Another addition of Live Recap. This month I tackled Enslaved at Portland's Hawthorne Theater, featuring Wolves In The Throne Room, Myrkur, and Khemmis as presented by Decibal. Full disclosure, I know that I always malign my photography (lack of) skill, but I was messing with a new camera this time and it did not want to be friends. I also want to once again complain about my favorite bands playing mid-week shows. Wednesday night with Enslaved? I have work in the morning and kids to get to school. Fortunately, each band made the morning headache and braindead workday worth it. Photos are at the bottom this time.
First up was Denver doom band Khemmis currently signed to Nuclear Blast. Khemmis were somewhat the odd man out of the show being the only non-black metal band in the lineup. But thanks to a really solid performance, this didn't seem to make a difference. The fans were into it, and they sounded every bit as good as they do on their records. Ben and Phil's vocals soared, and the bass guitar threatened to rattle my eardrums out onto the floor. The band also announced more material coming out in the not-too-distant future, which is certainly exciting given that they are one of the few doom bands out there that I actually make a point to check in on. Read more about their last album, Hunted, HERE.
Despite the hate and black metal elitism that gets thrown around, Myrkur from Relapse Records drew quite a crowd. I wasn't picking up any negative vibes from the Enslaved fans. The front row was filled with people sporting shirts repping everyone from Inquisition to Oranssi Pazuzu. This was the most upsetting time for my camera woes, as it was a highly photogenic set. The stage was set with candles, the band awash in dim, blue light. Myrkur stepped onto the stage in a lovely white gown, much like the ones she has worn in her music videos. Her eyes were masked in a strip of black paint, like Pris in the original Blade Runner.
As she stood before her microphone stand, which was wrapped in a garland of pine branches, she was truly a haunting presence to behold. Between her choice of dress, the lighting, and her saccharine voice, her presence was that of a tragic spectre or insidious siren drifting through the woods. More importantly, her singing was spot on. Say what you will about Myrkur, but she has one of the most lovely voices in the scene right now. The performance of each song was flawless, and of course it was fun to see the crowd react to the occasional blackened howls. The image of her beauty offset by her black B.C. Rich Warlock guitar was one I will never forget. Check out our review of Mareridt HERE.
I'm gonna level with you, I've never been a superfan of these guys. That's particular sacrilige given that they are local to Washington, but this kind of meditative, droning black metal sound isn't generally my thing. Nevertheless, I respect Wolves In The Throne Room greatly for the niche that they have carved out for themselves, and seeing this Southern Lord band take the stage impressed me all the more.
Perhaps even more so than Myrkur, WITTR's set had much to do with aesthetic and atmosphere. The sense anticipation from the audience was palpable, and I swear these guys took their time getting to the stage on purpose. Prior to the set starting, the stage was filled with gorgeous Middle Eastern and Asian-looking artifacts, and a man quietly walked the stage with what appeared to be burning sage. Arguably over the top, but it fit the tone of the music perfectly as I found myself wishing I were in a hookah bar listening to this music. The performance was solid, though again I found myself a little bored after the first 30 minutes or so. They definitely have more of a shoegaze stage presence whereas I prefer a band that likes to move around. That said, the rest of the audience was captivated; swaying back in forth like a sea of black T-shirts and long hair. Read our review of their latest album HERE.
You better believe that I was stoked to see Enslaved (Nuclear Blast) take the stage. I don't have the same lengthy history with this band as with others I've covered like Dark Tranquillity and Meshuggah, but over the past 5 years or so these guys have consistently been among my favorites, and for good reason. You'll be hard pressed to find a band that has evolved so much sonically since their beginnings in the early 90's. While bands like the two listed above have largely stuck to the same style, Enslaved have traversed raw, early black metal, viking metal, progressive metal, folk metal, and numerous other genres.
As such, it was thrilling to see them mix it up with this set. They opened with the atmospheric "Storm Son" from their latest album, E, and also played recent favorite, "Sacred Horse," but otherwise it was quite the journey through their lengthy discography. You could tell the diehards in the audience. We all roared with glee when they followed up the opener with a track from their very first album, Vikingligr Veldi (side note, I finally nabbed the vinyl which completes my discography collection). We sang along with the epic "Roots of The Mountain" (RIITIIR) and became one with nature listening to "One Thousand Years Of Rain" (In Times). I dont recall every song that they played, but they of course wrapped things up with the always classic "Isa."
While the set felt kind of short in comparison to WITTR, and I would have liked to hear more from their early discography (especially my personal favorite, the oft forgotten Mardraum), theirs definitely had the most personal feel. The performances were highly energetic with much fist pumping, chanting, dueling guitars, and soloing from atop the monitors. At one point Grutle even put his foot on the shoulder of a security officer, who simply responded by further banging his head and throwing up the horns. Let me also say that Håkon Vinje did a fine job of filling the large shoes left by Herbrand Larsen when he left as longtime keyboardist in 2017.
Enslaved also drew me in with just how funny they were. Despite how seriously they clearly take their songwriting, they were not above cracking jokes at themselves and at eachother's expense, The drummer even stuck his drumsticks up his nose on at least one occasion. Their banter was very amusing and added that extra touch that makes seeing a band live truly worthwhile. They also made a point at the end to toss gear into the audience and shake hands with as many fans as possible (myself included). There was a sign at the merch table stating that they would be doing signing 15 minutes after the show, but I didnt stick around long enough to see this. Speaking of merch, there were A LOT of options: various CD's and vinyl, at least 5 different shirt designs, hoodies, a flag, patches...you name it they have it.
Thus ends another fantastic concert. As always, if you get the chance I highly recommend checking these guys out in concert. It was a very consistent show; one of the few where every single band was an 8/10 or above. More importanly, Enslaved were just a joy to watch. I don't normally seek to see any band twice with so many options out there, but I would love to catch them again with a longer set to hear them play more tunes and crack wise in between. Find reviews of Enslaved's most recent album, as well as a discography review, HERE.
- Review By FlightOfIcarus
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