Review by Jonathan Smith, Concert Photography by Adam Wills
Despite a steep ticket price and a biting (but admittedly appropriate) chill, this past Saturday night Toronto’s Opera House was packed full of enthusiastic fans stoked to worship Norway’s Immortal on the first stop of their four North American tour dates. Inside the venue the air was thick with a sense of excitement that only grew as more and more concert-goers crowded the front of the stage underneath the massive “Immortal” logo that loomed over peoples’ heads. The rare occasion to hear the musical tales of Blashyrkh ensured that most people staked out their spots and stayed there, clearly not wanting to miss a moment of the impending bombastic black metal storm.
Due to a contractual obligation, neither of the local opening bands wore their own variations of corpse paint. However, the lack of theatrics meant an opportunity for both groups to prove that the harshness of the music comes first. By 8 PM, Panzerfaust took to the stage. With barely a half an hour in which to play, they nonetheless managed to end their set with a grand epic suited to the night’s themes. Next up was Eclipse Eternal, its members crowding the stage while still managing to hammer out a solid impression of their heavy-hitting sound. While both Panzerfaust and Eclipse Eternal plugged their own material, they also made it clear that they were there to lead the way for the stars of the show. By the time Immortal took to the stage just shortly after 10 PM, the crowd’s antsy vibes had reached their peak.
As the opening chords of “All Shall Fall” rung throughout the Opera House, the back curtain fell away to reveal a painted wintery landscape topped off by an eclipsed sun. As Immortal finished the title track from their latest album and moved into “The Rise of Darkness,” the sound quality shifted from muted guitars and vocals to being sharp and clear from a vantage point just behind the sound booth. Drawing mostly from their more recent records, the Norwegians tore through such songs as “Solarfall,” “Sons of Northern Darkness,” and “Grim and Frostbitten Kingdoms.” Despite any initial sound issues, vocalist/guitarist Abbath seemed in devilish spirits, frequently pausing to chat up the crowd and even donning a fan’s cowboy hat for a few riffs toward the end of the night. Bassist Apollyon kept up with him, his long locks waving in fan-produced wind like hair in a shampoo commercial from Hell. Drummer Horgh sat calmly poised behind his kit, a sentinel who kept the steady beats booming over the course of the band’s almost two hour set.
Immortal never failed to acknowledge the momentous occasion that their appearance was for the diehards in the crowd. From their frequent praising of the crowd to Abbath’s invocation of fan worship during “Tyrants,” the band’s antics never failed to garner overly-excited cheers from fans who had obviously been long bursting a gut to see their heroes in the flesh. While there was no fire-breathing to be had, Abbath and company didn’t fail to prove their musical chops. Concert-goers were never permitted to forget Immortal’s blatant tongue-in-cheek side either, exemplified via the band’s black spandex and headbanging in unison, Abbath’s foot stomps and pelvic thrusts, and the sickeningly sweet pop tunes that finally signaled to the lingering crowd that the band had finished up for the night. Immortal’s encore was perhaps the only real off-note found in the performance, as the band’s barely acknowledging its coming-and-going caused a great deal of confusion among the crowd. However, in the end, the band’s performance was par for the course with regard to its length and place on the bill. Whatever one may think of the parodic black metal pioneers, Saturday night made it very hard to deny that their respected place in the sub-genre’s history is well-earned through a mixture of both showmanship and musical skills.
More photo galleries from this show will be uploaded later this week.
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