Show Report: IMMORTAL and ABSU destroy Back Stage Live in San Antonio, Texas (with Photos)
When it was announced that IMMORTAL would be doing a 6 day run of shows in the U.S., I immediately made arrangements to purchase tickets and booked a hotel room a good three months before they would actually arrive here to perform. As luck would have it, lousy timing ruined the previous chances that I would have been able to see the band during one of their other rare appearances on U.S. soil, so this was extremely important to me. The fact that ABSU would be the only other band appearing with them made this 1000 times cooler – especially for those of us here in Texas, as Absu is from Dallas! The internet was overloaded with reports of these sold-out events, and with San Antonio Texas being the final date of this tour, I knew what was coming. The set list, how long they played, and the unfortunate fact that the bands completely sold out of T-Shirts were all reported prior to the San Antonio show. Although it was kind of a bummer to know so much about the show I was about to see , I ws still excited for the night to arrive, and I did not realize that all of this was going to change for me due to the one extra cool thing that happened: I was invited to the club early. I left my hotel before 5 and doors were not until 8:30.
I scored passes and made my wife’s day when she had photo privileges others would have KILLED for. A total victory in itself! I then ventured in to see my old friend, Absu’s essence himself, Proscriptor McGovern. He looked great and seemed happy to see me, so of course we yapped it up for a few. He was serious, concerned, and just keeping his head in the game. What more could a phenomenal band like Absu want than to open a short tour of sold out shows with Immortal? Of course he was doing well! Shortly after we had wrapped up our conversation Apollyon entered as was introduced to me. Playing Bass for Immortal is a great honor, Fuckin A I would do it in a second! However as cool as that is for me, meeting this man had everything to do with his other band Aura Noir. We hung out for a long while talking about many things and I was happy to have had the chance to meet him. Now this review will continue into the show, but in closing, oddly enough it is the sound check I feel I must comment on the most.
Now imagine this show sold 700 tickets in advance and there were people outside waiting for tickets when I arrived over 3 hours before doors opened. The venue was huge and packed. The energy in the air was seriously electric and when Absu took the stage the place erupted. Proscriptor handles the drums and a lot of the vocals, and the man is Unbelievable. He makes other drummers sick with his skill and to top it off, he is in my opinion a certifiable genius. He holds an intellect so far above the average metalhead that trying to understand Absu is like being schooled. It takes effort… and his personality is just that of a rock star that people worship. “Rock star” is not a smart ass comment; it is a fact his fans worship him.
Musically, Absu is far from one-dimensional and there’s so much to take in, but its in-between songs is when Proscriptor’s personality shines through. Standing during these breaks behind the drums (pictured left) which were placed up in front closer to the stage than you’d usually see, this man captivates his fans. We just eat it up and love the energetic charge the harsh vocalist’s tongue spits at us song after song. The band was on. The set list covered every record and many favorites were thrown at us. If you are unfamiliar with Absu and love extreme metal you are so missing out! One of the most respected American bands in the eyes of the rest of the world, record after record Absu has offered the scene something different and it works for them. Busting out several of my faves off the TARA album, I could have watched them play all night. Hearing the real fans scream their brains out to a song like Never Blow Out the Eastern Candle is just the kind of experience that reinforces your metal spirit. The band has always had 2 guitar players but they played as a 3 piece and honestly I could not tell the difference. The music was solid, ferocious and just perfect. Absu fucking ruled. Every note of the guitar and bass, every crazy snare beat, and a massive dose of Proscriptor riled up this crowd into a frenzy and then we wait… for Immortal.
The stage was set with a shitload of speakers and one monstrous drum set. The air was now thick… most likely with C02, and I saw a few pukers wandering around the crowd already half spent from Absu. People were just dying for Immortal to take the stage and I was off to the side with a good view and when Abbath charged the stage running to the front the sound was a bit botched but at that moment no one gave a fuck. So many hands were in the air, the stage before me was now hidden. No one calmed down at all for a good 20 minutes. I saw hundreds of faces that I have never seen at any other local shows and it was obvious people came from all over for this. I cannot tell you how elated people were. It was fucking magical in a frostbitten metal kind of way.
A lot of Immortal’s American fan base are hung-up on the band’s older work, and while I love those records myself, just how foolish that attitude is becomes extremely obvious after seeing the band playing music off their 3 most recent records. Yes…I get it, Battles….Pure Holocaust and my FAVORITE, Blizzard Beasts are all incredible, but for example the song Tyrants does nothing for me on CD, yet live I was enthralled. Abbath was commanding, feeding off the crowd and after watching him play a lot of the kind of acoustic passages and other odd newer riffs I have to say his picking hand really impressed me. He is doing a lot more than I thought he was and I really enjoyed watching him and Apollyon play. They played for about 90 minutes and really delivered. I had waited over 10 years for this night and for me it was extremely gratifying. Yes, there were grumpy old school fucks there trying to be more grim than others complaining that it was not the “the” Immortal they wanted to see, well that’s too fucking bad…half of them are fucking posers anyway! For the rest of us 90 minutes of Immortal was like a gift from the metal gods.
Now, let me go back to before the show. This tour was met with criticism from the day they announced it. Why only 7 shows? Why the above-average ticket cost and why is there not any local support? I do not have all the answers, but I can tell you this. As Apollyon and I kicked back talking about things, Immortal’s crew were everywhere. On stage, at both sound boards and on the floor. They worked for a long time before Abbath gave Apollyon the “lets go” look and they took the stage themselves. What a great privilege it was to be able to see them sound check [with no face paint]. Abbath was very demanding and I had always heard very good things about this man and he really impressed me and showed me just how far a lot of bands have to go before they ever get to the caliber of Immortal. For those who just had to complain that the sound was not perfect at the beginning of the night I have to laugh and say are you fucking kidding me? If they had any idea how hard Immortal worked to bring us that show they would not have said a word! I felt this was a show of shows, 2 incredible bands, both who have paid their dues and worked incredibly hard to deliver a professional event to us and by all means worth every penny. Absu may have had the better set list but Immortal exceeded my expectations and I can only pray they return sometime soon. So I am sure you can find the set lists and other comments about these 2 incredible bands all over the net, but I felt it was more important to tell you all a little about how much went into preparing for that nights event. This was not your average show. These are not average bands. Many other bands including my own can only wish we will ever reach the level that these bands have and they deserve your respect and support. Raise the fucking horns! This was my favorite show of 2011!
Hail Absu! Hail Immortal!
Pictured (l-r): Eloisa Stevens, Proscriptor, Tom Stevens