ENFORCER / DARK TRANQUILLITY – Swedish Invasion In Philly

November 9, 2016, a year ago

Mark Gromen

gallery heavy metal enforcer dark tranquillity

The Trocadero in Philadelphia is just the third night of a more than month long North American tour and some of the kinks still need to be worked out with the sound, especially for the opening acts (Starkill, Enforcer, Swallow The Sun). Never a good sign when the show begins 20 minutes before the advertised start time, everyone already in the club, bands and promoter alike, trying to "just get through the evening". Maximum attendance by the time Enforcer hit the stage (and about half left following, a good percentage only there to see/hear speed metal). Adrenaline junkies only need apply, when it comes to these Swedes. Despite an annoying electronic hum and buried vocals, a seven song set blows by in about 30 minutes, packed with more blistering leads than most two-hour headlining performances. Wow! Much more vibrant than most of the vaunted (yawn!) Big 4. 

A pair of scrims, with From Beyond artwork, are the only props onstage. There's a lot of Leathur Records ("Red Hot") era Motley Crue in energetic blonde frontman/guitarist Olof Wikstrand: looks like Vince Neal (similar shrill high pitched vocals) and rages like Nikki Sixx. He's constantly moving, leading the cheers and playing at bent/obtuse angles, foot cocked on the wedge monitors. Opening "Destroyer" does just that, getting the audience involved from the word "Go!" Follow-up "Undying Evil" and a slightly slowed down "From Beyond" whiz by.  Wikstrand chides the crowd with "How are the headbangers up front? How are the disco lovers in the back?" Notice the floor fill up.

The other guitarist, Joseph Tholl (also vocalist for Black Trip, now re-christened V.O.J.D) gets a short solo, to introduce "Live For The Night". At times, a little sloppy, but their live set is about feel and intensity, not technical perfection. "Mesmerized By Fire" sees a trio across the front of the stage, synchronized movements from the guitar tandem. By the end of "Take Me Out Of This Nightmare", the crowd has been persuaded to repeat the titular chorus. A couple of trips around Jonas Wikstrand's drums kick of the set closing "Midnight Vice".

Minds blown and skulls crushed.

Despite decades in the business and having to follow a more pedestrian Swallow The Sun, Dark Tranquillity still have their work cut out for them, a general malaise having infected the crowd, the hangover induced by their fellow Swedes still evident. Luckily, their bag of tricks includes several old school gens, alternating with newer material. They also fortified the live show with a continuously playing video screen, behind the band, offering an array of still and animated visuals, from computer generated song titles ("The Science Of Noise") to lyric video (portions of different songs, like "The Pitiless") and Monty Python's Terry Gilliam inspired cut & paste stop-action. 

In complete contrast to real life, onstage, singer Mikael Stanne is a nervous, spasmodic whirling dervish, practically never standing still. "The Lesser Faith" and "The Treason Wall" are up early, sandwiching the title track from the new Atoma CD, released just days earlier. The stage is frequently bathed in copper lights, the illumination washing out the singer's Dutch Masters' approved hair and beard. The set continues sampling past glories, including 'Terminus", "Monochromatic Stains" and "The Wonders At Your Feet", the last two, back-to-back.

The proper set ended with a strong duo, first a rowdy, fist thrusting "Final Resistance", followed by a more passive "Therein" complete with  heartbeat/oscilloscope vacillating across the video screen, crowd singing the "whoa whoa" laden chorus. A short encore, ultimately opting for pink (or was that a shade of purple) for the evening ending "Misery's Crown".

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