Enslaved, Yob, Ecstatic Vision, Anciients: Vancouver March ’15

Although at contrasting ends of the metal spectrum stylistically, Enslaved and Yob are two bands that have come into their own both musically and in terms of identity over the past few years. The former have blossomed from their black metal roots into a titan of modern progressive metal, proving to be the most consistent and innovative product of the Norwegian second wave, while the latter have ascended the throne of modern doom metal with their unparalleled emotional intensity and inimitable sound. As such, seeing the two bands on a bill together offers both a diverse aural experience, and the opportunity to witness two bands at absolute pinnacle of their game share the stage. With support from Vancouver’s progressive metal export Anciinets and Ecstatic Vision’s spiritualistic psychedelic drone sounds, tonight proved to be the most eclectic show of the year so far.

Beginning proceedings playing to a small but expanding crowd, Anciients flow through a set covering their 2013 debut ‘Heart of Oak’. Perhaps the most prominent contemporary metal export of Vancouver’s strong local scene, the band have clearly honed their impressive chops through regular live appearances, including Holland’s legendary Roadburn Festival, and the experience shows in tonight’s performance. The crowd quickly grows to a more suitable size given Anciient’s musical prowess, with the band’s dynamic riffery and engaging song-writing demanding attention from the enthusiastically nodding audience. A necessarily yet unfortunately short set is concluded by the airing of a new track (that this reviewer regrettably missed the name of!), and Anciients depart the stage having suitably warmed-up the burgeoning Rickshaw crowd and demonstrated their notable prowess.

Ecstatic Vision then take their turn, and although somewhat mysterious (seemingly few members of the audience have prior experience of the trio), the band’s enigmatic stage presence and fuzzed-out experimental jams no doubt earned them more than a few new fans. With the underlying resonance of the basslines and tribalistic drumming, the band’s rhythm section provided a heady groove that Ecstatic Vision’s frontman built upon with space rock-inspired riffing, impassioned vocals, and brilliantly 70’s facial hair. With their frontman pausing between songs to rattle shaman-stick dangling from his mic, Ecstatic Vision prove to be a nostalgic and engaging presence, absorbed in their sound and proficient in laying down chunky, hypnotic grooves and spacey atmospheres. Undoubtedly some of the less open-minded in the room were thrown off by the band’s character, yet on a bill defined by diversity, the trippy bunch are a fitting and enjoyable experience.

But when Yob take the stage any muted enjoyment factor of previous bands is instantly banished, and the sheer explosive power of Oregon’s doom masters takes priority. Reportedly the band’s sets on the tour thus far have focused around last year’s totally majestic ‘Clearing the Path to Ascend’, yet tonight Mike Scheidt and co. mix things up, with the title track of ‘Atma’ and live classic Quantum Mystic elbowing their way into a three-song setlist concluded by last year’s spine-tingling anthem ‘Marrow’. Consequently Vancouver is treated to a set that spans and reveals Yob’s ongoing history and growth, culminating in the song that has gained Mike Scheidt recognition as one of heavy metal’s most honest and inspiring musicians, an intoxicating experience for any fan of the band. Unparalleled in their performance, the connection between the three men on stage seems to have mutated into an innate telekinesis, with each musician somehow simultaneously immersed in his own instrument as well as the timing and delivery of his bandmates. The result is an absolutely massive sound, soaked in distortion and hypnotising in its perfect expression of Yob’s emotional spectrum, shifting as it does from powerfully and viscerally uplifting to solemnly introspective. This is characteristic is perfectly defined by ‘Marrow’ and as Scheidt’s roof-raising vocals ring out through the Rickshaw atop the thundering resonance of Foster and Reiseburg, it’s impossible not to be totally captivated by the band’s earth-moving presence and sound, or to deny their mounting reputation and exposure.

Fortunately Enslaved don’t rush taking to the stage themselves, which allows this reviewer to reinsert his brain after the prior Yobotomy. While the Norsemen may certainly differ in sound, in presence and power they are arguably just as emphatic as the previous act, with Grutle Kjellson’s stage-banter proving as intentionally unfunny as ever, and Ivar Bjornson’s towering form making the guitarist appear to be transported from Scandinavia’s distant past. Barrelling into a set predominantly focused on their most recent four albums, with airings from the recently released ‘In Times’ proving to be exemplary of Enslaved’s now unmistakable style of black-infused, hook-laden prog metal, the band demonstrate once again why their reputation precedes them, with their live performance perfectly replicating their recorded material. Kjellson roars and spits his way through the set with characteristic aplomb, while Herbrand Larsen’s clean vocals are delivered with crooning passion and add atmosphere to the band’s more aggressive moments. Ethica Odini and The Watcher both receive resounding reactions from the crowd, yet as Enslaved return for their encore and ‘As Far Swept Clean the Earth’ and ‘Isa’ and the band gaze back to the beginning of their modern incarnation, another powerfully emphatic display of a band’s legacy rings through the Rickshaw. An excellent night all around, while Yob and Enslaved may be divergent musically, as tour-buddies they prove an invigorating and powerful partnership, and with both bands on seemingly unstoppable trajectories, witnessing them in tandem proves a compelling and commanding experience.

Originally published via Livevan.com

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