Dimmu Borgir/Nevermore/Children of Bodom/Hypocrisy Dec. 1 at the Commodore Ballroom
Nobody I contacted could be my +1 for the gig, so I felt a bit like Billy No-Mates as I joined a queue that stretched around the block. The size of the lineup made me flash back to the last time I tried to Dimmu Borgir—“tried” being the operative word, because I got stuck in the lineup and never got in, due to sketchiness and incompetence by the promoters on down. This time the line moved steadily, and half an hour later, I was inside.
Hypocrisy came on first in a mass of windmilling hair and scurrying bodies. I always thought Hypocrisy was a trio, but there were four of them tonight. The lineup gave them twin lead-guitar capability, which they showcased throughout their half-hour set, notably on a great new song, “Eraser.” The Swedes have always been a workmanlike entity, with mainman Peter Tagtgren most noted for his production work at Abyss Studios. I’ll praise their material for its diversity more than anything else, with songs that either chug mercilessly or speed along at an unreasonable clip. I was disappointed they didn’t tip their hat to Canada by doing their awesome cover of Razor’s “Evil Invaders”, but they did end their set with “Roswell 47,” which aroused fists-in-the-air jubilance from the crowd. To borrow a line from Jeff Wagner, “Roswell 47” is Hypocrisy’s “Rock ’n’ Roll All Nite.”
After a quick 15-minute changeover, Finland’s Children of Bodom came on. The five-piece seem to be a love-’em/hate ’em proposition with metal fans. The Quebecker who sat next to me during Hypocrisy was definitely primed to see them, and so were most of the crowd. I think CoB’s style—Yngwie Malmsteen classical virtuoso metal with keyboards fused onto an extreme black/speed metal framework—irks the manly men purists out there, and truthfully it’s not really my cup of tea either…though it’s a blast in small doses. The whole set was just a blur of wheedling keyboards and guitar, trading lines like Mahavishnu or Mastermind. More than half an hour of this may have betrayed the material’s lack of substance, but as it was, CoB were pretty near the best band of the night.
This was a funny gig for me. I wasn’t really there to see any one band over the others. I have albums by all the acts on the bill except Nevermore, who were on next. I was expecting that their more traditional metal style would sound really immense, but Nevermore were a big disappointment. Vocalist Warrell Dane looks like he’s seen better days and the guitars were just a mass of downtuned 7-string sludge, rendering the riffs miserably undetectable. No fun.
Dimmu Borgir set things right again with great sound and staging. Their keyboard-heavy material came across as pretty slick for Norwegian Black Metal. I could understand how it could appeal to the wee Marilyn Manson goth girls in the crowd. I didn’t know that Dimmu are basically an all-star band now, with Uncle Fester from Cradle of Filth on drums and Galder from Old Man’s Child on guitar. I was really impressed by their bassist, the first proper finger-playing bassist on stage that night. And when he stepped up to the mike to perform the clean singing parts—man, what a voice! He was like one of the three tenors. Really, though, he sounded to me like Simen, the old Borknagar singer…and it turns out that’s who he was! What a superstar. I couldn’t see Fester down on the floor, so I went up to the side seating area to for a better view. Fester was still pretty hidden by all the dry ice fog, but from what I could see, he’s not looking that great these days. He looked like one of these guys. The band were wearing the studded shin guards that feature so prominently in their promo photos…very impressive. They look like the ideal accessories for puncturing Christians (you’d have to pick them off like burrs), or for aerating the lawn.
I had to get up early the next morning to travel down the states for work, so I left before the first encore. No more Death Cult Armageddon for me; I needed some shuteye.