Concert Review: Dimmu Borgir & Enslaved at The Palladium in Worcester, MA
Darkness Reborn Tour Rating:
Featuring: Dimmu Borgir, Enslaved, Blood Red Throne & Dawn of Ashes
November 5, 2010
Reviewed by: Brian Cross
Photos by: Diana Guay
Dimmu Borgir made their triumphant return to the United States when the Darkness Reborn tour began its North American leg at the Palladium in Worcester, Massachusetts on November 5, 2010. The veteran Norwegian black metal band and a trio of powerful supporting acts made quite an impression for the tour’s stateside opening night.
First up on the bill was Dawn of Ashes. These guys used to play EBM and industrial music, but recently made an abrupt switch to blackened death metal. They’ve retained their gore-splattered horror imagery and lyrics, however, and vocalist Kristof Bathory made no bones about berating the audience while performing Dawn of Ashes’ brutal form of metal. The band also performs clad in very impressive zombie costumes, but GWAR or Lordi knockoffs they are not. Now, this sounds like Dawn of Ashes put on one hell of a show, does it not? Well, it would have been great, except for one big problem: whoever was running the soundboard apparently had no clue what they were doing. The bass and vocals were mixed far too high, drowning out everything else. Normally, drums are the easiest instrument to hear, but even they were buried under the rumbling and buzzing bass. Keyboards were only audible during breaks, and the guitars were practically nonexistent. This mess left many audience members confused and disillusioned, possibly costing the band new fans as a result. It was a damned shame, as Dawn of Ashes’ newest record Genocide Chapters is a fine piece of work; clearly, the riffs that the band were shredding would have sounded great had the sound technician mixed them correctly! I do not blame the band for this in the slightest, as the fault lies squarely with the soundboard operator. Dawn of Ashes should turn their brand of misanthropy against that idiot for screwing up their set.
Next was Blood Red Throne, who were playing their very first show in America. This was a big moment for them, but once again, the soundboard operator was asleep at the wheel. The band used the same drum kit as Dawn of Ashes, but the audio crew didn’t even bother to recheck it after swapping out a few pieces! The guitars were cranked up far too loud this time, and what makes things worse is the fact that bassist Erlend Caspersen is an immensely talented player. His highly technical fingerplaying and picking was completely overshadowed by the poor mix. The vocals were sometimes hard to hear, and the drums were washed out except for the cymbal splashes. Blood Red Throne play some serious death metal, and had quite a few fans in the audience eager to see them for the first time. The audio mixing was absolutely unacceptable, and the band should be furious at whoever was responsible for these problems adversely affecting their first stateside performance.
The sound problems may have gotten the tour off to a rough start, but then Enslaved came along to save the day. I’m assuming they had their own sound guys, and this made a huge difference. With the audio problems solved, the growing crowd could properly enjoy the night’s music. Enslaved recently released their newest work Axioma Ethica Odini, so quite a few of the evening’s tracks came from that record. Fans of older Enslaved songs weren’t left behind, though, as the band made sure to pull out a few gems from their back catalog. Almost all of them came from the four most recent albums, but that’s arguably Enslaved’s finest period; few are going to argue with the sheer brilliance of songs like “Ground” or “Fusion of Sense and Earth.” The band’s unique mix of black metal and 1970s progressive rock must be heard to be believed, and their live performance was nothing short of stunning.
By the time Enslaved closed out their set, the Palladium was filled to bursting. Soon enough, Dimmu Borgir took to the stage amidst a storm of fog and strobe lights as the instrumental introductory track “Xibir” played over the loudspeakers. Vocalist Shagrath was dressed in his own take on corpsepaint and black metal regalia (as was the rest of the band), and the stage was littered with skulls, inverted crosses, and other metal trappings. Rather than jumping right into a track from their new record Abrahadabra, the band opted to open with “Spellbound (By the Devil),” off of 1997’s Enthrone Darkness Triumphant. Along with the older material, plenty of new tracks did appear during their set, such as “Born Treacherous,” “Chess in the Abyss,” and the lead single “Gateways.” Of course, Dimmu Borgir did not have that song’s guest vocalist Agnete Kjølsrud (Djerv, ex-Animal Alpha) on tour with them, so her vocals were provided via tape. (The same was done for former bassist ICS Vortex’s clean vocals on tracks like “Progenies of the Great Apocalypse.”) Dimmu Borgir has often recorded albums with a full orchestra as accompaniment, but they managed to bring just as much energy to their live performance without them. The band knocked out quite a solid set, making it a memorable evening for Dimmu Borgir fans new and old.
The early sound mix problems ruined what would have been excellent performances by the first two opening acts, but as I said earlier, that’s hardly the bands’ fault, and it was truly the only negative aspect of the evening. Overall, the Darkness Reborn tour was a hit, and extreme metal fans would do well to check it out when it descends upon their local venues.
*View the full gallery of photos from the show here