Vreid

support Solefald + In Vain
author EW date 04/04/13 venue Barfly, London, UK

Touring Europe under the 'Fire Walk With Me' banner the trio of Vreid, Solefald and In Vain showcases some of the varying colours of Norwegian metal, here in London on the first night of the tour in the closeted confines of the Camden Barfly. A step down in size for Vreid from previous endeavours in town may have been partly due to their frequency with which they visit these parts but it didn't stop the show being a successful one, especially from the point of view of Solefald.

Photos by Teodora Dani

In Vain

First act In Vain were an unknown quantity to me which after a 10-year and 3-album existence says much about the quality of material offered by this dual vocalist act. Described on Metal Archives as 'progressive death/black' this had put in my mind something akin to De Profundis but what was offered sounded a wholly unremarkable mash-up of melodic metal not wholly dissimilar from the likes of Barren Earth and Amorphis but without the serious musical chops. Employing two full-time (male) vocalists always raises a question in my mind and the answer of 'why?' was not provided - Andreas Frigstad, the hoarse growler of the two was totally devoid of expression or stage charisma (whether he can speak English remains unconfirmed) while part-time keyboardist Sindre Nedland, the more talented and charismatic of the two, was still prone to missing the odd note in his predominantly higher cadence. Offering little to hold the attention in the moments between tracks when there was near silence in the room, In Vain ultimately were lacking in intrigue during the periods when they were performing.

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Solefald

It was no surprise the audience peaked for the bizarre, unusual performance of avant-garde act Solefald, with that this being the first live shows of the band since 1999. A two-man band on record, Lazare Nedland was unable to make the tour and so it was left to five-sixths of In Vain to get out there again and back Cornelius Jakhelin on his quest to be one of the most memorable frontmen I'll witness this year. Striding onstage in steampunk style glasses was the first hint of madness (although these were thankfully removed after one song) but nothing in comparison to what can only best be described as a 'white man rapping routine' interspersed into the set. Delivered at times with three guitars and In Vain's Nedland on keys, the wholesome sound was the minimum setup required to perform marvellous tracks like "Vitets Vidd I Verdi" from 2010's "Norrøn Livskunst", a song that combines the melodramatic drama of Sigh with the progression of Arcturus and which features some truly astonishing female vocals, which alas were not replicated live. Exploring all avenues of speed and tone, "Sun I Call" begun off on a gorgeous quiet path before reaching more blackened territories later on while "The USA Don't Exist" (performed on a guitar Jakhelin reminded us that was made in the USA) was a belied the band's inherent progressive to deliver a more straight-forward singalong tune. It was however the tracks when Jakhelin shed his guitar to focus solely on vocals which will linger the longest - bopping back and forth and looking entirely unnatural at delivering his vocals in a punchy, rap-like manner generated in me at least a sense of appreciation at his endearing naivety.

Thankfully recognition of the band and their performance does not need to rest on mocking sympathy - for a collective so inexperienced at performing together and a back catalogue bursting with cherished goodies this will be the show where I was introduced to the curious wonder of Solefald.

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Vreid

From the moment of Solefald's departure it was inevitable Vreid were not going to be able to match their comrades scale of victory, both in part to the relative frequency at catching them live but also in the dwindling numbers that remained til the end. New album "Welcome Farewell" has been gathering a healthy set of reviews in the metal press and it is easy to see why as their snappy delivery merges their black metal heritage with a healthy dose of rock'n'roll style - consider Kvelertak, perhaps, minus the punk and consistent speed. At times this works excellently as new tracks aired "The Ramble", "The Reap", "Sights of Old", "At the Brook" and the title track all have moments within that will raise the blood pressure but mixed in with the moments where the pace slows, as the band have been credited for on record, and the average level of frontmanship on show from Sture renders their show unfitting to their recorded output and a drop from Solefald before them.

Far from being a failure though, the lead work of Strom (whose skill extends back to the days of Windir) is a joy on the ears and a marker of unique quality in Vreid's sound that is rarely noted in black metal. Windir's productivity over the last decade is to be admired in a world where they find themselves undeservedly finishing a set to no more than 100 people by closure and in "Welcome Farewell" they have another release that maintains the quality across a 6-album discography but from the perspective of this show the winner was undoubtedly the quirky middle-child.

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