The sign of hell tour 2011

On tour with Gorgoroth, Vader & Valkyrja

(by Twilightheart)

I never thought that this tour line up would work. Gorgoroth, being one die-hard Black metal band from Scandinavia (even two of this kind, if you take Valkyrja into account, who supported the tour until Dec. 4) and Vader, the Polish Death metal veterans, by contrast. But hey, you never stop learning… obviously “The sign of hell tour 2011” was a big success, having been one helluva long tour, starting November 1st in Berlin/Germany with some rumpus, leading throughout lots of known and also hidden places in Europe (+ some Swedish dates), ending on December 17 in Spain. 

In order to write a tour story for a foreign print mag, I joined the tour for 3 days and 3 nights. But of course you, being our regular readers, shall get an upfront and slightly intimate insight to what I experienced on tour. 

Lichtenfels, November 26

The journey started at the "Christmas Metal Festival", being held in Lichtenfels/Germany on November 25 + 26 (please read the bands’ gig reviews in the extra festival report). Very to the band’s dissapointment, Valkyrja were set to play their festival gig at 10:40 a.m. But actually that was not a degradation in any way, but it was standard procedure during this festival, even high class bands such as Sólstafir or Lizzy Borden had to play around noon already. So in one way it was luck for the band to be able to play there at all. And it was a benefit for the festival as well, because I remember very well that Valkyrja did a fucking great job, they delivered a jaw-dropping, infernal performance, being outrageous and energetic as hell. So even if they didn’t have the amount of visitors they probably deserved (throughout the whole tour actually), they could convince the present audience of their authenticity. 

Vader played their best gig of this tour at the festival, according to their own statement and to the statement of quite some fans who went totally wild in the audience. These fans' opinions actually mean a lot as Primordial performed right prior to Vader, and you shall doggone believe me when I say that Primordial have delivered the damn best live gig I have ever seen of them since 2004. It must have been a tough job for Vader to keep the flame on fire within the audience after that.

Gorgoroth were set to play right after Vader at 5:40 p.m. which probably isn’t the most desirable time for them to play either. But as Gorgoroth had some extremely wild fans occupying the first rows, supporting the band by screaming and headbanging extensively, the right Black metal atmosphere was created fastly  accompanied by Gorgoroth’s uncompromising infernal ride. With this tour some new part-time live members were introduced to the broad fan mass, such as Fabio (who by the way is a berserker on stage) from Brazil’s band Ophiolatry . From the known live line-up of the recent past only Pest, Infernus (of course…) and Vyl remain. 

I must confess that I believe Pest’s strength lies in gigs in smaller clubs, being right in front of the audience. I don’t know why I perceive it this way, but I think he is less forceful on those huge festival stages like at the Christmas Metal Festival. But maybe this goes for many bands. And it is just my personal opinion. After the gig within the venue I heared some fans saying that this gig blew them away, leaving them completely spellbound. And that is all that matters.

I believe that the whole tour crew was very much enjoying the festival, being able to shower (which seems to be one of the most wanted luxury goods during a tour), eat and drink as much as they wanted and especially: watch all the legends on stage that were supposed to play as headliners (Venom, Immortal, etc.).

The tour bus was supposed to leave at 6:00 a.m. (all band members of Vader, Gorgoroth, Valkyrja + crew and guests had to fit into this one bus). As many (not all) band and crew members were drunk at that time, some more, some less, almost no one noticed that there was an additional person on the bus now. Oh well, fortunately tour manager Darek was still sober, showing me around the bus, giving clear instructions about what’s allowed in the bus and what is not (such as smoking) and showing me the bunk wherein I was supposed to sleep in the upper floor of the high quality tourbus. It was right in the middle of the Valkyrja/Gorgoroth-campside of the bus, as there was a cabin free now. A reporter from Norway (and friend of Gorgoroth) had been sleeping there until the past night, being supposed to leave this or the coming night (later on it was decided that he would leave one day later, but being all gentleman he voluntary let me stay in his cabin while he slept on the bus seats – thanks therefore!). 

