Photo Credit: Krista Sainio

The night of the masks: Priest, Die Oberherren and Plythe at Stockholm’s Slaktkyrkan, 1.3.2024

Author Stefanie Nysand - 16.3.2024

Two and a half months ago, Priest performed as main support for the masters of death glam, Deathstars, at “Slaktkyrkan” in Sweden’s capital Stockholm. Already back then, we predicted that the trio could soon play larger venues on their own. Now, only 11 weeks later, we are back at the same venue to experience exactly that: Priest as the headliner, as part of the concert series “Klubb Overload”, and with Plythe and Die Oberherren as warm-up acts. In addition, tonight’s show is a Sweden-exclusive concert before Priest kick off their US tour on 26 March 2024.

Something that unfortunately has not changed in the past 11 weeks is the increased risk of terror attacks in Sweden, which is why the nationwide “väskförbud” [“ban of bags”] still applies. One is no longer allowed to bring bags to bigger events, though “Slaktkyrkan” is quite generous, allowing one small bag per person (maximum size: 15 cm x 20 cm). Storing larger luggage in the paid cloakroom is not an option, as the authorities do not consider the cloakroom of “Slaktkyrkan” to be suitable for this (jackets and the like are ok, though). While the security measure is understandable, in practice, it may be a stress factor that could deter some potential visitors from attending an event in the first place.

The first act on stage tonight, Plythe, was squeezed into the programme at fairly short notice; as the opening act between the “doors open” at 7 PM and Die Oberherren, who until recently were the only support act and are scheduled to start their set at around 8 PM. Accordingly, not all concert visitors have arrived at “Slaktkyrkan” yet when the Swede appears behind his laptop. Like Priest, Plythe wants to keep his identity secret, and so we see a man in a black mask and a black hoodie rocking out to songs like “Neural Uplink Disruption” and “It Lies Awaiting“. Plythe himself describes his sound as “electronic music inspired by movies, video games and the synth sounds of the 80-ish”. Since Plythe is also “a fan of heavier music”, his sound “tends to move in the heavier direction”, and so it happened that apparently none other than Paradise Lost frontman Nick Holmes lent his voice to the Plythe track “The Fatalist“. Visually, Plythe definitely fits into today’s programme. Musically, he is not out of place either, but perhaps both music and performance fit better in a club full of dancing people than on the stage of a concert venue.

At around 8 PM, it’s the turn of the second act of the evening, Die Oberherren [German for: The Overlords]. The band name itself does not reveal anything about the musical direction of the band, which can be both a good thing and a bad thing. Based on today’s programme, we assumed in advance that Die Oberherren would be another electronic band, but the Swedish sextet actually serves us gothic rock. For people like us, who, in general, listen more to gothic rock than electronic music, this is a pleasant surprise. At least in the beginning.

The first two songs of the set, “By The End Of The Shore” and especially “The Horned One Stabs“, are exciting, but after that, it becomes a bit lengthy at times. A neighbour in the audience says that the frontman lacks charisma and that the band’s overall image appears inconsistent. I agree with the latter. For example, one of the guitarists wears not only a cowboy hat but also a bandana that covers half of his face, in addition to sunglasses. Like Priest, Die Oberherren have a connection to the Swedish rock heavyweights Ghost and the desire to remain anonymous, which is why no-one can be recognised in the first promotional pictures of the band, which were used, amongst other things, for the vinyl pressings of the first and current studio album “Die By My Hand”. However, all band members except for said guitarist have been identified in the meantime, and said guitarist is apparently not even a former band member of Ghost.

This reference can instead be found in the CV of bassist Gustaf “Gurra” Lindström who is not only the original bassist of Crashdïet, Mace Kelly. In Crashdïet as well as in Repugnant, Subvision and Ghost, Gustaf Lindström played alongside Ghost frontman Tobias Forge. It is also the bassist who attracts the most attention during tonight’s gig of Die Oberherren. But: The man on the bass tonight is not Gustaf Lindström, but Stefan “Zoak” Nordeng. Yes, it’s all a bit confusing, especially since Stefan Nordeng already played the bass at Die Oberherren‘s very first live show, which took place at the Sweden Rock Festival in June 2023. Is Gustaf Lindström still in the band? Does he not like performing live? Or was he just busy with something else? We don’t know. What we do know is that Die Oberherren drummer Thomas Daun is another original band member of Crashdïet, namely drummer Tom Bones. Like Gustaf Lindström, Thomas Daun played alongside Ghost frontman Tobias Forge in Crashdïet as well as in Repugnant and Subvision, but had “nothing to do with Ghost“. Thanks to Die Oberherren‘s generous use of fog, one cannot see much of Thomas Daun either. Someone in the audience even says that she did not notice the female keyboardist before said keyboardist steps forward to perform the duet “Guns And Pills” with frontman Rob Coffinshaker (The Coffinshakers).

