Photo Credit: Krista Sainio

Deathstars, Priest and Liv Sin take over Stockholm’s Slaktkyrkan, 16.12.2023

Author Stefanie Nysand - 30.12.2023

As part of the extensive tour through Europe and the UK, today’s home game of Deathstars in Sweden’s capital Stockholm is, like the tour itself, something of a never-ending story: Due to “delays in the album production” and later on due to the corona pandemic, the tour was postponed several times, then completely cancelled in November 2022 – and then rebooked in April 2023, with Liv Sin as opening act and Priest as main support. Cancellations of concerts, tours and festival appearances, sometimes at the very last minute, have become common practice for musicians long before the corona pandemic. This is generally the case, but, unfortunately, particularly so with Deathstars, which is why attending tonight’s show is anything but a given, even though Deathstars are one of my absolute favourite bands. If one is travelling from far away, even from abroad, one also needs to factor in additional costs for travel and accommodation and weigh up the risks. We are living in difficult times.

Speaking of difficult times: Due to the increased risk of terror attacks in Sweden, a nationwide “väskförbud” [“ban of bags”] was introduced on 1 November 2023. In short: One is no longer allowed to bring bags to bigger events, though it seems to depend on the venue as well. “Slaktkyrkan” allows one small bag per person (maximum size: 15 cm x 20 cm), but even in the paid cloakroom, larger luggage cannot be stored, as the authorities do not consider the cloakroom of “Slaktkyrkan” to be suitable for this (jackets and the like are ok, though). And then there are venues which allow absolutely no bags at all, not even in the (paid) cloakroom. The security measure is understandable, but in practice, it may also be another stress factor that could deter some potential visitors from attending an event in the first place. One may spontaneously think of lockers at the central railway station in which one could store larger luggage for the duration of an event, but, in Stockholm, these cost a hefty 39 SEK (~ 3,51 €) per hour.

Liv Sin, the first act on stage tonight, are also familiar with difficult times. Shortly after the band around Sister Sin frontwoman Liv Jagrell was announced as the opening act for the “Everything Destroys Europe Tour 2023”, the quintet had to launch a crowdfunding campaign in order to make the tour with Deathstars financially possible. One of the band members even remortgaged their house to “help bare some of the costs”. The target was 30,000 €, which was later increased, and the campaign ended with just 17,796 SEK (~ 1,507 € at the start of the tour) raised. Only time will tell whether Liv Sin were able to gain so many new fans during this tour that the financial risk was worth it in the end.

Beforehand, one heard critical voices as to whether Liv Sin‘s musical style even fit into this tour package. To be honest, I was sceptical, too, but as soon as the Swedish heavy metallers enter the stage, they immediately deliver what one needs in these difficult times: Distraction. From the get-go, Liv Jagrell jumps and headbangs like there’s no tomorrow. The band not only forms a unit in terms of clothing (There is a dress code, and the dress code is red and black), but comes across as a well-oiled machine. The set lasts for approximately half an hour and is dominated by songs from the current third studio album “KaliYuga”, such as “The Process“, “D.E.R.“, “I Am The Storm“, “Antihero” and “King Of Fools“. Some Liv Sin t-shirts can be spotted in the audience, but it’s not just these visitors who Liv Sin will win over with their “metal for sinners”. In this respect, it can be said that although Liv Sin and Deathstars differ musically, Liv Sin are surprisingly anything but out of place in this tour package.

The first thing that catches the eye with the second act of the evening, Priest, are of course the black leather masks which are intended to hide the musicians’ true identities. As little as such masks are my cup of tea, from a musical point of view, it quickly becomes clear that we are dealing with a trio that could soon play larger venues on their own. At least two of the three musicians are already used to playing in larger venues, as they were once part of the line-up of none other than Ghost (Vocalist Mercury was known as “Water” while playing the bass in Ghost, and keyboardist Salt played the same instrument in Ghost as “Air/Wind”). Furthermore, the Swedes have been on tour almost non-stop this year, especially in the US, which Priest themselves described in an interview as their “biggest market, both in terms of streams and merchandise sales”, since the Americans are “very open and the showbiz mentality is more prominent there”. Priest‘s dark 80s style synth-pop is not only very catchy and gets you moving instantly; the band itself hardly stands still while performing songs like “The Pit“, “Neuromancer“, “Blacklisted” and “The Cross“. During “Obey“, Mercury disappears into the audience so that Salt can be in the limelight with his keytar solo. After the current single “Burning Love” and “History In Black“, Mercury asks the audience “Would you call this ‘entertainment’?” – which is loudly affirmed – before Priest conclude their set with “Vaudeville“.

