GIG REVIEW: Enslaved, Wolves In The Throne Room, Myrkur & Khemmis Live at the Phoenix Theatre, Toronto
Within the last decade, Norwegian black metal legends Enslaved have been one of the most active bands on my radar, constantly touring between continents while releasing quality albums every other year. Having seen them in Toronto with bands like Yob, Intronaut, and Between the Buried and Me, my initial reaction to this tour was that Decibel Magazine has put together a more fitting lineup, featuring the talents of Denmark’s Myrkur, and Americans Wolves In The Throne Room and Khemmis.
Khemmis began the evening with a seemingly short set of well-delivered stoner doom. The first thing I noticed about them was that drummer Zach Coleman’s cymbals were unusually crisp and clean amongst the sludge, which can only mean one thing – a full set of Paistes. I liked them already. While all four members were solid, the best part of their set was how tight the harmonizing guitars were, a standard solo quickly becoming a magical duet.
Next on the bill was Myrkur. Over the last year or so, I’ve been hearing a lot of mixed opinions about Danish singer and multi-instrumentalist Amalie Bruun, and once I finally looked into Myrkur, I completely understood the positive side of the hype. Her set began softly yet immediately held the room’s attention, the echoing effect heard on recordings very much present. The rest of the band in their sleeveless, black hoods added an element of mystery to the haunting atmosphere, and brought even more talent to the stage. Bruun herself did not disappoint, performing both angelic cleans and bloodcurdling black metal shrieks perfectly, with sharp, pointed movements that captivated the crowd. More than half of Myrkur’s set was comprised of tracks off of last year’s album, ‘Mareridt’, including my personal favourite, “The Serpent”. Also making an appearance was “Onde Børn” from ‘M’, and “Ulvesangen” from 2014’s self-titled EP.
Considering how multi-talented Bruun is, it would have been nice to see her on guitar for more than just a fraction of a song, but the few downbeats she played on the hand-held drum looked pretty cool. Despite the eerie and aggressive show, she curtseyed while exiting the stage, which I found to be both adorable and a humbling move on her part.
I would have found Myrkur difficult to follow, but the Washington boys of Wolves In The Throne Room managed to draw the violent headbangers to the front of the crowd and completely melt their faces. That is, once the incense had been wafted across the stage, followed by bursts of fog. Once again, I found myself drawn to watching the drummer, who, like those before and after him, performed some very tight blast beats and rolls. What made me watch Aaron Weaver, however, was his facial expression, which was intense and wide-eyed, and never faltered. Whenever the fog became too thick to see through, I was forced to examine the rest of the band; three guitars and no bass is not really my cup of tea, but they did it well and fed off of each other’s energy. I saw the keyboard but couldn’t hear it at all, although she seemed very into what she was doing.
When it was finally time for Enslaved, the excitement in the room had reached its peak, and the fans roared as each member walked on. Frontman and bassist Grutle Kjellson took a moment to introduce the band, and almost bitterly touched upon the recent departure of keyboardist and clean vocalist Herbrand Larsen, noting that Håkon Vinje has taken over the role quite well.
To be expected, they mostly played material from their most recent album, ‘E’, opening with “Storm Son”, and eventually, “The River’s Mouth” and “Sacred Horse”. While I was disappointed that nothing off of ‘Ruun’, ‘Vertebrae’, or ‘Axioma Ethica Odini’ made it onto the setlist, they did perform ‘RIITIIR’’s “Roots Of The Mountain” and “Vetrarnótt” from ’94’s ‘Vikingligr Veldi’. However, the highlight came in the form of the final song of the night, “Isa”, which I’m pretty sure everyone in the room recorded. Other than the fact that there was’t enough time for a more inclusive setlist, the only negative thing I can say is that Cato Bekkevold and his kit were entirely hidden in the dark off to the side.
All in all, The Phoenix and its flock of metalheads were treated to a fantastic, solid lineup on this 2018 Decibel Magazine Tour, each band’s sound complimenting the next, creating a memorable evening of ambient heaviness. Iconic and formidable, Enslaved will always steal the show, but between Myrkur’s powerful, moving delivery and having never witnessed their live performance before… let’s just say that I went and bought her entire discography the moment I got home.