Monday, November 8, 2010

11.08.10 - Dimmu Borgir, Enslaved, Blood Red Throne

What cokehead decided a cavernous concrete and steel warehouse would make a great place for rock bands to perform? There's so much to hate about the Terminal 5 experience: The 20 minute walk to the nearest subway, the terrible sound and layout, the ludicrously early set times. What kind of black metal show gets out before 11 pm? Then again, a good part of the audience probably had to get up early the next morning to make first period, so maybe that's just as well.

Blood Red Throne and their "everything new is old again" approach to mixing classic and contemporary death/thrash/black metal won over the audience, despite the muddy sound that neutered their impact. Which is a shame, because in a world without Zyklon and Myrkskog, BRT would be ideal candidates to take their place.

Enslaved may not have been the headliners, but they were the reason anyone with a brain showed up tonight. Luckily for them (and us), the sound cleared up, as they unleashed a short setlist that drew heavily from their excellent new album Axioma Ethica Odini. Singer/bassist Grutle Kjellson was born to walk the stage; contrary to their viking metal rep, it's clear that Enslaved live is as much a throwback to 70's prog as they are on record, pulling more classic rock poses than High on Fire. Midway through the set, Kjellson took time to inform the crowd about a bone marrow drive for Behemoth's Nergal; there's no way around it, these guys are the classiest black metal band around. A headlining tour is in order; 7 songs were not enough.

The last time I saw Dimmu Borgir, drummer Nick Barker and bassist/back-up vocalist Simen Hestnaes stole the show; both have since moved on, and Dimmu themselves haven't been the most inspiring of bands. Never the most proficient songwriters or musicians, they seem unable to write albums of sustained impact. This becomes most apparent when the likes of Keep of Kalessin pull the rug from under them with an album such as Reptilian that shames Dimmu in ability for what it lacks in budget.

But whatever their studio albums may lack, Dimmu Borgir makes up for with the sturm und drang of their live show. They were ever the most audacious of Norwegian black metal bands: the one who envisioned black metal as an all-encompassing spectacle that escaped the basement and reached out to the masses. Unlike, say, Emperor, who would never put their image ahead of their reputations as serious artists, Dimmu are performers above all; Shagrath brings to mind every arena rock frontman from Ozzy to Marilyn Manson who ever commanded the crowd to "SCREAAAAM LOUDER!"

But best of all for me was Galder from Old Man's Child - very comfortable in his position as Dimmu's rhythm guitarist, he gurned shamelessly for the crowd and the cameras. Galder may rival Abbath as black metal's biggest ham, and god bless him for it.

Like Cradle of Filth before them, Dimmu Borgir are a well crafted machine, one that's capable of moving effortlessly even if the individual parts keep changing. Their theatre troupe approach to metal is no less "false" then Gwar's, and should be held to the same standard. Whatever their standing in the world of KVLT, their consummate professionalism as entertainers can't be faulted. Simply put: I paid for a show and I got one.