Vágtázó Halottkémek – Retrospective
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The summer of 1992. A friend and I were exploring Eastern Europe. Even though three years had already passed since the Berlin Wall came down, there was still a little bit of an “Eastern Block” mindset around. Read as in, it was still slightly exciting and adventurous to head out east in one’s car, for fools like us anyway.
One of our stops brought us to Budapest, Hungary. We couldn’t possibly have stayed for more than 3 days, but it was enough time to browse practically every single record store for Hungarian oddities and otherwise fascinating artifacts. One of these stores had up posters, advertising a local show of what I believed to be a German ‘fun punk’ band at the time. In big bold letters it read “Rasende Leichenbeschauer.” Soon enough we learned that Vágtázó Halottkémek was nothing close to a tragic import from Germany but in fact a local outfit of exceptional reputation. Descriptions passed around in the store included: Shamen punk, wild and ritualistic psychedelia, fronted by a renown astrophysicist. Ok, we were sold, leave alone the fact that it was a free open air show anyway, with a ton of other local acts. The show was held at Pálvölgyi Barlang, a beautiful little valley surrounded by woods and mountains just outside of the city. It was a much bigger affair than we had thought it would be. By the time we made it out there, the place was already packed with thousands of people and millions of mosquitoes. Oh my god, the mosquitoes. I didn’t notice it so much during VHK’s set but for the next two weeks I looked like I had leprosy. So yeah, here we were, in the middle of nowhere, getting our minds blown by bands we had never heard of, and having our blood sucked by thousands of vicious little fuckers. It was almost bizarre to see how many people came out to something that I considered to be way off the beaten path. Honestly, these Hungarian wild men were crazier than anything I had ever seen on stage. Two drummers competing for the upper hand, dreadlocks swirling in the air, behind them a backdrop of cavernous mountains and illuminated trees. Guitars cutting through the air, both wildly possessed and psychedelically dreamy. Spearheaded by conductor Grandpierre Atilla’s yelps and screams, it felt like the twelve horsemen of the Apocalypse were out to get us. Simply put, it was a night to remember, fueled by all the ingredients that make certain things more special than others.
Until they broke up in 2000 I have seen Vágtázó Halottkémek over and over again, every single time being almost as exciting as the first night out there in the woods of Budapest. Below is a recollection of most of these shows. As always, all of it is original- and previously unreleased (((unartig))) material, with the exception of the Hannover 1988 video, which was filmed by my very good friend Oliver Mueller.
An extraordinary essay, triggered by VHK’s 2009 reunion show in Budapest, was furthermore contributed by Alexander Pehlemann, publisher of Zonic magazine. The original German Version can be found in “Grimm” magazine issue #01 Feb/2010 and was translated by the NY Language Institute.
VHK in Hannover Jul7 8, 1988
VHK in Budapest June 24, 1992
VHK in Celle November 3, 1998
VHK in Bielefeld October 31, 1998
VHK in Hannover November 2, 1998
VHK in Hannover October 29, 1998