It is a typically bustling Friday night in the centre of Nottingham as people criss-cross to their various entertainment destinations, whatever is on at the Theatre Royal, Poets of the Fall are headlining at Rock City but it is not difficult to tell who is heading to Rescue Rooms, the odd corpse painted face and enough leather and chains to raise the eyebrows of some theatre goers.
There is plenty of chatter and the mood is one of excitement for Sweden’s Deathstars – a band that for far too long been away from UK stages – not helped by this very tour being postponed more than once and the pandemic having a hand in wrecking touring plans. On a positive note, this led to band recording their fifth studio album Everything Destroys You earlier in 2023 and their first since The Perfect Cult in 2014.
Tonight is a matter of contrasts. Following the heavy metal havoc of Liv Sin to the (allegedly populated by former Ghost members but who knows these days?) synth-wave/pop of Sweden’s masked trio Priest, it almost feels like the calm before the storm as the packed front to back crowd await the entrance of Deathstars who make their way onto the stage to a rapturous fanfare before blasting into Night Electric Night.
What is immediately obvious is while bassist Jonas “Skinny Disco” Kangur, guitarist Emil “Nightmare Industries” Nödtveidt, returning guitarist Eric “Cat Casino” Bäckman and drummer Marcus “Nitro” Johansson all turned out in the death-liest goth finery, it was centre-of-attention vocalist Andreas “Whiplasher Bernadotte” Bergh that dispensed with the being in ‘character.’ Make no mistake, apart from looking rather human – not what is expected from our rock stars – Whiplasher puts on a full 100% performance and still managed to cut both an authoritative and suave figure.
Despite the fact that Everything Destroys You is still only a few months old out in the wild, it is not like the set is flooded with material from the album and instead, Deathstars delivers a set that is made up from the whole of their discography. The first new song of the night Between Volumes And Voids pretty much has everything, the hammer down drums, smooth synths and female vocals siding up to Whiplasher’s darker tones.
For All The Devil’s Toys, Whiplasher drops to his knees and fellow The Perfect Cult cut Ghost Reviver has Skinny Disco either madly windmilling the dreads or heading towards his bandmate Cat Casino while they hold their instruments aloft. It is mainly Skinny Disco that does most of the talking but when Whiplasher does speak…it is interesting. It is something of a revelation that New Dead Nation – a track from Deathstars’ debut album Synthetic Generation – is the first song that the man masturbated to. There is another mention of “intercourse” somewhere else down the line but Whiplasher keeps his vocal tone when speaking which renders it inaudible over the crowd noise. Which is a shame and will someone get the man a biographer? Enquiring minds and all that.
For Midnight Party, Whiplasher holds out the micrphone into the audience which ilicits sharp feedback and with the exception of spotlights, Deathstars is practically drowned in darkness for Tongues. The tempo remains raised for Death Dies Hard and Metal does what it says on the – ahem – tin, an almost Rammstein smash ‘n’ grab that rattles the eye sockets as well as the ear drums. Before heading into the new album title track there is some words of wisdom “It’s Friday night, Nottingham, so make sure that everything destroys us!” and at that Whiplasher proceeds to sing while on his knees before moving to the more lying down position and hidden by the monitors. By Blood Stains Blondes, Whiplasher is still is not on two feet and is actually singing to the leg of guitarist Emil “Nightmare Industries” Nödtveidt. Chertograd finally sees the emergence of Whiplasher’s trademark visor cap but he then decides to go for another lie down but not before blowing a kiss to a front row audience member.
The encore features retina bursting lights for the aptly named Blitzkrieg and one hand movement from Whiplasher has the whole of the Rescue Rooms bouncing in unison. Cyanide closes the show and it is a band bathed in red as they take their final bow before exiting to raptuous applauds and shrieks of “one more song.”
Tonight is a solid show by a band that does not always gets the credit it deserves. For sure, Whiplasher’s antics might seem eccentric but he never skipped a single beat and his bandmates were hardly stock still on the small stage either. With Cat Casino constantly waving to the balcony or Skinny Disco leaning into the crowd or hurling around that hair, Deathstars is definitely not a boring show – plus there is the songs to back it up and a set list that brought home the history of Deathstars.
With such a long wait between albums, Everything Destroys You had to be something special – and it is but something a grower of an album and seeing some of the songs played tonight is proof in the Deathstars pudding. As the crowd files out into unseasonably warm November, there are smiles galore – the return of Deathstars is rightly something to celebrate.
Call them what you want, death-glam, industrial, goth, all of them or none of them – it does not matter. Apparently, everything will destroy us and Deathstars will be entertaining us all the way into our oblivion.