By Lisa Burke
May 20th 2017, The Regent, Los Angeles CA: Sometimes even the most peaceful types of people let their hair down and the venom shoot out of their souls. Sometimes this unnecessary rage is brought about from hearsay and past experiences that have little to no bearing on current or future events. Welcome to 2017 where we have the Politically Correct bystanders staring us down in whatever we do from presidential beliefs to rockstar and heavy metal beliefs. In the land of black metal there have always been some odd tales in its history that range from slaughter to church burnings to other odds and ends, and so far this year I have seen two serious bands of this era get absolutely shit on in other towns for not a proven or factual reason when all they intended was to play a great show for their fans. Portland excels at jumping to premature conclusions and while you may or may not agree with what I’m about to say, both Marduk and Shining suffered their wrath due to their preconceived beliefs that may or may not have any bearing in reality. As you may have already guessed, I attended the Regent Theater on Saturday May 20th 2017 to see a primarily black metal line-up with Sweden’s controversial headliner Shining, on tour with support from Revenge and Wolvhammer, with local openers Icon Of Phobos and Empyrean Throne.
Icon Of Phobos is a straight-laced local black metal band that set the mood right, and sounded good under the red light that dominated their set to the point where they became just a shadow behind it. No tricks, no antics, just old school black metal in a new school era band that will leave you with exactly what you came for, nothing more, nothing less. They had a good set length and a strong show despite the difficulty in the lack of visual stimulants caused by the fog and red lighting. The lack of antics here are a good trait as that can be used to set them apart from others with more emphasis on skill which they do possess in large quantity, though they could perhaps jump a little more outside the box to maintain full focus. A good group to know regardless, as they fought the good black metal fight and set the standards for the acts to come.
As Wolvhammer graced the Regent stage, once again they brought yet another slightly altered line-up from the last time I saw them which was pretty recently. On this occasion the guitarist was chiming in with his goth-style deeply churned vocals that enhanced the death rock and black metal vibe nicely. The drumming here stood out as creative and impeccably timed which aided the riffs to top it all off with ease. The lead singer is very dominating with his pitch and poise that commands any room with the grace it deserves. The singer also seemed to be in a bit of a situation with a cast on his hand that seemed to indicate broken fingers. I’m sure there is a not-so-boring story involved in that tragedy, but whatever it was, he can still carry a tune with an attitude to back it up. The appropriately lengthy set had some special feedback moments that seemed to be there to stir up the pot, and the final moments of the vocals were the spoken words “We are Wolvhammer, fuck everything.” A great end to a well-rounded set that may be a notch up in vibe and structure than I’ve seen from this band on previous occasions as they have always been noteworthy.
After that, Canadian trio Revenge stormed the stage with a strong backing track intro that dove into some of the most chaotic blackened death metal I’ve witnessed in a while. The timing was off beating everywhere and made for an exciting and very focused time had by anyone who understood the method behind the madness. A band like this can cure anxiety because it doesn’t leave much room for thought in all its glory and darkened madness. These dudes skipped the commentary and just jumped from one badass metal tune to another without a care in the world. They seemed to have a touch of technical death metal rooting them but then jumped into the black metal style guitar that is known and loved by avid black metal fans. It was not boring in any sense of the word, and while it may be an acquired taste for some, I was on board pretty quickly and it was probably the highlight of my night to a certain degree of refreshment. The dueling vocal growls at times really set the scatterbrain chaotic mood nicely even though they flow off each other quite orderly and well. One observation as the lack of heavy moshing ensued at this show was that you did find the occasional Bathory t-shirt or patch swarming about the audience that serves as a heavy metal staple child for the ideology that you are definitely about to witness a great show.
On to the main act. From Sweden came Shining who qualifies as black metal but is a modern mix of suicide black metal combined with some old school glam guitar antics and a singer who at this show decided to take on the look of a rapper in his wife beater and bandana instead of having the dark sinister approach to some deep seeded dark music that shoots the occasional poppy tone. The guitarist at one point even pulled a Zakk Wylde move on stage where he was playing with the guitar behind his back, but he did it in his own style and glory. So as I refuse to get too deep into the conspiracy theories that surround the singer because I have no proof to back any of it up as fact or fiction, I will say that I have seen Shining twice now and have seen absolutely nothing remotely out of the ordinary. I really enjoyed the music the first time around which led me to see them again. It was not until after my first live viewing that I even learned he had a rep for cutting himself on stage among other rude gestures to the audience. Then upon observation he clearly has a shock value attitude which helps to sell his music and perhaps he even encourages these rumors to start, but he is also clearly a serious musician who can be found doing more singing than bullshitting who also provides you with some great diverse metal to walk away with. No I don’t condone violence of any kind, but I encourage separating personal lifestyle from the music at hand, and as I said I have witnessed nothing unusual. Watain bathes in pigs blood and hangs animal carcasses on the stage, but we accept this as the black metal norm while self inflicted pain is frowned upon despite its equivalent roots that stem in old school punk rock that are usually cheered on? What world do we really live in and who is the real enemy here? All I know is that I saw Shining put on a great metal show that was about the music and the most controversial move he pulled was throwing a fabric poster of Uncle Sam into the audience which I’ve seen a bunch of bands use a similar image in more controversial ways as of late. The funniest part of this evening may have been the unnecessary extra security staff hired for this event where one of them even sported a Coachella hoodie for good measure. Anyway, I’m happy nothing happened and I had full confidence in that outcome as most did who were in attendance.
Be careful when you are judging a book by its cover that you haven’t actually accidently lit a page or two on fire in your haste. Whether there is a real story or two behind the mask or if it simply is just misunderstood shock value, I hope you can walk away judging only the music, as there was nothing more to see at this show or the previous one that I was a privy to witness.
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Remaining Tour Dates:
05/23/2017 – Austin, TX @ Grizzy Hall
05/24/2017 – Fort Worth, TX @ Rail Club