Mercury announces that he can be met at the merchandise booth “ten, fifteen minutes after the show” for photos and autographs. However, it remains unclear what he means by “after the show”: After the set of Priest, or after the end of the event, i.e. after the performance of Deathstars? Unlike Liv Sin, we won’t spot Mercury at the merchandise booth later on. Maybe we just missed him, or maybe he really had the sense of humour to hang around there during the performance of tonight’s headliner, just to minimise the risk of being identified beyond the stage.

And then it’s time for the headliners of the evening: Deathstars! After Nitro (drums), Skinny Disco (bass), Cat Casino (guitar), Nightmare Industries (lead guitar & keyboards) and Whiplasher Bernadotte (vocals) enter the stage one after the other amid loud applause, the masters of death glam kick off their show with “Night Electric Night“. What a start! Already the second song, “Between Volumes And Voids“, is a track taken from the current fifth studio album “Everything Destroys You” which was released in May 2023 and gave this tour its name. As was the case with their festival appearance at Sabaton Open Air 2022 a year and a half ago, tonight’s setlist includes songs from all Deathstars albums released to date, as well as the aforementioned “Between Volumes And Voids” and three of the four single releases from “Everything Destroys You” (“Midnight Party“, “This Is” and “Everything Destroys You“). Although released as a single, “Angel Of Fortune And Crime” is not performed tonight. In a video interview with Chaoszine in spring 2023, Skinny Disco explained that releasing “Angel Of Fortune And Crime” as a single was more the wish of the band’s record label Nuclear Blast than the band itself, which may explain the song’s absence from the setlist.

And, yes, someone has noticeably changed in the past year and a half: Cat Casino is no longer just androgynous, which has always been a big part of his and the other band members’ physical attractiveness, but… I do not want to say that Cat Casino has become more feminine because his “feminine” behaviour borders too much on a parody of the female gender. Wearing a mini skirt, high heels and a braid is one thing and does not bother anyone, or at least it should not bother anyone, especially when attending a concert by Deathstars. Repeatedly sticking out one’s tongue, not just during the performance for “Tongues“, and repeatedly adjusting one’s mini skirt: Okay. But what’s the deal with the banana? Why is a banana eaten in such a suggestive way? I think that one could also dismiss the part with the banana as a show element if it wasn’t for the fact that Cat Casino has started to identify himself as “non-binary” beyond the stage. This, of course, raises some questions: What is show, what is part of a new reality and, most importantly, does one have to worry about Cat Casino? Despite this observation, I cannot say that Cat Casino’s behaviour on stage is distracting. The other three men at the edge of the stage – Skinny Disco, Whiplasher Bernadotte and especially Nightmare Industries with his infectiously good mood tonight – simply have too much stage presence of their own for that.

When the “rebooked version” of this tour was announced, Nightmare Industries said in a statement that “these upcoming shows will be something special for us and hopefully for you too.” And, indeed, tonight’s show is something special, as it offers both distraction on the one hand and familiarness on the other. The packed venue with a capacity of 750 also speaks for itself.

A few more words about tonight’s venue, “Slaktkyrkan”, which caught my attention already some years ago, due to its interesting programme. Unlike “Fryshuset”, where tonight’s performance was originally supposed to take place before the tour was completely cancelled and then rebooked, “Slaktkyrkan” shines, among other things, with its friendly staff. One can even pay with cash at the cloakroom. And while waiting outside for the doors to open, some attentive fans of Deathstars noticed that this is the venue whose front can be seen in the music video for “Midnight Party“. It took us a while to visit this venue for the first time tonight, and, hopefully, it won’t be the last time.

With tonight’s event, a never-ending story has actually come to an end, and as soon as it is over, one becomes wistful. Tonight’s show is the second to last show of this tour, which began on 30 October 2023 in the Finnish city of Tampere and will end tomorrow in Gothenburg, and unlike the many postponements and cancellations in Deathstars‘ recent past, everything went smoothly on this tour, which gives one hope that the unreliability in the Deathstars camp may now be a thing of the past. Of course, attending tonight’s event was primarily about Deathstars. It is all the more impressive that, in the end, we were served a package that consisted of three acts that were musically different, but each good in their own right. And despite the nine years between today’s home game and the previous one, the headliners have not lost any of their popularity.

A photo gallery with additional pictures of the event can be found here.