Sunday, November 28, 2010

Dimmu Borgir with Enslaved, Blood Red Throne and Dawn of Ashes, Nov. 21 at the Rickshaw Theatre

Here’s half a concert review, or, to be precise, a review of half a concert. I was most interested in the meat in the Dimmu/Dawn sandwich, so I timed my arrival accordingly. My strategy almost backfired, because there was a long lineup outside the Rickshaw—it was an all-ager, so they were checking IDs, giving out wristbands, etc. While I wait I overheard some amusing banter between some dudes behind me about how they would look back on all these metal shows when they were old men of 40. Hey, guys, the fun doesn't have to stop when you’re 40.

The Rickshaw is seeing a lot of metal action these days. Local promoters The Invisible Orange (not to be confused with Invisible Oranges) favour it for their all-ages gigs, now that the Croatian Cultural Centre isn’t having shows. The Rickshaw is definitely a good space—basically a movie theatre with the seats removed from the front half of the house—although it lacks some character beyond its splendid neon sign outside. The sound system is inconsistent as well. Sometimes bands sound stupendous; other times I may as well be listening to a cassette pumped through a ghetto blaster turned full up. I often walk out the place thinking, “If only that show had been at the Commodore…”

I got in just as Dawn of Ashes were playing their last song. It was difficult to tell what they were going for. Combining masks and costumes with nondescript black-ish metal, what I heard and saw didn’t make me want to investigate them any further.

I’d never seen the venue so packed. While I was pleased for the promoters, I found it hard to find somewhere to watch Blood Red Throne do their thing. I like BRT quite a bit; their blocky, no-nonsense death metal rolls like a tank. When I interviewed mainman Tchort for a Green Carnation article a few years ago, I got the sense that BRT was where his real passion lay. And it’s true, BRT have been a lot more productive than GC lately, and here they were all the way from Norway. They didn’t sound like much at first. I was especially perturbed by the lack of bass in the mix. The busy, trebly bass playing is one of the most defining elements of their sound. After a few songs, it all came clear, popping and tapping in all its 5-string Warwick madness. Every song started with a quick pap-pap-pap-pap on the snare, which is just great style. Although they never sounded terrific overall—I heard one guy afterward pleading with the soundguy to turn it up for the next band—BRT made a strong impression, inspiring some punishing pit action.

Enslaved have long been near the top of my wish list of bands to see live. Getting a 45-minute set after nearly 15 years of fandom was a tad cruel, but I’ll accept such treatment for now. With such a time restriction, they focused on the new album, playing three songs from Axioma Ethica Odini and one each from Vertebrae, Ruun, and Isa. Again, the pit went nuts, proving that people will mosh to anything. Bassist/vocalist Grutle Kjellson was a charismatic master of pagan ceremonies, gesturing to emphasize the lyrics even if it meant playing with one hand occasionally. Lead guitarist Ice Dale was the band's MVP, stepping up for some impressive solos. After a brilliant rendition of "Isa" they were finished, and I was left wondering how big Enslaved could be if they toured as hard as Opeth out here. They were already a big draw on the night. Let's have a headlining show if they ever sail their longship this way again.