Ihsahn / Shining / Leprous / Xerath

19 August 2010

Camden Electric Ballroom, London


Fortunately, we arrived just before the advertised 7pm doors time, to find the queue already filing into the Electric Ballroom.On heading through the doors we note a set time showing Xerath were due to start at 7.05pm, hence Johan had to leg it after getting his pass to make it into the photopit.


Whilst the crowd was quite thin to start with, you couldn’t fault the enthusiasm of Xerath frontman Richard Thomson who implored the crowd to bang their heads.The problem in that with Xerath is that they’ll hit a groove for a while and then head off in some weird time signature, leaving the banger amusingly perplexed.Reform Part I saw the swathes of backing tapes coming through and that was the big difference between Xerath and the other bands on the bill this evening.The first of two new songs for me started to take the backing tapes too far with added clean vocals coming through.The song itself was promising, showing a more melodic approach whilst retaining a melodic edge.


The backing tapes were also playing havoc with my setlist gathering, as Thomson would announce “This one’s called…” and the tapes would start over the song title.I really enjoyed Xerath when I saw them late last year with Abigail Williams, but tonight, perhaps as there was so much true “live” music to follow, they didn’t have the same impact.I’d like to see less tapes and more live Xerath.


Xerath setlist:

Consequences / Reform Part I / New Song 1 / Reform Part II / New Song 2 / Intrenity


I think quite a lot of people were unaware that Leprous were Ihsahn’s backing band until they appeared later with the former Emperor man.There were certainly a few curious looks when the band, all dressed in various combinations of crimson and black set up a keyboard centre stage which was then occupied by a man wearing a bow-tie.The more observant may have realised that the same man, Einar Solberg, was in fact Emperor’s session keyboard player on their final tour.


Having been preparing for Bloodstock over the previous few weeks, I actually only got around to listening to Leprous’ Tall Poppy Syndrome cd the day before the gig.Being hugely impressed I was left kicking myself I hadn’t had more time with it, however it didn’t matter too much as Leprous played a lot of new songs tonight.A cry of “Play some old stuff” was met by Solberg with “We don’t have old stuff, we’re not old!”.To be fair they probably, correctly, imagined the bulk of this audience hadn’t heard them before so why not play their must current material.It does mean I couldn’t identify a setlist though!


Leprous are a quirky prog metal band who at times had me recalling Pain Of Salvation, another band who can go off at tangents.  It took most of the Norwegian’s opening song for the sound to settle but by the end I found myself stroking my chin in contemplative fashion so they were obviously hitting the right prog buttons.Solberg did a good job of fronting the band for someone shackled to a keyboard.His dreads flailed as he moved from clean singing to falsetto to screaming.Guitarists Tor Oddmund Suhrke & Øystein Landsverk employed 8 string guitars for various songs during the set.


I can however confirm they did close with the song Passing from the Tall Poppy Syndrome album, a song with a passing resemblance to Opeth.Leprous return later this year with Therion, a gig I am disappointed I can’t make, as I’d certainly like to see them again.


There were further confused looks as a group of men with slicked back hair took to the stage.With the Emperor black metal connection, some may have expected Shining from Sweden, however this was the Norwegian Shining featuring Jørgen Munkeby, saxophone contributor for Ihsahn.I’d been particularly impressed with the first half of their Blackjazz album, which was great as that’s what the set consisted of.


Shining have done the opposite of what many metal bands have done.Starting off as an acoustic jazz quartet in 1999 they’ve headed in an increasingly more extreme direction towards metal.Blackjazz itself is how they describe their sound and it’s pretty accurate.


Surprisingly opening with, in my opinion, their best song, The Madness and the Damage Done, Munkeby started on guitar, singing below the lone spotlight on the band.Mid song the band enter a relentless loop with strobe lights adding to the disorientating effect.


Bathed in red lights, Shining continue with Fisheye which starts off like some crazed EBM song.Munkeby looked disturbed as he repeated the 1,3,7,5 refrain and mid song he switched to saxophone as the song became unhinged but the band remained tight.


“I guess you didn’t just come to see metal but some jazz too?” asked Munkeby before we’re taken on the wild Healter Skelter ride.This was as mental as it got and it was enthralling.


Exit Sun took us in an almost hard dance direction via a riff that wouldn’t have been out of place in a Muse song, but all too soon the time was up.I honestly profess to not like jazz, but if this is jazz I’ve changed my mind.


