Battles In The North: Abbath Live in Lawrence, KS 04/06/16

One of the most consistent heavy metal tours year in and year out is the Decibel Magazine tour. In the past, it’s featured heavy hitters such as At The Gates, Converge, Carcass and Behemoth. However, 2016′s edition may have outdone every past iteration. This varied-yet-unbearbly heavy tour landed at the Granada in Lawrence on Wednesday night and the surrounding area is still feeling the effects from the show.


Starting the night off were Sweden’s Tribulation. This four-piece opened for Deafheaven at the same venue late last year, so it was a treat for them return so quickly. The quartet performs a distinctly unique combination of old-school Swedish death metal with a healthy dose of progressive elements. They took the stage to ominous keyboards dressed in a way that can only be described as “recently excavated Victorian-era serial killers” and proceeded to riff their way through a smattering of tunes mostly from their latest 2015 album “The Children of the Night.” As evidenced by their performance of “Melancholia,” each death metal riff was matched with an equal amount of psychedelia that truly made for some of the best live metal anywhere. Not to mention the two guitar players were constantly bounding and dancing around the stage, playing up the crowd and fit the image and sound of Tribulation perfectly. In 2015, Tribulation easily earned the title of greatest live band in the world and it looks like they’re still in contention for the title in 2016.


Cleveland’s Skeletonwitch, a huge force in the metal scene for the past six or seven years, had been a little quiet recently. They released their fifth album, “Serpents Unleashed,” in 2013 and then laid low. The band was, quite infamously, without a leaf vocalist for a good while but recently found a new frontman in Wolvhammer growler Adam Clemans, and this tour was Skeletonwitch’s first true test of his might. Luckily for the band, they couldn’t have picked a better vocalist. Clemans performed with more intensity than Skeletonwitch has ever had in the past, bring the black metal back to the vocals that fit perfectly with their brand of thrash metal. Most of the material they performed was comprised of their last album, but the moshing crowd was treated to “Upon Wings of Black” and the title track from 2007′s “Beyond The Permafrost” album – one of the greatest thrash albums of the last ten years. Performing two new tracks as well, Skeletonwitch is picking up where they left off – at the top of the thrash metal game.


If Tony Iommi is the godfather of all heavy metal, High on Fire’s Matt Pike is his child. The classic sludge metal trio took the stage and wasted no time in melting everyone’s collective faces. Guitarist Matt Pike (also of Sleep fame) not only riffs on his guitar like it’s an extension of his body, his guitar solos were a whirlwind of manic noise that somehow all came together. Shirtless with the best fu-manchu mustache since the 80′s, Pike was dripping sweat as his fingers flew on the fretboard during High on Fire classics like “Rumors of War,” “Speedwolf” and “Cometh Down Hessian.” Most of the set comprised of cuts from their most recent album “Luminiferous” but every High on Fire album is perfect, so it was a complete joy. High on Fire is perfect, on album and live in person. Truly a sight to behold.


Abbath made quite the stir in the metal community when he branched off from Immortal, one of the premier Norwegian black metal groups of the 90s. However, faced with a daunting task of following up one of metal’s most prolific and lauded careers, Abbath teamed up with God Seed/ex-Gorgoroth bassist King ov Hell and a few others and created a massively heavy debut album that sounds like the logical next step in Immortal’s blackened thrash metal sound. This year’s Decibel Magazine tour is their first North American tour, and they brought out all the stops for their performance.

Opening with the thundering “To War!,” Abbath & co. thundered through most of the new album  but peppered in a few old-school Immortal tunes and even one from Abbath’s side-group from a few years ago, “I.” This enough would satisfy even the most diehard black metal fans, but Abbath went a step further in their overall show production and performance. “Nebular Ravens Winter” was a testament to Immortal’s pure black metal beginnings, whereas cuts from the albums “Sons of Northern Darkness” and “At The Heart of Winter” showcased their thrash influences, which easily paved the way for Abbath’s solo efforts.


Ever the entertainer, Abbath bounded around the stage and made oddly-goofy-yet-hilarious metal faces at the crowd whilst shredding that only added to the ridiculous and memorable performance. “Make some noise! I can’t hear you – well, I can hear you, but you know what I mean!” he screamed at the crowd, effectively turning the oldest rock and roll trope in the book into a punchline. Ending with the absolutely heavy “In My Kingdom Cold” and with one final moshpit, Abbath left the stage drenched in sweat and with a crowd hungry for more. Truly a blast of Norwegian ice-cold evil that won’t soon be forgotten.


1. To War!
2. Winterbane
3. Nebular Raven’s Winter (Immortal cover)
4. Warriors (I cover)
5. Ashes of the Damned
6. Fenrir Hunts
7. Tyrants (Immortal cover)
8. One By One (Immortal cover)
9. Count the Dead
10. Solarfall (Immortal cover)
11. Root of the Mountain
12. All Shall Fall (Immortal cover)
13. In My Kingdom Cold (Immortal cover)

High On Fire:

1. The Black Plot
2. Carcosa
3. Rumors of War
4. Speedwolf
5. Slave the Hive
6. The Falconist
7. Cometh Down Hessian
8. Fertile Green
9. Blood From Zion
10. Snakes For The Divine


1. I Am of Death (Hell Has Arrived)
2. From a Cloudless Sky
3. Burned from Bone
4. Upon Wings of Black
5. Choke Upon Betrayal
6. Well of Despair (new song)
7. This Horrifying Force (The Desire to Kill)
8. Beyond the Permafrost
9. Unending, Everliving
10. Black Waters (new song)
11. Serpents Unleashed
12. Beneath Dead Leaves


1. Strange Gateways Beckon
2. Melancholia
3. Rånda
4. Ultra Silvam
5. Holy Libations

About Jackson May

Read more from Jackson at Mandatory Metallica and follow him on Twitter at @Mankvill.

View all articles by Jackson May

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