Yob was up next, a Doom Metal trio hailing from Eugene, Oregon. This band obviously not only consisted of better musicians, but better songwriters as well. But, keeping in the same doom/trance/bizarro vein as their two predecessors. None of the songs they performed were less than 10 minutes long, customary for the Prog Rock genre. Several of their songs opened with Mike Scheidt’s unique guitar work which seemed to embody tones of Pink Floyd. They also seemed to have a fairly large following as the crowd seemed to increase for their set, and also decreased after their set. I was confused by the “metal geek” fans, though. Almost all of them had short hair, glasses and full beards. If they had been wearing plainer clothes, I would have sworn I was in Amish country.
One of the great things about living in Baltimore, Maryland, other than seafood and Old Bay seasoning, is the music scene. Baltimore has always been a big draw for bands, even before I started attending shows with any regularity back in the early 80s. From mainstream acts to garage bands, you can find something to jam to in this town every night of the week. Baltimore also has a vibrant metal scene showcased by the annual Maryland Deathfest which draws dozens of bands from all over the world and thousands of crazy metalheads descending on the city.
Established in 2011, Baltimore Soundstage is still one of the newer venues in the city. Having a capacity of 1,000 for general admission shows, it can be considered a medium-sized room being larger than your average bar/nightclub but still a more intimate experience than larger, higher capacity places such as the Baltimore Arena (now called the Royal Farms Arena), Pier 6 Pavilion or even the regionally known Rams Head Live less than a block away. It also doesn’t hurt that the Soundstage is very near the picturesque Baltimore Inner Harbor.
On this evening, I was tasked with an in-person interview with Ivar Bjornson from Enslaved. Unfortunately, the show started while the interview was in progress on Enslaved’s tour bus. So, I only caught the last two songs by the opener, Witch Mountain. Witch Mountain is a quartet out of Portland, Oregon pegged on their Facebook page as Doom/Metal/Blues. They had a sludgy sound backing new singer, Kayla Dixon’s, Fly Leaf-esque vocals. They weren’t exactly my cup of tea, but I could hear the potential inherent in the band. Considering they formed in 1997, it’s time to expand on the potential. The main thing that was very noticeable about this band is, when they finished their set, they just walked off the stage without saying a word. I had to ask someone who they even were. Since they opened the show, chances are many people showed up at the venue during their set and, like me, may not have known the name of the band. Next time, utter the band’s name at least once before you leave the stage.
As we stood watching the next band set up, it became distressing. They almost resembled the heavy metal Keystone Cops, walking into each other and struggling with a strip of tube lights they were attempting to drape over the drum set. It became even more distressing when one of the band members set up a saxophone on stage. When they finally hit the stage to perform, the distress increased exponentially. Ecstatic Vision is a four-piece ensemble out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As the set toiled on, I was struck by an overwhelming feeling that heavy metal and jazz fusion just do not mix. They also were not mixed properly which made their music sound more like noise than anything. The bizarre maracas, saxophone and flute interludes were barely discernible and odd at best. The sparsely populated “metal geek” crowd seemed to be enjoying them. However, an audience member was overheard referring to them as “Deathro Tull”.
Finally, Enslaved hits the stage with the energy of a Viking ship in battle. The hair and hands were flying. Only moderate fan response at first, but as the show went on, the fans became more frenzied. Not being extremely knowledgeable about Enslaved’s discography, I cannot accurately say which songs were played. But, they all had an impact that resonated throughout the room. The new music, which they pointed out before they played, (that’s how I knew it was new) garnered a good reaction from the crowd. They seemed to be mixed pretty well with the keyboards clearly audible, which is sometimes a rarity for metal bands utilizing keyboards.
Herbrand Larsen on those keyboards was featured stage left, often shrouded in a haze of red lights as he synthed his way through the set delivering strong and clear vocals simultaneously. Ivar Bjornson’s growling vocals are in sharp contrast to his soft speaking voice. It’s hard to believe it’s the same guy. Grutle Kjellson, Arve Isdal and Cato Bekkevold, on vocals, guitar and drums respectively, were all spot on and meshed well together bringing a tight sound and dominant presence on the Soundstage on this most metal of evenings.
In my infinite wisdom, there are three types of metal shows. ‘Glad I went’, ‘Meh’ and ‘Wish I stayed home’. This show definitely started as a ‘Wish I stayed home’. But, pleasantly, it ended up a ‘Glad I went’.
Dawn “Mama Love” Brown
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