GIG REVIEW: Enslaved, Lost in Kiev & Wolves Live at La Trabendo, Paris
Enslaved from Norway are a band that has been around since the debut of black and folk metal, lasting more than two decades. Originally a pure outfit of these genres, their music over time has gotten more progressive, both in terms of genre and metaphor. Clean vocals are often interspersed with the harsher ones and the riffs are more complex. A more mythical and folk-inspired atmosphere is another feature that has become more and more apparent, as seen in the last two albums, ‘In Times’ and ‘E.’ As someone who hadn’t heard a single song of Enslaved before this summer, the experience of exploring the discography has been a long but ultimately fulfilling one. As a prog-head, I can openly express that I am not completely versed in the earlier black metal albums, instead focusing on the more progressive efforts from ‘Below the Lights.’ In case you’re wondering, ‘Riitiir’ is my absolute favourite album, closely followed by ‘Ruun’ and was secretly hoping the title track from the latter and “Death in the Eyes of Dawn” from the former would be played, even though a quick look at the previous setlists revealed that this was unlikely.
Before Enslaved took to the stage, I and a friend who had made to Paris for the weekend had the opportunity to listen to two bands from France: Wolve and Lost in Kiev. The first band was completely new to me while I heard the recent album of the latter once before the performance. I can confidently say they were the best opening bands I’ve come across in a while. Both the bands clearly had some post-rock elements in their music, which always come to life in a live environment. The former played three songs, the last of which was quite lengthy – I remember being impressed by the guitarist and the drummer. Lost in Kiev was perhaps even more impressive as the music felt slightly familiar (The one-time album run-through surely helped) yet new at once. The guitarwork was sublime and some of the bass-led tracks were particularly noteworthy. The sound from the venue, La Trabendo, was booming and crisp in equal measures – the instrumentals and vocals being crystal-clear. The last track included some harsh vocal elements, the turn in musical style accentuated by a drastic show of lighting. My friend was head over heels for the band, despite listening to them for the first time.
Everyone was pumped up for Enslaved by then. The standing arena right in front of the stage had slowly been filling up during the previous acts and had then almost reached full capacity. The lights soon went off, as the incredible guitar intro from “Storm Son” vibrated in the air. I didn’t know the members well enough to identify each of them in the dim light, except for Ice Dale who was not only recognizable for his lack of a shirt but also for his enthusiastic headbanging while riffing. Next in line was “Roots of the Mountain”, whose outro rallied up the crowd into ferociously thrusting \m/ on their hands, before we heard the concert staple “Return to Yggdrasil”. After the first few tracks, it was clear to me that the vocals sounded inconsistent – they were almost undiscernible initially, but more about that soon. The rest of the tracks before the encore were varied in terms of which album they belong too. There was the riff-spewing “One Thousand Years of Rain”, which sounded even more incredible live and was one of the tracks where the balance of clean and vocals shone, of course in addition to the catchy yet complex guitar riffs. Finally, there was “Sacred Horse”, whose outro reminds me greatly of Opeth’s ‘Deliverance,’ which is regularly used as a concert closer too.
The encore started with a fun drum solo by Cato Bekkevold. Drum solos are the sort of features almost completely missing in concerts these days, prog or not, and I though it was great idea to include one. The last song of the night was the title track of ‘Isa,’ and it was a blast to listen to as always. The harsh vocalist and Ice Dale even took part in some synchronized headbanging on the night, though I thought the cleans were a bit off.
Coming back to the issue with vocals: Right from the first track, it was clear that either the live sound mixer or the band members during the sound test had messed up with their instructions as, while the instrumentals sounded incredibly crisp and loud, the clarity of the vocals was extremely inconsistent. For example, the cleans from the first track of the night, “Storm Son” were very low on the mix, while the harsh ones were only slightly better. The cleans in “One Thousand …” were much clearer, but you get the point. The blame for this issue cannot be entirely attributed to the venue mixer either as the first two bands sounded incredible.
All in all, the opening acts have a bright future, and Enslaved was thoroughly entertaining and enthusiastic on stage, preparing a setlist which perfectly represented their discography, while throwing in a surprise in the form a drum solo. A few sound issues aside, it was as memorable an evening as it gets.