» Enslaved 2009 05 23  
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Reviewed by Nate
Special guest: Opeth
City: Columbus, Ohio
Venue: Newport Music Hall
Date: 23 May 2009
Set length: 60 minutes


It can be a strange task to review a band in a live setting when one is not familiar with said band's material. Enslaved is just such a band: I have heard little of their material, and have given the new album, Vertebrae the most cursory of listens, and I like what I've heard. When the opportunity came to review them in concert, I thought: why not review them without the crutch of the expectations that come with the aforementioned familiarity?

Needless to say, my eyes are open. Yes, my eyes have been opened wide to one of the most competent live bands I have seen in quite some time. On this tour, the Norwegians would be eschewing the black metal of their past-so a friend of mine told me before the show started-and sticking to their newer, more progressively-oriented material. I was disappointed about this, because the only other songs of theirs I had heard were from the albums Eld and Vikingligr Veldi, very much products of their black metal roots. On a tour with Opeth, however, this seemed like a wise move, and it paid off, as we will see. Indeed, the only song that I recognized was the title track from 2004's Isa.

A tepid chorus of cheers met drummer Cato Bekkevold, but by the time the atmospheric intro wound to its stirring climax and bassist/vocalist Grutle Kjellson raised his horns and joined the rest of the band, the crowd became a bit more energetic. The band launched into a series of songs that were unfamiliar to me, but whose interesting timbres, clean/rough vocals, and stellar drumming (Cato Bekkevold is a master of the bass drums) had me interested further.

This band was energetic and passionate on stage. There was no running around, and there were no goofy stage antics, save for Kjellson's joke at the expense of the Swedes-Opeth-which didn't go over well with the crowd. They were staid and professional, bearing the emotions which their music conveys with as much conviction as any band running laps around a stage. Despite the fact that the progressive extreme metal style is far from my favourite, Enslaved was enjoyable to listen to, and watch. Given the fact that most of those present were Opeth fans, the focus on the later material kept the attention of the audience right up to the end.

The lights were perfectly done. At one point, guitarist Ivar Bjornson was left alone by his bandmates for a haunting guitar solo, and the blue spotlight which was chosen not only showed up right on the transition, but seemed to lend icy credence to his moment. It resonated with the audience, as well, as the hush which followed gripped the hearts of all present.

Unfortunately for the whole experience, the sound was not very good at all. Music this rich and complex demands more than what a drum-heavy mix, tinny vocals, and muddy guitars can provide, and I felt that the whole experience could have been enriched greatly with better sound. This was not an issue for most people present, or so it seemed, given the sporadic moshpits that broke out at different intervals throughout the set.

I was unable to see Opeth's set, but I was not heartbroken about that, given the experience that I had just had with Enslaved. The aforementioned familiarity exists there, and needless to say I am no Opeth fan. As I left the venue I felt perhaps as Eirik the Red felt after setting foot on the unfamiliar shores of Vinland: That I stood upon the threshold of the unexplored. I feel that a concert is the best situation in which to judge the merits of a band, and these sons of Odin impressed me.

7,5 chalices of 10


(sorry, no setlist)

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