Shining setlist:

The Madness and the Damage Done / Fisheye / Healter Skelter / Exit Sun


It was interesting that when this gig was confirmed, the initial advertised supports were Winterfyleth and Wodensthrone.Given the band connections whilst it wasn’t a surprise that Leprous and Shining were added it did change the nature of the gig as a whole.Despite Emperor shirts being on sale at the merchandise stand and many of the audience wearing black metal t-shirts, this was definitely not a black metal gig.


Ihsahn’s albums have followed a more progressive metal route and there is definitely a linage through, particularly the latter Emperor albums.Ihsahn has stepped away from black metal and although he affords us two Emperor songs this evening he amusingly refers to them as “the boy band” he used to be in.One of those The Tongue Of Fire, which he informs us Emperor never performed live, is more progressive than much of his own solo work.Considering his evolution in style, it makes the dissolution of Emperor understandable.Ihsahn and Samoth were pulling in different directions and you really couldn’t image Samoth playing the likes of the saxophone infused A Grave Inversed.


Anyone expecting Ihsahn to arrive in spiked shoulder pads would have be disappointed.Ihsahn cut a studious figure with hair cropped, neat beard and wearing glasses.His necklace and Emperor logo on his guitar strap provide the connections to his past.He strolled on to the stage with little fuss, raised horns to the crowd and we were straight into The Barren Lands.The eight string guitars he and the Leprous guitarist use look enormous and whilst we’ve witness other bands use similar guitars but only actually use the lower two strings, Ihsahn’s fingers dart across all eight strings.


For A Grave Inversed Jørgen Munkeby from Shining takes the stage with his saxophone.The additional instrument fits perfectly in Ihsahn’s sound, but if Munkeby is unavailable for a show, Ihsahn would be hard pushed to find someone up to Munkeby’s standards.There were now seven people on stage and whilst Ihsahn himself is the image of cool calmness, the band around him provided a backdrop of movement.In fact the Leprous guys moved more during this set than during their own.


Ihsahn tells us that not only is this is first solo UK gig, it’s also his first headline show.Continuing it was time to go “Back to the old six string”, for Misanthrope from the angL album.However the crowd really start to wake up when he continues with the opening two cuts from The Adversary album.The King Diamond like chorus of Called by the Fire provided the first sing along of the evening with arms held aloft.


Scarab crawling riff was only eclipsed by the mid section bass tapping of Halvor Strand and Emancipation that followed proved that Ihsahn has no problems singing in a clean vocal.He then took the time to thank Leprous who he noted he couldn’t have done the live shows without.Noting the importance of his collaborations linked neatly to mentioning his work with Mikael Åkerfeldt.Given he was in the country at BOA at the weekend, I half expected Åkerfeldt to walk out, but Ihsahn announced that Einar Solberg would handle those vocals on Unhealer.This song and the following Frozen Lakes On Mars really highlighted Ihsahn and Leprous as a unit and it’s to be hoped they continue to work together.


Ihsahn noted “We’re getting faster now” before Citizen which he quipped was “Not about Londoners”.It was then that he brought out the first of the two Emperor covers.The mere mention of “Back in the 90s, believe it or not I used to be in a Boy band”, sent the crowd into raptures.Though those behind me shouting I Am The Black Wizards were no doubt disappointed with The Tongue Of Fire.


Obviously pounding out a black metal band’s song was too much for Tobias Ørnes Andersen bass drum which had split right through.  Fortunately a fresh one was on hand and soon Ihsahn was announcing, “This is the last one, a slow dance one”.Munkeby rejoined the band with his saxophone for an excellent rendition of On The Shores.As the band started to leave the stage Ihsahn stood centre stage looking around with a “Where are you all going?” expression.Clearly enjoying himself he questioned, “We have time for one more?” as the band reassembled.Once again excitement swept the crowd as he decided, “We play one of the old boy band ones”.The heralding keyboards of Einar Solberg ushered in Thus Spake The Nightspirit.Material from In The Nightside Eclipse would have sat oddly with Ihsahn’s own material, but there is enough complexity in a song like this one to provide a fitting finale to the set without feeling forced in.Ihsahn’s cry of “C’mon London you know this, let me hear you sing” was duly obliged for the “Nightspirit” refrain close.


I came back from Bloodstock on Tuesday and suggested to Johan we give this a miss due to exhaustion.I am very glad I did not make that mistake.



Ihsahn setlist:

The Barren Lands / A Grave Inversed / Misanthrope / Invocation / Called by the Fire / Scarab / Emancipation / Unhealer / Frozen Lakes On Mars / Citizen / The Tongue Of Fire / On The Shores / Thus Spake the Nightspirit