Masonic Temple – Brooklyn, NY
March 30th, 2010
Written by Kyle Moore, the Metal Magnus
I owe Norway’s Immortal for introducing me to black metal. Not just any old Christ-raping, muddily necro black metal, but the kind of black metal that can transcend the inherent limitations of the genre and make itself into something great. AT THE HEART OF WINTER was my first exposure, and I’ve been a devoted fan ever since. When Immortal announced their hiatus in 2002, I lamented that I would never get an opportunity to see them live. Imagine my shock and delight when I learned that they had reunited for not only a new album, but for tours around the USA and Europe. Furthermore, they were appearing right in my backyard, in Brooklyn of all places!
The Manhattan area has numerous excellent concert venues for world-class acts like Immortal, but the Brooklyn area really doesn’t. The promoter, entitled The Blackened Music Series, puts on shows at an old Masonic temple that can barely be called a music venue. It’s more of an event hall, with a large open floor and an encircling balcony, which is filled with ancient wooden seats. There was no barricade, and a rather small speaker array. Without a barricade, I had no place decent to shoot photos besides the center of the balcony, which really limited my photography. Also, I was looking forward to catching some of Abbath’s zany expressions up-close, which was sadly denied.
Half an hour late, a local opening band called Black Anvil took the stage. Their set was mercifully short and not particularly noteworthy; interestingly, they did not wear corpsepaint. Apparently, Immortal stipulated in their performance contract that they’ll be the only ones wearing it! Furthermore, the shoddy sound system showed its limitations, in addition to a static light scheme. If opening up for Immortal wasn’t tough enough, having bad sound and dismal lighting can’t be helping.
After another delay, Norway’s darkest sons finally took the stage. Immediately, the venue’s limitations became problematic – with no barricade to deter crowd surfers, a handful of fans made it on stage as technicians rushed from behind the scenes to throw them off. A few security guards tried to squeeze into the front of the stage, but they never made it close enough to the center. During the finale “Blashyrkh (Mighty Ravendark),” one fan stopped Abbath’s playing at the start of the song to give him a hug! Seemingly good-natured, Abbath returned the hug before security violently removed the fan from the stage. Thankfully, the venue sound improved substantially for Immortal’s lengthy set; though I only caught a brief glimpse, I think Demonaz himself was the one behind the sound desk. My only complaint was the over-use of fog, which made seeing the stage almost impossible half the time, though it lent an appropriate air of frigid mystery to the set.
Security issues aside, Immortal gave a memorably ripping performance covering their newest album ALL SHALL FALL at great length. That didn’t stop them from dipping into two tracks from my all-time favorite album, AT THE HEART OF WINTER. Not to ignore their old stuff, a few tracks from PURE HOLOCAUST and BATTLES IN THE NORTH were also played. Abbath seemed to be in a fine mood, engaging in dutiful crowd banter in-between songs. His unmatched raspy croak is probably the most recognizable vocal in all of black metal. But the night really belonged to the stiffly grim-faced drummer Horgh. This man is truly a drumming titan, effortlessly slamming away at blast beats and double bass with terrifying precision. In contrast, Abbath’s guitar playing seemed a bit sloppy. The heavy layers of chorusing and flanging effects on his guitar didn’t do much to cover up his slips. Bassist Apollyon was nearly inaudible, which isn’t entirely unexpected for a black metal band.
After the 90+ minute set, I left feeling like I’d seen something rare and special in today’s metal world. Immortal has stated that they dislike traditional lengthy bus tours, and that keeping their performances sparse keeps playing live fresh for them. Most fans will only get to see them live at European festivals, given that this tour only had four dates. But being lucky enough to live in New York City where zillions of incredible shows play each year, I’m still grateful I got to experience the fury & majesty of black metal’s grandfathers.
All Shall Fall
Rise of Darkness
Sons of Northern Darkness
Hordes to War
Norden on Fire
Grim and Frostbitten Kingdoms
A Sign for the Norse Hordes to Ride
One by One
Withstand the Fall of Time
Beneath the North Waves
Battles in the North
Blashyrkh (Mighty Ravendark)