The Darkness Reborn Tour brought two Norweigen black metal bands to town; two bands I have been listening to a lot recently. Enslaved’s excellent new album, Axioma Ethica Odini, has been on repeat since I downloaded it and Dimmu Borgir‘s Abrahadabra provided me with a gateway to their older material. Out of all the metal bands I have been exposed to since getting back into the genre, Dimmu is the first to cause me to consume everything they have recorded. Enthrone, Puritanical, Stormblast and Spiritual Black Dimensions have become my soundtrack to the early days of winter.
What better way to end a day of cutting down Christmas trees in Fraser then to see some black metal at the Gothic Theatre? I couldn’t think of one, so after a hot shower I drove to the Gothic, drank a Red Bull vodka to wake up, met up with my buddy who made the show despite have a broken collarbone and found a good spot for Enslaved.
The boys from Bergen opened their set with Aximoa from their new album. The first thing I noticed about this band is they didn’t look anything like the other black metal bands I have seen recently. No corpsepaint, no make-up or costumes, no rotting heads or any stage decor what-so-ever. Just 5 long haired guys performing great music with no theatrics. Well, maybe I shouldn’t say ‘no theatrics’…the shirtless Arve Isdal is actually pretty theatrical, but in an Eddie Van Halen sorta way. Dude acts like he’s playing for AC/DC!
Lead singer Grutle Kjellson was very personable as well. Making jokes about the ‘Mile High City’ and the ‘Mile High Club’, introuducing all members of the band and taking requests…‘we don’t have a song called ahhhhrgggg!’
The set was short and included mostly songs from the new album, but they did promise to be back with a full set soon. They did end with Isa though and that got the pit going…something only a few songs did, despite Gruntle‘s effort to get the crowd moving.
It didn’t take long for me to realize how much I liked Dimmu Borgir, so I began to search the Internet for more information on them. This search had some polarizing results that were pretty disappointing. It seems everyone has a strong opinion of Dimmu. Some love the band and others hate them! After digging a little deeper I think I understand what’s happening here. Dimmu are the most popular (by record sales, etc) black metal band ever (as far as I can tell). And with success come backlash. Listening to their music from their beginnings to modern day, I have to say I do understand that it has changed, but not enough for the venom some detractors are spitting. Overall, I think it’s because true black metal fans are upset that their music is now being embraced by people outside their inner circle. I get that, but get over it! What I saw last night was fuckin’ extreme, fuckin’ loud, fuckin’ evil and fuckin’ badass! I grew up on Metallica…you wanna see a metal band sell-out, listen to Kill ‘Em All and then Load! If you write Dimmu off, it’s your loss.
To be honest, I don’t know what to say about Dimmu‘s performance. I was so into their set I didn’t remember to store away interesting facts to relay to you here. This is a show I had been anticipating for quite some time. I was looking forward to this show more than any other metal show this year and it did not disappoint.
The lights went down, smoke filled the room, the instrumental Xibir started playing and the band gradually took the stage. The stage was more sparse than I thought it would be. After all the promotional photos I had seen of this band if their full costume, robes, headdress, etc…I was expecting more. There was a simple inverted cross in the background and the drum set was impressive up on it’s risers…but other than that, they really relied on fog machines and rotating red, blue and green lights.
Shagrath was the last one onstage and although his headdress was just hanging up behind him, he was in full corpsepaint and an outfit I can’t really describe. The first song was Spellbound (by the Devil), one of only two songs performed from Enthroned. The Chosen Legacy was next and led into 6-song Abrahadabra run. Out of all the Abrahadabra material, Born Treacherous was the highlight.
Getting all of the new material out at once left room for some classics for the ‘old-school Dimmu fans!‘ The Blazing Monoliths of Defiance and some ‘untraditional Norwegian black metal’ Vredesbyrd closed out the main set. If the show would have ended here, I’m sure some would have been disappointed, but luckily we were in for a pretty massive encore.
The encore was no less than 5 songs and just short of 30 mins. It seemed everyone in the crowd found something to make them smile, headbang or slamdance to in the encore, but my personal favorite was the second Enthroned song, Mourning Palace which I was able to catch on my iPhone.
A great night of black metal with less Hot Topic crowd than you would have expected. Definitely one of the best metal shows to come through Denver this year.