With “The Blood Or The Wine“, the set is concluded on a surprisingly high note. Overall, however, the feeling of inconsistency remains, along with a lot of fog and many question marks. In my humble opinion, the band name “Die Oberherren” is not really convincing either. It does not tell you anything in advance, and there is no “aha” moment afterwards either. It’s a pity, because, musically, Die Oberherren do deliver some fine goth rock tunes.

When tonight’s main masks, Priest, finally enter the stage, there is instantly a feeling of triumph in the air. Here they are again, this time as the headliner, and “Slaktkyrkan” is once again well attended. Some familiar faces from the Deathstars concert in December 2023 can be spotted in the audience, and while Priest certainly had their own fan base before, not to mention the Ghost enthusiasts (Vocalist Mercury and keyboardist Salt were both active in Ghost), I’m pretty sure that we are not the only ones who have been won over by Priest during their joint tour with Deathstars.

As in December 2023, the Swedes start their set with “The Pit“, followed by “Neuromancer“. Right before the second chorus, the performance for “Neuromancer” is cut short, due to technical issues. The interruption happens apparently so smoothly that at least two people in the audience – who are not that familiar with Priest‘s music yet – think that the song was supposed to end this way. Vocalist Mercury explains that “instead of playing this song one more time again”, Priest would now welcome a special guest on stage. A drum kit is unveiled, and the mask-wearing special guest takes his position behind it, until the end of the show. Thanks to Mercury’s introduction (“In our engine, we need some extra nitro!”), it is relatively clear that the man behind the fourth mask is most likely Nitro (Marcus Johansson), the drummer of Deathstars and Reach. We will also spot him later when everyone leaves the venue. The fact that “Neuromancer” is not played one more time, or at least finished, gives us the first hint that Priest are somehow pressed for time tonight.

As Priest announced prior to the show, they deliver a high-octane performance in which each band member has their role. The energy of programmer and keyboardist Sulfur as the animator of the audience is particularly impressive tonight. And, yes, the black leather masks which are intended to hide the musicians’ true identities are still not my cup of tea, but Priest‘s dark 80s style synth-pop is so intoxicating that the whole thing with the masks has taken a back seat. Or maybe we have just gotten used to them as part of the band’s image?

After “Blacklisted“, “A Signal In The Noise“, “The Cross” and an intermezzo, Priest present two new songs from their upcoming 4th studio album “Dark Pulse”: The track “Golden Gate“, which is – according to Mercury – “our dirtiest to date”, and the upcoming single “Just A Game“, which will be released on 22 March 2024. “Keep On Burning” is not a new song, but it has never been played live before. A premiere that is dedicated to a special person in the audience, namely Deathstars bassist Skinny Disco. On their joint tour, Skinny Disco repeatedly asked for his favourite Priest song, but the band was reluctant to perform “Keep On Burning” live. Now, his wish has been fulfilled.

After “Obey“, the current single “Burning Love” and “History In Black“, Mercury mumbles something about how Priest would have liked to play a longer set tonight, but now they have to make room for a techno club. Since there is no event listed on the website of “Slaktkyrkan” for tonight, other than the one happening right now, we initially regard Mercury’s words as some kind of strange humour. After the concluding “Vaudeville“, however, no encores are played, despite the audience’s request, and by 10.30 PM, everyone is swept out of the club.

Outside “Slaktkyrkan”, a new, sizeable crowd is waiting for its doors to open. Mercury was not kidding: A techno event (“Technostate”) is scheduled to take place here from 11 PM onwards, and it’s still not mentioned on the website of “Slaktkyrkan”. This is annoying for several reasons. For one, it becomes clear why the performance for “Neuromancer” was kind of skipped and also why Priest did not play any encores: They indeed had to wrap up their set within a certain time frame. If it was clear from the beginning that everything had to take place between 7 PM and 10.30 PM, why didn’t the organiser let Priest and Die Oberherren start earlier? Why was a third act, Plythe, added at short notice instead? Was it a favour? Was it a financial necessity? We don’t know. In any case, it seems like today’s edition of “Klubb Overload” was a bit overloaded. Priest, however, delivered a brilliant show, despite the adverse conditions, and made this evening more than worthwhile. One could also say that the performance for “Neuromancer” represented the evening quite well: It ended earlier than expected, but it was fun while it lasted.

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