In Flames

support Essence
author AP date 31/05/11 venue VoxHall, Århus, DEN

It is a rare delight to see In Flames in a venue the size of VoxHall, and thus unsurprising that the event sold out within days of its announcement. Just 700 fortunate fans were given the opportunity to watch one of the greatest bands to ever have come from Sweden in an intimate club setting that promised to be as exhilarating as the performance delivered by Machine Head two years ago in this very city for even less people. Before this sure spectacle, however, there was a Danish support band to behold - and not just any generic metal outfit, but IMO the most promising Danish metal band right now: Essence.

Essence

The band is becoming a promising venture case. Not two months ago they announced they'd be touring Europe in support of the mighty Vader this summer, and since then, lucrative offers have been raining in, including a performance at this year's Spot and Roskilde Festivals and, not least, a chance to warm up a sold out VoxHall in support of the legendary In Flames. There are no signs of nervousness as the band effortlessly entertains 700 eager attendees for a good half hour, oozing with confidence; just as there are no signs of disapproval among the audience for the band's old school thrash anthems. Indeed, the band lays down the essentials with "Pestilence", "Blood Culture", "Shades of Black", "Aggressive Attack" and "Lost in Violence" to huge appraisal, including also a taster for what new songs the band has in store for us when it enters the studio early next year to record its second full-length. Fresh session bassist Benjamin Atlas has not yet fallen into harmony with the remnant trio, which results in a number of cosmetic slips in the first half of the set, but as soon as the bewildered reaction sinks in following his masterful rendition of "Blood Culture"'s bass solo, the set proceeds as flawlessly as every other Essence set I've seen. This band is simply a formidable live act, due in equal parts to the youthful exuberance (vis à vis their age) they exhibit, the sincerity and charisma of frontman Lasse Skov, and the strength of their song material. Mark my words, few modern thrash metal bands grind it out with the prodigal ingenuity Essence does, and even fewer perform it with the stereotypical, ridiculous grimace replaced with grateful smiles as Essence also does. There are huge things in store for this band, and they deserve every bit of it.

8

In Flames

But even semi-local superstars in the works cannot match the thunderous applause that meets Gothenburg's finest. Starting things off in usual fashion with "Cloud Connected", the ever-charismatic Anders Fridén proclaims that tonight's performance will be treated as a jam room session with special friends as a prelude to the looming festival season. As such it comes as no surprise that In Flames parade their most revered post-"Colony" singles without ever venturing into the deepest corners of their impressive discography. Most people in the venue seem not to care; they're perfectly satisfied singing along to neo-classics like "Alias", "Delight and Angers", "The Mirror's Truth", "Come Clarity", "The Quiet Place" and "Touch of Red", as well as of course the crowd favorites "Trigger", "Only for the Weak", "Pinball Map" and "Take This Life". I, however, find myself continuously disappointed by the no-show of fantastic, timeless classics like "Colony", "Episode 666", "Food for the Gods" and "Artifacts of the Black Rain". Long standing followers are left a little cold by the mainstream choice of songs - this is the stuff that diverse festival crowds want and expect to hear, so why not warrant this rare and special club show with a true best of offering?

It is nonetheless impossible to criticize In Flames further, for rarely these days does one witness a band of such impeccable prowess fostered by decades of experience. Fridén's vocals are regularly drowned out by the bellowing crowd, and the gratitude of the band is constantly visible. It warms my heart to see that despite their monumental success, In Flames remain as humble and welcoming as ever, each member wearing a smile twice as wide as the other. Niclas Engelin (founder of Swedish metal band Engel), in particular, is ecstatic to be back on stage with his friends (he did a brief stint in the band from 1997 to 1998), and takes no shame in showing it with his Gene Simmons-tongue action, and Björn Gelotte's abundant solo work sounds as soulful as ever. As such, combined with the mental crowd which is clearly loving the shit out of this evening, In Flames once again seamlessly prove their might among the proprietors of the melodic death metal genre, and as one of our generation's greatest live bands. After all, how many bands have the ability to do almost nothing of interest on stage and still come across as nothing short of spectacular? The only feasible way In Flames could have staged a better performance tonight (and I suspect this would have bumped the ensuing grade close to a 10) would have been by extending the set with another half hour of their pre-"Clayman" repertoire.

Setlist:

  • Cloud Connected
  • Trigger
  • Alias
  • Pinball Map
  • Delight and Angers
  • Deliver Us
  • Only for the Weak
  • Disconnected
  • The Mirror's Truth
  • Where the Dead Ships Dwell
  • System
  • Leeches
  • Come Clarity
  • The Quiet Place
  • Touch of Red
  • Take This Life
  • My Sweet Shadow

Photos courtesy of Peter Svendsen

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