According to the chats among the people on the bus that night, the “crabwalk” of Immortal’s Abbath left a big impression even on long-term musicians who have seen much more entertaining things throughout their life. And after a short discussion the guys came to the conclusion that the reason for Immortal not to hire an additional guitarist must be, that then there would not be enough space on stage for Abbath’s crabwalk anymore. ;-)

Sound engineer Oscar:

I had some encounters of the third kind that night, but next morning it turned out that most of the guys can be quite sociably as well. Of course now I had to explain where I “suddenly” came from, but some of them then tried to make things more comfortable for me. I really have to admit that the cirsumstances within the bus are nothing for wimps. The sleeping cabins were not exactly pleasant, the bunk being just as wide as my shoulders, maybe 50 cm high. It could be said that it feels like in a coffin therein. And while not being able to sleep in that casket while the bus was driving pumpily and noisily, I slowly but surely became convinced that the only way to get used to this is to drink some (or optionally a lot of) alcohol before entering the “bed”. Furthermore, there was the imagination that when that bus would crash in an accident and get on fire, it would be impossible to get out in time through that narrow stairway leading down to the ground floor of the bus. But actually there was no reason for thoughts like this, as did not only organize the bus, but with it TWO bus drivers who both seem to be very responsible drivers, being able to switch the jobs and keep each other awake while driving, if necessary. So when comparing to tour stories I heared from other bands/tours, I probably was lucky to end up in THIS bus with THESE drivers. Also some band members later on told me that they felt VERY safe in here. 

Vader's new drummer James:


Prague, November 27

When arriving in Prague the gigantic bus had problems to get through the small streets in the city. Therefore, while searching for a good way to the venue, we had an unplanned sight seeing bus ride across Prague, driving exactly through the center with all its beautiful buildings and bridges. Everyone who was awake had a look out of the bus window, enjoying the nice view. 

Suddenly the bus stopped and one of the crew members very self-confidently claimed that he recognized the concert venue outside (having been there before). So one guy left the bus to have a look. And then the first unsightly, but memorable situation happened: the bus suddenly started driving again (as it was NOT the gig venue outside). The drivers hadn't noticed that someone was missing. “Man over board”!!! It lasted a while until someone had the glory idea to ask “Should we tell the bus driver?”. Hmmmm, yes OBVIOUSLY we should! ;-) The jokes about that guy who left the bus (who was actually very well dressed that day) went from “Maybe some ladies will hook him up, because he is so good looking today. They can show him the way back to the venue” to “Maybe he gets robbed because he wears those fine clothes today”. All meant with good intention of course. ;-) Of course that person was clever enough to just take a taxi to the concert venue. 

The tour bus in Prague at night:

After the bus had stopped in front of the “Rock Café”, I learned that there was another band following this tour at the moment: Eufobia, a Death metal band from Sofia/Bulgaria. (Those additional support acts would change several times throughout this tour.) Their lyrics are (according to some metal archives on the web) about “suffering, pain and struggles”, and honestly … this is also what I supposed they would probably have during this tour, as they had to follow the tour in their own cars or van. Additional to that they had to do all the “slave labour” work every day, together with Valkyrja, such as load-in and load-out before and after the gigs. Gee, I would not want to be in their shoes! Oh well, I guess they knew what to expect and that it might be hard. James, Vader’s new drummer, often voluntary did help as well during the load-in and load-out action, as he likes the “work-out”. :-) 

Eufobia, Valkyrja and the roadies doing the built up job in Prague:

The venue in Prague is situated right in the middle of the city and it has a really generous backstage area and several wonderful, big lounges (and I was finally able to take a shower, somewhere in the upper rooms of the venue, the owner of the venue had unlocked the door to it specially for me, thanks man! Pure luxury!). In the Rock Café lounges the visitors can sit and have a drink, right beside the concert room or somewhere near the entrance. There is even an internet connection. But before using it, I was watching the support bands working hard (it feels strange to call Valkyrja a support band as they are so damn awesome on stage, they will definitely go their way straight up to a headliner position in the future) while doing their jobs to get all the equipement into the venue, preparing everything for the gig, also supported by Kuba (the guitar technician) and Vacek (the drum technician), who were responsible for the instruments of all headliner bands, so they took part in the sound checks and line checks as well and according to their “bosses” they delivered a fantastic job, every f***ing day. 

This is what the most important "daily piece of paper" in the bus looks like:

And of course tour manager Darek was busy as hell, too, as he also did the job of the merchandizer. So he was building up the stand with all the shirts and CDs etc. and spent the rest of the evening behind the counter when not doing business with the local promoters or suchlike. I never saw this man relaxe, he was always busy, I am quite sure there is a good reason that HE got the job and no one else. 

