“Caught in a spiral of need
Act without the choice
Choose not to act
Caught in a spiral of need
Desperate and alone in a whole
Striving for higher ground
Carrying someone else’s fears for tomorrow
Stay behind the line
Or eat from the bowels of reality
Grind the thorns to stardust
Gliding slowly across the abyss
Inside the inside the inside
There is a sound made by boiling blood
Above and below lay the levels
Above and below the ground”
This very show was a factor in my extending my time in LA. However, while I have grown to love Enslaved over the last couple years, it was the fact that metal blog “darlings” Ghost were an opener that had me really excited. Opus Eponymous has been my go-to album for the year, and I love everything about the band for reasons very eloquently laid out in this Invisible Oranges post. So I was gutted when, days before the tour was to commence, Ghost had to drop off of it due to the V word: “visa issues”.
Regardless, I was still excited for the show, though the absence of Ghost was somewhat present in my mind the whole time. And then, an hour before I was supposed to head out to interview Enslaved, I received a call that my interview was canceled. At this point, I just expect interviews here in LA to be canceled. But between the Ghost issue, the interview issue, and several other issues this week…I lined up to get into the show with a heavy feeling of negativity, which is perhaps how you should enter a progressive black metal show.
I love the Troubadour; it gives metal shows in particular a completely different vibe than any other venue I’ve been to here in LA. We went up to the loft until the first chords of Junius rattled the building. This band is pretty hard to describe- there are some psychedelic elements mixed with a progressive hard rock vibe. The singer wears the hood of his hoody as he plays, the drummer is barefoot. With song titles like “Blood is Bright” and “A Word Could Kill Her”, I decided that this is the perfect band for metalheads who are nuts about The Smiths/Morrissey. I know a lot of them. There are heavy, meandering instrumental sections akin to Pelican paired with very clean, emotion-filled vocals that skim close to The Decemberists or The Shins territory. It was interesting; definitely a space-out set on first consumption. The seriousness vibe was only derailed by members of Enslaved walking onstage with some signs that I couldn’t read, and two of them were wearing hot dog costumes…
[insert sound of record skipping]
Yes, members of Enslaved were wearing hot dog costumes. Enslaved is an extreme/black metal band from Norway…but they do not take themselves too seriously. In fact, throughout the night my image of Enslaved would morph considerably, for better or for worse, and these final show of the tour antics and the energy that surrounded that was the crux of it.
As people started to crowd the front of the stage, Alcest began their set. It was the perfect continuation of the Junius set; at times it was harder, and others it was softer. I think having these two bands as openers for Enslaved were a big statement that the band doesn’t want to be pigeonholed as Black Metal. Alcest were good and they have really nice hair. It was funny to me that you can pick up on the vocalist’s French accent within his occasional black metal screech. And sure enough, towards the end of the set, Enslaved came down again to terrorize the stage as le hot dogs and the keyboardist was dressed as a revolution era Frenchman with le wine and le baguette. How le amusant!!
After this set, I was starting to get very excited for Enslaved. The only other time I’d seen them was over two years ago with Opeth. Back then, I was just delving into the whole Black Metal and Death Metal scenes; and Enslaved was the first Norwegian Black Metal band I saw live. So they were kind of like my gateway drug to what would result in a full on obsession which would ultimately lead to my traveling to Norway earlier this year by myself, just because.
Beginning with the atmospheric “Ethica Odini”, the next 90 minutes would become one of the stranger metal shows I’ve ever been to. That beginning rush where you know you are in the hands of a master, with Grutle at the helm and Ice Dale laying chords a mere few feet from my face…there’s not much like it. It even made the fact that my curse had struck again slightly more tolerable: the make out couple who were also couple’s moshing were standing behind us directly behind us. Grrrr…
The setlist was slowly revealing that we would be hearing mostly newer Enslaved material, the more experimental stuff that have kept the fans guessing, and thusly driven some away. I think it’s fascinating. If Enslaved had never veered from their black metal roots, things would have gotten boring, both for us and them. But to hear the elasticity of their sound, the way that they have created these Pink Floyd-esque tracks that are sprouted from black metal soil….that is why I have grown to love Enslaved.
Standing below Ice Dale proved to be an enlightening experience; I shall now picture him as the Dave Navarro of the Scandi metal world. He is a huge flirt with all of the ladies…when he walked up in front of us at one point and stuck his tongue out I could not stop laughing…for years I had carried this stoic image of Ice Dale and I just couldn’t take it when that all shattered in one sleight of the tongue.
Grutle dedicated the next song to the ladies, and I’m not going to lie when we squealed a little that “Ground” was next. The only track from Vertebrae to make it in the set, the chorus is so beautiful that it can’t help but transport you someplace fantastical. If there were an Enslaved make out track, this would be it…and yes, that couple near us took advantage.
Later in the set, they played “Jotunblod” and “Allfáðr Oðinn”, the two songs they pulled from their mid-nineties catalog. The songs sounded so intense in comparison to everything else that night. It was as if they had been building a house of cards and this was the wind that came and destroyed it. But it was so good to feel that chaotic intensity…I’m long overdue for an entire set of that.
When the band came back for the encore, they did something that pleased me very much. I’d read that they occasionally cover Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”, and as Grutle started setting up the song and having the crowd chant ‘Led Zeppelin’, I was overjoyed. It was a really great rendition, there in the historical Troubadour, with a band from a faraway land…
I love it when my music worlds collide…and this is much better than Behemoth’s cover of NIN’s “Wish”.
The members of the opening bands started invading the set with shots, more hot dog costumes, and a lot of camaraderie. They closed with “Isa”, which, while being a great song, made me crave to hear “Ascension”…which is probably my favorite Enslaved song, and follows “Isa” on the record. In the band’s most transitional album, they sum up their past and reveal their future within those 10 tracks. Despite the pranks and the out of place gestures and the cancelations, as the final notes of Enslaved entered my ears, I savored the moment of hearing the band that lead me to a genre that plays a big part in who I am today.
Then the night only got weirder.
As we stepped out of The Troubadour, Shameless star Emmy Rossum was getting into her car out front and was being attacked by papparazzi. I had never witnessed them swarm a car like that so close up; it’s scarier than any dude in corpse paint and gauntlets.
The rest of the evening was a comically bad night at the ‘bow, which was pretty much like an unofficial afterparty for the tour. I’d try to explain it…but you just had to be there.