South of Heaven, Oslo – Vulture Industries, Helheim, Taake – review

It’s been a long time now since I wished to catch a live performance by Vulture Industries, after seeing plenty of youtube videos, each of them making me more and more curious. And finally, May 2012 brings the band to Oslo for the already established event South of Heaven. It’s true that the event headliner were the band’s Bergen mates, Taake, but this didn’t make me less enthusiast when I saw the lineup, that also included Helheim.

Most of the people I spoke with expected Helheim to open the show, but to my surprise the backdrop had the name ‘Vulture Industries’ on it, so obviously they started the show, with a bit of delay caused by the crowd’s lack of interest in approaching the stage. When finally some brave ones occupied the first row, the sound of ‘Crook and Sinners’ started followed by the band joining the stage. A bunch of bare footed guys, dressed in white dress shirts and black suspenders (except one guitarist who had black clothes). They didn’t spend much time with introductions and launched their madness led by their vocalist and showman, Bjørnar Erevik Nilsen. Besides the fact that he can sing very theatrically and dramatic, he can greatly make use of all his body components to express the messages of his songs. He takes turns into looking like a mad man, an evil inquisitor, an insane appearance, a pathetic or a desperate character. He doesn’t make use of too many stage props, but the one interrogatory strong-light lamp he brings and points at his face from below adds to the drama. So did the ladder on which he climbs to play a song or the rope with the noose that he threw to the crowd and then pretended he is being pulled by the people. Not to forget the moments when he stepped off the stage and either ran through the crowd or sang very close to the ones in the first row. Bjørnar is obviously the main attraction of the band’s live show, but he is well supported by very talented musicians. So if you can ignore the singer’s craziness, you actually discover there’s a bunch of sweet guitar parts, growing in intensity and complexity with each song, plus pretty tight drumming that doesn’t linger too long in any pattern. If you heard their music before, you may occasionally miss the presence of live keyboards, but this thought crossed my mind only once during their whole performance, so they probably all do a good job at covering this minus.

After the high dose of entertainment offered by Vulture Industries, I was really wondering how the upcoming bands are going to top that. And actually, I even wondered why they bothered playing. Since you cannot really beat that. After the regular instruments-change break, Helheim took over the stage all of them wearing chainmails (which must be quite a heavy piece of equipment). In order to be more visually interesting, their show contained a bunch of projections, but I was quite distracted by their headbanging or certain song parts, so except a bunch of writing, I don’t remember what else they projected. Most likely viking related stuff, to match the ‘viking’ vibe in their black metal which easily swayed your thoughts in the direction of either huge battlefields or a mad Thor shooting his anger towards the mortals. Very atmospheric metal with high story telling capacity. One of the guitarists actually decided to tell the story from within the ground, hence he vanished from the stage at some point. Overall, I believe the band style was more appealing to the majority of the crowd, who probably came to see Taake, hence they seemed to get somehow louder cheers during the concerts. But not that many open mouths and surprised figures though.

One more break and the lights turn off, making room for a bunch of white painted macabre faces, with very thick black lines around eyes and/or mouths, while the band’s singer, Hoest, came wrapped in a Norwegian flag. Once the flag was removed, it revealed an upside down cross drawn on his abdomen. While overall I don’t find much interest in classical black metal shows (even if, as I recall now, Taake didn’t use spikes), I am always fascinated by a band who is able to conquer the audience. Which is something that Taake did. Both through the music which probably represented bed time lullabies for some of the fans, but mainly through the stage show. Hoest moved continuously from one end to another, leaned towards the crowd, played the mean angry guy with the microphone stand and most of all, looked extremely grotesque with his white eyes – lenses. I noticed one of the females present in the first row who was extremely preoccupied with caressing the guitarist leg whenever he would lean against the fence in front of the stage. I’m always happy to see satisfied crowd, but to be honest, I’d reverse the playing order. I’d even replace all the names with Vulture Industries. But, until the day I organise an event myself, I can only blabber about the ones I witness.

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