support The Funeral Pyre + Mutilacion + Aurora Black
author MGA date 18/06/12 venue Webers Place, Reseda, USA

On the 18th of June in the year of our Lord, I came out onto my front lawn to find two torn up and bloodied cat legs. Ten feet away from the legs was the collar, and it looked as though a neighbor's cat named Boots had been brutally killed and consumed by a coyote, which then decided to deposit the two legs in the grass. "Well, this is a good omen for the week," I said. And then I remembered – maybe this was some sort of brutal sacrifice from the black metal gods, a sacrifice intended to ring in the arrival of Norway's 1349 to Southern California with the blood and guts and bone fragments the genre holds so dear.

Whatever the reason behind the abrupt ending of a tabby cat's circle of life on my lawn, it set the tone for a day that was spent waiting for one of Norway's premier black metal acts to take the stage. But the stage wasn't exactly what I was expecting. Located in Reseda, a city in the infamous San Fernando Valley (infamous not for church burnings or black metal murder but instead for terrible traffic and being a suburban wasteland), 1349 would be taking the stage at a sports bar called Weber's for their off day on their current North American tour supporting Marduk. A sports bar in the Valley... not exactly a sterling venue.

Upon entering Weber's, a fat man in a fedora greeted me and drew an upside down cross on my wrist to signify my entry, then told me to "hail Satan." The trouble with putting an upside down cross on someone's arm is that when they lift their arm, a totally normal thing that cannot be prevented, they have a completely Christian-friendly regular cross. And when it came to Christian-friendly, Weber's is good ol' 'merica at its finest. With four TVs and elderly patrons in motorcycle jean jackets, Weber's was going to be a tricky place to convert from American bar with three baseball games playing to Norwegian chapel of hell.

Aurora Black

You may be asking yourself: "Matt, you said there were four TVs in Weber's, and only three were tuned to baseball… what was the other one playing!?" The fourth television was tuned to The Bachelorette, a show where something like 30 well groomed guys compete for the right to the heart of a blonde woman they don't even know. How is this relevant to a review of a black metal band? Because by appearance, Aurora Black should be trying out for the next season of The Bachelorette.

Standing in stark contrast to the chains and blood and dead animals associated with other black metal bands, Aurora Black is a group of guys better suited for jeans advertisements. Their girlfriends clearly felt the same, as the suburban Valley girls awkwardly swayed during the set as their boyfriends blasted away. Aurora Black plays a brand of black metal less steeped in the atmospherics that are most prevalent today, but they also don't play the orthodox style of black metal pushed by 1349.

They play something more akin to a theatrical Dimmu Borgir type black metal, though luckily the keyboards were virtually inaudible beneath the blast beats and shrieking from their too-well-coifed-for-the-genre front man. Aurora Black entered the stage in a less than desirable position: a band too far in sound from 1349 to excite the tr00 kids, and playing too early on in the bill to excite casual fans that had yet to show up. Instead, it was to an empty floor and the backs of confused motorcyclist patrons that the band played. And while they did admirably give it their all despite this, it wasn't quite enough to make them shine above any of the following bands.



Following Aurora Black was the completely different version of BM mentioned above: a band heavy on the theatrical, evil element of black metal. After ten minutes of tuning, the band disappeared from the stage, returning with the scent of dead fish that one can assume came from the hopefully fake blood dripping down their faces and arms. With bullet belts, chains, and corpse paint, Mutilacion ripped through a set of straight forward black metal in the vein of so many before them, and at this rate, so many after them. Mutilacion kept the schtick in full force throughout, with the vocalist even doing his stage banter in a black metal shriek. The audience, swelled only slightly by the influx of the band's friends, was more receptive to the act, but it was clear that 1349 was the draw.


The Funeral Pyre

I’d seen The Funeral Pyre once before, and maybe it's because it was in Hollywood surrounded by black metal hipster elitists, but they just didn't translate too well from amp to ear. Consider this remedied. The Funeral Pyre absolutely brought it, and they had the honor of being the first band that the crowd actually woke up for. The Funeral Pyre play an interesting brand of extreme music with black metal as the backbone, but also with a solid helping of death metal to add some life. The vocalist, a hairy guy keen on staring with disgust into the crowd, had a stage presence not unlike a hardcore vocalist, and the effect was constantly gripping. Any time The Funeral Pyre’s tunes came even close to stagnating, a guitarist would launch into some extremely nifty and equally refreshing solo work, something totally atypical to the genre but very rewarding within the song and within a live setting.



And finally, the band named after the arrival of the Black Death to Norway. Much like the plague, 1349's members snuck silently through the crowd to the stage, until finally they ascended its two feet decked out in the characteristic corpse paint. Despite the less than extreme venue, the well tanned Valley kids that were attending the show, and the TV that continued to play during their set, 1349 brought it for the special one-off headlining gig. They waded through musical territory across several albums, ignoring the calls from audience members for specific obscure songs (why does this always happen?). Of note was the fact that on drums was not Frost, the band's iconic drummer currently working with Satyricon, but Jon Rice from Job For a Cowboy. Admittedly a strange choice, I was skeptical whether Rice would be able to sit on the drum throne, but was pleasantly surprised and very impressed with his feel for the genre and the outright proficiency, speed, and emotion he played with for 1349. Despite coming from a controversial band running the gamut from deathcore to death metal, Rice was right at home with the shrieks of Ravn.

Well, perceived shrieks. In reality, for some reason Ravn’s vocals were totally inaudible 90 percent of the time, meaning between every song calls came from the audience pleading for the vocals to be turned up, but to no avail. Still, the instrumental work of 1349 is truly impressive – it's black metal with actual riffs, songs that are actual songs, and just seeing Ravn silently belt it on top of 1349's instrumentals was enough to more than satisfy that black metal palette of the audience.


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