Immortal Live: Gramercy Theater, NYC 2/19/11
by James Zalucky
So it seems that, since most of my Metal Injection colleagues were off on vacation last weekend (some in Hawaii, some in Sweden- not sure who I'm more jealous of), it was up to me to go down to Manhattan and see Absu and Immortal, and report on it to you guys. Immortal doesn't come to the US that often, and with the short list of cities on the tour, my buddy Colin and I were lucky to see them altogether. So in honor of Black Metal History Month, here you are:
We arrived about 20 minutes before the doors opened, which obliged us to stand in line that had formed outside. Luckily enough there was no shortage of fellow metal-nerds to chat with. From the mood of the crowd outside, I knew this was going to be a fun night.
I had never been to the Gramercy Theater before, but I have to say my first impressions were very good. As far as size goes, I think it was the perfect venue for this show, aside from the obvious problem of it selling out so quickly (Good thing I bought my tickets in November). The drinks were ridiculously expensive, but this was to be expected. My only real complaint of the night was the sound. Not the acoustics themselves, but the balancing of both bands. In both cases, especially with Absu, the bass guitar and kick-drums were way too loud, nearly washing out the guitar. Aside from this, I found the the place to be pretty agreeable.
Other than some casual listening to their self-titled album, I was relatively unfamiliar to Dallas' Absu. As the band opened their set, I stood toward the back of the floor and couldn't see the stage very well. From my vantage point, I could only see a drumset, a guitarist, and bassist. As I looked closer I suddenly realized, "Holy crap! The drummer is the singer…and he's awesome!" I was extremely impressed. One has to imagine the amount of stamina and muscle memory it takes to coordinate simultaneous drumming and singing. With a bright silver headband and light corpsepaint on, Proscriptor McGovern as he calls himself put on a great show. Gleefully he would stand up between each song, screaming first and then telling a story "In 1997!!! Absu created a song called…" and would go on from there before each song, "AND THEN, In 2001 Absu (something, something, something)!!!". This was a certain epic effect that, while perhaps a little silly, added to the fun of the performance. Of the songs they played I enjoyed Never Blow Out the Eastern Candle, and Highland Tyrant Attack the most.
The break between the bands went on for about an hour, and then Immortal took to the stage. Immortal put on an amazing performance, opening with All Shall Fall before storming through a fantastic rendition of Sons of Northern Darkness. In line with my concert-going tradition, I knew I had to go crowd surfing at least once, which allowed me a closer look at Abbath and Apollyon, with their signature leather gear and corpse paint in full view. If you managed to get close you could see Abbath's eyes move back and forth as he scanned the audience. Abbath was at his charismatic best, raising his arms into the air between songs to invoke the cheers from the audience. It's good to see a frontman interact with his audience:
"So how ya doing New York City?!" ::loud cheer::
"Let me hear the ladies!" ::not quite as loud cheer:: (oh well)
Immortal certainly delivered with their set-list: One By One, The Rise of Darkness, Hordes to War, Withstand the Fall of Time, The Sun No Longer Rises, and the list goes on
Of course I can't forget to mention, In My Kingdom Cold, the song that made me and Colin into Immortal fans in the first place. I have a lot of memories attached to the song, so hearing it live was just exhilarating. I was curious to see what older material they would pull out and they didn't disappoint. Towards the end of the set, Abbath approached the mic and muttered, "we're gonna go back now…to Grim and Frostbitten Kingdoms". I've always loved Battles in the North so I was pretty pumped about this. Also, when you witness a band's live show, it can make you appreciate certain songs more than their studio versions. Tyrants had never been one of my favorites from Immortal, but the live experience of the song was absolutely incredible, as was their entire set. The musical performance was absolutely flawless, except for the aforementioned drowning of the guitar sound. Did the sound guy just fall asleep on the mixer or something?
The mood of the evening was overwhelmingly positive and I met a lot of really cool people. During certain crowd favorites, the pit got pretty rowdy, but was a little hindered…maybe because of that one big dude who just kind of stood in the middle of the pit and kept his arms hovering around him, pushing whoever came close to him. As he beat his chest, all sweaty and shirtless, a girl turned to me, "he looks like a gorilla!". He had that sort of blank stare that says: "I've had too many concussions…and I have no idea who this band is". Some of the kids started to get all angry about him, but I just found it kind of amusing.
Anyway, after the show ended my friend and I took the L over to Brooklyn and found our way over to Duff's for some after show celebration…but that's another story. There are some concert experiences that make me think "wow, THIS is what a metal show should be like", and last Saturday's concert was definitely one of those times.
(PS- you like that picture up at the top? Not bad for a camera phone huh?)
If you've never seen Immortal live, perhaps these professionally filmed live clips from the Graspop festival can give you an idea of what the band is like live.