Tour manager Darek selling merch:

For some reason the additional support band that was actually announced, didn’t play in Prague. So at 7:45 p.m. Eufobia entered the stage to play their set from the past two albums from 2010 and 2011 including some extra stuff. So their Death/Thrash metal attack ended up in the following setlist: “Justine”, “Hater”, “Liquid of creation”, “Cruel child”, “Graveyard”, “Frog”, “Cyber pervert”, “Lust” and “Maligna”. The audience within the venue was so keen on seeing live bands, they gave Eufobia a good welcome (lots of people standing right in front of the stage). The band tried to provide full power, obviously enjoying the reactions of the crowd. And even though their music does not meet my personal taste I can tell that they were a pleasurable opening act which earned quite some applaus.

Next to enter the stage were the Swedes of Valkyrja. I don’t know what it is that makes the difference between audiences in Eastern Europe and the rest of Europe, but being in Prague the complete enthusiasm of East-European fans struck it all down during this gig. The attenting visitors went so mad when the band entered the stage during the intro. In Germany or Austria not even Immortal would have wild fans like this. The Prague-audience did worship Valkyrja as if they were the most wanted band you can imagine. I was stunned by so much passion from the fans. When Valkyrja opened their set of Black metal tracks mainly from their albums “The invocation of demise” and “Contamination”, the fan audience (though probably not understanding a single word from the lyrics) just screamed along using words that sound similar to what they heared in the speakers, or they just used noises like “rararaaaaa” in the same beat as the music. The band of course was infected with so much energy and they went wild on stage as well. “Oceans to dust”, “Frostland”, “Catharsis” and “The vigil” were being played. 
The club was packed with hundrets of visitors. As the fans were standing right in front of the stage, being able to touch the artists if they wanted, the mood in the club was even more special and underground-like. I almost couldn’t hear the music throughout the constant screams of the audience, but I believe the following songs were on the setlist as well: “Ambience of the dead”, “Welcoming worms”, “The womb of disease” and (oh yes) “Twilight revelation”.

While Valkyrja still played in uproar, Vader were preparing in their backstage room. Peter, having a background of decades of live experince, didn’t need to practise anymore, he was just sitting and relaxing while drummer James Stewart was “rehearsing” a bit on his chair. Well yeah, you know that Vader have some of the fastest blastbeats, so the drummer better does some warm up before the show! 

Peter relaxing:

James warming up:

But before Vader could enter the stage there was an incident. A boy who obviously was out for a fight jumped on stage, almost having guitar technician Kuba (who was just line-checking) at his throat, screaming at him “Where is my jacket!?” several times in a very furious, aggressive way, trying to be violent. Well… what can I say? Kuba was stronger, and so was the security man who was working for the club, just standing right beside the stage, watching this, leading this boy out of the venue in a not actually friendly way. 

Around 9:30 p.m. it was time for Vader to start their triumphal procession, opening the gig by shouting “Welcome to the Morbid Reich” which is of course the title of their 2011 album. As I mentioned before, I personally don’t know how this line-up of the Sign of hell tour is compatible, but obviously there are fans who know how to apprechiate GOOD music, no matter if it’s Death or Black metal. Just as I thought the crowd was more into Black metal (according to the reactions to Valkyrja’s gig) I was put right by seeing their reaction to Vader. The crowd went insane. Many were pushing towards the stage (althought the first rows were already stuffed) and the fans’ screams would not stop throughout the whole gig. Vader remained totally cool, Peter is probably used to getting this kind of enthusiasm from the audience. 

A fan in Prague:

The Polish started their set with (you might have guessed) “Return to the Morbid Reich”, followed by “Sothis”, “Devilizer”, “Never say my name” and “Come and see my sacrifice”. Tightly and in the most professional way they played their songs, having some real elite musicians in the band, such as Marek from Esqarial (who are very well-known within Poland and among experts of the scene), called “Spider” within Vader. He was the person on stage who did interact with the crowd most intense by his mimic and gestures. Hal and James were doing a brilliant job as well, and Peter was beyond any doubt, naturally, having to growl and to play the guitar perfectly at the same time. 

