CHILDREN OF BODOM, ABBATH, EXMORTUS – Unholy Xmas Trinity In Philly
December 20, 2016, a month ago
Three nights from the end of a month long, trans-continental trek. Just a couple more nights before getting to go home, to family, friends, the holidays and some much needed rest. Would understand if these last few shows were just phoned in, simply going through the motions, but to a man, the bands gave it their all. After the electrified metal marimbas of Oni, which made them sound like an NES video game, Exmortus were thrilled to be onstage. Not the first time witnessing this band, but tonight (perhaps in seeking to match what would follow), some of the subtleties were lost. This was all about speed, fingers wailing, hair flailing. Jadran Gonzalez, who handles guitar and vocals, repeatedly waggled his tongue as he and six-string partner David Rivera blazed up and down the fretboard. For the "Metal Is King" finale, they slung their guitars over the shoulder and stood back-to-back so they could play the others' instrument. The blue green lit "For The Horde" was the lone exception to the otherwise exclusively red lights. The instrumental "Moonlight Sonata (Act 3)" sees the classical music infused with hammer-ons. Speaking of instrumentals, a cover of Boston's "Foreplay" precedes the last number. Speed metal mania.
The crowd had doubled by the time Abbath was ready to take the stage. Coincidence? The Delaware Valley was blanketed in snow & ice the morning Abbath rides into Philadelphia. I'm one of the few people who have seen Abbath's initial "solo" effort, I (back in 2006, at the Hole In The Sky festival, in Bergen, Norway, their only live appearance), so great to get reacquainted with "Warriors". The Immortal cuts aired were also received, by a large portion of the assemblage, like old friends. Prior to the show, he and "The Chief", the bassist, who is apparently 1/4 Blackfoot, hit the dive bar next door to the TLA, one of the few low rent drinking establishments left on South Street. Clearly enjoying his celebrity status: the guy is plastered over Internet memes, in a quick conversation, Abbath told BraveWords that he's working on four tracks for the next album, which will hopefully be completed before a possible South American tour, with Amon Amarth, this spring.
"To War!" kicks off, the corpse-painted frontman/guitarist mugging to the crowd as he moves from side to side. It quickly becomes apparent that the Immortal tracks benefit from a second guitar, a thick, more lethal sound. There is a pair of raven head scrims flanking the devil masked drummer and s plethora of strobes, practically lighting up the night sky. In a nod to vintage W.A.S.P., circus marquee lighting flashes vertically around the edges of the backline. After the initial solo foray, the bulk of the material was classic Immortal, including "Nebular Ravens Winter", blue/white strobe barrage of "One By One" and "Tyrants". Who said trve black metal couldn't be catchy? Prior to "Warriors" he asked to hear "the girls" scream, then (coyly) asked for "the warriors". At times, fog shrouded the stage, but was unleashed in torrents come "In My Kingdom Cold" and "Winterbane". A military drum cadence (from Norwegian neutrality?) greets the "Count The Dead" closer. By far the largest, most wide ranging selection of merch witnessed outside a stadium touring act. Whatever you say about the solo material, if it provides a chance to hear I/Immortal tracks again (since Demonaz, now fronting the Norwegian legend, can't play live, it's unlikely we'll hear/see those old songs performed by another other than Abbath. Come back soon.
Excited to hear that Children Of Bodom will tour the 20th anniversary of their Something Wild debut, picking a bunch of rarely heard tracks, as too much of the (younger audience targeted) more recent material in the current setlist. Especially evident following a pair of lively act, the Bodomites need something, eh wild, or at least exciting. Too much the Alexi Laiho show, as he basically plays guitar vertically. The rest of the band (bassist Henkka Blacksmith and keyboardist Janne Wirman have been with him from the beginning) are almost an afterthought. Once upon a time, Wirman And Laiho had an onstage repartee, as much as a stationary player (Wirman) can contribute. Hopefully a step back (in time) will catapult them forward.
As always, left leg ahead of the right as he screams into the mic, Laiho is entrenched in his center stage bunker, surrounded on three sides by wedge monitors, on which he frequently props a foot. Purple, blues and cooper lights break the monotony of un-photogenic reds. "Needled 24/7" and old school "Follow The Reaper" get things off on the right foot. Sorry, but the string of "Living Deadbeat", Trashed, Lost & Strungout", "Morrigan", "In Your Face" and "My Bodom (I Am The Only One)" doesn't offer a "Must Hear" moment in the batch, although the frontman does venture back to his old keyboard pal during that stretch. The lighting display during "Everytime I Die" (particularly the wayward green amongst the red and yellow) recalls the Northern Lights visible in northern climes, like Finland. Hats off to the LD on that one!'Bodom After Midnight" gives way to the (somewhat) holiday appropriate "Silent Night, Bodom Night", showcasing the main axe.
The current title track, "I Worship Chaos" begins a sequence of favorites ("Angels Don't Kill", "Lake Bodom", plus the proper set ending rarity "Children of Decadence". For the encore, they return for a quick run through "Hate Me" and "Downfall". Will be interested to see what the future holds.