ABBATH Rides The Black Metal Storm In Montreal!

May 22, 2024, a month ago

Photos: Thomas Mazerolles / Words: Bruno Maniacci

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The Dread Reaver North American tour was bringing back the iconic black metal musician in Montreal, headlining a night of heavy and grim decibels at La Tulipe. Foremost, we need to acknowledge the quality of this Montreal classic venue, established in 1913, and state that we need more metal shows there. The old cabaret provides this classic theater design in a mid-sized venue, allowing a good view of the stage from anywhere, but also a very decent sound compared to some other venues, which especially serve extreme music.

Final Gasp was the icebreaker tonight, with their refreshing dark blend of post punk and death rock, a band that we can hopefully see again less early, followed by New York’s Black Anvil and their mid-tempo modern black metal, which tends to sound a bit generic live despite some good riffs and parts. Then came the intriguing procession of Imperial Triumphant, and their down-tuned avant-garde-technical jazzy black metal, which can sound extremely interesting or equally boring, but more fascinating on stage.

But the main reason we’re all here is to see the one and only Abbath. And this might be one crucial point here, in a musical era filled with more and more copy-pasted generic black metal bands: there’s only one Abbath. The charisma of the man and unique aura of the legendary musician shines through the venue as soon as he walks on stage, acclaimed by a packed theater.

Opening the show with “To War!” and “Acid Haze”, the band proves the efficiency of Abbath’s solo material, with simple in-your-face riffs, a good amount of grooving mid-tempo parts and blasting storming parts. Even though some songs have a bit of this post-Immortal-pre-made recipe flavor, which some people would say lacks a bit of inspiration, it is hard not to bang your head with a grim face.

But the real thrill, the shivers on our mere mortal skins will come from a very specific sound: Abbath playing some Immortal classics. From some of these albums we’ve listened to over and over. So when the band throws “In My Kingdom Cold”, the temperature - ironically - rises up, the crowd roars louder as Abbath’s voice brings us back to these timeless epic hymns. Only to be followed by the magnificent piece Beyond the North Waves, a real treat to hear this captivating eight minutes of black metal epicness live.

And if some die-hard fans might be disappointed by the absence of Triumph in the set list, played in Europe some weeks ago, Abbath greets us with an even older classic: Nebular Ravens Winter from Blizzard Beasts.

He then steps into another great chapter of his career, the band I, throwing not one, but two songs from the only album released in 2006, “Warriors” and “Battalions”. Here’s another stretch in a musical crossover where Abbath is simply brilliant, this kind of black metal twisted with a heavy metal down tempo rocking groove, showing a bit of his love for Motörhead. Too bad the excellent The Storm I Ride isn’t part of the set list, which would have brought even more of this black’n’roll magic touch.

We appreciate the effort of the frontman to say some words in French in between songs, a “Merci beaucoup” here and there, even if it is sometimes difficult to understand which language he speaks in his demon voice. But who cares. Here’s to the authenticity and unique nature of the musician. And that’s what we’re here for. We are the sons of northern darkness, and of 90s and early 00s black metal, and the pit explodes again when One by One throws a storm of Immortal grimness.

The band close the show with “Winterbane”, a song that could be considered as an Abbath classic now, followed by All Shall Fall, from the last Immortal album with Abbath.

Yes, it was a good show. It felt really good, not only to hear a bunch of Immortal songs, but also to see Abbath performing, his very unique voice, his presence, his signature iconic corpse paint and spiky stage outfit, carrying the torch of some old black metal legends from Norway, the kind of front man we don’t see every day, especially in extreme metal. A good performance on the technical side too, as the musician seems to have slowed down on the booze that made for some infamous live moments in the past decade. 

Some would say they prefer the feeling of a less “serious” and more “funny” Abbath, crab-walking in a self-caricatured character, being even more unpredictable on stage. But today, it seems like Abbath is up to focus on the essence of what made the legend of Immortal, and of black metal: the music itself, and the irresistible grim riffs and dark power of some blistering cold fury unleashed on stage.

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