It was cold in Denver last night, real cold. The temperature might have read in the 20’s, but it felt much colder than that standing in line in front of the Summit Music Hall, anticipating the mighty Immortal. The icy, frigid air provided the appropriate atmosphere for Norway‘s masters of occult to bring their stories of Blashyrkh and Ravendark.
If you arn’t familiar with Immortal, you probably stopped reading as soon as you saw the promo shot above. Immortal are ridiculous looking. They arn’t scary or evil looking like Watain or Gorgoroth, they don’t espouse Satanic beliefs and there are no animal sacrifices going on here. They stand out in a genre filled with large Norwegian men wearing make-up because they sing about a fictional fantasy world and wear make-up that resembles Kiss more than it does their fellow Scandinavian black metallers. These are grown-ass men…middle-age, overweight men and they do look funny. But I assure you, when it comes to the music, they are no joke. Immortal just might be the best black metal band working today.
A year or so ago when I started getting back into metal, some friends went to see Immortal in L.A. They sent pictures of the show and I couldn’t help but laugh. There was no way I was going to be able to listen to this stuff with a straight face. A year or so later, these masked men who call themselves Abbath, Horgh and Apollyon are back in the U.S. for a five night tour and there I was, anxiously awaiting their arrival. Anxious because over the past year At the Heart of Winter and Sons of Northern Darkness have become two of my favorite metal albums of all time. These albums arn’t only better than almost everything else released post-’89, they stand up against all that amazing metal I grew up with.
From line to line. Once inside, I noticed a huge line for the merch booth. Usually I wait until the end of the show to buy anything, but this line and the sign that said merchandise was extremely limited had me nervous. I am sick of wearing my Baroness shirt to every metal show and figured a long sleeve Immortal shirt would be the perfect uniform for another year of shows. By the time I got to the front of the line, there was nothing left. Seems they just didn’t bring enough on their journey over the sea. Seems like a major financial fail on someones part.
Absu took the stage at 9:00pm. I had read good things about this trio and couldn’t wait to see Proscriptor McGovern. This guy plays drums and is the lead vocalist for this black metal band from Texas. They have been around for over 20 years, but I had never heard of them…seems that I was the only one. The crowd went nuts when they took the stage, but unfortunately I couldn’t share in their enthusiasm. The music was ok, but McGovern creeped me the fuck out. His wide eyes, his awful voice, his in between songs banter (also in that awful voice)…I just couldn’t get into it. The only times this band was bearable was when Ezezu, the bassist, would take over vocal duties, but that just didn’t happen enough. Their set lasted about 45 mins and to their credit, they had the crowd going! Huge pits, headbanging, singing along…
About a half hour after Absu left the stage, the house lights went down and the chanting started…‘Im-mor-tal, Im-mor-tal, Im-mor-tal!’ And at 10:20pm they took the stage. After a short instrumental intro, they went into the title track from their newest album, All Shall Fall, before playing one of my favorites, Sons of Nothern Darkness. The set continued with material from At The Heart of Winter forward. There were no stage theatrics like fire breathing or anything, but with highlights like Solarfall and One By One, who needs theatrics? It wasn’t until the 10th song that they dove into the older stuff with Grim and Frostbitten.
My position through the first half of the show was on the outer edge of the pit. Close enough to get knocked around a little, but far enough back to be able to stand relatively still and enjoy the show. That is until some drunk asshole pushed his way through the crowd, stopped right in front of me, put his beer in the air and started screaming ‘it’s about time motherfuckers!’…over and over and over again. And this wouldn’t have even been that bad if the dude could have stood up. He was practically laying on me. When I would push him from behind, he’d throw elbows back. I figured it wasn’t worth the fight and moved over to the side of the stage for awhile, where I actually had a closer view anyway. Some people just need to learn etiquette. Yes, even black metal shows have an unwritten code of conduct.
One lesson I learned last night, a lesson I will no doubt ignore, is to stop looking at setlists before shows. It will only set you up for disappointment. Beyond The Northern Waves is arguably Immortal‘s best song and they have been playing it on this tour. I knew that and was expecting it. So when they left the stage after a skull crushing One By One and I knew we weren’t going to get it, I was pretty disappointed. Teaches me to have expectations! But why drop that song? Out of all the songs, why that one?
The majority of the show was newer, post-Demonaz material, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s not like this is Metallica and all the new stuff in crap. In fact, the majority of the material I really know is from Heart of Winter on…so besides the unexplainable decision to drop Northern Waves, this was a dream setlist for me. But for those who were disappointed, the encore of Blashyrkh and The Sun No Longer Rises should have sent them home satisfied.
Immoral doesn’t come over from The North very often and when they do, it’s usually a very small amount of shows in select cities. So the fact that I got to see them in Denver on an icy night, in the heart of Winter, made it that much more special. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover or metallers by their make-up, just see this band if you get the chance…you will not be disappointed! They are true metal professionals.
A video of In My Kingdom Cold/Tyrants (partial)…sound kinda sucks and people talking around me…but best I could do.
Much better photos than mine over at Westword.
All Shall Fall
Sons of Northern Darkness
The Rise of Darkness
Damned in Black
Hordes to War
Norden on Fire
In My Kingdom Cold
Grim and Frostbitten Kingdoms
Withstand the Fall of Time
One by One
Blashyrkh (Mighty Ravendark)
The Sun No Longer Rises