A Tuesday night show is usually faced with the challenge of trying to get people to show up, since most of them will have to go to work the next day. However, when you have an artist like Abbath with additional bill support from High on Fire, Skeletonwitch and Tribulation, people won’t care what day it is, and show up ready to bang their heads to massive riffs of savage extreme glory.
When the Decibel Magazine 2016 tour announced a Bay Area date, I made sure to secure a ticket right away. Abbath has not been to the United States in awhile and even when he was in Immortal, the band very rarely made the trek out to the States. When I was in high school during the All Shall Fall Tour, they only played one California date and that was all the way down in Los Angeles. So, getting to see one of black metal’s most iconic and well respected members was something I just could not pass up.
Arriving at the Regency Ballroom after luckily finding decent parking (SF parking can truly be a nightmare), I noticed a fair amount of metal maniacs hanging outside the venue. I felt like a majority of the people attending this show would be their for Abbath, but with High on Fire and Skeletonwitch as openers, you knew their was going to be a strong turnout of loyal fans from those bands too. Tribulation was the wildcard band for me since I had not heard anything from them before seeing them live, but they turned out to be one of my favorite bands who performed.
Starting off the show with incense burning and an ominous stage set up that could be used as scenery in a Hammer Horror film, Tribulation began their set by cranking out a dark jam of blackened rock horror. Their dynamic sound incorporated elements of black metal, doom, old school death metal, hardcore horror punk and seventies psychedelic hard rock. Each member seemed possessed by the music and they looked as if someone just dug them up from the grave and told them to play some unholy sounding music. One guitar player had on a cape and would run around enthusiastically playing his guitar and cranking out some solid leads. I was really taken back by their whole stage presence and musicianship. Plus, the ambience that they created while performing perfectly complimented the music. The one track I enjoyed the most from them was, “Melancholia.” Their two guitar players were jamming on some sinister riffs that also had this slight surf rock and classic punk groove going. Overall, I am glad I showed up early to catch such an awesome live act who I will be listening to more of this week.
Taking the stage after Tribulation was the Ohio based extreme metal act, Skeletonwitch. I have always considered them the working man’s extreme metal band and find their brand of blackened thrash to relate to the type of metal fan looking to let off some steam after a stressful day at work. I could tell that they have been playing for some years now, because the musicianship was solid and the energy from their performance was really resonating with the crowd. By midway through their set, I started noticing more people showing up, especially the more fanatical fans who were starting to form a mosh pit. One of Skeletonwitch’s guitarists even noticed how energetic the fans were becoming by saying how this crowd was better than the Los Angeles crowd. Getting back to the band, their vocalist Adam Clemans had a monstrous vocal presentation with such aggressive force that matched the thunderous drumming and wicked riffs. Their two guitar attack was slaying throughout the entire set which allowed for plenty of headbanging opportunities.
Once Skeletonwitch finished to an enormous applause from the ravenous audience, High on Fire began setting up for their head crushing set of battle sized riffs. This Bay Area doom/stoner metal trio has been around since the late 90s after guitarist and singer Matt Pike left the band Sleep. Matt Pike is one of my favorite guitar players and I was really looking forward to seeing him live. Being a Bay Area band you knew they were going to receive a major welcome home from the fans. As all three members walked out on stage, the place erupted into complete chaos. High on Fire opened their set with the song, “The Black Plot,” which is off the new album. Personally, I thought choosing this song to open the set was an extremely good idea. The energy that comes from the main riff has this doom mixed with thrash vibe, which is the best way to get a crowd moving around. I think during most of the band’s set I was banging my head. Matt hammered away on his guitar with tremendous force and offered plenty of insane guitar solos. All around the band was giving one-hundred percent effort and their stage presence was at top level.
High on Fire
Finally, after waiting for many months, I along with the other metal fans in attendance would finally get to see the mighty Abbath. When the lights dimmed and some epic sounding cinematic intro music began, the venue shook with the force of people yelling and clapping for the Norwegian black metal musician. Coming out on stage in his signature corpse paint and black body armor looking ready for battle, Abbath tore into the first song, “To War!,” by viciously striking a chord on his v-shaped guitar. Abbath began his set with a couple songs from his new solo release, with my favorite being the song, “Winterbane.” Also, I should make note of the other talented musicians that are part of Abbath’s band. On bass you have King Ov Hell who is known for his work in Gorgoroth and many other collaborations such as the release him, Abbath and a couple other black metal musicians put out called, “Between Two Worlds.” On second guitar you had Ole André Farstad who was a skillful player and handled the material very well. On drums was, ‘Creature’ (Gabe Seeber) blasting away at intense rhythms to support the triumphant frost bitten riffs of northern darkness.
Abbath’s set was comprised of an almost equal amount of new solo material and classic Immortal songs. Some fans kept shouting for him to play more Immortal songs, but I understand why he wanted to play the new music. Plus, I think the new tracks are solid crushing extreme pieces of music and a majority of the fans were rocking out to them. Also, I thought it was great when he did the song, “Warriors,” from the “Between Two Worlds,” release. Of course, once he broke out songs like “Tyrants” and “One by One,” the venue would become overly fanatical. I had drunk dudes pushing past me trying to get to the stage and their behavior was down right annoying. Another part during Abbath’s set where I was not exactly thrilled, was when Abbath finished a song and for a few minutes just walked around throwing his arms up in the air getting the crowd to react to his epic looking Abbath poses. I swear, he could have added another song to the set list! To make up for the time wasted, at least I was treated to some of my personal favorite Immortal classics like, “Solarfall,” and, “Nebular Ravens Winter.” The band finished the set with, “All Shall Fall,” which brought about a thunderous reaction. The crowd kept roaring for one more, but the band did not come out to play an encore. Disappointing that there was no encore, but Abbath still put on a great performance.
All around this tour delivered in brutal and epic style, so thank you Decibel for putting together one amazing tour package. Not only did I get to see the mighty Abbath, but I watched High on Fire, Skeletonwitch and Tribulation offer up extremely impressive performances of their own. I think the energy from the bands on stage stood out the most, and there was not one dual sounding moment on that stage. Yes, Abbath doing his epic poses was rather silly, but when you are a black metal icon you can do whatever you want. As long as you play some killer songs, people will be rocking out the whole way! Hail Abbath! \m/