It’s not every day one of the “inner circle” bands from the infamous Norwegian black metal scene of the early 90s comes through the area, the last time was almost two years ago when Mayhem played Maryland Deathfest in 2009. So when Immortal came to Sonar on Sunday the 20th of February 2011 you just knew going in that it would be epic. To the best of my knowledge this was their first appearance in the area since I saw them play the now defunct Phantasmagoria record store in Wheaton, Maryland with Satyricon in March of 2000. They were only playing six concerts on this mini tour, and Baltimore was lucky enough to get one of them. They brought along Texas based black metal band Absu for the tour but there was no local support for this show.
Immortal has a certain duality in the metal scene, on one hand they’ve got a lot of credibility in the metal underground being that they’re one of the main second wave black metal bands, and through their band’s evolution they basically invented the blackened thrash subgenre of metal. That said, they’ve also been known to be one of the most ridiculous bands in black metal in regards to their image, laughable posing in photo shoots, things like witch hats and crab walks showing up in music videos, and a general willingness to embrace most of the idiotic image stereotypes of the black metal genre. Immortal has been called the Kiss of black metal but they’ve been able to keep a legion of fans by putting out albums with some damn good songs on them. Their original guitarist, Demonaz, had to leave the band due to severe tendinitis in 1997 and so bass player Abbath took over as guitarist. The band didn’t slow down until 2003 when they broke up for several years. They did get back together but they hadn’t played a concert in the mid-atlantic region since then until this evening.
When I got to the venue, about 10 minutes before the scheduled time for the doors to open, the line was already stretched around the block. All kinds of people from the local scene were there as well as people coming in from out of town and it sort of reminded me of when Carcass came to Sonar on their reunion tour in September 2008. Once inside I quickly staked out a spot as close to the front as I could and awaited Absu to start playing. I’d seen them in June 2009 at Jaxx but now they were a three piece, apparently this was just their second show as such. It didn’t hurt the fullness of the sound at all, but it did make it easier to see the band’s main man and lead vocalist, Proscriptor, play the drums. He’s quite a talented drummer with some unconventional drumming techniques that are pretty fun to watch live. For some unknown reason he had this sort of studded belt thing on as a headband, apparently some of Immortal’s image sense is rubbing off on him. He never dropped his “metal” voice while on stage even between songs and he kept the introductions entertaining too (check out his introduction to Four Crossed Wands in the video posted below to see what I mean). The band was in good form and was as good of a US based warm up act as there was going to be for Immortal though you could tell by the end of their set that the audience was ready for the reason they all came out this night.
Immortal sure took their time getting to the stage, finally arriving a good 45 minutes or so after Absu had finished. They played for at least 90 minutes and didn’t talk a whole lot between songs, but they didn’t really need to as their material stands on its own. Immortal was never one of the more political or religious of the Norwegian black metal bands, their lyrics mostly focusing on the fact that it’s damn cold in the north which isn’t really something to talk about between songs either. Their set list (photo of it here) had 14 songs and consisted mostly of songs from their latest two albums, 2009’s All Shall Fall and 2002’s Sons Of Northern Darkness. Totally awesome for the newer fans, but I was hoping they’d play a bit more off of Damned In Black and Blizzard Beasts. Still, it’s not like some bands where the newer material is just awful or something and considering how young a lot of the people in attendance were (at least up front where I was) it wasn’t surprising they’d play a lot of the newer material. The trio played very tight, the music was pretty energetic and the crowd went crazy from the beginning. When there were lulls in the music Abbath would strike a menacing pose and egg the crowd on by raising his arms and gesturing to keep the energy up. There were several crowd surfers throughout the night and during the song Grim And Frostbitten Kingdoms some dipshit threw a beer bottle on stage which caused the band to suddenly stop playing. Abbath got pissed and dared whoever threw it to come on stage, but they played on (I’ve got video of this below) and in fact seemed to have a renewed vigor through the rest of the song and into the next track, Withstand The Fall Of Time. They didn’t do any fire breathing on stage, which I was hoping for, but they did keep the corpse paint, leather, spikes and boots. There was a lot of fog used too, and Horgh, the drummer, was pushed so far to the back of the stage that you could hardly see him the entire night through all the fake smoke. He did not have his Satan’s Goalie Pads on though, haha. I really could have watched Immortal play another 14 songs but the show did end a bit after midnight after a pre-determined encore performance (hardly an encore when the songs are already on the setlist!).
It was a really fun show, and while Immortal didn’t play a ton of older material, it was still a bad ass concert. Absu was a great opening act too, though I wish they’d allowed a couple of the local black metal acts to open. I managed to work my way to the front row by the end of the show and got some photos that I’m really pleased with from there, and Abbath even posed a bit for me during their final song. You can see all my photos from this show on my Flickr page here. I also got 2 videos of Absu and 3 of Immortal that are all embedded below. The last video is the one with the beer bottle throwing incident, which happened about 1:20 in. Check them out and get ready for the next sure to be epic black metal show to come to the area, Rotting Christ, Melechesh and Hate playing Jaxx on March 9th. Oh yeah, and I’ve started a Facebook page for DCHeavyMetal so help me out and “like” the page (here) if you’re a fan of this site. Now, check out these cool videos.
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