Ancient VVisdom, Royal Thunder, Pallbearer, Enslaved
Better Than: Watching your medicinal marijuana garden grow.
The crowd piled in slowly but steadily, the Troubadour alight in blue. This was an older crowd for a metal show, full of parents out for the night, child-free married couples and monk diming scene vets to spare. Black clothing didn't just predominate; It overwhelmed, wrapping nearly every limb in the house. Classic rock was poised to meet heavy metal this evening.
Ancient VVisdom, hail from Austin, TX by way of Cleveland. The band have a minor obsession with Satan. Singer Nathan Opposition (get it?) sang lyrics like “Hail to thee Lord Lucifer / I sing praises to thee” with more conviction than any man ought to be allowed. He was the only true front man on tap for the evening, doing a grizzly Jim Morrison stomp throughout. The band displayed a laid back, acoustic sound, hearkening back to the days when men weren't afraid to praise Satan with the occasional flute solo. A small but enthusiastic crowd shouted along to the rolling barroom beat.
Up next, Royal Thunder showed incredible potential. This was probably the last time they'll play so early in the night in this town. The singer, Mlny Parsonz (yep), sang with lungs of tanned leather that simultaneously channeled Ozzy Osbourne, Janis Joplin and Stevie Nicks. It's her voice that sold the band, but they'd still be nothing without a rock solid drummer and guitar player. Parsonz more than held her own on bass while belting and wailing. You don't expect a band with such a clean sound to be capable of Sabbath-level heaviness — though Coven are clearly the more apt comparison. They easily shifted from the bluesy stomp of “Parsonz Curse” to the shimmering beauty of “Minus.” Keep an eye out for these guys.
Pallbearer, up third, must have downtuned to somewhere around B-flat; The floor began vibrating when the guitar started playing. While not quite on the interminable and terrifying depth of drone that Sunn O))) offers, the band nevertheless probably would have gone best with a grip of couch lock herb and a couch to smoke it on. The songs weren't very catchy, but they had a low and rumbling Juggernaut type of power that deserves praise for its sheer heaviness; It must make their albums weigh a metric ton. Heads banged slowly but rhythmically as the group pummeled the audience.
By the time Enslaved came on, there was more than a little anticipatory electricity in the crowd. They took the stage with the roar of the hosts of battle, quite the contrast from the sound, appearance and energy of the undercard. The crowd screamed a greeting in lockstep unison as Enslaved threw their horns to the audience. This progressive black metal band (emphasis on the progressive) from Norway had no gauntlets, spikes or pigs' heads to provide additional effect. They did, however, have a keyboard player who looks like he should be driving the Mystery Machine.
They opened with “Thoughts Like Hammers,” the lead track off their new album, RIITIIR. It was a perfect way to display their musical virtuosity and strange, sometimes jarring mix of screeched and clean vocals. Their encore included “Isa” from the 2004 album of the same name, an atmospheric piece that no doubt has spawned a score or two of post-metal and depressive black metal bands.
There was heaviness and brutality, of course, but it's the keyboard that does it; not only did it provide their sound with a more nuanced complexity, it also provided a connection to the other bands and their throwback sounds. Enslaved aren't black metal for stoners as such, but they are black metal for people who like a catchy riff and a good melody.
The Crowd: Lifers
Random Notebook Dump: I had a bang up good time trying to help a bunch of aspiring desert rockers choose a name in the VIP. Fellas, if you're reading this, I'm telling you: Go with Bone!