Review by Natalie Zed, Concert photography by Adam Wills
I have yet to attend a metal show that I am not excited about. It’s an excitement that transcends ticket price, record label, venue, or profile. Whether I am going to see a deep-underground band playing in a tiny bar, or a legend taking on the ACC, I experience the same moment of unrestrained pleasure when I step out my door wearing heavy boots and carrying earplugs in my pocket.
There was something different about this show, however. When I told The Internet what I would be doing on the night of June 1st, the response was immediate and intense. Just about every metalhead I know responded with some variant of “HOLY SHIT ENTOMBED.” I chatted with folks who had seen their last performance in Canada, well over a decade ago, and still treasured the memory.
It was a moment that drove home the fact that I have not been doing this for very long. Whenever I go to a show, I am most likely seeing the bands for the very first time. Every day, I listen to music I have never heard before. There’s an immense auditory history I am sifting my way through, which is usually not so overwhelming as it is exhilarating. For this particular show, however, listening to everyone abuzz with excitement over seeing a band with whom they all had long and affectionate histories, I felt very, very new indeed. Any trepidation I felt twas dwarfed by the excitement of the event; whether I personally felt prepared for it or not, it was going to be an experience.
I arrived at the Opera House with the Hellbound Posse just in time to miss Ending Tyranny entirely. At that point, Entombed has still not arrived; there was a distinctly empty space at the merch tables where their stuff should have been. We were all quickly assured that while they had been held at up at the border, they had successfully crossed and that their arrival was imminent. Despite the reassurances, their absence created a strange, spiky tension in the room that would not be dissipated until Entombed finally showed up in the nick of time.
In the mean time, Rumplestiltskin Grinder was there to help the audience burn off some of their nervous energy. They gave the crowd what they needed and wanted in the moment, and their performance was much stronger for it. They play a thrashy, bloody kind of “crime metal” that operates within a loose mythology that the band is the musical wing of a quasi-mysical crime syndicate. On stage, they’re fun and loud and don’t take themselves too seriously. It wasn’t long before I left my place at the bar and repositioned myself right up front to better hear Shawn Riley‘s banter and slam shoulder-first into my fellow metalheads. Rumplestiltskin Grinder got the room moving, and gave gracious homage to both Entombed and Obituary. I grinned through their set; really couldn’t ask for more.
Wandering back to the bar to rehydrate myself, I discovered to my delight that Entombed had not only made it to the venue but would be playing on time. The crowd more than doubled in size over the next few minutes, and everyone is the room was positively radiating in anticipation.
Their set was, of course, terrific; they played primarily older material (as they have a considerable back catalogue to draw upon) and every song title they announced was greeted with a roar of approval. Lars Göran Petrov is a mightily entertaining frontman, at once disarming is his apparent vulnerability as he shambles across the stage, and shocking in the still-fearsome power of his voice. Performing seems to be his natural state of being, where he is most at home. Lily the Pirate noted that from the moment he walked on stage he looked as though he’d already been performing for hours. He also welcomed crowdsurfers to dally on stage a moment or two and headbang with the band (particularly the girls), shooing security away. Alex Hellid on guitars is also a pleasure to watch. His face remains serene as he plays, which contrasts delightfully with unwaveringly intense sound he produces. Entombed closed their set with “Left Hand Path,” a choice that couldn’t have been more aesthetically perfect, or more welcomed by the audience. When they finally took their leave, the stage at the Opera House seemed somehow emptier than ever before.
It seemed actually strange at that point in the night that there was still more to come, and another headliner at that. I fully admit that I don’t think I was able to give Obituary a fair listen here, having already been so thoroughly satisfied. The death metal pioneers came on stage fresh and hungry, by all reports having just decimated MDF. I was able to intellectually appreciate Obituary for their genre-building work; I particularly enjoyed “Final Thoughts” from the World Demise album. But I didn’t experience the same weightlessness, the loss of control that can border on the transcendent. I fully acknowledge that I may be drawing an unfair comparison, having just been blown out of the water by Entombed; I want to reserve judgement on these Florida-based death-dealers for the time being. I want to see them again.
I am, after all, new at this. And there is all the time in the world.