How long does a band actually have to be gone in order for a new tour to be properly billed a reunion? And is an official break-up required to qualify? The Norwegian black-metal trio Immortal called it a day in 2003 after 13 years of steady activity, with members scattering to pursue other projects. It does seem, then, that the current mini-tour -- dubbed "Seven Dates of Blashyrkh" -- is a genuine reunion, even though many groups take longer between regular releases than the entirety of Immortal's absence.
Originally, Immortal's show at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill tonight -- Friday the 13th, appropriately enough -- was to have been the second pillar of what the TONY music staff had declared "the blackest summer in New York history," since the season would see visits from three seminal black metal bands. Emperor, whose reunion shows here last summer were slightly diminished by a member being barred from entering the country, hit B.B. King's in full force on June 1. The notorious Mayhem was to have completed the hat trick on July 24, but drummer Hellhammer injured his arm at some point during his stint on the most recent Dimmu Borgir tour.
Having passed on Emperor and being deprived of Mayhem, I counted on Immortal to deliver an entire season's worth of brutality and nihilistic catharsis. The Determined Dilettante and I arrived around 8pm, and promptly slithered into our customary position behind the sound board. We missed the opener, local black-metal combo Deimos, but caught the entire set by Annunaki, a fiercely proficient thrash-death band from Bayonne, NJ with a fiery lead guitarist, John Blicharz.
Preceded by the requisite pre-recorded entry fanfare (sweeping strings, whooping French horns, rattling snare drum triplets), Immortal hit the stage at 9pm sharp with a blistering "The Sun No Longer Rises." This being a club date, pyrotechnics and fire-breathing were clearly not forthcoming.
Still, the band got the job done, serving up heated renditions of songs that spanned its entire catalog, from guttural early numbers to proggier later cuts. Singer-guitarist Abbath (Olve Eikemo, seen in the photograph above by Timo Isoaho) basically owned the stage from the moment he strode out. He croaked out one song after another in his gravel-throated growl, while at the same time offering jagged riffs and Philip Glass-on-steroids arpeggios. Bassist Apollyon (Ole Jørgen Moe), on loan from Aura Noir, provided a punchy low end. And drummer Horgh (Reidar Horghagen) played what could only be called honestly: if his bass drums were triggered, it wasn't apparent as these songs blasted and grooved to the variable pulse provided by his four limbs.
Special praise goes to the B.B. King security staff. In almost every single metal show I've ever seen here, mosh pits have been prevented at all cost by big, burly bouncer-types. Here, the stage was protected from intrusion; otherwise, the crowd was allowed to enact whatever mayhem it saw fit: circle pits spawned from time to time on the floor, and bodies surfed without encumbrance. This is as it should be. The air was decidedly warmer and notably more pungent than at any previous metal show I've seen here. Based on tonight's behavior, B.B. King's may yet become the kind of fabled metal haven that CBGB and L'Amours once were.
Set list: recorded intro / The Sun No Longer Rises / Withstand the Fall of Time / Solarfall / Sons of Northern Darkness / Tyrants / One by One / Wrath from Above / Mountains of Might / recorded intro / Unholy Forces of Evil / Unsilent Storms in the North Abyss // Encore: recorded intro / At the Heart of Winter / Battles in the North / Blashrykh (Mighty Ravendark)
This seems like the right moment to mention this afternoon's most valuable discovery: Metalsetlists.com, where you can find out what just about any metal band -- in the broadest sense of the term, apparently, given that Rush is included -- is playing on its current trek. I stumbled upon this site by Googling for a current Immortal set list prior to the show. Once I got home, I registered immediately and posted tonight's set list under what seemed like an appropriate screen name.
Negativa - Demo (Prodisk)
Claudio Monteverdi - Il Sesto Libro de Madrigali - Concerto Italiano/Rinaldo Alessandrini (Naïve)
Prince - 3121 (Universal), One Nite Alone...Live! (NPG) and Shark Tank II: HP Pavilion, San Jose, CA, June 2, 2004 (Freeology) (tip o' the hat to M. C—)
Ralph Vaughan Williams - Phantasy Quintet; String Quartets Nos. 1 & 2 - Maggini Quartet (Naxos)
Immortal - Battles in the North (Osmose)
David Hykes and the Harmonic Choir - Hearing Solar Winds (Ocora)