REVIEW: Enslaved & Grand Magus @Academy 3, Manchester 27/09/2015

It’s been a while since we were sipping reduced rate beer at the SU bar in Manchesters o2 Academy - we tend to avoid the smell of disappointment - but some things are worth it. The co-headline tour between Grand Magus and Enslaved was one of those things. Two stalwarts of the road coming from two ends of the Heavy Metal spectrum respectively was billed as an unmissable show.

Grand Magus

Thinking of Magus as any kind of warmup act seems a little strange, and although that wasn’t strictly the case with this being a co-headline show they were on first. This made for a nice change to the normal setup of things though and they quickly took charge of Academy 3 with an opening triple beginning with ‘I, the Jury’ and ending triumphantly with stone cold classic ‘Kingslayer’. Next they moved onto a double from Triumph and Power with crowd pleasers ‘Hooves of Gold’ and ‘Steel Versus Steel’. Although the album isn’t so new anymore it’s still surprising just how well these tracks blend into the set alongside early album favourites. It’s a testament to Grand Magus’ continued improvement towards a flawless, traditionally fist pumping Heavy Metal sound. Moving on, we were treated to more of what was starting to seem like a greatest hits show from the swedes, with ‘Iron Will’, ‘Ravens Guide our Way’ and ‘Like the Oar Strikes the Water’ whipping the crowd into a furious headbanding frenzy. And to think at this stage Enslaved were still to come. As the time ticked away, ‘Valhalla Rising’ lead into a finisher with real clout - the title track from the aforementioned Triumph and Power. Really driving home not just how well the album has been received by the fans, but also how important it was to the band themselves to be giving it this crowning spot, ‘Triumph and Power’ was and always will be a serious privilege to watch live, and it would have made for the perfect ending. However, much to the delight of the portion of the audience who had been humming the theme all night, Magus returned to the stage for one more bout and finally brought the performance to an end with ‘Hammer of the North’ before bowing out from what was possibly the greatest ‘warm up’ act we’ve ever seen. Never a chore, Grand Magus remain one of our favourite bands on record and on stage.

Enslaved

With the blood slowly drying on our steel following the annihilation by Grand Magus, it was now time for the bastard sons of Bathory and King Crimson as Norway’s Enslaved took to the (overly crowded) stage. The set consisted of all of the band’s most modern tales and was interlaced with a harking back to their demo, as well as straight up Black Metal classic and fan favourite Frost. Taking to the stage basked in red light to reflect the band’s more fiery leaning, they showcased ‘Thurisaz Dreaming’ from their latest opus In Times before continuing on the red flair with familiar staple ‘Fusion of Sense and Earth’ before slowing things down and letting the band’s musicianship and the excellent vocal work of Herbrand Larsen really shine. With the crowd now finally warmed back up the room seemed to change as Enslaved whipped through a trio of tracks, with familiar live appearances from the titles tracks of both Ruun and Ethica Odini respectively and followed by popular choice ‘The Watcher’. The band decided to cast back even further next by plucking the standout track from their demo with Ivar Bjørnson proclaiming to have written 'Allfoðr Oðinn' when he was 1 year old, whilst the lyrics are over 1000 years old according to frontman Grutle Kjellson. The stunning riffs and brilliant early 90’s Norse atmosphere that this older material provides is a joy to behold live and I wish they harvested more of their older material into their live show. After leaving the stage briefly after the closing of ‘Convoys to Nothingness’ Enslaved returned to play two more songs with the first being a rare live treat, despite the crowd needing a quick lesson in Norse mythology after being promised a song about a wolf not too many people were quick to shout out ‘Fenris’ from 1994’s classic Frost. With its icy cold riffs and evil atmosphere the song was the icing on the cake and a treat particularly for those of us that have proclaimed for years the band haven’t topped Frost and to display one of the finer songs on the album left me going away ecstatic. This being nearly the 10th time I have seen the band I thought I would never hear the song live. With the evening done for us, they finished on the ultra-recognisable ‘ISA’ which they've used for years to bring their shows to a close.


Overall a top quality double billing and despite the two varying styles the crowd seemed to be heavily into both although being in the smallest Academy seemed like a squeeze, particularly for Enslaved on a stage that small. More co-headliners in the future liken this please, Nuclear Blast!


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ALBUM OF THE MONTH-MAR '17

Artist - Jesters of Destiny
Title - The Sorrows That Refuse to Drown
Label - Ektro

Thirty years after Jesters of Destiny arrived, dropped Fun at the Funeral and disappeared back into the night, they’re finally back with a second full length release courtesy of Ektro Records, and whilst it could never live up to first album, the eccentricity of the band shines through once more and it’s a crazy ride from start to finish. Pick it up on April 4th!



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Date - 23rd- 26th March
Venue - Pwllheli, Wales  

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