484 words. Written 26/01/19.
It might feel like “a very expensive band practice”, but parody black metallers Evil Scarecrow make it work, at least for those who are in on the joke.
At the back of the stage is a box, ominously marked “PROTOTYPE. CAUTION: RADIATION. ZERO GRAVITY”. While obviously it doesn’t function as the warning suggests, it does define Evil Scarecrow’s performance technique well – staging the most warped nativity play imaginable, and letting the crowd mischievously fill in the blanks that the budgets and laws of physics won’t allow for.
The size of the audience is a modest three-hundred tonight in Southampton Engine Rooms, especially considering the infamy that Evil Scarecrow have acquired for enticing thousands of metalheads into scuttling in sync like crabs at music festivals, but that is not to say that they have any intention of downsizing their ridiculous theatrical ambitions. This time it is a visit to the uninhabitable tundra of Antartarctica (sic).
During ballad ‘The Ballad of Brother Pain’, frontman Dr Hell laments his guitarist’s journey there. After all, “the coldest place on earth is no place for a monk”. It is no wonder that he feels that way, because there you will also find giant skeletons drumming ‘Skulls of Our Enemies’, a furious ode to living to fight. You will also find a woman dressed as Link from Legend of Zelda, attacking the band while they channel their video game boss battle failure frustration during ‘End Level Boss’. There are even storms strong enough for inflatable cows to be swung around by during ‘Hurricanado’, one of many things puppeteered over and through holes in the igloo-style set. Judging from the amount he break dances and hand stands, and the number of high-fives that Pain hands out, he seems to be enjoying himself nonetheless.
Perhaps the biggest juxtaposition between musical prowess and mischief comes during lengthy opus ‘Antartartica’, before which Dr Hell orders the crowd to make fart noises every time he pointed his ‘wind stick’ at them, and pre-warns everybody that “this next song is about ten minutes long, so if anybody needs to have a poo, now is your time”. The long atmospheric climax leaves everybody slightly unsure of when the track is truly over, until Pain confirms – “I think that outro is a bit too long”, reducing the room to hysterics rather than awkwardness.
One might be forgiven for thinking that Evil Scarecrow have bitten off more than they can chew by bringing such a show to such a venue filled to less than half of its capacity. Hell himself says at the end of the show that “without you, this would just be a very expensive band practice”. They are very self-aware. That said, one can’t help but respect their sheer confidence and audacity.
It might be immature, and about as shambolic as a conceptual show can be, but it is by no means a bad idea.