Last night was a perfect reminder as to why I decided to cut back on shows this year. There I was at the Marquis Theater, spitting distance from Norwegian metal-gods Enslaved, before the clock struck midnight, and I was yawning. “As Fire (and a sparse, violent circle pit) Swept Clean the Earth”, my mind was losing a battle with my body. As much as Grutle Kjellson and crew were singeing the short hairs off my face with their arena ready black metal sounds, I just found myself at odds with the patched denim posse surrounding me. Having a job where I actually have to get up every morning is killing my ability to partake in these weeknight showcases, no matter how stacked with talent they may be — as last night’s Winter Rite Tour surely was.
Occultist rock from the Lone Star State in the form of Ancient VVisdom, bluesy slabs of stoner doom by the female-fronted Royal Thunder, Profound Lore’s latest gift to the world, Pallbearer, and of course the progressive-black-metal-done-right masters, Enslaved. The lineup was just too good to miss anything. So it was that by the time we were witnessing the destruction of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”, we were over four hours in, and about an hour past my beer buzz.
New job, having to drive home, getting older…these all played a part in my eventual exhaustion, but that does not mean that my first metal show of 2013 wasn’t a great fuckin’ time. Coming in hot from Star Bar, where we enjoyed a hefty sampling of some great local brews (I think my tab read something like Deviant Dale’s, Double Dry Hopped New World Porter, Lugene, La Folie…), we were able to catch the last few songs from Ancient VVisdom, including the excellent ode to Lucifer, “The Opposition”. They reminded my buddy of a (left-hand) Alice in Chains. I really enjoyed their set.
After another Dale’s (my last drink of the night), Royal Thunder provided the perfect soundtrack to our Amendment 64. This band reminded me of Witch Mountain quite a bit, but they lacked the charisma found in Uta Plotkin’s stage presence. I was definitely feeling the more blues oriented stuff from last year’s CVI, but the slower stuff was a bit of a downer.
Pallbearer are a doom metal band from Little Rock, Arkansas and I have been witness to their soul crushing live performance no less than five times in the twelve months since their debut album kick started another banner year for Profound Lore. These guys managed to literally move the audience before the set even started. The bass during a quick soundcheck could have measured on the Richter scale. These guys don’t fuck around. Turn it up to 11, rip off the knob, and pour sadness and sorrow over the crowd like molten lava. Pallbearer’s songs move at a snail’s pace, but Brett Campbell’s clean vocals invite you in with the promise of redemption. Expecting something beautiful behind the curtain, somehow you arn’t disappointed when you find out there was nothing but a cliff — falling into the abyss has never been so liberating.
Even though I was losing my buzz by the time “The Sleeping Gods” intro came over the PA, Enslaved took no time at all proving why they are one of the best bands making metal today. They manage to combine that early Norwegian black metal sound with something so modern, so progressive and HUGE in sound, that sometimes it blows me away that they are still playing venues like Marquis Theater. I am glad they are, but one listen through RIITTIIR and you know these guys could play the Pepsi Center and make it sound good.
When it comes to Enslaved (unlike many black metal bands), I do prefer the new material. I feel like they’ve found their sound and really differentiated themselves over the past few years, so some highlights for me were “Thoughts Like Hammers”, “Roots of the Mountain”, “Ethica Odini” and “The Watcher”. But those who were in it for the old school were not to be disappointed — I believe I counted 5 pre-Isa tracks. They even pulled out the 21-year-old “Allfaðr Oðinn”.
Besides a few assholes in the pit who were swinging and throwing smaller dudes to the ground, the crowd was great last night and the band seemed to appreciate the energy coming back at them. They gave it their all for over an hour and a half, and although I assume they came back for more after “Immigrant Song”, I left the night to those who could handle it better than I.
Thoughts Like Hammers
Roots of the Mountain
Convoys to Nothingness
As Fire Swept Clean the Earth
Devoid of Redemption
An Offering of Grief
Given to the Grave