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.

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