I have to admit, I know little about the current metal scene, black, death, or otherwise. Which is exactly why I was so blown away by the performances of two Norwegian metal bands during South By Southwest: Enslaved and 1349. They played back-to-back showcases at Red 7 last week, and while I didn't catch a full set of either band, it was enough to know I need to hear more.
Walking in on 1349's set, it was like stepping into a wind tunnel, the energy blasting with gale force. The Oslo-based group made a gnarly impression with their face paint and spiked leather--not to mention an impressively loud, guitar-based thundersound that would raise the lid on anyone's coffin. I won't even attempt to place the group properly in the time line of Norwegian metal history--that stuff's too complicated for this novice--but for straight-up rock fans who want real meat and not just page-boy riffs, put down your overplayed Back in Black and scare up a copy of 1349's Hellfire. Remember, up north, the midnight sun only shines a few months out of the year; the rest of the time it's pretty damn dark.
There was no paint on the faces of the members of Enslaved, however, a black metal band from Haugesund, Norway, founded in 1991 by guitarist Ivar Bjørnson and vocalist/bassist Grutle Kjellson. But that didn't make the group any less dark, frightening, or impressive. Live they were a full-on powerhouse--heavy riffs combined with elements of prog (yes, prog), yet all delivered with the kind of raw power that any self-respecting hard-rock fan could easily latch onto.