Crimes in the Mourning Palace
Dimmu Borgir, In Flames and Nevermore
at the Longhorn, Stuttgart, Germany, April 4th 2001

by: Matthias Noll
Arriving late due to heavy traffic on the famous German Autobahn (to all ye foreigners: forget about free wheel burning without speed limits) plus a long queue at the entrance, I was just in time to see Lacuna Coil's last song, witnessed by an audience of 800 to 1000 people. A turnout that is not surprising at all, considering that Dimmu Borgir and In Flames usually enter the German charts with every new record of theirs (according to Nuclear Blast, Dimmu Borgir's new _Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia_ entered the German and Norwegian charts in 16th position). In addition to this high caliber package, the Longhorn was chosen as a film set for the famous German crime series "Tatort" ("Crime Scene"). This proved to be quite a distraction during Nevermore's set, because the lights had to stay on to provide the cameras with sufficient illumination. Although the audience endured it with a stoic, "we don't care" attitude, the resulting atmosphere turned out to be somewhat unreal. Rather than seeing a gig, one had the impression of watching some fake, staged scenario, devoid of the typical characteristics of a live show.

Nevermore's show didn't really help to overcome these averse conditions. Singer Warrel Dane had obviously lost almost half of his normal vocal range, due to a cold I assume, and had to leave most of the higher notes to the audience, an extremely painful experience during the likes of "Believe in Nothing". Besides this, his continuous attempts to rally the audience seemed somewhat out of place and would have been better left to bands like Machine Head of Biohazard. "I want to see a moshpit from the front to the back" as an introduction to the thrashing but very complex "The Sound of Silence" cover was logically not followed by anything resembling a pit nor any movement one would call "moshing". Another disappointment was Nevermore's setlist, which consisted solely of material from _Dead Heart in a Dead World_ [CoC #50]. A weird choice, because even if _DHiaDW_ is a fantastic album, the previous Nevermore records are of similar quality and many had expected to even hear some Sanctuary material. Despite the brilliance of their last album, Nevermore failed to do justice to material like "Narcosynthesis", due to an uninspired, mediocre performance, which was plagued by a muddy, weird sound.

Fortunately, the end of the filming for "Tatort" shortly after the break between In Flames and Nevermore meant no further disturbance for a brilliant set by the Swedes. It's hard to believe that this is the same band I saw for the first time in 1997, also supporting Dimmu Borgir, that time on the _Enthrone Darkness Triumphant_ tour. On that gig In Flames resembled a bunch of teenagers who by some accident found themselves on a stage with instruments in their hands. Since then, the band has become professional in the most favourable meaning of the word. These days the guitar tandem Gelotte/Stromblad plays with a coolness and tightness that often resembles immortal six string duos like Thin Lizzy's Sykes/Gorham. Anders Friden has become extremely skilled in handling the crowd, entertaining everybody with a good dose of humour and physically and vocally exhausting himself on stage. The coolest thing about In Flames is the complete absence of any kind of image, spikes and leather outfit and the incredible positive vibe they manage to create with their music. Had you been there you would have seen me grinning like a moron while headbanging and air-guitaring during most of the set. The track list was the expected greatest hits collection and included mostly tracks from the last three albums. Beginning with the excellent, in comparison to the recorded version far more dynamic "Bullet Ride", they played "Gyroscope", "Beyond Space", "Episode 666", "Ordinary Story", "Pinball Map", "Only For the Weak", "Embody the Invisible", "Colony" as the encore and a couple of others. They even had a couple of pyros firing off but that didn't do much to enhance the experience. Regarding crowd participation, cheering and visible movement in the front rows, In Flames were celebrated like the headliner and delivered a gig which will be among the best I'll see this year.

I couldn't help but feel rather skeptical that Dimmu Borgir would be able to top this tremendous performance. I turned out to be right, but I'm convinced no one in the audience was dissatisfied either. The Norwegians had a bigger sound, but unfortunately Nick Barker's incredible drumming was lost in the mix and only fully audible when I occasionally used my earplugs. Partially making up for that, Simen Hestnaes could be heard clear and strong through the PA. Overall I had the impression that their song material seems to develop more and more into areas where it requires concentrated listening on your home stereo instead of demanding intense thrashing and headbanging. The amount of crowd reaction was definitely less than throughout In Flames' set and in general things stayed rather calm. There was loud cheering in between songs, but instead of going over the top people seemed to prefer to stand and watch. Only during less complicated songs like "Mourning Palace" or "Spellbound" the majority broke out of their stasis. Visually Dimmu Borgir weren't very spectacular. Shagrath isn't the most impressive frontman around and in general there wasn't much going on onstage besides some more pyros. The setlist included "The Insight and the Catharsis", "Arcane Lifeform Mysteria", "Kings of the Carnival Creation", "Puritania", "IndoctriNation", "The Maelstrom Mephisto" and "Tormentor of Christian Souls". In general, Dimmu Borgir played a solid gig but offered nothing to get overly excited about.

(article submitted 13/5/2001)


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