I don’t remember everything of the setlist, but definitely there were these tracks additional to the above mentioned: “Black velvet and skulls of steel”, “Wings” (being one of the ultimate highlights of the gig), “Carnal”, “I am who feasts upon your soul”, “The wrath”, “Decapitated soints”, “Kingdom”, “Silent empire”, “Cold demons”, “God is dead” and “This is the war” as one of the encores. Although there had been bonus songs already, the fans didn’t stop screaming for encores after the gig. So Vader returned one more time, shaking hands with the fans (just not being able to provide them with the drumsticks which they asked for all the time) and just letting the crowd adore them some more moments. This gig was a full success for the band… nothing left to say.

Obviously the mood among the Metal fans was gorgeous this evening. But you might be able to guess that hell would breake loose during the upcoming gig. 
Gorgoroth entered the small club stage a few minutes after 11 p.m. You couldn’t even see them within the thick artificial fog, but anyway the crowd went mad just by suspecting their presence. Slowly the fog got thinner during the intro and you could see Vyl entering his drum kit, the other band members being ready to hand their instruments. And off they went with “Bergtrollets hevn”, “Aneuthanasia” being announced right after. I didn’t even know where to look to first … to the awesome band or to the awesome crowd. It was a seething vat of pure energy transferred from crowd to band and vice versa. “Prayer” was performed and I noticed that I (or maybe everyone in the first rows) didn’t hear the vocals from the speaker boxes, but directly out of Pest’s mouth, being so close to the stage. This was of course even more intense and exiting. After the gig sound engineer Oscar told me that the sound in the venue was bad, but I guess no one in the front rows noticed; firstly of course because the screaming of the crowd would drown out all possible sound taints and secondly no one even cared for matters of sound quality or such. The crowd just wanted to solemnize the hour given with their favourite band, having a damn great time with some pure, extreme, authoritative, raw Black metal of great draft. 

“Katharinas bortgang”, “Revelation of doom” and “Forces of Satan storms” were up next and some songs would just melt into the other, musical bridges connecting the fiercely tracks to one huge excess of wickedness. “The rite of infernal invocation”, “Ødeleggelse og undergang” and “Satan-Prometheus” were just the warm-up for “Destrøyer” and “Incipit Satan”, the latter always being highlights of the Gorgoroth gigs. Pest was a furious, restless, bloody perpetrator on the vokills, being totally soaked up within his own music. His mimic was grim and repulsive and the fans were under his spell. Time went so quickly. “Krig”, “Profetens åpenbaring“ (with too much acoustic reverbaration actually) and “Unchain my heart” signalled the end of the gig and the band left without looking back (quite usual behaviour for Gorgoroth, which has nothing to do with the intensity of the crowd) although the visitors of course vainly kept on shouting for encores. 

Fabio, one of the guitarists for this tour:

Phew… I needed to take a deep breath after that gig, I don’t know why I felt that gig so vigorously, maybe because at the club gigs you are so much more in the middle of the action. Seeing a band at a huge festival of course has the more profitable effect for the band, being able to reach more people, but when I want to see a band from far away with the “some thousand people between the stage and me”-effect, then I can as well watch a video on YouTube. So, I was glad I was there, that was one hell of a gig which I will remember for a long time.

Back in the bus I noticed that the guys of Vader (and one guy of Valkyrja) were gone. Where have they been? Obviously they had decided to stay in Prague for a privat birthday party or sightseeing the next day (and probably for sleeping in a convenient bed as well), as the next day would be a day off. They were supposed to come to Vienna by train later on the gig day. 

Okay, take a guess: what are Swedish and Norwegian Black metal musicians doing in the tourbus over night when the Polish musicians have left without taking the alcoholic reserves with them? The given answer is correct - they sit and drink it all and have a good time. Oh well, the crew members were “left” in the bus as well, even though they were not Skandinavian they were of course integrated into the merry gathering, trying to keep up with the competition. The night ended after a lot of fun and laughter and the Polish crew members lost the drinking “competition”. ;-)

Oh well, I slept well that night (the self-prescribed “medication” did a good job) and I almost had a feeling of a cozy bed. 

