Enslaved / The Faceless / Arsis @ The Pearl Room

November 16th, 2007

Wow, I love going to The Pearl Room now! Ok, “love” is probably a bit strong, since it still takes about 45 minutes to drive from Schaumburg to Mokena, but that’s 20-30 minutes less than it took before they opened the I-355 extension this week.

I approach the doors and the security guard points to another guy standing there and says “First, sign the petition”. Uh, no? And call me crazy, but maybe I’d like to know what the petition is about before I sign it. “It’s to stop animal cruelty”. Ok, thanks, but sorry, still no. Can I just go inside now? So that was pretty lame…it’s cool that the guy was there collecting signatures, but I’m pretty sure the venue’s security shouldn’t be telling you what to do.

I walked inside just in time to catch the last half song from The Agonist, which was probably enough.

Then came Arsis. Oh dear. During sound check, I couldn’t believe how loud and stupid the kick drum sound was. It’s like they took Fear Factory’s kick drum sample, and cranked up the gain by 10x. Completely ridiculous. The loudest clicking noise in the world. When they actually started playing, it was even worse, because then all the rest of the overplayed drums were added in too. I got madder and madder at the drummer as the set went on: how could he be so dumb to think that actually sounds good? It was rather disappointing, because I actually sort of like their complex-and-brutal yet melodic-and-grooving metal on their albums, but this was an unfortunate combination of bad and boring.

I’d never heard (or heard of) The Faceless before, so I didn’t know what to expect. Well, it was more fairly brutal, somewhat technical death metal played by a bunch of short-haired young’n’s from L.A. They had the somewhat-rare dedicated growler for a frontman, and even a hoodie-wearing keyboard player (who didn’t add much). Their sound was quite a bit more listenable than Arsis, and they played their instruments well, but that’s about all there was to recommend about them. Clearly there are guys in the band who can write plenty of clever riffs, but apparently they’re completely lacking anyone who knows how to construct those riffs into an actual song. It’s just random riff after random riff, which gets boring fast.

Phew, finally Enslaved came on to save the day. This was the third time I’ve seen them, and easily the best (not surprising, since it’s the first headling slot I’ve seen, and one of the other times was a 4-song set at the Milwaukee Metalfest). The setlist was pretty similar to their opening slot from last year, meaning lots of stuff from their last two albums. I can only imagine what a set would be like if they ever played anything from my two favorite albums (‘Mardraum’ and ‘Vikingligr Veldi’). Still, it’s pretty great how they can go from the title track of their latest album to something from their first release (9 albums and 13 years apart) and have both songs kick equal amounts of ass. Not a lot of bands who can do that. And it was great to hear the old stuff updated to the modern production values. It also helped that this time I was right up front with a lot of other obviously-dedicated Enslaved fans, so that made it a headbanging good time.

In their headlining slot, they do the same setup as Dimmu Borgir, with drums and keyboards at the left and right positions at the rear of the stage. Surprisingly, they didn’t have the projector screens they used when opening for Dark Funeral, but that meant the guys in the band were more of a focus, and they do a good job of interacting with the crowd without being overly cheesy. It was nice that they *didn’t* dedicate a song to Decapitated, which apparently they’d done at other shows; makes it a bit more meaningful if it’s not just a standard note on the setlist. Instead, they dedicated one to their “old friends in the Chicago band Macabre”. Their sound was very good, just enough of that raw blackness mixed in with their epic and psychadelic bits. Has their ever been a more mournful solo played over more brutal music than the one closing out “As Fire Swept Clean the Earth”? Brilliant.

So yeah, I still say Enslaved needs to associate more with bands like Isis, but I guess on this tour, the contrast with the opening bands just makes them seem that much better.

Setlist (complete, mostly in order):
Path to Vanir
Fusion of Sense and Earth
Bounded By Allegiance
Violet Dawning
As Fire Swept Clean the Earth
Return to Yggdrasill

Allfadr Odin
Slaget I Skogen Bortenfor