Enslaved / Audrey Horne
13 November 2008
The Scala, London

Openers Krakow were wrapping up their set as we entered the Scala and spotted Enslaved guitarist Arve Isdal behind the merchandise stand. Isdal, also known as Ice Dale, was pulling double duty with the late inclusion of his other band Audrey Horne. Hence it was amusing to see him also selling shirts and we joked whether he was going to get a broom a clear up afterwards too.

Audrey Horne took their name from a character in Twin Peaks played by Sherilyn Fenn and fittingly they take to the stage to the TV show’s theme tune. With hints of Stone Temple Pilots and Faith No More, and a vocalist singing with clean vocals in a shirt and tie, opener The Sweet Taste Of Revenge seemed to take many of the black metal t-shirt wearers by surprise. Those in the know, or who recognised Ice Dale on stage, would have made sense of Audrey Horne’s inclusion on tonight’s bill, but there were certainly some puzzled looks.

Surprisingly given the crowd, but not given the quality of the performance, Audrey Horne fair very well and win over a good portion of the audience. Some, including myself, have been waiting to catch the Norwegians live and following Last Call, vocalist Toschie concedes “We should have been here a long time ago.” Jaws, swathed in Hammond organ and propelled by a gang vocal chorus, emphasises the band’s quality, as Audrey Horne hit their groove with Ice Dale pulling poses. The other guitarist role is usually taken by Thomas Tofthagen, also of Sagh. Unless he’s had a drastic hair cut someone else filled that role and did so admirably.

Toschie’s confidence was palpable from the start and mid set he was trying to shift the band’s merch, comically telling us that their t-shirts “will get you laid” and their cd’s are “something to play whilst getting laid”. With that in mind it was time for the band’s “contribution to power ballads” with Bright Lights, which built to a heavy crescendo.

Heading back to the bands difficult to find debut No Hay Banda, the staccato Dead leads us to Confessions & Alcohol which Toschie tells us, “Was written by Ice Dale and me immediately after seeing Broke Back Mountain”, much to the guitarists amusement. Of course this is only a support set hence it was soon time for the bands finale. Threshold, from latest album Le Fol, was simply stunning, seeing both guitarists pointing their guitars skyward in harmony.

Whilst acquiring the band’s first album afterwards, I commented to Toschie that they had done very well with what must have been a difficult crowd. The singer shrugged it off, noting you just have to go for it. Audrey Horne certainly did that and I do hope it won’t be long before they are back playing their own show. Though with Enslaved just starting their touring cycle, that might not be the case.

Audrey Horne set list:
The Sweet Taste Of Revenge / Last Call / Jaws / Bright Lights / Dead / Confessions & Alcohol / Threshold

As the house lights went down, the bar quickly emptied into the main hall for the main event Enslaved. The band’s logo slowly evaporated on a screen behind the band as the image of the vertebra from the cover of their latest album appeared and Clouds opened the set. That album, Vertebrae, is yet another bold step into progressive territories, pushing further the boundaries of black metal. An initially difficult album, following repeated listens, Vertebrae has become something of an addiction and tops my album of 2008 list. Hence I had greatly anticipated tonight’s show and Enslaved did not disappoint.

The opening section of the set had us bouncing between that latest album and its predecessor Ruun. Fusion of Sense and Earth was backed with trippy projections and flashing white light, with Ice Dale showing no signs of tiring once again pulling shapes and pointing his guitar upwards. New Dawn headed off at a furious pace with Grutle Kjellson’s harsh rasps leading us to the point where the song suddenly goes mid pace. As the hypnotic riff kicked in, a satisfied cry behind me echoed my own thoughts, as keyboard player Herbrand Larsen sang the clean vocal refrain. Ruun itself was dedicated to “The chaos of humanity” and featured the crowd clapping along, something not common at black metal gigs.

“Perhaps you want something slightly older?”, questioned Kjellson before taking us back to 2003’s Below The Lights for As Fire Swept Clean The Earth. The images of a painted red man, bleeding with a pained expression was reminiscent of the images Tool employs. Whilst my vantage point meant I couldn’t see clearly, it certainly sounded like Ice Dale was using an EBow, recreating the wailing guitar sounds of the recorded version over the bear like Ivar Bjørnson’s rampaging guitar.

Back with the latest album and the rocking riffs of Ground are as near Enslaved get to Audrey Horne. Meanwhile the lulling intro riffs of To The Coast initially hypnotise with the mantra like vocal until the song heads off at a march. Black and white images of a cloaked figure added an eerie menace.

Time for a real history lesson now as Enslaved delve back to 1997 for the title track of their Eld album. Whilst it’s furious sections invoke memories of the traditional black metal sound, at the break-down the song is riddled with modern sounding Enslaved and serves as a reminder that Enslaved have remained innovative since their inception. The next song, Allfadr Odinn, takes us right back to those beginnings from Enslaved’s split release with Emperor. This song is apparently so evil it caused a man in front of me to fall over on the steps three times in succession. Though it could have been the beer!

The Watcher wraps up the main set, but Enslaved waste little time with encore formalities and are soon back on stage with fan favourite Isa. The crowd sing-along fairs better with the rasped title of the song than Larsen’s clean vocal but the regimented beat has a sea of heads bobbing away. With still a few minutes remaining before 11pm, there’s just enough time to squeeze in another song “From 1993 with our friends Emperor”. Slaget I Kogen Bortenfor incites pit action and closed one of my favourite sets of the year.

Enslaved set list:
Clouds / Fusion of Sense and Earth / New Dawn / Ruun / As Fire Swept Clean the Earth / Ground / To the Coast / Eld / Allfadr Odinn / The Watcher / Isa / Slaget I Kogen Bortenfor

Audrey Horne