In Defiance”, to a fine selection of tracks from the most recent, 2020 album “Hail the Flesh”, “Spurn All Gods”, title track… It was all there, resulting that my neck hurts even two days later. On the other hand, that same neck was terribly out of shape before the show and has gotten a nice workout on the night in question.
Anyway… Being the first night of the tour, the boys from both bands, complete with my brother in arms, the tour manager Kris of Rock Tour Agency, had more than enough energy left to grace myself and whoever else stuck around with a couple of hours of an afterparty. Which, in turn, proved once again that Black Pestilence is a fun crew to hang around with, and added the charm of the Bloated Pig trio, making for one memorable night.
One hour’s sleep on the train, complete with a couple more at home, left me hanging on to dear life at work on Friday. Still, if I had to do it all over again, I would do so no questions asked.