Enslaved powered through technical difficulties to provide an outstanding performance. Photo: Bryer Wharton
The enigma that is Utah’s metal scene/crowd/fanbase resulted in the sold-out Amon Amarth, Enslaved and Skeletonwitch concert on Wednesday, Feb. 12. I say enigma because, when it comes to metal and metal-type shows in Utah/Salt Lake City, turnouts are always hit and miss. Even a bigger-name act that one might expect to draw a large crowd can sometimes draw strangely small amounts. All in all, it was a night for fun to be had and bands to deliver their metal to the fans, and in return, the fans paid the bands back in massive merch sales. Amon Amarth T-shirts kept breeding on the fans’ backs as the night progressed as well as other merch treats that give the touring bands more support than buying a CD at a chain store. It was not a night for scene politics, musical elitism or genre stereotypes.
Per my adventure to the Murray Theater (at which I cannot remember if I had ever seen a concert), I couldn’t remember if it was the Murray Theater or the Avalon, but that’s a moot point. The venue setup at the converted movie theater is a pretty good one for crowds that could max out—at the most—at maybe 900 folks. I think the assessment I gathered was that ticket sales were in the 800-folks ballpark.
I came to the show to see Norway’s Enslaved because it was the band’s first concert in Utah, and I’ve enjoyed the early, more black metal Enslaved material and the band’s metamorphosis into more progressive styles. The fans seemed pretty stoked to see Enslaved as well. Unfortunately, Enslaved’s set came with a lot (and I mean a lot) of sound issues contingent upon the power to the guitar sound constantly cutting out. The band started off and played “Death in the Eyes of Dawn” off of their latest album RIITIR in its entirety. They then ventured into playing “RUNN,” and that’s when the power problems began. Really, it’s something that happens at concerts, and a good chunk of the time, it’s not any person’s fault—it just happens. What made how Enslaved handled the problems classy and entertaining was how the Norwegian crew saved the show.
When the guitar power first cut out, the drums were still hooked into the audio realm so the crowd got treated to some drum soloing that most likely would not have been heard if not for the sound issues. Since “RUNN” got cut very short, the band continued their set with “Ethica Odini” to, once again, be cut short because of the guitar audio problems. Enslaved continued to play it off with class and chatted, and founding members Gruntle and Ivar joked to entertain the audience. At one point, Ivar joked that “the Mormons” were messing with the sound, and later into another song cut short, Gruntle said, “We’re at the heart of something pretty nasty … It could be something metaphysical going on [as Ivar pointed upwards] … or it could be the power. The first one is more intriguing—let’s make a YouTube documentary tomorrow folks.”
That little, fun conversation led into Enslaved going as old as they would get for the night, but it went very old, back to the first “official” release from Enslaved, Hordanes Land, and the song “Allfǫðr Oðinn,” and yes, it crushed and crushed even more. Seeing that song played live from a band I’ve admired for a long time pretty much made up the power issues that, for the most part, resulted in Enslaved only being able to play three full songs. The band closed out the show with “Isa” to a grateful crowd. The band later ventured to their merch booth to sign autographs and mingle with fans, greeting every one of them with gratitude. The big question from a lot of the fans that talked to the band was if Enslaved would come back to Salt Lake, to which the members replied in different forms—to sum it all up—was an enthusiastic “yes.”
By the time Amon Amarth hit the stage, the inside of the Murray Theater felt like being inside someone’s sweaty armpit. But no matter: The fans came to metal it out. Personally, I’ve been hit and miss on Amon Amarth’s melodic death metal as far as my musical taste goes. The band punched out song after another to the mead-thirsty fans, and it was all enjoyed by the fans to joyous cheers, metal horns and headbanging. It’s very likely that this show will be one of those “Were you there?”–type gigs among certain circles of the metal crowd, and who can complain about that?