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Gorgoroth: Black Mass Krakow 2004

Other // Unrated // July 8, 2008
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Kurt Dahlke | posted July 8, 2008 | E-mail the Author
Gorgoroth: Black Mass Krakow 2004:
I'll say with a degree of certainty (an unholy degree) that you're reading this either because you're idly curious or you're a Black Metal fan who could kick my butt around the block in terms of knowledge of the genre. Out front; I have no knowledge of the genre. I invited my friend to watch Black Mass with me, as he not only professes to be a fan of the genre, he listens to it with his one-year-old daughter and also knows the difference between Black Metal and Death Metal, and proposes that Mercyful Fate is more-or-less just Metal.

But let's pretend that this review is for someone from Mars, and then all will be absolved. At any rate, Black Mass presents 54-minutes of the legendary performance of Norwegian Black Metal band Gorgoroth from Krakow, Poland in 2004. Not only does this concert feature four live nude humans symbolically crucified onstage, it has somewhere in the order of sixty severed sheep's heads strewn about, and got the band in serious hot water with the Polish government. Take that, 2 Live Crew!

Where to begin? (Not sure, but please note the equivocal phrasing of everything that follows.) It seems that Black Metal focuses on denial of Christianity (whereas Death Metal is anti-government). Anti-Christian symbolism embraces pentagrams and exaltation of Satanic notions, as well as the sheep's heads and nude victims - all of which this forceful concert has in spades. In all, and despite all the trappings - this is a kick-ass show. Don't believe that one review on Amazon, this is much better than a 'one star' video - visually this concert video is excellent, but sonically it does need a little help, however Gorgoroth fans should be well pleased. Newbies like me will be surprised by speed-metal attributes, lack of anything resembling melody, and mid-range caterwauling vocals delivered with stentorian, stone-faced seriousness. While Gorgoroth is hard as hell, I expected (Death Metal traits) evil Cookie Monster vocals and more bottom-end focus. However, Gorgoroth's lickety-split speedy rhythm guitar chunkiness is quite convincing.

Presentation-wise, we're talking about something like an eight-camera affair; two drum-cams, back of the audience POV, and plenty that makes you feel like you're onstage, dripping in sheep's blood. To wit, this is as good as most concert videos get, the only thing missing is those annoying guys running around onstage crouching right in front of the bass player's (King Ov Hell) pick guard. The mise-en-scene is pretty much a cascade of red spotlights. Vocalist Gaahl sports six-inch nails from his armbands (or whatever) and basically stands with one huge boot on his monitor while balefully glaring out and occasionally flashing the hook and horns to a fan. Guitarist and founder Infernus (since booted from the band in a mutinous outrage) and oddly klingon-esque guest-guitarist (and Black Metal man-about-town) Apollyon bang their heads in suitably evil manner - especially Infernus - but forgo any hair-windmills. Drummer Kvitrafn (looking oddly like Bill Moseley circa Devil's Rejects) suffers through goofy drum-cams (can the drummer get some?) while sweating up a storm through this somewhat short but brutal set.

No question Gorgoroth and/or Black Metal fans will love this DVD. Casual or curious music-'n'-metal folks may be intrigued, but if my source is to be trusted, part of why Black Metal is so harsh is to keep people away. If you're not down for the cause, Gorgoroth doesn't want you, and while as a once and future rocker the intensity on display made me want to pick up my bass again, I'll likely stick to listening to Ministry, Helmet or White Zombie when I want to get my musical rocks off. Err... all hail Satan?


Tight-lipped packaging forces me to use my judgment. This looks to be presented in 1.78:1 widescreen. Amazon lists this as 1.33:1 which means I may have missed a ton from the top and bottom, but the guys looked way less skinny in the aspect ratio I used. For all the fog, blood and hair, Black Mass is quite sharp and clear. All the red tended to make my screen totally blow out, but whenever those spots dimmed and green lights took over, the image looked fantastic. A tiny bit of grainy mosquito noise (or what have you) crops up here or there, and super-minor posterizing (mostly when smoke enshrouds a red spotlight) are the only real defects to be found. The two extra songs from a 2000 concert in Leipzig (in fullscreen) are on handheld video camera with commensurate audio and video clarity - that is, not good.

Audio isn't that great, but pretty damn good. Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound goes untested in my simple setup, but at least stereo separation is great and accurate. A focus on mid-range audio is the puzzler for me, even though lack of Cookie Monster vocals or intense screeching would logically lead to this. Nevertheless, this is an extremely mid-range focused audio presentation, with not much in terms of bass-end and (probably blessedly) much shy in the high-range, too. A possible over-reliance on noise gates also means there are some weird volume fluctuations here and there, mostly noticeable immediately before or after Gaahl sings something. But despite such flaws, sonically this concert still sits squarely in the center of other concert DVDs.

A good grip of extras proves deceptive. About eight-minutes of Bonus Video - extra footage of the songs Destroyer and Incipit Satan from the 2000 Leipzig concert compose the most substantive extra. As mentioned above, the quality of this footage is far inferior to the Black Mass concert. A bulky, auto-navigated Photo Gallery sports a couple selectable sub-categories of photos, which is unique. A self-navigated Biography contains a brief text history of the band, and members Gaahl, Infernus and King Ov Hell. The band members' biographies mostly consist of contact information and lists of the albums each played on. All are available in either English or German language. A text Discography also shows album art, while an Art Gallery is a spare single page with three overlapping images that seems unnecessary. A grip of Desktop Images are available for download as well as a page of band-related Web Links. For most of these extras, ability to read the Gorgoroth gothic font is quite necessary.

Final Thoughts:
Scandal/hype built up around the Krakow Black Mass show proves largely a paper tiger. For we 'enlightened' New World-ers it takes more than a few sheep's heads and some sacrilege to make a fuss. Black Metal fans, however, should kick some dust up to grab a hold of this DVD, which, though lacking a serious wagon of extras, presents a great looking concert with decent audio and video attributes. As with much of the stuff I review, my readers will already know full well if this DVD is for them. For those in the yes column, this DVD is Recommended, but for obvious reasons, Joe DVDTalk should likely Skip It. For the sake of that 'star bar' to the right of your monitor, we'll take the average and say Rent It.

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