In all of his shiver-burnt glory, the keeper of the Daemones Raccoonus known as Abbath made his triumphant arrival to North America after last freezer-burning the states in 2019. I was excited knowing that the conclusive date of this tyrannical tour leading up to the dread reaver’s exclusive Maryland Deathfest appearance would wrap up in New York at the Gramercy Theatre with support from three equally sharp bands to bring the hailfire to the Big Apple in Black Anvil, Imperial Triumphant, and Final Gasp. Upon arriving in Union Square at around 4:00 P.M, I strolled down to St. Mark’s Place. After indulging in a beast of an Eastsider burger at Paul’s Da Burger Joint, it was time to head to the venue with ample time to enjoy the faux-summer weather.

The Massachusetts masters of frostbitten death metal known as Final Gasp were the first highlight of the evening. Simply kicking out the jams with little to no stage banter, they put on a haunting performance and had the first handful of attendees all fired up for the unholy return of Imperial Triumphant. I also appreciated vocalist Jake Murphy decked out as Bruce McCulloch’s character of Bobby Terrance from The Kids in the Hall, tattered denim jacket and all.

Next up were masters of atonal disaster, Imperial Triumphant. While all garbed in black cloaks and wearing golden masks, these guys are professionally trained killers on stage, mesmerizing the audience into another world of eroded delights in four grandiose soundscapes. Singer Zachary Ezrin is a guitarists’ guitarist who performs with absolute fluidity, style, and swagger. Zachary seems possessed when dressed up in costume and performing a hometown show in New York City he probably was. Zachary was scoring a horror movie set in an alternate, more cursed 1924 with his like-minded bandmates, commanding audience members with little else but a few hand gestures while his guitar did most of the tuneful talking – which did not skip a note during his time on stage as bassist Steve Blanco and drummer Kenny Grohowski jammed along and grooved in the zone like a twin-headed kaiju. Imperial Triumphant put on a stellar performance with lots of eerie theatrics. Manhattan got to witness something extra special with the trio having Ole Andre from Abbath’s band join them on stage for a wild guest guitar solo during one of their songs.

From one ominous New York-based black metal band to another, Black Anvil played what seemed like a house band performing during a seance at Lake Bodom with decadent jams throughout their back catalog to keep the satanic communion going for their hometown crowd initiated by Imperial Triumphant with a new mad axeman in the name of Michael Dimmitt. Black Anvil plays a fusion of black metal and thrash metal with some distorted melodic moments, gritty bass, and shrilled vocals from P.D. Black Anvil also performed a short set with what honestly felt like they provided the perfect preliminary kvlt sermon for the imminent acidic twilight observance from Abbath.

It was almost time for the return of Abbath to provide blizzardly bursts of liquified shrapnel, and I felt the sharp mist of metal in the atmosphere. The fans of Immortal were ready to worship Abbath at the altar of grimness. Abbath’s band presented a dramatic, magisterial performance with tons of blast beats and chaotic riffs from Abbath himself adorned as the corpse-painted commander in the Knights of Satan’s Service, stomping around and grinning from the gallows like an even more unhinged Gene Simmons. The acoustics for this type of warlike music was good, with every instrument cutting through yet still retaining that noisy, screeching black metal sound. Thankfully, the songs and melodies are built on the guitars, drums, and bass from Ukri Suvilehto and Frode Kilvik, as animalistic black metal should sound.

The setlist was packed full of Abbath solo cuts like Acid Haze and Dread Reaver, counteracted by the raw interplay of Immortal essentials like Solarfall and One by One. Abbath also unearthed Warriors from his I project. It is that interplay within the setlist, along with the hilarious, sandpaper martini-swilling stage banter from him, that is why Abbath is an ethereal performer – ferocious, metallic, and slightly melodic while controlling the chaos for an hour and then some. One of the three founding members of the Doom Occulta is a never-melt icy obelisk in extreme metal’s history and a massive influence, considering the three acts that supported Abbath. I strongly recommend you see either group if they’re performing in your area. If you have not seen Abbath live, do yourselves a favor and see him before visa costability halts some of our favorite Norwegian metal acts from touring the States. He made up for a five-year absence and gave six hundred and sixty-five percent and sent the new frostbitten denizens of Blashyrkh back to reality with Withstand the Fall of Time. All four bands brought a formidable time with a different vibe of befouled aggression. I enjoyed seeing one of the visceral entertainers of such spooky forest-dwelling music and had a marvelous time seeing three other equally great bands.