Enslaved, The Faceless, Arsis, Landmine Marathon in Tempe, AZ, USA
|Event:||Enslaved: N. American Tour|
With the show starting at 7:30pm some 125 miles (200km) away, I strategically left for Tempe at 6pm, hoping to 'trim the fat' and miss some of the opening acts. I am skeptical of most opening acts - particularly local ones - since the Slayer gig in the Buena Vista Theater in Tucson to kick off their "Divine Intervention" tour. Should anyone who was at that show read this, they will fully understand my reasoning.
I packed up with some Darkthrone, Enslaved, Clutch and Misfits to get me pumped up before the show, and some Negura Bunget, Alcest, Jesu, and the new Ulver to help me calm down and mellow out after the show for the long drive home.
It was my first visit to The Clubhouse in Tempe. It was a dive. A decent sized bar basically split in half for the show... half for the floor, the other half for the merchandise and over 21 crowd. The merch tables were separated from the bar by black and yellow caution tape. Several empty kegs were visible from where I sat at the bar. They had Alaskan Amber on tap. Frankly, I loved it. I really do hope every mid-sized or smaller metal or punk band I like opts to make it their stop on the Phoenix/Tempe leg over their tours.
Landmine Marathon (LandmineMarathon.com):
I was knocking back my third (or fourth?) Alaskan Amber as the band completed it's sound check. I was a bit skeptical for reasons cited above, as well as the band's name, which perhaps sounds more like a Municipal Waste song title than an actual band name...
The band was joined onstage by a woman in normal shirt and jeans on stage. I was thinking she was the venue's emcee off on stage to announce the band and kick-start the evening's festivities.
I was wrong.
The band started playing and she began with some bloodcurdling howls that could peel paint off a wall at 50 feet. I'm not fazed by the "chicks in extreme metal" thing, Jo Bench (Bolt Thrower) kicked that door in about two decades ago. And whereas Angela Gossow looks the metal part and can growl with the best of her male counterparts, Grace from LM looked like she could have just come from teaching a classroom full of seven year olds before she proceeded in unleashing a barrage of shrieks, shouts, growls, barks with an absolutely feral ferocity... her assault caught me completely (and pleasantly) off-guard. Watching her contort and contract on stage while delivering her vocal lashings was transfixing.
Not to be overshadowed, Landmine Marathon delivered a pretty punishing and energetic set of uptempo metal. Their set was about 30 minutes of breakneck speed fun. Frankly, I'm glad traffic was light on the commute and I caught the opening act. They were damned solid and I look forward to catching them again some time in their Phoenix stomping ground.
Second act... They played some well executed thrash/death metal. They were certainly technically proficient, with James Malone even incorporating some two hand tapping into the riffing while singing. Bassist Noah Martin took every opportunity to show off his four string prowess by reversing his grip on the neck of his bass and fretting with his hand over the top of the neck instead of the traditional fingering - all while romping on stage and periodically flipping his neck to cause his long, curly locks (that's hair) to flow free for all to see. It was a spirited performance on his part, but the over the top theatrics got to be a little cheesy as the show wore on, eventually leading to downright hilarity. During one of their numbers, he positioned himself next to Malone, leaning in so that they were nearly ear to ear, banging their heads in synchronization, when he did one of his hair flourishes... resulting in a moment that looked straight out of the Bon Jovi "Livin' on a Prayer" video. It was too much to take... I looked over at the guy next to me at the bar and both burst out laughing.
All in all they were decent. They didn't capture my attention the way that LM did. Kudos to Malone, however, for playing the main riff to Motley Crue's "Looks that Kill" during the sound check.
The Faceless (http://www.myspace.com/thefaceless):
At this point I was ponied up for my last Alaskan and cut myself off to allow ample time to sober up (kids, don't drink and drive!) and nursed a coke while the six members of The Faceless took stage and blasted into a fairly short set of brutal technical death metal that reminded me a lot of Suffocation. The keyboard seemed out of place, either buried under the dense cacophony of the twin guitars and drum attack or with odd interludes during their brutal pieces. I'm not opposed to keyboards in death metal, incorporated well (see: Nocturnus) they can really augment a track... they just seemed out of place given The Faceless' particular delivery. The lead singer was an imposing figure on stage, barking and growling while stalking the front of the stage - he certainly commanded the attention of the audience.
As with Arsis, they put on a decent show. Frankly, at this point in the evening I was just growing antsy for Enslaved.
ENSLAVED (http://www.enslaved.no/, http://www.myspace.com/enslaved):
The crowd was a scant 40-50 people, a bit embarrassing for the state of Arizona - even if it was a Monday night. The small crowd mattered naught to the mighty Enslaved, however, who stormed the stage with the same voracity and zeal with which their ancestors stormed Lindisfarne some 1200 years ago. And like their forefathers, they slayed. The benefit of the smallish crowd was that your humble narrator was able to stand about six feet from bassist Grutle Kjellson as he punished his Gibson bass (the Rickenbass has seemingly been retired) and stared intensely into the crowd... close enough to clearly see the Motorhead ink on the inside of his left forearm. Ivar Bjornson was to the crowd's left, an introverted bear on stage (he is a big guy), primarily focused internally and on the music. To the right, Arve Isdal played the extrovert to Ivar's introvert - holding his guitar out to the crowd while soloing or executing some hammer-on trills. Cato Bekkevold behind the kit and Herbrand Larsen behind the keyboard completed the band.
The set was primarily based off their "ISA" and "Ruun" releases, with the band playing some seven tracks off those albums, including "Isa", "Ruun", "Path to Vanir", and "Return to Yggdrasil" amongst them. They didn't play anything off my two favorite albums, "Monumension" or "Mardraum", but all was forgiven thanks to a rousing version of "Jotunblod" off of 'Frost' (much to the chagrin of the fellow concert goer next to me who screamed "FROSSSSTT!" during each break between songs), and my then favorite Enslaved song, "As Fire Swept Clean the Earth" from "Below the Lights" before they called it, at least temporarily, an evening.
While the songs sounded much as they do on record, they were just better to hear live. The force of the music coming out of the amps, Grutle seeming to make eye contact with each and every person crowding the stage, the way they attacked their instruments... it was awe inspiring.
The crowd, though small, was very receptive and fed off the band's presence and energy, tossing the m/ horns, head banging, and even a small little pit of five or six (including myself, couldn't help myself. Too much pent up energy and simply headbanging in place was not going to adequately release it!) swirling around and crashing good naturedly off one another.
I said 'then favorite' in reference to "As Fire Swept Clean the Earth", as perhaps it was the lingering affects of the aforementioned Alaskan Amber, perhaps it was the joy of an encore, or maybe it was the decision to, after a set filled primarily with mid-paced songs, to open the throttle full bore for the closer, but "Allfather Odin" off the split with Emperor was absolutely astonishing. The loyalists in the crowd were whipped into a frenzy as our heroes concluded the night in style.
Grutle and company put down their instruments and each of them moved, in turn, to the crowd to exchange hand shakes before departing the stage for good.
I left the venue with a smile plastered on my face, popped in "Shadows of the Sun" by Ulver and spent the long, lonely, dark ride home contemplating the show. All in all it cost $100 including ticket, bar tab, shirt, gas and four hours driving to and fro in the dead of night... but should Enslaved decide to grace Arizona with their presence again, you can bet your ass I'll make that trek again!
||Written on 01.12.2007 by BitterCOld has been officially reviewing albums for MetalStorm since 2009.|
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