No strangers to bringing some of metal’s finest acts across North America each year, Decibel Magazine brought their 2018 tour through Montreal last night, stopping at the Corona Theatre for a night of extreme metal featuring Khemmis, Myrkur, Wolves In The Throne Room and headliners Enslaved.
The evening began with the screening of a new documentary about the headliners entitled Enslaved 25: The Early Years. Many attempted to pay attention to the screen raised above the stage but the sound wasn’t quite clear enough and a large percentage of the crowd began chatting throughout the film. I think it will be better enjoyed in a different setting.
Within a few minutes of the documentary’s closing credits, the stage lights dim and the first band of the evening are welcomed by an already busy and enthusiastic crowd. Khemmis hail from Denver, Colorado and are touring in support of their brilliant 2016 record, Hunted. Decibel Magazine loved it so much it crowned it Album Of The Year and there are definitely plenty here tonight who have arrived early to check them out live. And they do not disappoint!
Their brand of doom metal is the perfect cocktail to get things off to an impressive start and the inclusion of new song Isolation (coming soon on their new label, Nuclear Blast), proves they are just getting started. Original song structures, huge powerful riffs and intensely dynamic vocals from Phil Pendergast make Khemmis a band you should be paying attention to.
It’s less than two years since Myrkur (aka Amalie Bruun) was stood on the Corona stage, that time opening for Behemoth, but much has changed for the Danish composer, vocalist and classically trained multi-instrumentalist in that time. Her second album, Mareridt, has been heralded as a modern-day classic, brilliantly blending folk, black metal, and ambient music into something completely transfixing. In a live setting, Myrkur is assisted by a band of hooded musicians who help her recreate the album’s varied textures while also giving her the freedom to perform to the crowd and showcase her captivating vocal style.
Ulvinde is a soaring piece that conjures an air of other-worldliness that, although intense, scales back the extremity, revelling in the kind of heaviness that favours sensory impact over the hammering of guitars as Bruun flits between English and her native Danish. At times her vocals are reminiscent of choral music, lulling you into a false sense of security before she suddenly screams in pure black metal agony. The Corona audience is transfixed. Her music may not be for everyone here, especially the black metal purists, but nobody can say her performance was anything less than hypnotic. It’s all over too soon but word has it Myrkur will be back in Montreal later in the year for a headlining show. I for one, can’t wait.
Whereas Enslaved have built a fierce respect from the metal community after a quarter of a decade, black metal’s newer breed is represented tonight by the Pacific North-west’s Wolves in the Throne Room. The band’s sound is more atmospheric than many of black metal’s originators, using ambient passages to add impact to their more violent music. They also choose not to incorporate most of the traditional traits of black metal such as corpse paint, the use of pseudonyms and Satanic imagery. This new take on a revered genre has gained them a legion of dedicated fans and brought new listeners to an extreme form of music.
Tonight they barely communicate with the audience at all, preferring to let the music do the work as they hide beneath their manes of hair and drift between cinematic soundscapes and blistering assaults of intense metal. It’s a brilliant spectacle too, and convincing proof that metal can be extreme, heavy but with subtlety and beauty beneath the chaos.
Enslaved’s lineup may have changed many times over their 27 years together, but founding members Ivar Bjørnson and Grutle Kjellson remain front and centre of the band and are seen as significant players in the legendary Norwegian black metal scene. Although they started out as a traditional black metal band their sound has undergone significant changes over time resulting in a more progressive sound, and 2017’s E album was recognised as one of their finest releases yet.
Appearing on stage to a huge roar of respect Enslaved perform almost entirely silhouetted against a stage of green light. Although they play for an hour, their songs are so long the set only consists of seven tracks, beginning with Storm Son from their most recent release. Indeed, the new material is even more impressive live than on record but it’s the classics that this audience is really waiting for.
The band members seem in good spirits, smiling and joking with the crowd, and making use of the full stage. Musically they’re in fine form too and, although their music is the most traditional of the bands on this bill, they hold their own following some of metal’s finest new talent.
Sacred Horse is drawn out into a duel of guitars before Kjellson introduces the song that “needs no introduction” and a formidable Isa ends a fantastic evening of immense music.
Roots of the Mountain
The River’s Mouth
One Thousand Years of Rain
Review and photos – Steve GerrardShare this :