Vienna, November 28 (day off)

I guess I woke up when the bus had already arrived at the venue in Vienna/Austria. The “Szene” club was actually still closed. Therefore, a long shopping tour was what I did (don’t know what the crew and band members did, but I had been in Vienna several times before, so I didn’t feel the need to do sightseeing once again). Some band members obviously just went to do some shopping as well, being back early. When I came back to the bus some of them were playing computer games or doing whatever just came in their mind.

Fabio wasting time in the tourbus:

Around 5 p.m. Vyl took all members of Valkyrja and Gorgoroth and the crew, who were around, out for dinner to a nearby restaurant. He remembered it from a previous tour and stated that they have the best Bratkartoffeln (some kind of fried potatoes, but in the Austrian style) in the world. Probably the waiter remembered as well that he had some kind of invasion of angry looking people dressed in black before, maybe even remembering that they did NOT destroy the restaurant after dinner. So when opening the door he was more looking worried if he would find a table for 10 people instead of being concerned about bad behaviour. So 70 % of us ordered the famous Bratkartoffeln and were happy with it, leaving all the small coins that everyone had in the pockets as tip after dinner. The waiter had to carry away quite a stack of coins then, but he seemed okay with it anyway. 

The evening in the bus was spent with a few liquids for those who wanted, and with some good music (almost everyone, even Infernus, made a proposal of what to play in order to bring some quality music into the convivial gathering), and as soon as the batteries of the available laptops were loaded again, we would watch some funny, gloating videos on YouTube, turning the relaxed atmosphere into one with lots of laughter. 

But some serious issues were discussed as well, such as why do some print mags not respect the wish of deceased artists if they did not want to have their real names published (like "B" of "Lifelover"... some band members of Valkyrja knew him personally as he was a member of their second band "Ondskapt" as well). Or, less important, how to treat fans that climb the stage in order to try stage diving. The conclusion was made they shall be kicked off from stage immediately…

Vienna, November 29

Vader returned from Prague that day, all being totally fresh, bright and in a good mood, immediately being available for all kinds of "business" such as writing autographs for fans, or helping crew members to find the best way for a progress with their computer games. ;-)

Peter gives advice for Vacek's video game:

When I woke up this day (it wasn't morning anymore...) I was in a really grumpy mood. My one and only desire was to take a shower. Luckily just down the street there was a possibility to shower in a tanning salon. I just asked friendly and it was no problem. It saved my day.

It would have been a desaster to shower in the venue. I didn’t see the shower myself, but I was told that there is just one small shower in the dressing room of Gorgoroth (which ALL band members have to use), so you can imagine how stressful this might have been for them, especially in view of the time the bus was supposed to leave Vienna: 1 a.m. This means, Gorgoroth had exactly one hour to remove all corpse paint and blood, and by the time they would leave the stage, all other bands (including Valkyrja) would have to be finished in there. So Valkyrja were pissed off by that already, but even more dully was the fact that Valkyrja had to share the dressing room with the two local support bands. And believe me, that “backstage room” was tiny, it was packed as soon as 5 people were inside. But actually about 10 people or more were inside sometimes. And it smelled so unbelievably terrible in there, you can hardly imagine! Under these circumstances the band prepared for the gig, at least having a mirror in the room to do the corpse paint. 

Valkyrja just finishing the corpse paint:

While the main bands were preparing themselves for the gigs (by the way, when entering the bus to pack my bags, as I would have to leave right after the gig to catch the last train back home, I “caught” Pest reading a good historical book, using the fact that no one else was on the bus that time of day… this probably was the only time I saw someone using his time so valuably during my stay), meanwhile the first local support band was performing. The poor fellows had to play in front of 3 (three!) fans right in front of the stage (some more taking a quick glance from the back or the side doors of the club room). The band was called Deathtale and their name indicated the programme. Probably they cursed the day when they agreed to do a gig here. 

The next band was Exanimalis, a newcomer Death metal band from Austria, just having released their EP “Within the walls” this year. They could attract a few more visitors (althought the mood was still lame) by the performance of their sexy front woman Eva who looks great AND growls deep-pitched and viciously. Unfortunately only the growling caused attention, I believe no one would really buy their music for extraordinary guitar work or such. But hey, it’s their first EP. I believe there is room for improvement.

