GIG REVIEW: ENSLAVED & ETERNAL RUST Live at Crowbar, Brisbane
Black and extreme metal is not normally something which many unenlightened listeners would consider ‘enjoyable’. It’s often loud, abrasive, confrontational and intense and for that reason most bands tend to garner little interest from fans outside their small cliques. While this rings true for many bands in the genre, it’s not a tag that is applicable to Norway’s Enslaved who returned to Australia for their ‘An Evening with Enslaved’ tour which recently hit Brisbane’s Crowbar.
Beginning the night were Brisbane’s very own Eternal Rest. Now Eternal Rest are a great band,and I thought that they performed well for the night, but there were some interference issues during a few songs that kind of took the shine off their performance. While their overall set was a good performance that got some interest from the amassing crowd, it was below the mark which I know the band can reach which disappointed me for the band, but they looked like they had a blast up there and if the crowd and the band are happy, then it’s a success in most cases, tonight included.
Being the 25th Anniversary of the band, Enslaved decided to do something different and play a double set with tracks picked by the fans. Now having fans pick your setlist is always sure way to generate interest heading into your upcoming shows, and it definitely seemed to have worked for Enslaved with the venue filling out quite comfortably before they had even taken the stage. The band’s sound translated very well to the small confinement of the Crowbar, and seemed to take an etheric, almost possessive nature on all those that were in attendance. It’s these eerily ambient shows that I have really missed of late, and getting to see one of the world’s finest pull this off was simply remarkable.
Part of what makes Enslaved so lovable is that while their sound is extreme, it also carries some significantly progressive undertones to it which have helped them reach such a broad audience, and this is perhaps no better characterized by the crowd that showed up being one of the most diverse and eclectic I have seen in recent memory. Performance wise the band was remarkable and more engaging than I expected them to be, and apart from a few minor technical issues that seemed to be sorted out within the first songs of each set, there wasn’t really anything that you could fault the band on. The rhythmic strumming from Ivar Bjørnson was captivating, and ArveIsdal is an absolute machine on lead guitar. Grutle Kjellson’s voice over the top of the instruments was bone-shakingly brutal, and is almost certainly as harrowing live as it is recorded. Cato Bekkevold remained relatively well hidden down the back of the stage, but the impact that his performance from behind the drum kit had on the night cant be denied; and Herbrand Larsen on keys, while often the butt of many of the nights jokes, provided an energy oft unseen in keyboard players.
After what seemed like an eternity, the band finished their first set that consisted of songs such as Loke, Eld and Heimdallr and Fenris and took a brief intermission. Normally when these sorts of intermissions break out there is a mass exodus to the front of the venue for people to take a break — but not for Enslaved as a large majority of the crowd stayed gathered around the front of the stage, waiting for the band to reemerge. The nights performances followed a pretty simple formula of song performance followed by the band jeering and joking along with the crowd. Nothing extravagant, just simple and effective musicianship, and it worked a treat. It also helped that the band embraced the local vernacular and had vocalist Kjellson proceeding to call the crowd a ‘bunch of great C**t’s (a term of endearment in Australia). Continual fist bumps, handshakes and guitar neck-to-drinks ‘cheers’ taps were just some of the minor ways in which the band chose to interact with the fans, and if these minor gestures weren’t enough there was the jovial banter in between songs which helped to give the night a very carefree feel to it.
After playing a second set that consisted of songs including Ruun, Ethica Odini and Isato name a few, the band linked arms, bowed and exited stage. Spending my Wednesday night as ‘A Night with Enslaved’ was definitely one of the better ways I could have spent a mid-week ‘school’ night, and if the turnout was anything to go by, Australia could be spending more nights with Enslaved performances very soon.