Thursday, February 15, was the opening night of Decibel’s annual tour. This year it features Khemmis, Wolves in the Throne Room, Myrkur and headliners from Bergen, Norway – Enslaved. A killer lineup and a chance to see a number of incredible acts all on one bill for a more than reasonable ticket price. This review features Enslaved and Khemmis. I’ll have reviews on the other bands in days to come.
Let’s start with show (and tour) openers, Khemmis. Hailing from beautiful Denver, Colorado, the band has been gaining a massive amount of well-deserved buzz with their 2016 release, Hunted. I’ve had Hunted in regular rotation on my daily commute for months now and these songs just never really get old. Its rich mix of doom and classic metal peppered with quick leads and sumptuous hooks makes for a great listen. I’d never seen Khemmis before live so I was pretty amped. The doors to the TLA in Philly opened and the band took the stage promptly at 7pm. While there were only a few rows of people in the front for the Rocky-Mountain foursome at the beginning of the set, the room had clearly started to fill by the fourth song and many heads were turning. Those who were in the side bar came out and started to fill in the pit area rather quickly.
Khemmis tore though a number of tracks on Hunted like the brilliant “Above the Water” and “Candlelight.” They also played “The Bereaved” from the Absolution record as well as a new track from their upcoming record releasing later this year. Overall the guys in Khemmis feature some great live musicianship and had a really clear sound with excellent mixing. Very much looking forward to seeing them again.
What’s there to say about Enslaved that hasn’t already been said? And, of course, I’ve said a lot – including my declaration that they created the best record of 2017 with E. Yet, there’s still an awfully lot TO say about Enslaved on this tour. First, this is the first time Enslaved is supporting E in North America. As such, many on this side of the Atlantic got to hear tracks from the record for the first time ever, including “Storm Son” and “The River’s Mouth.” We got a slightly jammier version of “Storm Son” and heard some nuances and sounds that we don’t necessarily hear on the vinyl. That’s one reason we go to the live shows. Both were obvious crowdpleasers and Grutle’s voice was on point (per usual).
A special treat that got the crowd worked into a frenzy was the North American live debut of “Vetrarnott,” from the groundbreaking Vikinglir Veldi record which has since been re-released from By Norse Music (www.bynorse.com). Previously, the only place any Enslaved fan in recent years would have heard that song live was in Norway, but they’re performing it on this tour.
It should also be mentioned that this is the band’s first time in North America with new keyboard/vocalist Hakon Vinje, who can be heard, quite a bit on E. Hakon stands out a bit because of his youth, but he’s a joy to watch on stage and sets the atmosphere so well for these Bergen legends. Speaking of Bergen, the stage set up and lights made one feel a little like being in Bergen. Mostly very dark and foggy, with some very subtle backlighting, one could imagine being in that little bowl of rain, fog and sea on Norway’s breathtaking West Coast. It rains 200+ days per year in Bergen, and it certainly gets cold. At the same time, it is an incredibly gorgeous town set between mountains on either side. Charming homes and wondrous shops and restaurants fill the very walkable metro area.
As I listened to the band complete their set, the buzz in the TLA was all about the amazing sound quality and mix that Enslaved brings with them every single tour. It is so easy to discern Ivar’s guitar from Ice Dale’s and vice versa and fans miss nary a note when they perform together. Grutle, of course, is as classic metal as they come on the bass and lead vocals – stirring up the crowd and making everyone feel welcome at the show. Cato Bekkevold is back on the drums for this tour and for a person who truly loves the humorous, he is intensely serious about his drumming.
Enslaved played for about an hour and threw in some additional fan favorites as well like “Roots of the Mountain” and “Isa.” All executed with precision and a heavy dose of fun. These guys love to play metal music and they play so well with eachother on stage. The Philly crowd, of course, was clearly taken with Enslaved and there was even more than a few circle pits that opened up. One amorous couple was even doing a bit of a tango during a few songs. That’s Philly.
All in all – another classic Enslaved show. Lots of great merch as well including the new E style hoodie that is all the rage.