March 27, 2015 Enslaved, Yob, Ecstatic Vision, & Witch Mountain take over NYC 3-21-15
One of New York City’s premier music venues, the famous Gramercy Theatre, played host to a fairly diverse billing of cutting-edge Metal bands this past Saturday, the 21st of March, 2015, as award-winning Norwegian Extreme Metal act Enslaved blew into town. They brought with them as guests epic Blackened Doom sensation Yob from Oregon, Philadelphia’s Ecstatic Vision, and another Oregonian act in hard rockin’ doomsters Witch Mountain. The early spring chill did nothing to keep metalheads away, as the crowd grew in size until the venue reached about three-quarters capacity. Fans of all persuasions huddled near the bar, filled up the seats, and gathered down near the stage, as each one from bearded, be-flanneled hipster, to leather-n-studs bedecked old schooler fell under the spell of honest to goodness Heavy Metal music.
Witch Mountain formed in 1997 in Portland, Oregon and have released three studio albums, the last one coming in 2014 under the moniker Mobile of Angels. These days, the band is led by beguiling frontwoman Kayla Dixon, whose presence combined with her band’s proficient take on spacey Doom and traditional Metal delighted the crowd. Their brand of rocking out stoner Doom was a good way to kick off the evening, as Dixon’s voice soared to the rafters and the band truly appeared to be enjoying the welcome of the New York City crowd. Opening song “Psycho Animundi” featured some immense riffs, and Dixon’s sultry voice over top of a cavernous sound of distortion. After expressing her excitement at being in New York, Witch Mountain launched into “Veil of the Forgotten.” Again, Dixon’s voice carried the slow, Doom-laden riffs along nicely. Her pipes are nothing to mess with, and the fans ate it up as she belted out this long, heavy piece with professional ease. Suffused in crimson light, it is no wonder Witch Mountain has “bewitched” hosts of fans along their journey.
Up next was a most intriguing three-piece from Philadelphia called Ecstatic Vision. Their shirt at the merch stand featuring a tiger and the words ‘Mad Primal’ written upon it were indicative of the bygone era, otherworldly nature of the music on hand. Not without an affable sense of humor, tall frontman Doug shredded his guitar, making it truly “cry and sing,” to reference a line from Dire Straits “Sultans of Swing.” Dipping the neck of his guitar to strike a set of chimes now and again, he even pulled out a box-like instrument called a “melodica,” much to the delight of the crowd. Ecstatic Vision’s brand of primal Psychedelic Rock, in fact, more than delighted a rapt audience whose applause only increased after every song. With long jam sessions reminiscent of Echoes era Pink Floyd crashing into a Cliff Burton bass solo, the glowing orange decorative lights ringing the drum kit added to the band’s atmosphere. Newly signed to Relapse Records, look for a debut album from these bright musicians soon.
After two highly competent openers, it was time for the mighty Yob to take the stage. A band of immense soundscapes, dirge-like compositions, and stentorian dynamics, Yob did not seek to play a set so much as decimate the venue. They succeeded on all fronts, playing four powerful songs, including three off of their latest album Clearing The Path To Ascend. Fans were delighted as Yob aired out “In Our Blood,” “Nothing To Win,” and “Marrow,” all off this latest slab of Doom-laden heaviness. Despite a storied discography spanning six albums, they only played “Atma” off the 2011 album of the same name. It takes a lot of nerve to lean so heavily on new material, but Yob are very convincing and the material most certainly leveled the place. Music of this sort can be a challenge to play live, but the crowd remained enraptured throughout, making Yob’s set a dramatic success and one that no one will soon forget. With Enslaved setting sail back to Norway as of March 25th, Yob will now be bumped up to headliner for eight headlining dates through April 4th, so do not miss out.
There was not a whole lot of room to maneuver when the huge In Times backdrop came down and Enslaved at last took the stage. One by one the tall Norwegians took their places before massive ovations from the crowd. Launching right into “Thurisaz Dreaming” from their latest album, the energy and professionalism this veteran band brings to the table had the crowd immediately enraptured. Moving through crowd favorite “Ruun” and “Death in the Eyes of Dawn,” keyboardist Herbrand Larsen let his clean vocals do the talking during newbie “Building With Fire.” The amazing melodies of this straight ahead rocker had fans cheering and headbanging from front to back. Enslaved hit both 2010’s Axioma Ethica Odini and 2008’s Vertebrae with stunning renditions of “Ethica Odini” and “The Watcher,” respectively. Frontman Grutle Kjellson sounded like an Extreme Metal Geddy Lee on the bass guitar, while his growls sounded massive and his clean accompaniment to Herbrand Larsen harmonized smoothly beside guitarist Ivar Bjornson.
Enslaved, no matter what record they pull their live songs from, can do no wrong. The New York City crowd has welcomed them before, and tonight was no different. The title track to In Times was next, its dreamy, proggy ten minutes absorbed nicely and without boredom of any kind. Enslaved then reached back to their prior lineup to play “Convoys to Nothingness.” Kjellson’s between song banter was a bit sharpened from last time, where he told some tongue-in-cheek bad jokes that nevertheless charmed their adoring fans. This time around, Kjellson heard someone yell “Let’s Go Rangers!” between songs. Kjellson’s excitement about his beloved hockey team got him to give a shout out to Norwegian born hockey player Matts Zuccarello, much to the delight of the crowd, and one particular fan who was wearing a Ranger jersey.
As Enslaved left the stage to ravenous applause, chants of “Enslaved” rose to the ceiling. In seconds they returned for their encore, launching into the majestic “As Fire Swept Clean the Earth” from 2003’s untouchable Below the Lights. Then, the gathered faithful were in for a massive treat. Reaching back to the elder days, Enslaved pulled out and dusted off “Fenris” from the raw and old-school Frost album (1994). When Kjellson announced that they would never played the song in the United States before, a palpable shiver of excitement ran through the crowd. The pit, which had come and gone throughout the set, erupted once again. The final farewell of the night was set to the wonderful song “Isa,” a song which encapsulates the Enslaved experience with its alternating heaviness and Progressive flair. Another triumphant return to the Big Apple, and North America in general, for Enslaved, whose pinnacle of popularity has yet to be fully reached.