Dimmu Borgir

support Enslaved + Sahg
author AP date 11/10/10 venue Store Vega, Copenhagen, DEN

Monday night. Norwegian all-star bill. Venue less than five hundred metres from my place. Need I say more? It turns out that I do, as this mandatory intro blarb needs to exceed some minimum threshold in order that it does not confuse our database. But there is only so much one can write as a prelude to a gig review before it becomes irrelevant and really, who gives a fuck how many people attended (many), what I think about the price of beer at Vega (too expensive), or what difficulties I ran into getting to the venue (none)? So now that I have satsified our database with a fulfilling amount of text, I'm going to stop chewing bullshit and release you, poor reader, so that you may bask in the word art of the reviews below.

Sahg

Sahg are ironically the black sheep of this all-Norwegian tour package. Picture this, if you will: Primal Fear's vocalist infiltrates a drug-fueled jam session between members of Alice In Chains, Grand Magus and Audrey Horne, who have somehow managed to convince their drummer to up the tempo to a heavy metal standard. This is essentially what Sahg sounds like. For added value the band appear in uniform maroon and black clothing wielding cream, maroon and black instruments... in trying to uphold the costume code on a tour like this perhaps? Despite having the interest of only a handful of people, Sahg deliver their stoned hard rock with passion and conviction. The music is ripe with tasty guitar solos and psychedelic riffs, and the generally droning tempo ensures that the metal crowd gets a good first dose of headbangable chug. Vocalist-guitarist Olav Iversen has, as hinted earlier, a powerful and versatile voice that would neither sound out of place on a Dragonforce album nor a Pearl Jam album, and aware of this he sends a number of chills across the hairy backs in the room during Sahg's set, with long, glass-shattering howls. As such all is well on the musical front. But for someone foreign to Sahg's music, the setlist - varied though it may be - does not fully justify or compensate for the band's motionless stage presence.

6

Enslaved

Enslaved are the ones to disobey the costume code, surprisingly. For some reason I had expected the band to appear on stage, if not dressed as Vikings like Turisas, then at least clad in leather gear à la Amon Amarth. But instead, this five-piece takes the stage in various configurations of bare torsos, black tops, tight jeans and cargo pants, leaving their Viking theme to be reflected by a scarcely visible runic banner and, of course, the music. Which is the second thing to baffle me. For some reason I had also expected Enslaved to stick to fairly traditional black metal instrumentation (lots of persistent tremolo, 'evil' chords and blast beats) and tormented shrieking, with a progressive edge in the vein of Wolves in the Throne Room. But instead, most of the songs on the setlist feature not only guitar solos (which are delivered with a rock n' roll attitude that defies the rules of the genre), but also clean vocals. Something leads me to assume that these are primarily new songs, as a number of songs further into the set are far less compromising and much more black, hence sounding older. And while normally I am no foe to introducing catchy pop elements into heavy music, here they sound a little distracting. Consequently the best songs in the set for me, are the ones with the old school black metal vibe (for instance one of the earliest Enslaved songs, "Allfadr Odhinn", and the mid era "Isa"). Overall Enslaved leave me a little cold, as I had also - wrongfully, it seems - expected a stunning visual element in their performance. But Enslaved are of course not headlining tonight, and must make do with performing in the shadow of a massive Dimmu Borgir production. As such it would be idiotic to claim that the performance is disappointing, as there are few bands with the capacity to create an atmosphere as epic as Enslaved from music, not gimmicks. What Enslaved lacks in theatrics tonight, they fully compensate with flawless execution and rock star attitude.
7

Dimmu Borgir

For Dimmu Borgir, theatrics play an integral role in not just their music, but also in their carefully choreocraphed stage production. The band is down to three core members: vocalist Shagrath, and guitarists Silenoz and Galder, with the remainder of instruments handled by session musicians (Susperia's Cyrus on bass, Geir Bratland on keyboards, and Dariusz Brzozowski on drums) - a detail which is reflected by the configuration of positions on stage. Shagrath stands in the centre with one guitarist on each side, while the remaining musicians are positioned on platforms behind them. As on their latest video, each member is clad in a dusty, white color theme that, combined with corpse paint, looks far more ominous than the black leather and shiny metal dresscode of most black metal bands.

But then again, Dimmu Borgir have never been ones to conform to a set of rules dictated by the trve and kvlt. And much less so on their latest album "Abrahadabra". Boasting a full symphonic orchestra and choir, this is Dimmu Borgir at their most grandiose, and while said 100 extra members are not on stage with the band tonight, their contributions, which have been transcribed for Brat or simply sampled, are nothing short of breathtaking. Dimmu Borgir has never sounded as majestic as on the eponymous "Dimmu Borgir", not to mention its compatriates "Gateways" and "Chess with the Abyss". The composition of these songs is unbelievable, and unlike nothing you can experience elsewhere in the genre of black metal, if not under the umbrella of metal altogether. When played in concert, these songs transform into an experience that is nothing short of magnificent.

Of course the demonic behavior of guitarist Galder (who is incidentally wearing two white foxes over his shoulders), or the subjugating dominance of (the shortish) vocalist Shagrath play an equally important role in what makes this show so triumphant as well, as does the excellent choice of setlist, but above all it is the the theatrics within the songs, combined with an extravagant light show and other gimmicks, that makes Dimmu Borgir the cult entity that they are. Other bands thrive on atmospheric composition, but Dimmu Borgir have a profound sense of aesthetics, which makes them capable of transforming a performance into a dark, cinematic masterpiece that looks more like a choreographed musical than a black metal concert. The veritable 'best of' encore sees Shagrath strip to more casual attire, but the effect still remains. Dimmu Borgir are one of the most innovative, fearless bands to ever have emerged from the tight knit black metal community, and their shows are a sight to behold.

Setlist:

01. Xibir

02. Spellbound (by the Devil)

03. The Chosen Legacy

04. Indoctrination

05. Dimmu Borgir

06. Gateways

07. Chess with the Abyss

08. Born Treacherous

09. A Jewel Traced Through Coal

10. The Blazing Monoliths of Defiance

11. Vredesbyrd

--Encore--

12. The Serpentine Offering

13. Puritania

14. Progenies of the Great Apocalypse

15. Mourning Palace

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