Words and pictures by Kyle Moore, the Metal Magnus
Summit Music Hall – Denver, CO
December 2nd, 2016
After a nearly four-year hiatus, I am very pleased to return to Metal-Rules.com as a concert reviewer! Having relocated to Denver, I am also pleased to see how many metal shows are coming to the Rockies. I was very excited about this lineup, as CHILDREN OF BODOM and ABBATH (or IMMORTAL?) have created some of my absolute favorite metal CD’s of all time.
I caught the last couple songs of this American metal oddity, but wasn’t able to get photos. Their sound could best be described as prog-death, with some metalcore tinges. Their standout feature is xylo-syth player Johnny D (yes, a XYLO-synth), which added a lot of flavor to their music.
An unknown quantity to me, California’s EXMORTUS quickly won me over with their twin-guitar driven mix of neoclassical, NWOBHM, and progressive death metal. Guitarists Jadran “Conan” Gonzalez and David Rivera made for a fantastically entertaining duo to watch as they shredded up the stage with tales of bloody battles and warriors. A personal highlight was witnessing the visual spectacle Mr Gonzalez and Mr Rivera play each others’ guitars, while said guitars were still attached to the other! The next time they head out on the road, I would gladly catch their show again.
Having seen Immortal on two previous occasions, I was very curious as to how frontman (and band namesake) Abbath would differentiate his new band from his old. Very quickly, Norway’s blackest soul reminded Denver that he has more than enough star power to fill a stage. With a berserk fury and a dazzling light display, ABBATH slammed on the accelerator and never once let up. Reveling in his markedly manic stage presence, plenty of scowling grimaces, crab walks, tongue extensions, and crotch grabs were on display: clearly, Abbath has never once been to a KISS concert. Not one. Ever. Seriously.
Gene Simmons apery aside, ABBATH put on a monstrously powerful display of black metal power. Sonically, there isn’t substantial distinction between ABBATH and IMMORTAL, but Abbath has his shtick perfected to such a degree that nobody much cares. My only criticism would be the laid-back performance of his backing band, who while superb musicians (particularly touring drummer Gabe Seeber, who made me start saying the phrase “Horgh who?” to myself), were very content to stay quietly in their corners, out of Abbath’s way.
I wasn’t able to find a copy of the setlist, so I can only guess that the eight-or-so songs played were a mix of new ABBATH material and “SONS OF NORTHERN DARKNESS”-era IMMORTAL. Tunes I recognized included “One By One” and “Tyrants”, but the new ABBATH material was killer all on it’s own. A frenzied crowd ate up each bleak note with gusto, shrieking Abbath’s name as he exited the stage. Apparently it’s pronounced “Abb-AT!” with a hard “t.” Almost like “abbot.” Perhaps Norwegian doesn’t have the sound “th”?
CHILDREN OF BODOM
CHILDREN OF BODOM (COB) are singlehandedly responsible for leading me to the underground metal world when I was a teenager, when I was utterly obsessed with Metallica (we all were at one point, right?) Their hallmark song “Downfall” from “HATEBREEDER” exploded my undeveloped brain in a way I’ve very rarely experienced. They pushed me down into a musical rabbit-hole that I now happily inhabit and never plan to leave. I still spin their first three records frequently, even if their post-“FOLLOW THE REAPER” output leaves me frigid. Their fourth album “HATE CREW DEATHROLL” marked their transition away from their trademark-neoclassical blackened death shredding into a generic chugga-chugga driven hardcore sound, something I still haven’t forgiven them for. Frontman/composer Alexi Laiho clearly had a profound musical (d)evolution after “FOLLOW THE REAPER,” but the change in style brought him and his band a substantial worldwide following.
There is an alternate possibility for Mr Laiho’s change of tune – he may have trouble keeping up with his younger self’s incredible virtuosity. He appears gaunt and febrile on stage, not an unreasonable thing for a man whose been living the rock-n-roll lifestyle for twenty years. Throughout the evening, he struggled to accurately play the technical, zippy riffs and solos that defined their neoclassical sound. COB’s music demands precision in order to bring out that “wow” factor that made them famous. When that is lacking, one wonders what the point is. One the occasions where second guitarist Daniel Freyberg played the more challenging lead riffs instead of Mr Laiho, the results were notably superior.
COB’s other star is keyboardist Janne Wirman, who thankfully does not disappoint. He tilts his keyboard stand out towards the audience, allowing us to see the incredible speed of his hands as he rakes the keys. When he and Mr Laiho are able to lock in together, the results are spectacular. If only that were the rule and not the exception.
Mr Laiho’s clumsy fingers aside, COB are tight musicians who know how to get a circle pit going. Their set leaned surprisingly heavy on “FOLLOW THE REAPER”, which also did a great job of showcasing the sundering split between their pre-and-post neoclassical era. It’s hard to reconcile the dissonance between the crazy Bach-inspired chord progressions of older tunes like “Silent Night, Bodom Night” compared to the detuned chugging of metalcore moshers like “In Your Face.” Nonetheless, the Finns gave a solid performance that should have satisfied most fans.
Follow The Reaper
Living Dead Beat
Trashed, Lost, & Strungout
In Your Face
My Bodom (I Am The Only One)
Every Time I Die
Bodom After Midnight
Silent Night, Bodom Night
I Worship Chaos
Angels Don’t Kill
Children of Decadence