Instead of collecting sweets, two Utropians collected metal impressions from Enslaved’s Halloween concert on 31st October 2015 in Tromsø…
Before «Studenthuset Driv» announced its «Halloween / Oktoberfestkveld» party, Enslaved’s concert in the same house seemed to be the only possibility in Tromsø to celebrate Halloween in a bigger and more eccentric way. At least if you are into heavier sounds, and if even your heavier listening habits normally exclude extreme black metal. Accordingly, the small «Isbjørn scene» of «Studenthuset Driv» is completely sold out. Most of the concert visitors are metalheads, though. Only sporadically, one can spot amongst others an «Alice in Wonderland» in the audience, and vocalist and bass player Grutle Kjellson doesn’t miss the opportunity to comment on it: It’s like being in Italy when seeing all those Halloween outfits as Halloween is an imported Anglo-Saxon tradition and has nothing to do with Norway and its culture. Enslaved, whose lyrics are dealing with the myths and legends of their Norwegian ancestors, are obviously not alone with this opinion as the «Sivertsens kafé» located in the «Rådstua Teaterhus» offered every guest 2% discount on their orders when not wearing a Halloween costume or carrying a pumpkin around.
Like the current album «In Times», the show is opened with «Thurisaz Dreaming», followed amongst others by the very felicitous «Building With Fire» and «Daylight» from the same opus. Especially «Building With Fire» can convince even those who don’t consider the guttural vocals of Grutle Kjellson as their cup of tea but appreciate the melodic vocals of keyboardist Herbrand Larsen all the more.
The vocals are extremely fitting throughout the whole show and bring an additional dynamic dimension many extreme metal bands simply don’t possess. On the other hand, as often with «Studenthuset Driv», the bass is grotesquely over-mixed, and while it definitely adds some welcomed heaviness to the band’s sound, it also impacts negatively on the more melodious aspect of their music. Guitars, in particular, sometimes feel a bit drowned in bass, which is a pity when considering what great musicians the band’s guitarists Arve Isdal and Ivar Bjørnson are. Still, Enslaved’s might does not suffer that much all things considered, especially when the band plays the epic and complex «Ruun» and «Ethica Odini». At the end of the concert, the band gives in for two additional crowd pleasers, the raw, old-school black metal masterpiece «Allfǫðr Oðinn» and «Isa», one of their more recent melodic hits. These songs are extremely well-received by the maddened public who go out of their ways to show how enthused – and intoxicated, for some – they are.
Musically and in terms of the performance, Enslaved deliver an absolutely flawless show which even convinces those who usually don’t listen to extreme black metal. The only thing that seriously damps the spirits tonight is the venue: As much as we appreciate «Studenthuset Driv» in general, it’s not only completely sold out but hopelessly overcrowded. In addition, the level of alcohol seems to be unusually high in the predominantly male audience. So high that the beer often ends up either on the floor or on the other attendees instead of remaining in the plastic cup. Not to mention the non-stop jostle and the stuffy air that forces one to repeatedly leave the venue during the concert in order to get some fresh air. At least the entrance to the «Isbjørn scene» hall was relocated next to the stage tonight. If it wasn’t for this exception, one would have been forced the leave the concert in the middle. All things considered, though, Enslaved’s Halloween concert is nothing short of a Roman triumph. Selling out the «Isbjørn scene» is something not every metal band can do in our little town and something that the five southerners can definitely be proud of. This performance is also wonderfully at odds with their 2011 concert at the outdoor pop festival Døgnvill where they played in front of a crowd of a few dozen weirded-out onlookers while some reality TV star was butchering his soundcheck. Let us hope that this great gig will lead the way for more quality metal concerts in this little far out and isolated town that is Tromsø.
Text: Stefanie Singh & Lyonel Perabo