notes from the coast: Enslaved/Alcest. 10.14.11

October 23, 2011
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This was supposed to be the show of the year. The brilliant Enslaved supported by the two biggest metal darlings of 2010, Alcest and Ghost. I got my ticket months ago, was looking forward to seeing all three bands and had the night off of work. However, because of some visa problems or some bullshit, Ghost had to bail out on the American leg of the tour. I can’t say that I was disappointed as two thirds of the show was still intact, but sometimes it just leaves a sour taste in the mouth. As I showed up to the Troubadour on Friday night, I was really hoping the show would still live up to all the hype I had built up in my head.

When I got there I was expecting to catch Alcest as they hit the stage, but apparently the show got started really late and I ended up seeing Ghost‘s replacement, a band called Junius. Other than some write up I read about their latest album, I had no idea what this band sounded like and was a little grumpy because, truth be told, I tried to miss them by showing up late. At first I feared I was late for Alcest as I could hear some jangly, Alcest-like guitar strumming, whispered vocals and sugary sweet melodies wafting through the air. But something wasn’t right, it just didn’t sound like them. To my pleasant surprise it was Junius. Sounding much more like a melodic version of The Cure doing Alcest covers with slight gothic overtones and a lot of melody, I found myself intrigued and nodding my head to the songs. Certainly not metal and definitely not Ghost by any stretch, they did a good job putting me back in a good mood, and after all was said and done, were an enjoyable warm up to Alcest.

As the lights came down, Neige and crew emerged from the shadows under a hue of blue that washed over the stage and began strumming the beautiful opening chords of the graceful Le Secret from the ep of the same name that started all the hype over this french crew. This song is the epitome of the Alcest sound and the 13 minute plus song immediately picked up the crowd and wrapped us all up in a cocoon of delicate melody while Neige softly serenaded us with his hushed vocals. Moving on, the next two songs up came from the highly heralded Souvenirs d’un Autre Mond. I can distinctly remember listening to this album for the first time and remember thinking that it was very good, but couldn’t quite understand why people were categorizing it under the metal genre, and still don’t. Not that it matters one lick mind you. I mean, I love metal and all, but more so I love great music. And music this good defies boundaries and classifications and is just great no matter how you slice it.

Anyways, Les Iris and the title track were awesome in their delivery and created a serious enrgetic buzz but it was Ecailles de Lune that sent the hearts a flutter throughout the crowd. Even more powerful to hear in a live setting, this was certainly the highlight of the set and really mesmerized the sold out audience. Solar Song was up next and even though the crowd could get no higher, it’s sweet tones washed over everyone and threatened to burst hearts throughout the venue with its sheer emotion and radiance. As this was the last leg of the American tour, the guys from Enslaved came out after the song was over, dressed up in hot dog suits and delivered the band cheese, wine and baguettes. Seems like the guys really enjoyed touring together, something that you don’t really see too often anymore and with all the serious shoe gazing going on, it was a well timed, light hearted break. The final song of the seemingly short set, Percees de Lumiere, was bittersweet but no less enjoyable. It closed the set in fine, fine fashion and ended what was a brilliant performance. I’m really looking forward to seeing Alcest headline next time around, something they will have no problem doing next time around.

Having seen Enslaved open up for Opeth before, I was really looking forward to seeing a full set from these Norwegian masters, especially after their last album, the awe-inspiring Axioma Ethica Odini blew away the competition in 2010. Already a well oiled machine, the band wasted no time getting the excited crowd warmed up with the soft strains of Axioma then diving right into Ethica Odini. Continuing with Raidho, lead singer/bassist Grutle Kjellson who was full of fire and passion, really got the crowd riled up as the band pulled Fusion of Sense and Earth out from the Ruun bag and got the first pit of the night going. The band did a great job pulling from each of their past five releases including Heimvegen from their most recent Sleeping Gods ep. The only slight disappointment was Giants being the only song making the cut from the brilliant Vertebrae album.

As Fire Swept Clean the Earth represented the wonderful Below the Lights but the big surprise of the night came when the band reached ALL the way back through their extensive catalog and pulled out the rarely played Jotunblod from the Frost lp and Allfadr Odinn from their very first ep, Hordanes Land. I have to admit I don’t own many of their early recordings, but this was a great peek into their distant, glorious past going all the way back and proudly showing off their Norwegian Black Metal heritage. It was great to hear, and not only was it an excellent nod to their roots but also showed just how far this band has come along. For the encore we were treated to a drum solo by Cato Bekkevold that was accompanied by the Alcest and Junius guys helping out, then ripping into a blazing rendition of fan favorite Isa which rounded up the powerhouse set. Enslaved‘s performance was nothing short of spectacular, they did a fantastic job hitting all the phases of their wonderful extensive collection of albums and really showed why they are one of the best metal bands around.

As I said before this was the last show of the American leg, so unfortunately if you didn’t catch it you won’t see these bands again until the next time around. One thing is for sure, the next time Alcest come around they will no doubt be huge. Their infectious melodies and beautiful compositions are something that needs to be heard in a live setting, the albums are good and all but the emotion really shines through in a live setting so get out and see them next time around. As for Enslaved, this proggy juggernaut are in their prime and cranking out some of the best music of their storied career so make sure they are a must see next time they come to our shores, they are truly one of the few bands deserving every accolade they get.