(Live Review) ENSLAVED + SUPPORT - House of Blues, Chicago (4/11/23)
Reviewed by: The Beard & Little Johnny
Tonight, your host and reviewer, The Beard sits in VIP luxury while Little Johnny hits the main floor, and together we experience stop eight and bands #45-47 of “The Reviews Never Stop Tour 2023”.
On the bill tonight:
While Johnny is in his favorite spot, right in the mix of the main floor, The Beard has ordered some Macallan 12-year-old Scotch and shall review these bands with his pinky curled. Thank you, Rachel, for the VIP set up.
First up tonight, New York’s Black/Thrash attack of:
Black Anvil are black metal with a dose of thrash and a sprinkling of punk elements. Although, for the most part, (as is true for a large portion of black metal bands), I really have little idea what they are singing about, I will say these guys were more discernible lyrically than some. Additional points for the corpse paint commitment.
I have seen, minimally, a dozen black metal bands already this year. Black Anvil is in the middle. They have a look, a sound, and a commitment to cause. I do suspect they are making the kind of music that works for them, but so far as this sub-genre, I felt the guitar was less opulent, certainly slower and less defined than others I’ve heard already this year. The drums are solid, but unspectacular. Vocals are their strong point with vocalist Paul Delaney projecting nicely and powerfully into the crowd. Another unique touch was the punk influences. You could feel that New York style ("#$%@ off buddy") in their music and I could see them drawing influences from bands like Black Flag or Bad Brains, as well as the more traditional Black metal influences of Possessed or Darkthrone.
There was a distinct lack of pits in their half hour set, and Johnny was sort of like a runner waiting for a starting gun that wasn’t going off. Still, I like unique takes on established genres and I felt Black Anvil had that. The Beard picked up a shirt and applauded Black Anvil’s effort with an ...
INSOMNIUM (melodic death metal from Finland)
Right from go, The Beard heard touches of Amorphis on the first song, which is to say melodic death with a bit of prog. Vocals likewise mix the death growl of bassist Niilo Sevanen with the clean vocals of guitarist Ville Friman to great effect. Drumming, by Markus Hirvonen was impressive. Great double bass thunder and a good beat throughout.
This was good atmospheric stuff. Insomnium is touring behind their ninth release Anno 1696 (a concept album) and although I clearly didn’t understand the story, I got the witchcraft-era vibe throughout. Not too many pits for Johnny to play in, but this was a mature band with something to say. Concept albums are pretty tough to bring out into live touring, (unless you’re King Diamond or Geoff Tate), but The Beard really likes Insomnium and their style. This set was solid all the way through and I am awarding ...
Headliners are Norwegian Metal legends:
Enslaved is touring behind their sixteenth album release in their thirty plus year career called Heimdall. While originally a second wave black metal band during the early 1990’s, like several other similar acts of that time, Enslaved has moved to more of a Viking metal sound, embracing more content having to do with Norse mythology. When a band cites as its influences, King Crimson, Genesis, Darkthrone, and Mayhem, you just know that is going to be some unique music.
Line-up changes have been constant throughout the thirty year Enslaved history with only founding members vocalist Grutle Kjellson and rhythm/synth player Ivar Bjornson being consistent throughout. Unfortunately, as of April, it was announced that Bjornson would NOT be touring due to family issues that took immediate precedence. This unfortunately has a distinct impact on the show as Enslaved is rolling forward with the tour as a quartet and it shows itself immediately in a lack of fullness in the sound.
From the odd stage set up, (with the drummer in the stage right corner), to the show itself, I felt it was a step back from how good Insomnium sounded.
Enslaved certainly tried. They pushed, but as a quartet, and especially following the Insomnium set, I just wasn’t impressed with them as a headliner. I am certainly sorry for whatever happened to Bjornson, and that as a direct result, I did not get to see the full Enslaved style show, nor hear them as they were meant to be heard, but I grade the set in front of me and despite a valiant effort, the best I can afford Enslaved on this night is ...