Formed in 2012, Khemmis are at the frontier of a new era of doom metal. Although there are elements of classic doom metal, their sound is mainly infused with progressive, sludge, and even psychedelic influences. There is a healthy dose of soaring, clean vocals and downtempo melodies that cross over into the lighter, more melodic side of doom.
Khemmis’ set was unfortunately capped exactly to a curt 30 minutes, but they certainly played their hearts out and were very appreciative of their fans who were small in numbers comparatively, but dedicated to the unique sound of the Colorado-based quartet.
Myrkur followed with a magical performance led by Amalie Bruun. Her involvement with the band was initially kept a secret in an effort to keep the internet trolls at bay. But within a year, Bruun’s identity was revealed. However, her mysterious persona still translates to the stage with haunting, ethereal vocals and folk elements of her native homeland of Denmark. Adorned with face paint and cloaked in black hoods, the guitarists opened the set with a haunting intro featuring the use of bows for a violin-like effect on the guitars.
Incidentally, Bruun’s background as an actress also lends well to the theatrical aesthetics of black metal as she moved her arms and hands elegantly, delivering powerful yet beautiful vocals. In addition to Bruun’s delicate vocal style, Myrkur’s studio albums featured heavier vocals which were mostly absent throughout the set. Although there were moments that Bruun let loose with some prominent screams, I got the sense that she was holding back. It would have certainly been a welcome treat to hear those heavier vocals throughout more of the set.
The mystical vibe continued as one of the three guitarists of Wolves In The Throne Room crept across the stage with a massive stick of sage just before they took the stage. Since 2003, brothers Nathan Weaver (vocals and guitar) and Aaron Weaver (drums) have carefully curated an intense, dark atmosphere with their music backed by numerous talented performers. As expected, WIITR brought a fresh approach to black metal, adding synth elements and generous melodic breaks between guttural screams. Every song transitioned beautifully between rapid fire leads and lush, indulgent ambient interludes. There was even synchronized headbanging which, yes, looked as impressive as it sounds. Between songs, the guitarists slinked to the side of the stage for swigs of red wine as the keyboards droned, creating more tension and anticipation before the next onslaught.
Enslaved was undoubtedly the most anticipated act of the night, bringing pure Norwegian black metal to the Metro. The veterans delivered a solid set of new material like “One Thousand Years of Rain” and older favorites such as “Vetranott” to a crowd that was hungry for everything they could throw at them. Song after song, Enslaved brought thunderous double bass and immaculately timed riffs that commanded the attention of everyone in the audience. Enslaved also showed their appreciation for the city of Chicago, noting that it was akin to a second hometown for them as it was the first city they played upon embarking on their debut American tour in 1995.
After their final song, drummer Cato Bekkevold quickly returned to his kit and pounded on his drums, inciting the crowd to call for an encore. A few moments later, everyone erupted into applause as the others returned to play “Convoys to Nothingness” and “The River’s Mouth” to cap off an amazing evening with some of the most brutal metal acts today.