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Enslaved, Dark Funeral Tour Report

Photo of Abigail Williams

Band Photo: Abigail Williams (?)

Even though Mark's in Bedford, NH is very close to my house, this time I decided to venture the vastly unknown territory of Hartford, CT. My main motive was the size of the venue allowing for better photo opportunities. I know from past, bitter experience that the NH/ MA area isn't a cultivable environment for BM so I was harbouring high hopes as to the number of attendees at the Webster. Which were boosted by the fact that the previous night's show in Poughkeepsie had been cancelled, so I thought hordes of fans would relocate to Hartford tonight.

The Webster indeed is a good size venue, kind of a mini Palladium. When I arrived, Abigail Williams were just kicking off their set. The vast floor was scarcely populated and I initially thought the majority of the crowd were still hanging around the second stage in the other room in support of the local bands. After a quick stroll down the corridor, I came to the bone-chilling realization that the number of fans I'd expected was a mere daydream. The venue was virtually empty; I'd say there were 40-50 people including the venue staff. Still stunned, with hopes obliterated, I returned to the main room to scrutinize the Arizona-bred metallers. Although not prize-winners for originality, they have a solid presence and a good overall sound. My only objections are that their death/ metalcore style and à la Bleeding Through member configuration don't exactly fit with the rest of the bands on the tour but we all know this is more of a label faux pas. The boys and girl managed to extricate a few cheers from the crowd but overall went underappreciated, though I'm sure they realize, being such a young band, that they're just starting to climb up the ladder.

It didn't take long for Enslaved to come on stage. The three rows of people and unpopulated plain behind them must have been heart-wrenching from the band's perspective, but this is where their true professionalism and dedication shone. They displayed no signs of disappointment, and resisted any temptation to put in a sloppy or hurried set. Attendance- wise, I'm sure this was the worst night of the tour (an opinion shared by Grutle in my subsequent interview). There was, however, a small group of fired-up fans to the left of the stage who were the source of enthused and unified singalongs. The set opened up with Path To Vanir, one of the better known songs from their latest release due to its video. The remaining selections were focused on their last two albums Isa and Ruun. The Voices, 793/Slaget and especially Jotunblod offered a joyous nostalgia trip. It's so pleasing to witness their immersion in the old Norse era. Enslaved have this tight, crushing sound in both old and new material. Although their style has changed over the years- starting as an exiled child of Black and laying the foundations of Viking metal, to their latest, more progressive sound- the ideology of the music has remained the same. After all, main composer/ guitarist Ivar Bjornson is one of the scene's front runners in runic lore and this certainly shows in his lyrical explorations.

After the Norwegian crew left the stage, the bodycount noticeably thinned out and never reassembled. Tonight's headliners' stage setup consisted of a backdrop displaying their latest album cover art, and banners with Satanic imagery reading "Swedish Black Metal" (in case somebody thought otherwise). And this is exactly what they offer- spine-chilling, purist (keyboards banned), Baphomet- worshiping BM. In times like this, when the market shows favouritism to symphonic- infused sound, their endurance is to be applauded. The day that Dark Funeral use keyboards is the day that the Earth will implode. I actually made the grave mistake of mentioning the taboo word to Lord Ahriman and although he paired it with a smile, I know that under different circumstances I should be seriously worried for the intactness of my skull.

Back to the show now, DF emerged from darkness under King Antichrist. The entire front line channeled this stern majesty as they plunged into a surprisingly varied set, a good half revolving around older albums. Ravenna, Vobiscum, and Black Arts were all on the menu but the meager and apathetic audience failed to appreciate this treat. They seemed like they heard some BM band was passing through town, had nothing better to do on Sunday night and decided to check it out... but had no real knowledge of their material. Alas, I think DF absorbed vibrations from this passive response. No encore. No surprise there.

I would like to point out that my disappointment with this unfortunate fourth night of February has nothing to do with the level of performance. Quite the opposite, I admire them for braving the inhospitable New England region. Tonight only reinforced my impression that unless you're called Nightwish or CoB, you're condemned to unacceptably poor attendance in this area. If I may make a suggestion, the next time a genuinely good European band ventures the vast American territory, they should skip this region altogether. It's a waste of energy for both the band and crew. Let the true fan show their colors and allegiance by driving to Canada or NYC. I know I will.

The following night, Feb 5th, being the last day of this tour, I had to check out if the fans in NH would do better. Mark's has two halves- a strip club and a rock venue. The venue has two small stages opposite each other and while the headliners set up, a local band would be playing. The greatest disadvantage of this place is the confined "main stage" and the very, very low ceiling. Ivar from Enslaved instinctively lowered his head when entering the stage. Equally annoying are the dim-witted and very unfriendly bouncers, reason enough for me to boycott this place from now on. The bands enjoyed a better attendance but again, not nearly enough. There were even a good sized Norwegian flag and a steady show of raised horns and beers. All negativity aside, I must admit that the kids tonight made up in spirit what they lacked in numbers. A much better night for metal.

Photos from the show have been posted in the photo gallery.

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1 Comment on "Enslaved, Dark Funeral Tour Report"

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1. COB fan writes:

Hartford is not going to know the bands that are not big names.. we only know the big ones like COB, Arch Enemy, Cradle.. etc.... just because this show didnt get much support, doesnt mean bands from the UK/overseas should skip this region u ass!

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