When Eufobia entered the stage there were at least about 50 visitors in the club, which was at least a small step forward in comparison to the support bands. I believe the guys were trying to hide their dissapointment, as they didn’t earn too much applause and I was panicking that the crowd would remain like this during the gigs of the main acts. When I heared that Opeth are performing in Vienna the same day in a different venue, as well as another Metal event taking place in the city as well, I started fearing that the club might not even be filled to the half later on.

I believe Valkyrja had seen the lame crowd as well. So in combination with the stress caused by the tiny dressing room, I assumed they might be in the perfect mood to enter the stage and perform an utterly grim gig. The tour was slowly coming to its end for them, too, as they would leave the Sign of hell tour after the gig on November 4. 
Oh well, but here in Vienna, when they started their gig, suddenly a few hundret visitors were in the club. I have no idea where they suddenly came from. But obviously the day was saved. It was not the best crowd ever, but enough for Valkyrja to anyway perform as if this was the last opportunity in life for them to perform. With a lot of irate energy they started the gig with “Catharsis”, having changed the setlist for this gig. “Frostland”, “The vigil”, “Oceans to dust” and “A cursed seed in the world” were next and the new song order made the gig more interesting. Too bad they never played the Dissection-cover from their 2005 demo tape, but oh well…
After “The womb of disease” and “Twilight revelations” they left the stage (getting much more applause than I expected from that crowd) as fast as they could. I told you, they had to hurry, the time schedule for the night was extremely tight, no time for extras whatsoever.

Vader used the same setlist as in the gigs before, knowing for sure that they would probably be able to convince even the most ornery crowd. It is amazing how they came, played and conquered at absolutely every gig in every town. I don’t have to mention their accurate, perfect playing and powerful performing, do I?. And the club was meanwhile crowded with an acceptable number of people. So even this gig ended in the habitual success for Vader. 

The final! One last time I could immerse myself into the pure, raw substance of Gorgoroth’s Black metal art. Unfortunately the gig had a blemish. The band was so to speak invisible within the stage fog. I believe they wanted to cause nice light effects like suddenly appearing within a clowd of red light, having a real devilish atmosphere on stage. But that kind of stage effect does only work out with quality fake fog (which is quite free from toxins and has a white colour when being blown in the air). It does not have an effect with low quality, cheap stage fog filled with hazardous pollutants, remaining longer in the air, but having a disgusting dark grey colour. But of course the band can’t know what a chemist could tell. I remember later in the train back home there were some males taking about the gig, having a fun memory on the fact that no drummer was to be seen (except for a moment of additional drum testing before the actual gig) and on the fact that most of the time they only saw the contours of the other band members, but not their faces. Oh well, I was more lucky. In the photopit I sometimes saw more of the band when they occasionally came to the stage front. Doesn’t matter. I tried concentrating on the music (the setlist was the same as at the previous gig) and on the overall atmosphere channelled in the music. It was once again amazing to see how straight and concentrated they rush through their gig, being completely professional. And this damn stage fog could cover the sight, but it couldn’t mask the dark and evil aura coming from this band.

Right after the gig I had to leave immediately, not being able to say goodbye to anyone. Oh well, a few guys on the bus (including the tour manager) knew I would leave right away, so it probably was okay. And to be honest: I was HAPPY to be able to go home now, because the rest of the tour probably was no fun at all. On the time schedule for the upcoming gig in Slovakia was stated “No parking at the venue, the cross load-in and load-out from the bus to the venue will be provided by local van”. Gee! Furthermore, the first snowfall was to be expected soon. And as can be seen in the web, some of the following gigs were cancelled due to total incompetence of some local promoters. Hey, this tour is not for softies and it amazes me how much inconvenience all bands are willing to stand just to please their fan base every evening. To my opinion it’s actually worth it anyway for the band, even if you ignore the financial side… I just need to remember the frenetic crowd in Prague to know that it all makes sense.

Thanks to the ones who shared a drink with me in the bus out of honest intention (you know who you are) and not out of a sense of duty . Thanks to the tour manager for being flexible and tough. Thanks to Infernus for making everything possible. 

Here are some more impressions:

Marek writing autographs for a fan:

The "Szene" club in Vienna has its own dog, Susa:

Susa is the main attraction for the whole local crew and all visitors:

Vienna in the evening:

Kuba checking the mic for Gorgoroth, earning some applaus for his deep-pitched growls:


That's how tiny the venue looks like from the view of the drummer:

Vacek testing the drums for Gorgoroth:






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