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Tuesday January 23rd 2018



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Live Review: Immortal and Black Anvil @ Brooklyn Masonic Temple, 3/30/10

Immortal: (ctr-clockwise) Horgh, Abbath, Apollyon.

Black Anvil: not bad but not good either.

The “Blashyrkh in North America” tour happened to come around just in time for the Easter holidays, but there were absolutely no warm and pleasant spring breezes to be felt that evening. The sky was steel-gray and shedding a constant drizzle: an appropriate setting for a night of Black Metal. Now, the venue in question here is the ominous-looking Brooklyn Masonic Temple; from the outside it really does seem like the kind of place where the enigmatic Freemasons might hold their congregations, but once you go inside–surprise, surprise!–it’s about as dinky as a high school auditorium, complete with dilapidated wooden seats up on the balcony and cheesy red velvet curtains framing the stage. Nevertheless, the Temple manages to attract some great bands once in a while, and Immortal were definitely amongst its best snags.

After a prolonged set-up period, native New Yorkers Black Anvil proceeded to the very cramped stage (Immortal’s towering stacks of Marshall cabs stood right behind their rig!) and played their set to a crowd that was, for the most part, really just anxious to see Immortal already. The fact that their reception was tepid is wholly understandable, though: structurally, this band is hardly Black Metal. Outside of the raspy shrieks and spidery Mayhem melodies, they are in essence some kind of post-hardcore outfit that actually bears much in common with the “sludge” genre– a movement that was unofficially birthed with the release of Black Flag’s My War, no less! Justification for this act of pigeon-holing? Well, Black Anvil songs frequently fall back on Heavy Metal riffing that even features some bluesy embellishments, and are constructed in a way that is rhythmically dynamic (as in hardcore) yet devoid of substance. Sounds like the exact same paradigm for all those generic sludge bands walking around nowadays!

Abbath Doom Occulta delights fans.

By the time Immortal were about ready to make their appearance, the concert hall was filled well past the fire hazard capacity with a motley assortment of hessians, normals, smugly ironic hipsters, and, hilariously, corpse-painted wannabes. Finally, a barrage of dry ice obscured the stage– as the mist cleared, the Norwegian winterdemons themselves strode forth and began with “All Shall Fall”, the opening track for the new album of the same name: a rather Heavy Metal-sounding release that borrows liberally from ’90s era Bathory. After finishing up the overture, frontman Abbath broke out into a devilish, black-lipped grin and facetiously introduced his band, “If you just got here and you’re standing there thinking, ‘who the f*** are these guys!?’…we’re IMMORTAL!” As if this band weren’t iconic enough already, not merely for their widely lampooned rituals of conduct and appearance, but for being a major innovative force behind Black Metal as we know it.

The setlist continued with more material from All Shall Fall, interspersed with selections chiefly from the post-Blizzard Beasts albums; this follows as only logical since Abbath took up all guitar duties back in the late ’90s, after primary guitarist Demonaz contracted tendonitis and could no longer play. Anyhow, some classic material made the list: “Battles in the North”, “A Sign for the Norse Hordes to Ride”, “Grim and Frostbitten Kingdoms”, and the triumphant closer “Blashyrkh (Mighty Ravendark)”. The songs from Battles in the North were played competently enough, but “A Sign…” came out almost unrecognizably muddy and buried underneath Horgh’s percussive onslaught. They followed it up with a short Pure Holocaust medley that was also severely lacking in clarity– Abbath just can’t seem to reproduce the entrancing galestorm riffage that Demonaz perfected on the early albums.

Fans hoist the Norwegian flag.

Performance gripes aside, Immortal displayed great stage presence and kept the adrenaline high for the full length of their hour-and-a-half set. Abbath himself has to be one of the finest showmen in the business: though he did exude an appropriately brutal demeanor from underneath his warpaint and leather armor, he was also very jovial and often went to dole out high-fives, dance in his signature crab-walk, mirthfully flip people off, etc. When a drunken crowd-surfer rushed the stage and worked up the gall to walk over to Abbath and hug him, Abbath simply offered an amused half-embrace and went right back to playing (as opposed to Judo-throwing the kid off stage, but admittedly it would be pretty difficult to do that when you have a guitar strapped across your chest).

Granted, this performance may have ended up just a tad too goofy for its own good: over the years, Immortal have indeed wandered far from their original vision of “Holocaust Metal”, and emerged in the new millennium as a blackened, frostbitten (but safe!) retake on NWOBHM and middle-of-the-road Teutonic speed metal. So it goes. But, if the overwhelmingly adoring response from the huge crowd that night can provide any auspices– perhaps it’s possible that Immortal will become as recognizable to this generation as KISS were to the ones prior. And this may actually be a good thing, because KISS were never even substantial to begin with, whereas Immortal were once divine.

For more info: The “Blashyrkh in North America” tour, having made only 4 stops around the continent, is very much over and done with. However, Immortal is working on a new album that will hit shelves soon: hear it from the horse’s mouth through this very recent interview with Demonaz.

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