Perhaps the expiration date has passed since the Decibel-sponsored Darkness Reborn World Tour has been toe tagged for almost a month now, but semi-deep reflection over the events at Philadelphia’s Electric Factory warrant at least a few digital inkwells be spilled in reverence to one of the three bands supporting headliner/arctic Mad Max lookalikes Dimmu Borgir.
As team dB—Albert and I—and friend (former DigitalMetal.com scribe Tim D.) moseyed from our spectacularly close parking spot to the Will Call window, we heard the indistinguishable rumble of some band—we later learned to be new Metal Blade signees/jokers Dawn of Ashes—pounding out songs from their Genocide Chapters album. Venturing inside didn’t help matters much either. Standing front and center, Dawn of Ashes’s Hollywood-quality costumes were more interesting than the warmed over semi-death/semi-black hybrid thing emanating from the venue’s speakers. Maybe this time next year, Dawn of Ashes will be nothing more than a distant hope-crushing memory.
Meanwhile, the gears were in motion to meet the parade of Norwegians running safely—Philadelphia recently had two “random” knife attacks, where one of the victims perished, just blocks from the venue—amok backstage. We had credentials, but not the right credentials. A phone call here. A text there. But it was the Woe boys who came to our rescue, which was awfully nice of them considering we missed the Illadelph black metal troupe and had to admit the fact to their awfully understanding faces. Next time. Promise!
Once behind the forbidden curtain, stagehands, band members, and merch folk streamed to and fro like they all had work to do. Partially true, I guess. We found the Enslaved dressing room, said our pleasantries, Tim dropped an A-Ha reference to which Ivar said, “A-Ha! I see what you did there!” and strategically planted a few issues of Gwar X-mas issue dB—Axioma Ethica Odini placed at #5 in our Top 40 of 2010—into their capable hands. Always nice dudes. Every single one of them. Grutle may seem surly, but all you need to do is say, “Hey, Grutle, what do you think of the mid-section to ‘The Return of the Giant Hogweed’?” and he’s like a smiling kid with a bowl of Rømmegrøt. Sadly, while we were practicing American diplomacy with dudes from Bergen, dudes from Kristiansand, namely Blood Red Throne, were assaulting Philadelphians with songs from 2009’s Souls of Damnation. Couldn’t tell “Souls of Damnation” from “Not Turgenjev, But Close” where were standing. Next time. Promise!
Finally, it’s Enslaved’s turn. Albert admits he’s never seen the quintet live. Remarkable. Grutle, Ivar and company hit the stage after the intro music. The usual live ritual. Ivar’s sideman guitar star Arve is shirtless. We asked him earlier, “Shirt or no shirt tonight?” To which he grinned and replied, “Are you taking bets?” Anyway, the group blasts into “Ethica Odini”. Pretty flawless stuff, actually. I saw them in open for Absu and Incantation when fish had legs and they were pretty flawless then too. The stage has always been kind to Enslaved in my experience. Other tunes include “Raidho”, “Ground”, “The Beacon”, “Fusion of Sense and Earth”, and crowd-pleaser “Isa”, the ending of which sees Arve soloing, foot planted on monitor, like he’s possessed by some kind of aggressive-passive Malmsteen/Gilmour offspring. Viking horns all around, boys!
It takes Dimmu Borgir an eternity to set-up. Upside down crosses with burning incense (Watain is lawyering up as I type this), a bevy of lighting rigs, the requisite backdrop, etc. are all part of the group’s new image. Of course, it’s the individual band member costumes, which are intensely ornate upon close inspection, where Dimmu Borgir go hell bent for off-white leather. They lead with “Spellbound (by the Devil)” and follow it by “The Chosen Legacy” and “Indoctrination” before frontman Shagrath utters a single word. Strange. I guess they prefer to let the music/image do the talking, but the practice leaves things a little cold. Like a band rushing through ornate shit just to rush through ornate shit so they can get back to Wii Bass Fishing. Anyway, “Dimmu Borgir”, “Gateways”, “Chess with the Abyss”, and “Born Treacherous” all pass professionally by. They’re slick as hell, but connectivity—to any of it really—is minimal. I bet Dimmu Borgir are vicious as Satan’s fuck-slave when stripped of technology and electronic percussive whatnots. Needless to say, when I saw Albert willing the paint to peel off the Electric Factory walls, it’s was clearly time to go. We missed three tracks and two encores. Or thereabouts.
** All photos copyshit Chris Dick. Use with kind permission or die an unfathomably violent death at the hands of a South African drugs ‘n’ guns gang.