16 October 2015 at Manning Bar
. . . and the blizzard came to Sydney!! Having unfortunately missed half of Immortal's set the last time they graced Sydney, I was on my way to the show well ahead of time this day, and arrived just as the doors were being opened to the punters. I made my way up the stairs, got myself a drink & awaited the preceedings.
It was not long before the opening act Gods of Eden took to the stage and grabbed the gathering crowd's attention. Having never heard or seen them before I wasn't too sure what to expect, but I was quite impressed. The band member's abilities shone through both individually as players and as a cohesive unit. The bassist was definitely the first to grab my attention though, hammering at his instrument seemingly as if he wanted to put his fist through it. Their new drummer (I was reliably informed by a colleague of mine), the very same skinbasher from the Southern Highland's 'Norse', pounded out a relentless blasting wall of rhythmic velocity that did break up very well into more sparse, even jazz influenced drumwork throughout their set. The guitarists synchronised perfectly, both knowing their fretboards up, down & back over again, while their vocalist held the punter's attention very well, making use of the larger stage at their disposal. Gods of Eden were certainly impressive & they played quite well, though it would have been nice to see a few more people arrive earlier to take in some of the newer bands that are out there in Oz right now.
Tasmania's Ruins takes to the stage, and it seems the crowd is heartily anticipating this one. They stomp right into the first track as the singer greets the crowd, they sound like some great heaving beast roaring down the mountain, awoken after a long, bitter winter. It's quite a nice change of pace to see the Hayley brothers indulging in their blacker, almost doomier tastes in metal. Don't let this fool you though, the rapid-fire bursts of Dave's power-mad drum skills will still knock you for six and leave you with the after-thought, 'Is that dude really 100% human, or is Skynet involved here just a little?'. Utterly atmospheric and reeking of cult, 'Ruins' put in an excellent performance and it was great to see them live after many a moon without. They certainly reminded me of older bands like Germany's, 'Bethlehem', though with a far wider range of vocal and sonic abilities.
After a little time awaiting the headliners, the smoke rolls back and the eerie faces of death began appearing from the gloom onstage. Bang!! Abbath and his crew of hungry demons are in excellent form and on top of you before you know it.
With tracks like, 'Warrior', 'Battalions' and 'Fenrir Hunts' amongst others, punters who headed out to see Abbath's solo material were certainly not disappointed. Indeed, many among the crowd up the front were definitely keen to hear the track 'Warrior', declaring 'It's a great for fire', 'It's a great day for wrath' a lot throught the whole show!
Those who were there to see Immortal songs got their fare share equally, with many classic tracks like 'Tyrants', 'One By One' and 'Sons of Northern Darkness' turning the Manning Bar into a seething pit of banging heads, fists and horns aplenty.
Unsure of the drummer's identity, his face hidden beneath a twisted demon-mask (very reminiscent of Australia's own The Berzerker), he was a constant driving force throughout the whole show, guaranteed to give Immortal's Horgh a run for his money any day. Unaware too of the guitarist's identity, I was nonetheless impressed immensely by his performance and ability to shred the house down and dominate his portion of the stage.
I must also note that KingovHell (of Gorgoroth fame), the bassist, is probably one of the most underrated bassists in the metal genre overall. His commanding and almost ghostly prescence almost took on a show of it's on own as he strode about the stage as if he owned the place. Also, those leather bell-bottoms and iron-capped cowboy boots will firmly cement that dude as one of the coolest cats I've seen play in a black metal band. Ever. Pure 70's.
As for the man himself, the punters got exactly what they wanted. The most dominating, talented, furious, hilarious, boisterous (did I mention hilarious?) and iconic frontman the old-school of Norwegian Black Metal has to offer. His stage antics seem at once both rehearsed and improvised, though they never get old or tired. The guitar work is both a cacophony and precise, and the vocals virtually flawless in their delivery and power. It really is Elvis with Bathory as the backing band. Yes, there was hip-shaking, yes there was giant tongue lashing and yes there was permafrost galore!
After an absolutely stellar performance, followed by a short encore, the lads farewelled the crowd and left us all breathless, over-heated and utterly satisfied. Having been a fan of the solo work previousely released by Abbath ('I' – Between Two Worlds), for quite some time now, I thoroughly enjoyed the show, not expecting to see any of those songs performed live (in Australia) any time soon. Fans of Immortal should definitely check it out, as I'm sure it will grab you in the same way as Immortal has over the years.
I certainly hope Abbath brings his longboat back to our shores sometime sooner than later to give us more of the the same.
Line-up: Abbath, Ruins, Gods of Eden
Reviewer: Black Jack
Photocredits: Albert Van Gestal