Heart of Steel: Concert Reviews

Dimmu Borgir, Cryptopsy, Krisiun, Diabolic
Review by Michael De Los Muertos
Photos and Commentary by Ice Maiden

I should start out by saying that this review almost didn't happen. This was the first significant metal show in Portland in several months, and yet Ice Maiden and I arrived totally unprepared. We'd had our requisite pre-show drink at the Rose & Raindrop and everything seemed like it was back in the old days (when we actually HAD metal shows in Portland), but we hadn't yet gotten a photo pass or passes to the show…we actually had to (GASP!) buy our own tickets! Fortunately it all fell into place. A quick trip backstage at the Roseland before the show secured Ice Maiden a photo pass straight up, and we were in business. When you haven't been to a metal show in a long time you get out of practice, but it was nice to be back among our people (metalheads) once again.

DIABOLIC opened this show at the Roseland Theater, playing to a fairly sparse audience since not very many people had arrived yet. This was a good solid band and their death metal was fairly technical and well-played. That being said, I can't confess that Diabolic really did that much for me. There was not a tremendous amount of energy coming from the band, and, while fitting the bill nicely for a solid death metal opener, there wasn't anything particularly memorable about their set. Overall I was fairly neutral about them.

(Ice Maiden's Commentary: I actually really liked Diabolic. I don't know if it is because I've reached a state of being overly parched for metal after our recent show-less drought, but I thought these guys were a definite notch above your average death metal band. They started with "Infernalism" off of "Subterraneal Magnitude", then played a set mostly from their most recent album "Vengeance Ascending." They definitely got the heads banging!)

KRISIUN, however, was excellent. Taking the stage as the second opener, these gore-obsessed Brazilians churned out a frothy tide of blistering death metal which worked over the crowd with catchy guitar work and a lot of energy. With many bands, particularly death metal outfits, the energy the band brings to their performance is often more important than the music itself. Krisiun knew how to play this room. In the middle and particularly toward the end of their set it was obvious the crowd had been won over, and so had I. I confess to not owning any Krisiun albums, but seeming as I'm sliding into a more death metal mood these days (GASP!), I may be motivated to check them out.

(Ice Maiden's Commentary: Most of the crowd seemed there to see either Krisiun or Dimmu. It was noteworthy as I met and chatted with various metalheads in the crowd that most liked either one band or the other-usually not both. Although the guys from Krisiun had some of the best hair I've seen in awhile, and were playing with incredible energy, I can't say they did that much for me. Still, I have to admit that their drummer was on FIRE! As he played you could see the incredible exertion in his face. He played at the speed of lighting, and I really thought one of his solos was a show highlight.)

I was quite pumped to see CRYPTOPSY. They were at Wacken 2001, and I've always been a bit curious about them. As the group of us Wacken-ites were on our way somewhere (the Metal Market, possibly) at the time Cryptopsy began their set at Wacken, I didn't have much of a chance to pay close attention to their set but I do remember hearing them in the background and not being terrifically impressed. Thus, I was eager to see them in a club setting and give this well-respected death band the attention they deserve. When I did I found my initial off-the-cuff reaction at Wacken was pretty much the correct one. Their show really wasn't memorable at all. Oh, they had the requisite churning riffs, pretty good vocals and a competent performance, but, like Diabolic earlier, they didn't really grab me. I know there are legions of Cryptopsy fans out there and I'll probably enrage quite a few of them by giving them the brush-off here, but I don't see as Cryptopsy added much of anything to this bill. A disappointment!

(Ice Maiden's Commentary: I WANTED to like these Canucks-the bass player for Cryptopsy is the one who arranged my photo pass on a moment's notice, so I felt really indebted to them for being so cool. Nevertheless, I have to maintain my integrity and confess that their set was a bit of a yawn for me. The crowd seemed generally psyched, however, and the mosh pit was at its climax during Cryptopsy's set. One interesting thing was that they started many songs with a little symphonic sample before laying into more traditional (but dry in my opinion) death metal. The samples were too quick and unexpected for me to place, but one seemed very familiar-the Lord of the Rings or Conan the Barbarian soundtrack??? I'm not sure.)

Since I'm getting old and this was my first metal show in several months -- meaning I'm out of practice -- I was getting a bit drowsy by the time the main attraction finally came on. Nonetheless, DIMMU BORGIR's powerful, theatrical entrance was as exciting a moment as any long-awaited metal headliner coming on stage. I like Dimmu, but this is not traditional, cold-as-ice Norwegian black metal circa 1992. I do not agree that they're trying to be like Cradle of Filth, but you can't deny that when Shagrath is prancing around out there vainly with his leather skirt, he's definitely playing on the image of the band in a way very different than how black metallers generally did it 10 years ago. But, of course, this is Dimmu Borgir, so you expect a good show! The material played was heavily representative of their most recent album, Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia, but a good sprinkling of older stuff studded the set list as well. I think the really old guard fans of Dimmu would probably fault them for playing the old stuff and the new stuff exactly the same way -- which they did. As a result many of the songs sounded quite similar.

(Ice Maiden's Commentary: This was my fourth attempt to catch Dimmu, and I honestly couldn't believe it that I actually made it this time! I'm a huge Dimmu fan-I don't care that they use keyboards and aren't "real" black metal. Enthroned Darkness Triumphant is a friggin' classic, and their latest is not far behind. The set list was a fairly even mix of those two albums, with a few songs off of Spiritual Black Dimensions thrown in. I was interested in how they would play the symphonic intro to "Fear and Wonder." The keyboard player did an incredible job-the intro was virtually identical to the album, only slightly more raw. My only real complaint about their set was the sound quality-the vocals were too low. Still, I was very happy!)

In any event, Dimmu never tried to overwhelm the audience with either "image" or ego, and that's to their credit. Shagrath and the others could very easily slip into kitschy nonsense (as Cradle of Filth have been known to do), but, despite the prancing, posturing and "grand opera" sensibility they brought to the stage, Dimmu didn't overdo it. (Ice Maiden's Commentary: Well, maybe with the possible exception of bald Galder on guitar-he was taking his "scary face" a little too seriously-see picture as proof). It was still about the music here. I never felt bludgeoned over the head by the non-musical parts of the band's presentation, so in a subtle but very important way the music spoke for itself. I was particularly vindicated by the encore, which everyone knew would be "Mourning Palace," and it was. There were flashing lights and heavy keyboards and smoke, of course, but at the root of it was a great black metal song, well played and expertly presented. Thus Dimmu gave the crowd what they wanted, and did it well.

(Ice Maiden's Commentary: One comment on theatrics-they clearly didn't need any props. At one point Silenoz, on lead guitar, spontaneously started spouting blood from his nose. How metal is that??? I thought maybe he had impaled himself on one of the many four-inch spikes on his arm band…)

In general I was impressed by the audience at this show. I expected legions of gothy false metal teenagers in black makeup and TBPPs (Tight Black Plastic Pants, for those of you who haven't been reading our reviews for the past two years). Thankfully there were very few. In addition, I only saw one Slipknot T-shirt. A fair number of old school metalheads turned out, including just about everybody who's anybody in the Portland metal scene. The mosh pit action was surprisingly reasonable, and nobody seemed to get out of hand. A well-behaved crowd who's there for the music is about the best you can ask for at a show like this. Yes, Roseland Theater still has its drawbacks -- four bucks for a Heineken being one of them! -- but it's still a place to see metal, and hopefully will remain so for the future.

A good show, good friends, and a badly-needed fix of live metal -- just what Portland needed.


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