Scream Magazine 15th Anniversary - The Emperor’s Return!

October 5, 2005, 13 years ago

By Mark Gromen

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Our good friends in Norway decided to celebrate 15 years of metal journalism (corresponding to issue #100) with a two day concert in Oslo. Given the time they began (the start of the grunge movement), it’s a testament to the quality of their work that a fledgling rock mag, covering a predominance of traditional metal from outside its own borders (and written in a tongue that’s spoken by less than ten million people, worldwide) could survive the lean “metal” years and prosper into one of the most respected monthlies anywhere. While there were many buddies in attendance, onstage and off, including the likes of Destruction, Conception and Hypocrisy, it was the “special guest” (actually leaked to me by one of the organizers, back in March) which guaranteed my participation.

Friday’s show was headlined by local favourites - relatively obscure elsewhere - The Carberators. The night actually began with Swedes, Morgana Lefay. The current Grand Materia is their best and it was heavily represented in the eight song offering, including ‘Hollow’, ‘I Roam’ and the set closing “Angel’s Deceit’ off said album. Vocalist Charles Rytkonen (who is often compared to the weekend’s headliner, Jon Oliva) and Co. gave it their all, despite a room just beginning to fill, 8:30 on a Friday night. Beginning with ‘The Source Of Pain’, also aired were ‘Another Dawn’, ‘Master Of The Masquerade’, ‘Maleficium’ and the evening’s oldest track ‘In The Court Of The Crimson King’, from the decade-old Sanctified. Like many of the bands, between song raps were entirely in Norwegian and/or Swedish, which the Norse understand. Regardless, it was about the music, not really the salutary moments towards the Scream crew (which became repetitive after a while).

Well if Morgana gets teased about the ‘Tage comparisons, Tad Morose occasional bears resemblance to another Florida power metal outfit, Crimson Glory, particularly on the stellar Modus Viveni disc, from which no less than five cuts were selected (in order ‘Unwelcome Guest’, ‘No Mercy’, ‘Take On The World’, ‘Anubis’ and ‘Cyberdome’). Of the remaining quartet performed, a trio were lifted from predecessor, Matters Of The Dark, (‘I Know Your Name’, ‘Sword Of Retribution’ and the title cut), plus ‘Servant Of The Bones’. While Urban Breed was not a golden boy on this night (leaving the flashy trousers home), the level of energy he demonstrates onstage is rarely matched. Actually the emotion carried over into the crowd, as the guitarist took a lap in the audience! During ‘Unwelcome Guest’, an impromptu rendition of Twisted Sister’s ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ temporarily shone through.

Fans were restricted from the normally crowded Rockefeller balcony, as a camera crew was on hand, filming everything for an upcoming DVD. Borknagar were next, half shaggy, half bald musicians onstage. Honestly, with the prospect of Emperor up next (still unbeknown to many in the audience), I skipped the Borks for some much needed socializing with our hosts. Sure, Emperor was only to perform an (unholy) trinity, but accompanied by the announcement of two additional, full-length festival appearances, it was more than enough to whet the appetite. Situated in the photo pit, right before they went on, a kid in Emperor shirt questioned who the next band might be, to which I replied, “Don’t worry, you’ll like them.” When he saw the band’s backdrop being raised, I thought he’d jump right over the barricade and on the stage (in one motion), he was so stoked. ‘The Loss And Curse Of Reverence’, ‘I Am The Black Wizards’ and ‘Inno A Satana’ came and went quickly, each greeted with sheer pandemonium. All pre-date the heyday, a cool move to honour the homegrown/hometown crowd. A quintet, with keyboards and second guitar, the sound was lush and clear, the curly haired Ihshan keeping between song banter to a minimum, and in Norwegian. Here’s hoping this reunion lasts more than just a few shows!

The second evening began with Destruction and by their own admission, it had been ages since they opened. Actually, they were a last minute replacement for Gorefest and with the lineup already established, the Germans slotted in place of the Dutchmen. Truth be told, Schmier, Mike and Marc are due back in Oslo in a few months, as part of the Candlemass tour, thus they performed mostly a greatest hits set, leaving the excellent release, Inventor Of Evil nearly untouched (apart from ‘The Soul Collector’). Opening with ‘Curse The Gods’, the middle of the set was post-reunification material, like ‘Nailed To The Cross’ and ‘Thrash Til Death’ before winding down to ‘Total Desaster’ and ‘Bestial Invasion’ before concluding with the second part of the Mad Butcher series, ‘The Butcher Strikes Back’ (the initial part having been aired a few songs earlier).

Hypocrisy is always a potent force and tonight was nothing different. Opening with ‘Fractured Millennium’, expressive frontman Peter Tagtgren and crew criss-crossed the stage in a whirlwind of activity. During an angelic, pre-recorded segment, everyone onstage stood, arms outstretched, displaying the horns, even Horgh, from behind his kit. ‘Turn The Page’, ‘Fire In The Sky’ and ‘Inferior Devoties’ comprised the bulk of an all too quick set.

Having seen Conception two weeks earlier, at ProgPower, in Atlanta, the anticipation was whether this home game would be radically different. Roy Khan, in a pair of leather pants with hole in one knee, seemed a little more at ease. Again he sang from the front of the stage, crouched on the monitors, or down on bended knee. Guitar whiz Tore Ostby demonstrated prowess, effortlessly. At home in his native Norway, Khan spoke exclusively in the mother tongue. Highlights included ‘A Virtual Lovestory’ and when the crowd demanded an encore (the only one, thus far), they were rewarded with ‘Flow’.

From the outset, Jon Oliva promised “to play a lot of Savatage not played in years.” Despite being billed under his current/solo Pain moniker, the majority of the set was comprised of older tunes, including a glorious closing quartet of ‘City Beneath The Surface’, ‘Sirens’, ‘Power Of The Night’ and ‘Hall Of The Mountain King’. At one point in the set, after grabbing half a cup of beer from an audience member, he said, “I have a rep as a party animal, but I don’t know what you put in the beer. You guys are good!” He then launched into ‘Gutter Ballet’. Someone threw a plastic Viking helmet onstage, which the rotund frontman/keyboardist wore, even when one of the horns pointed downward. For one of the new tracks, he adopted a bullhorn. Oliva was in jolly mood, joking and mugging to crowd, even while seated at the keyboard with his vocal mic deciding to have a mind of its own, refusing to stay in place. Later, clearly enjoying himself, he asked, “Does anyone have anything to drink? Amaretto, tequila, pussy?” Other vintage choices included ‘Tonight He Grins Again’, ‘I Believe’ and ‘Ghosts In The Ruins’. Of the minimal stuff off ‘Tage Mahal, the best offering was ‘People Say’ which repeatedly reference Savatage lyrics/titles within itself. Oliva was a wonderfully droll way to end a great weekend. Thanks Scream!


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