CAMBRIDGE MA – NOVEMBER 22: Abbath, co-founder of seminal Norwegian black metal band Immortal, tours in support of his first solo record. Support acts from local metal bands Obsidian Tongue, Sangus, and Infera Bruo. Shot at The Sinclair on Tuesday, November 22, 2016. All Rights Reserved / © Tim Bugbee
Was it just a coincidence that the first blast of icy air descended upon the city as black metal legend Abbath and his band crossed over town lines? I think not. The grim master of the Arctic played in support of his solo record for the second time in about six months, when he teamed with High On Fire as part of the Decibel tour, at Royale. The Sinclair is about half the capacity with the balcony open; tonight it would be closed. Was that a function of potential over-saturation, a Tuesday night, four bands on the bill, or it being two days before Thanksgiving? Perhaps all of the above, but none of the bands seemed to matter that capacity wasn’t reached.
Like another well-known music figure who employs black and white grease paint and outlandish stage gear, Abbath can’t seem to keep his enormous tongue inside his mouth, frequently flicking it out like a viper testing his environs. Given the serious, po-mo trappings of most black metal bands, Abbath is more content to his let his songs convey the frost-bitten grimness while he’d rather clown it up and have fun. It made for an odd incongruity but ultimately succeeded, with the baleful songs like “Winterbane” and “Ashes of the Damned” eliciting plenty of horns and claws from the faithful in the room. The monumental “Tyrants,” one of several Immortal songs that were played, did suffer a bit from Abbath’s goofiness when he peppered in a bunch of pauses during the song, even sitting down at the riser of Creature’s drums to spike the crowd’s fervor. One aspect of black metal that can be off-putting to some is the tinny, thin production – Abbath’s band and sound crew was a polar opposite, giving full crunch and depth to the blast beats and serrated riffs that underpinned his strangulated growlings. I was out of town for the April show, so I’m glad he made a return trip, and judging from the sweaty participants in the mosh pit and the grins across the room, I wasn’t alone.
The opening bands were all local, and underscored that there’s a pretty vibrant black metal local scene. Obsidian Tongue is a two piece, but blindfold ten people and I’d bet that most of them wouldn’t guess that only two people are responsible for crafting this intricate blend of black metal. I’d seen them a couple of years ago on what ended up being Agalloch’s last tour, and the mix of quieter, beautiful passages that are rendered into pieces with blasts of ferocious power is a similar trait of this band. Sangus took more of a power approach, with German-style thrash metal being the primary driving to their brutal, heavy sound. I could see them as a perfect match to tour with Coroner. Infera Bruo kicked things off with a bit more traditional black metal sound but Robin Amos’ synths steered them into new (and suitably darkened) forest glades.