Enslaved, Insomnium, Black Anvil @ Irving Plaza
Despite a week of increasingly warm days, a lone Wednesday stood out as the chosen window for winter to make one last stand before bowing out to springtime. Frigid winds and rain that changed between heavy droplets and mist at random made a pass over New York City as dusk fell. "It's like the bands brought the Nordic weather with them!" said one fan with a chuckle, the hood of his jacket pulled over his head and his arms wrapped around him for warmth.
Indeed this fan, one of dozens in line outside of Irving Plaza, was no doubt referring to the co-headliners set to take the stage, each hailing from a country in the northern regions of Europe. With the release of a new album in 2023 from both bands, the time was right for Enslaved and Insomnium to begin their much anticipated North American tour in Manhattan, with support from New York's own Black Anvil.
With ties to both the New York Death Metal and New York City Hardcore scenes, Black Anvil needed no introduction to the already packed house. Charging through a set of blackened thrash metal, including tracks off of last year's Regenesis, the quartet gave their all to ensure the night would start off fast and vicious.
With horns and cheers thrown up from the crowd after every song, and even more hugs and handshakes after the show, the set was a perfect 'bon voyage' to hometown heroes before the tour headed out of the Big Apple. To that point, there is no question that when bassist/vocalist Paul 'P.D.' Delaney declared "This is New York, this is our house!", all those in the room fully agreed.
With both of their 2020 North American tours cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, fans have eagerly awaited Insomnium's return to New York since their last pre-pandemic run in 2018. Celebrating the release of their ninth album, Anno 1696, this February, the set was chock full of brand new material and plenty of fan favorites.
Beginning with the acoustic melodies of "1696", the song gave way to the Finnish quartet's iconic melodic death metal stylings. Paired with "White Christ", which features a guest appearance from Sakis Tolis of Rotting Christ on the album, there was no end to the delight of the crowd to be among the first North Americans to hear these songs played live.
Still, the roars of excitement from the audience were deafening as the opening notes of "While We Sleep" off of 2014's Shadows of the Dying Sun rang out. This song, along with Mortal Share from 2006's Above the Weeping World would be the oldest two songs in the set, satisfying the longest standing fans in the room.
Having lost the chance to premier songs from 2019's Heart Like A Grave due to the cancelled tours, the time had finally come to perform a few songs for the first time in New York. Between the dirge like "And Bells They Toll", the epic "Valediction", and the album's stellar title track, which closed the set, Insomnium were at last able to bring these songs to the stage.
Here's hoping U.S. and Canadian fans don't have to wait another many years to hear these and other songs fill venues once again.
Apart from a lone date in 2019, it has not been since the 2018 Decibel Magazine Tour that Norwegian titans Enslaved have graced North American stages. In that time, the band released two incredible albums: 2018's Utgard and this year's Heimdal.
In a somewhat uncanny prelude to the set, the band took the stage to the infamous opening music and monologue from A Clockwork Orange. After so many years away, perhaps it was indeed time for a bit of the old ultra-violence.
Opening with back to back cuts off of Utgard, "Jettegryta" and "Homebound", the dual vocal stylings of bassist Grutle Kjellson and drummer Iver Sandøy shined over tower waves of progressive black metal.
Responding to a chant from the crowd of "Let's go Rangers!", and perhaps as a cheeky callback to the time Enslaved and then-tour mates Amon Amarth were spotted on American TV at a Boston Bruins hockey game in 2014, Kjellson declared "This is Ranger territory, right? This is Rangers KINGDOM!" before commencing the song of the same name.
Realizing the risk of dating themselves, and perhaps a good portion of the audience as well, Kjellson laughed at the revelation that Below the Light, the band's seventh album, is celebrating twenty years this May. "I won't make any further comments on that!" he said, before launching into "The Dead Stare", one of two songs performed from the album, the other being "Havenless".
While no comments were necessary in that case, the history behind closing song "Allfáðr Oðinn" cannot be overlooked. Released in 1992 on the band's second demo tape, Yggdrasill, the original recording predates the formation of Dimmu Borgir and the release of Emperor's In the Nightside Eclipse. In fact, drummer Trym Torson, who performed on the demo, would leave Enslaved in 1996 to join Emperor.
Over thirty years later, it is a seminal work of the genre and, if New York has anything to say about it, still excites veteran Enslaved fans as well as more recent ones. To this point, time and age means nothing when you have a legacy as great as Enslaved.
Ticket and photo pass courtesy of Season of Mist