Words: Brendan O’Mahony
Pics: © Olga Kuzmenko Photography
As soon as this tour was announced back in June the interests of metalheads across Europe were piqued. Metal legends Enslaved and High on Fire, a project led by Matt Pike from Sleep, are bands that deserve a headline set. They are two of the finest examples of Extreme/ Prog and Doom Metal to have visited our shores in the last twenty-five years and, especially, having missed Desertfest and High on Fire in London this summer the opportunity could not be missed again. Grutle Kjellson, the bassist/vocalist of Enslaved, promised that the tour would be “some excessive indulgence in heavy music madness” and tonight the bands are true to their word.
Opening the evening are Krakow, a Norwegian band with a Polish name, blending stoner, death metal, and prog rock. Arriving on stage at 7 pm sharp they kick off the night with some solid tunes supporting their new album ‘Minus’ which is their fourth full-length album. The crowd is sparse but continuing to grow as they progress and they put on a passioned performance, quickly getting the fans nodding in appreciation. After their forty minute set, it’s a quick changeover and we are on to the main event.
With this being a co-headline tour for Enslaved and High on Fire the running order rotates each night. As such, we are next graced by the latter tonight, walking out to a rapturous reception. They are currently celebrating their twentieth anniversary and the release of a new album only four days previously, ‘Electric Messiah’, which is their eighth LP in a remarkably prolific career. The following seventy minutes are a masterclass in the varying tempos of heavy metal, from slow sludge to brain shaking speed and those on the floor match the band on every beat in hypnotic unison, a testament to how tight High on Fire are as a live act. It is truly a sight and sound to behold as Matt Pike’s vocals and guitar work blend so seamlessly with the rhythm section of bassist Jeff Matz and drummer Des Kensel. The band run through a varied set with songs from most of their discography although, unfortunately, they neglect their first two albums. Granted ‘Blood from Zion’ is on the original list but has to be skipped for timing reasons. Included are three tracks from the new album in ‘Steps of the Ziggurat’, ‘Spewn from the Earth’ and ‘Electric Messiah’, the last a tribute to Motörhead’s Lemmy, proving that High on Fire has released their best material yet. A fantastic set is seen out by the final trio of ‘Furywhip’, ‘Snakes for the Divine’ and the aforementioned ‘Electric Messiah’ which are the best closing tracks I can remember witnessing since Megadeth in the Point a few years back.
Following the intensity of ‘High on Fire’ is no easy task but Enslaved is more than up to the task. Twenty-six years and fourteen albums in they are currently enjoying a headline tour in support of their latest album ‘E’, having first given some of the songs an airing in Ireland while supporting the mighty Opeth last year. ‘E’ is the follow-up material to 2015s ‘In Times’ album, with a much more epic feel to the music, and a continuation of the move away from their extreme metal beginnings. Opening with the ‘Roots of the Mountain’, ‘Ruun’ and ‘Storm Son’ the band are quickly into their stride and follow High on Fire’s route of career-spanning material, going from ‘Hordanes Land’ to ‘E’, the balanced variety of which works brilliantly. In Grutle Kjellson they have a born frontman and he is constantly in conversation with the audience in between songs, with some Father Ted references thrown in for good measure, while the newest members of the band, Håkon Vinje, and Iver Sandøy, have slotted in well. Concluding the night with ‘Jotunblod’ and the always immense ‘Allf?ðr Oðinn’ Enslaved once again prove why we are so privileged to have them still producing, still performing and still progressing.
All in a brilliant gig and to those who missed this, I implore you, do not make the same mistake twice. DME Promotions have outdone themselves once more promoting such quality in Ireland and we can but only wait for the next event to see if this one can be bettered.