Norwegian progressive black metal titans Enslaved have been wowing extreme metal audiences for 20 years now, but in recent years the band has been adding new elements to their furious attack, namely a strong progressive rock influence, heard front and center on their latest release Riitiir for Nuclear Blast Records. As they criss-crossed North America in support of this new album with Ancient Wisdom, Royal Thunder, and Pallbearer, Sea of Tranquility Publisher Pete Pardo made his way into New York City's Bowery Ballroom for a night of doom, hard rock, and black metal with all the bands in what turned out to be a highly enjoyable concert.
I have to admit, I wasn't overly enamored with Ancient Wisdom's latest CD Deathlike. Though many folks seem to love their brand of acoustic tinged & atmospheric doom, I found the Texas act, at least in their studio recordings, to be somewhat tame and bland. Well, live on stage they are somewhat of a different beast, as the band turn up the crunch a bit and use the acoustic guitar for coloring. As on their latest album, the vocals are what really drive this band, giving a '60s psychedelic flavor to their brand of 'occult rock', and the band really started to get the crowd at The Bowery Ballroom into their whole vibe (the smell of insense was everywhere, and all they needed was some pot smoke and lava lamps to make the whole setting complete) by the time they were a few songs in. I'm still not sure I'm sold on this band, but their live set certainly was entertaining.
Royal Thunder's debut for Relapse Records, CVI is an honest and enjoyable slab of retro hard rock & metal that shows the bands love for Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Heart, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Led by the powerful vocals of bassist Miny Parsonz (she's got a great voice and stage presence), the band ripped into a selection of songs from CVI that featured some powerful riffs and plenty of heavy grooves. This is a band that shows a ton of promise and has a great look with music to back it up, so I think we can expect some big things from them in the not too distant future.
Knowing next to nothing about Arkansas doom act Pallbearer going in, other than well, that they were a doom act, I got exactly what they promised with their set. Slow, crushing songs filled with melancholy and plenty of slude, the bearded four-piece act probably brought the crowd down a little after the upbeat Royal Thunder set, but with some earth shattering riffs they no doubt won over a good amount of the doom fans in the audience who might not have heard their material previously. Playing a set that was full of tunes from their Sorrow and Extinction, the band piled up the riffs, courtesy of Brett Campbell & Devin Holt, and set the stage for the return of the mighty Norwegians.
Enslaved are a band that I've seen numerous times, but always as openers, so thas was the first headlining gig I've caught by them. In all honesty, they need not be openers any longer. Each time I've seen them live, they just have gotten better and better, with their confidence growing and the audiences more rabid, and this evening was no exception. In fact, this was easily the best performace I'd ever seen from them, as they ran through a selection of songs from Riitiir as well as bits from the previous few releases and a few old classics. "Riitiir", "Ethica Odini", "Ruun", "Thoughts Like Hammers" and "Roots of the Mountain" were all epic, filled with raging black metal and adventurous symphonic prog-rock. Bassist Grutle Kjellson was front and center delivering his trademark growls, complemented by the clean vocals of keyboard player Herbrand Larsen and the furious guitar attack of Ice Dale and Ivar Bjųrnson. Drummer Cato Bekkevold played like a man possessed, and even gave the audience a killer little drum solo late in the set after a wild band interpretation of Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" done black metal style. The band unleashed a fiery version of their classic tune 'Isa' to send the crowd home happy, ending a varied and enjoyable night of metal in a very intimate and classy venue that I hope to visit again someday soon.
Thoughts Like Hammers
Roots of the Mountain
Convoys to Nothingness
(Led Zeppelin cover)