Metro - Chicago, Illinois USA
June 5, 2007
The inherent difficulty in reviewing a live show is that so much of the experience is subjective. I've been to concerts where I thought the bands were great, and others thought they were boring, i.e. Opeth. I've been to concerts that I thought were mediocre, that others thought were nothing short of mindblowing, and unfortunately, this one falls in the category of the latter. There was certainly much surrounding the show, with this being Emperor's second farewell tour, bringing along the ever-malevolent Samoth this time, and hitting only the select stops of New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
Accompanied by the 'tide's very own Rahn, who showed me great hospitality out in Chicago, and a few of his friends, the night was one of much anticipation by all parties. After all, it was the almighty Emperor, the Gods of Symphonic Black Metal, on their last tour ever (again), accompanied by all 342 bandmembers of the much-hyped Martriden and some other band from Ala-fucking-bama with a name vaguely reminiscent of Lupus, a lead singer that stole his hairstyle from the early '90's and a sure-to-be-endearing-to-fans-of-black-metal claim to fame of "That guitarist from Slipknot was in our video!"
The night started off well (after having to physically remove a limb to pay for parking), with the members of Martriden cramming themselves onstage and absolutely destroying. Their set throughout was a crisp, clean, display of some damn intelligent genre-bending metal. They deftly incorporate proggy songwriting and melodic touches on a straight death metal base. It wouldn't be a stretch to say that they can now be referred to as both "That metal band from Montana that didn't have room to move onstage at the Emperor gig," and "The best band you probably haven't heard yet." Be sure to check out their myspace after you are done with this review.
Lupara? Eh. Solos weren't bad. Everything else was just a poorly done wall of noise. To their credit, however, the band knew that they were not the audience's cup of tea, and still soldiered on throughout their performance, even thanking the members of the audience that weren't blatantly showing their disgust throughout their performance for "sticking around," as if they really had any other choice.
Then came the much-anticipated Emperor. Well, not exactly then. Lupawful left the stage 10 or 15 minutes early, and there was a big gap in time, along with a few technical difficulties with Emperor's gear, during which the bloodthirsty horde in Chicago lay in anticipation of what was to come, starting many ill-fated chants of "Emperor" whilst waiting for the headliners to arrive. Each chant, however, garnered a stronger following than the last, and before too much time had passed, the Symphonic Black Metal masters were before us.
They led off with "Into the Infinity of Thoughts," and the crowd was insane. Watching from the balcony, the crowd on the lower level was a mass of humanity, colliding and trading sweat as can only be invoked by a metal concert, and the crowd on the balcony was surprisingly energetic, though the concept of moshing was, thankfully, not one to be tried near a railing and a precipitous drop.
However, something was off, to my ears. The keyboards were far too low in the mix for my balcony-perched aural taste, so I decided to roam, to see if the sound was indeed poorly done, or if the venue was just not well-designed. I roamed to the center of the balcony, and there was a slight change, but nothing above barely audible. I ventured downstairs to the pit, moving from the far right, through the center, and to the left of the stage. Nothing. To me, it was all a wall of noise. A travesty of a wall of noise, which must only have been the result of the sound guy thinking that the "symphonic" aspect of Symphonic Black Metal was not that important.
That is not to say that the performance was a complete wash, however. Thought there was a distinct lack of movement onstage (one might say it was Opethian), Emperor played with much dignity, Ihsahn taking center stage and intoning his message to the receptive masses, supported by the amp for the majority of the time. Samoth glared malignantly, as though he were deciding which female from the audience he would dismember later in the night, and intermittently would stop his regimen of shooting imaginary optical death rays at crowdmembers to headbang or entice the crowdmembers to clap. Secthdaemon was the most active of the standing bandmembers, moving around more and interacting with the crowd between bellowing his monstrous growl to accentuate the songs. Trym was a (literally, should one be a believer) Goddamn machine on drums that night, playing every song with precision and blistering speed not seen since I saw Dark Funeral and the recently disgraced Matte Modin a while back.
The setlist that night was interesting, however. Besides playing material from the requisite albums, though regrettably omitting "Ensorcelled by Khaos," my personal favorite song from the proud Norwegians, the band elected to play "In The Wordless Chamber," from "Prometheus..." Whether this was a symbol of something greater I cannot say, but it was an experience to see the master of the death gaze playing a song from an album written by the master of the dangling curl.
The band played their various cuts of material until they hit "Inno A Satana," throughout which the crowd participation was phenomenal, and departed, Ihsahn flinging his pick into the crowd, apparently expecting them to be the sort to fall for the "I got your nose!" -type magic tricks that bands with staged encores perform. Surely enough, after some half-assed beckoning from the crowd, the band took the stage once more, Ihsahn brandishing another pick, and, after confirming the audience's desire for more of their music, began "I am The Black Wizards," finished off with "Ye Entrancempirium," and departed, despite the audience's call for a true encore.
Was it an experience? Surely. Would it have been worth it for me to pay the escalated ticket price? Doubtful. Given the chance to experience their live show again, I'd do it without hesitation, but I'd hope that their sound guy has his shit straight, or that they at least borrow Martriden's.Adam.L