Enslaved & Grand Magus @ Academy 3
Grand Magus take the stage to Anvil of Crom from Conan the Barbarian, the 80's Arnie classic and thus earn one million metal points before they even play a note. When they do play a note, it's the Judas-Priesty, I, The Jury from the Hammer of the North long-player. This is traditional heavy metal done right. Pounding riffs and drums, life-affirming rhythms with no complications: like a one-night stand with inflatable Ingrid. How I miss her. Errrr…….
The metal is strong in this one as Grand Magus smash battle anthems out into the crowd one after the other with the sublety of a curry fart. Steel Versus Steel carries a memorable chorus, a broadsword to the brain, with JB Christoffersson leading the charge with his amazing shiny bald head, big tufty mutton chops and flying V. Wah soaked, blues influenced leads smite through the air as he punches skyward, tongue protruding from a wide shit-eating grin. This is fun stuff and the band push that angle, revelling in the audience reaction and surely winning new fans with every punishing Metal anthem.
They leave the stage to glorious chants from the audience before returning with an encore of the tremendous, Hammer of the North. A rumbling bass intro from Fox gives way to pounding riffage and a glorious warrior sing-a-long gets us all joining as one. JB announces Manchester as possibly the most metal crowd ever and, as a proud Mancunian, I know he is right. Beautiful stuff.
Enslaved are never going to out-metal Grand Magus and, to their credit, they don’t even try. The Black-metal prog royalty take the stage bathed in red light and launch into Thurisaz Dreaming from latest opus In Times. It’s a ferocious opening gambit that gets heads windmilling.
Some of the prog subtleties are lost in the mix in favour of unbridled power but the clean vocals and keys of Herbrand Larsen cut through very well and give sonic majesty to the onslaught. Grutle Kjellson’s vocals are intense and his death-rattle vocal is genuinely unnerving – in stark contrast to his between song timbre. In fact it seems a common thing with many Scandinavian bands that they are extremely polite to their audience. No fake American accents or stage personas - just genuine people who love what they do.
What seems uncommon here is that Enslaved appear to be one of those bands whose new material generates as much excitement as their old stuff. This must be a rare trait in bands that have been around 24 years plus as nostalgia is often a crowd motivator but Enslaved balance the two incredibly well.
Tracks like Building With Fire, with it’s driving Orgasmatron style riff, smash and crush while the epic hypnotism of 2006’s Ruun builds a genuine atmosphere and grandeur. In fact the whole set is rather mesmerizing, all the band members gel together and it’s always great to see genuine enthusiasm and love. These qualities make it difficult not to get swept along with the tide of progressive blackness.
Tonight was a double-headliner show featuring two seemingly disparate bands in a musical sense. We had on one hand the straight up heavy metal of Grand Magus and on the other the blackened prog of Enslaved. However, both bands were united in their obvious love for their respective craft so in spite of sonic differences I imagine each would have secured new fans from each other this evening.
Words: Paul Cooke | Photos: Laura Piggford