Immortal and Black Anvil – March 30th – Masonic Temple, Brooklyn

The Immortal live experience is about sheer spectacle as much as it is about their excellent music. The Masonic Temple, despite the best efforts of the promoters, is not a venue designed to showcase either.

People came from near and far to see Immortal's only east-coast performance, and despite the shortcomings of the hall, I think a good time was had by all. I traveled to the dark heart of Brooklyn along with Jeanne Fury and her friend Evie Nagy (of Billboard). It was my first trip to the venue, but I'd been forewarned about the Masonic Temple's shortcomings. Lack of ventilation and awful acoustics were the primary complaints. Tragically, the venue reportedly ran out of beer at the Brutal Truth/Pig Destroyer/Repulsion show. Thankfully, the alcohol did not run dry on this evening. A press release from the promoter informed us that they had “spared no expense in enhancing the venue's sound system to IMMORTAL's exact specifications.” The sound system was indeed loud, if not crystal clear. But no sound equipment on earth can compete with the cavernous acoustic vacuum that is the Masonic Temple.

Black Anvil are on a steep upward trajectory. Fresh off a performance at the Scion festival that garnered rave reviews, the band came to this gig with fire in their throats. Having seen these guys a couple of times before, I could tell they were making the most of this opportunity. Personally, I love their music, and if there is an audience out there that can appreciate their sound, this was it.

Paul Delaney screamed blackened gore and hammered his bass as if trying to find a way to snap off the neck. Gary Bennett's killer guitar tone was often hard to distinguish in the din. Fortunately, Black Anvil's sinister riffage is endowed with a thrashing rhythmic diversity that the crowd had no problem understanding. Raeph Glicken's ebullient drumming was as tight as ever, and the band was all energy.

Several new songs were mixed in with excellent highlights of Time Insults the Mind. The crowd seemed engaged by the raging performance. A pit broke out several times, and judging by the nodding heads on the fringes of the audience, I think this was nothing but victory for Black Anvil. The new songs sound really great. Again, my level of anticipation for their upcoming album, Triumvirate, has increased.

When I saw Immortal on their reunion tour in 2007, it was a serious metal experience. I had a great time at the show, and it probably made me even more psyched to see them on this evening. The crowd was clearly excited – there were smiles on lots of faces, and “war paint” on a good many of those. As the band came out on stage and ripped into “All Shall Fall,” it was immediately clear that the sound was going to distract me. Something about the acoustics of the room turned the mid-range crunch of Abbath's guitar into an indistinguishable muddle. Despite the sound, Immortal put on an amazing performance.

Naturally, the band's appearance on stage was accompanied by the belching exhaust of fog machines. It was at this point that I realized the Masonic Temple has no overhead lighting rig. The only lights pointed at the band were ON the stage. The aforementioned lack of ventilation meant that the repeated bursts of fog never really dissipated, and combined with the strange lighting set up, the effect was that you couldn't ever really see the band. It was the same unfortunate effect as when you turn on the high beams in your car in the fog. Sure, it was a freaking grim scene, but if I can't see the faces Abbath makes during the set, some of the spectacle is lost.

“The Rise of Darkness” followed the title track of the new album, and we could see that the new Immortal tunes are built for the live experience. Modest pits broke out throughout the show, but things never approached the mayhem that New York crowds are known to incite. Despite the muddled guitar sound, the vocals were loud and clear. The crowd reacted most to tracks that featured rhythmic peculiarities. In particular, “Sons of Northern Darkness” and “Tyrants” got things moving. Horgh oversaw the proceedings from his throne with a workman-like precision. The drums, at the very least, were mixed well.

A very large portion of the new album, All Shall Fall, was played. In addition, particular attention was paid to material off Battles in the North. Tracks like “Grim And Frostbitten Kingdoms” and “Battles in the North” were fun to witness, but they didn't stand up particularly well under the diminished aural conditions. “Solarfall” was the only representative of my favorite Immortal era. The band focused quite a bit on At the Heart of Winter and Damned in Black on their reunion tour, so a shift in playlist was to be expected.

Despite the feeling that I was watching Immortal in a dim swamp, there was no denying that people were having fun. A party atmosphere was the order of the day. Sure, some folks were visibly grumbling about the sound, but when Abbath and Apollyon are prancing around on the stage you can't help but smile. Everyone I spoke to after the show had a blast. We have to be grateful that the promoters were able to bring this bill to Brooklyn, and at least recognize the effort that was put into the audio setup. But each and every person I spoke to was displeased with the sound. You have to expect that people are going to start purposefully avoiding shows at the Masonic Temple in the future.

You can find the full setlist here, and the rest of my foggy amateur photos here.


Orthodoxyn said...

Running out of booze on a Brutal Truth/Pig Destroyer/Repulsion show really is a tragedy, any of the support bands any good?

atanamar said...

Support bands on this show? It was only Black Anvil and they ruled. I wasn't at the Brutal Truth/Pig Destroyer/Repulsion show, unfortunately.

Also, I should mention that Immortal did play "Withstand The Fall Of Time," which is also from At the Heart of Winter.

And lastly, Justina Villanueva has a picture up of the actual playlist for this show, along with other pictures, here.

Wayne said...

I wonder why they book so many metal shows at this venue. Every review I've read from that place notes the crappy sound.

Wish Immortal would come to Chicago!

Zosimus said...

I had two tickets to this show and am pretty bummed that I had to make the decision not to go so I could, uh... get enough sleep in order to get to work super ass early the next day. Dammit. Adulthood fucking blows sometimes.
It's a shame that the Masonic Hall is such a terrible venue. I wonder why Immortal booked their gig there rather than any of the better rooms around town?

206-grind said...

Those last two red pictures are amazing. Really dig those.

atanamar said...

@Zosimus - sorry you couldn't make it. I was looking forward to some Flaming Tusk representation at the show. But I hear you about adulthood. If I couldn't take a half-day off (I have a lot of vacation days) after every show I go to, I would have to skip most of the shows in NYC.

@Wayne - I suspect that this venue has, um, significant economic advantages over the ritzier places in Manhattan. I have no idea why Immortal don't do a real US tour. Again, probably economic.

@206-grind I don't know why they didn't use the super awesome red lights more during the show, only at the end. It looks pretty evil.

Orthodoxyn said...

Not relevant to the post, but there is a reference about you on the Number of the blog's blogcast

Its about 25 mins into it, just thought I would let you know


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