Live Show of the Month: Enslaved / Shining @ Junktion 7

Shining are harbingers of unhinged sonic chaos: they tear through their psychedelic jazz-tinged prog opuses with an urgency and almost stochastic change of pace not unlike John Zorn’s ‘Naked City’. Perhaps playing to the ‘rock’ crowd before them at Junction 7, the band seem to attack songs with a ferocious zeal and craft an altogether denser and heavier sound than on record. Searing melodies balance on a knife edge as driving basslines mutate and threaten to send the songs crashing into a clamorous heap. Individual instruments sit together with jarring discomfort, the pace and tone constantly shifting gear. The band-members play off each others’ parts as meteoric guitar riffs are sent hurtling into the fray, rebounding off noodly synths and erupting dissonant skronk-sax. Before the audience is allowed time to comprehend this dizzying assault, the set draws to a cataclysmic close as a molasses-flow of sludge bleeds from the guitar amps and the drummer makes the kit sound like it’s falling down an interminable staircase. Shining make for a phenomenal live act, managing to effortlessly balance intense atmospherics with a blistering brio and dynamism.

Enslaved take to the stage to anticipative adulation, emerging as bloodied but victorious Viking raiders. Between songs, frontman Grutle Kjellson is utterly charming despite his menacing embittered howls of apocalypse and abomination mid-song. On ‘As Fire Swept Clean the Earth’, the sombre guitar wails are punctuated by the machine-gun blasts from Cato Bekkevold’s drum kit. The hypnotic guitar lines of ‘Ruun’ suddenly give way to urgent staccato riffs, then switch back seamlessly into winding synths and guitars. The tortured vocals and savage riff of the opening to ‘Return to Yggdrasil’ show off the band’s rawer side, but the band quickly break from the standard black metal formula as warmer tones emerge and melodic guitar lines weave in and out of epic drums, launching the sound into cosmic dimensions. With moments of genuine subtle beauty, Enslaved prove themselves as still having a real vitality and freshness and a particular power to enthral their audience. The band manage to steer clear of cliché; even when ticking the metal boxes of crowd chants and devil horns, the band do so with a sense of self-irony. Riding a crest of squalid guitar feedback, the fair vessel Enslaved sails on through the metal cosmos!

Seb Ross


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