Norwegian black metal has a dark past, but Enslaved has moved far beyond the charred remains of ancient churches. Returning to The Sinclair once again on the heels of their new record, In Times, they chose instead to showcase songs from their storied and varied two decades of work, with just a trio of new songs and then a sprinkling of songs from eight other albums that ably demonstrated their breadth and ability to grow with each release. An unexpected twist of the show was the sharp wit and goofy humor of frontman and co-founder Grutle Kjellson, who could certainly stand on his own at any local comedy club open mic night.
As this was the tour closer, things got a little goofy too. Enslaved first pulled some hijinks with opening band Ecstatic Vision when Kjellson (sporting boxer briefs and a Yob hoodie) and keyboardist Herbrand Larsen walked out with a bottle of unidentified liquor during a song, and proceeded to pour shots into each of the players as they didn’t miss a note. When Yob’s turn came, the band used a road case as a litter for the most rotund member, co-founder Ivar Bjørnson, to cart him out on stage. Did I forget to mention he had an apple stuffed in his mouth, as if he were the prize pig roasted for the holiday meal? Logistics intervened as they couldn’t maneuver him past the backline of amps to the small gap where Mike Schiedt was deep into pummel mode, oblivious to what was going on behind him. The other bands had their revenge at Enslaved’s last song, first with everyone grabbing a guitar and crowding the stage like Spinal Tap playing “Big Bottom” at Live Earth and then later inexplicably spelling out “PIZZA” with cardboard squares and letters. Some tours tend towards friction or little interaction between the headliners and support acts. This was clearly not one of them.
Yob hasn’t played Boston since they opened for Tool back in 2012, so it was a treat to see the power doom trio in a friendlier venue, and a fair percentage of the near capacity crowd was there solely for that reason. They’ve been riding the crest of the wave of their last record, Clearing The Path To Ascend, which has been rightly received as a career best midst some pretty fucking spectacular records. Known for their punishing and extended catharsis, they managed to play four songs in their alloted hour, with Kjellson coming out to sing on “Nothing To Win.” Bassist Aaron Rieseberg’s hair was in a continual state of agitation as he and drummer Travis Foster locked in to make the bottom end feel like a minor earthquake. Scheidt’s vocal range moves from soaring, near-operatic highs to guttural lows. “Marrow” was the key track, a minor key lament that starts softly and builds to the point where you start checking for ceiling damage. Right now, Yob is at the top of their game.
Ecstatic Vision is a newcomer, but given their blistering set, keep an eye out. A Philly trio, they conjure the same hard psych of Danava or Earthless as if White Hills listened to more Montrose and less Hawkwind. Watch for their debut coming via Relapse later this year.