Review of Immortal Gig at Sonar

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.

Review of Psycroptic gig at Jaxx

While many people are returning home on the Sunday night following Thanksgiving, I found myself heading down to Jaxx again on the 28th of November 2010. Psycroptic and Keep Of Kalessin, the opening bands on Nile and Ex Deo‘s fall tour were playing a few extra shows without the headliners, and this was the date they came through the area. It wasn’t a long show, only four bands played, and it ended early at around 10pm. Pathology was supposed to be part of the touring line up, but they were involved in a major accident in November (more details here) that ended all touring plans for them. There wasn’t a huge crowd for this show, but that was sort of to be expected. It was still a lot of fun and I finally got to see Psycroptic play live.

The first band to play was local death metal act Orgy Of The Damned. I had seen them play before at the Blood And Fire Festival back in July. They’re still really young, most of the guys had black Xs on their hands. That’s fine though, as again their youthful excitement for the music comes through as a big plus in their set. They played Reanimator which was pretty fun to see live. It’s one of the songs they are giving away for free on my download page if you want to check it out. They also played a cover of the Cannibal Corpse classic Hammer Smashed Face that was pretty cool. In another cue taken from Cannibal Corpse, at the end of their set the vocalist, Jeff Wright, said he “lied” about them not playing Feces Fiend and they closed with that song. The next band up was another local act, Trihexyn. They’re pretty good, just not my kind of metal really. I knew what to expect since I’d seen them before at the State Theatre as part of the second Mandatory Metal night there. They rely heavily on using clean vocals which is something I generally am not a fan of (there are exceptions of course). They are pretty good and have well written songs that they play pretty well so don’t get me wrong here, I’m just not their target audience. They do switch to a more rough vocal style for some parts, and I do find that to be more enjoyable, but I seemed to be in the minority about a few things this evening anyways. Also, the bass player had pink hair, which was a bit weird too but hey metal isn’t supposed to be about fashion anyways (don’t tell that to Cradle Of Filth though!). I’ve got a video of them below so check them out, maybe you’ll like them more than I do.

The next band to play was Norway’s black metal band Keep Of Kalessin. I really didn’t like their newest album, Reptilian, and sadly (for me) their set was mostly made of material from it. It’s all about dragons which wouldn’t be so bad except there’s a lot of that clean vocal singing going on again. So yeah, I’ve become that fan of theirs, the guy who likes only the old stuff. I seemed to be in the minority about that because the audience was reacting well to their performance. And they did play Crown Of The Kings, which is one of their older songs that is totally awesome, but they didn’t play Come Damnation, which is my favorite song of theirs. Their set was only about 40 minutes or so, so I guess they were just doing the same basic set list of songs from their Nile tour, mostly just supporting their new album. I thought they would have played a bit longer, and while I figured they’d play a good amount of their newer material, I also thought they’d play some older stuff since they had the chance to play a longer set. They closed with Kolossus which is a solid song, so overall it wasn’t bad, just not my favorite material for most of the set.

The final band of the night was Psycroptic coming all the way from Tasmania. I’ve wanted to catch them for a long time, as they’re probably my favorite technical death metal band these days (Decrepit Birth is up there too though) and I’ve waited a few years now to catch them live. I didn’t see them earlier this year at Sonar with Nile because I knew this show was coming up and I’d rather go to the closer venue, for less money when they headline. They did play an awesome set, though again it was short. I enjoyed the show a lot and got so caught up with it that when it ended I was kinda mad I’d only shot video of two songs! For me the highlight of the evening was when they played (Ob)Servant, which is just a kick ass metal song. Really, all the songs they played are pretty damn sick. It was like they were putting on a tutorial how you do tech death! I was hoping that since they were headlining they’d play a longer set but they didn’t really. They didn’t play The Colour Of Sleep nor Alpha Breed, two of my favorite songs of theirs. Same as with Keep Of Kalessin, I really wished they’d taken advantage of the headlining slot to play a longer set and included more older material. Their vocalist was a temporary fill in on this tour while their normal singer was staying home to be with his newborn. He did a decent job, his stage presence wasn’t bad and he had a hell of a lot of energy up there, literally jumping around and helping to keep the audience excited. Really though, nobody goes to see Psycroptic because of the vocals, their guitar work is crazy and the drummer is pretty damn tight too. They didn’t have a huge crowd and Keep Of Kalessin seemed to have a larger audience when they played. That didn’t matter to me, I was there to finally see Psycroptic play, and other than the set being so damn short, they didn’t disappoint at all. And I’ve got the videos below to prove it, check em out: