Helheim strutting their axes.
(L to R: Vocalist/bassist Ørjan “V’Gandr” Nordvik, guitarist/vocalist Tom “H’Grimnir” Korsvold, and Noralf “Reichborn” Venås)

America was SO ready for the second coming of iconic Norwegian black metallers Taake. With corpse paint and leather spiked bands in tow, fans were prepared to follow frontman of Taake Hoest in to the enchanting metaphorical forest of Norway but then a YUUUUGE wall sprung out of the earth and said “STOP THERE BAD HOMBRES!” jeopardizing Taake’s American tour dates till another set of legends stepped up to the plate. These badasses in question are none other than fellow legends Helheim who not only performed their first American show on May 26 at the Brick By Brick but also salvaged the North American tour with black metal acts from our Golden State.

The first artist to step in to make this black metal mass possible was local one man band Morphesia. The Ugh Metal team has had the pleasure of seeing frontman Zombie Thirteen in action twice before. As opposed to the last time we saw Thirteen perform a predominantly instrumental set (April 1), the vocalist/guitarist balanced his set with both instrumentals and resonating growls. Morphesia built anticipation for his upcoming 2017 album I Forever End (TBA) and performed tracks from the album such as the hauntingly serene “The Moon,” “Towards the Sea” and “I” to name a few.

Vocalist/guitarist of Morphesia, Zombie Thirteen, is still embracing the light.

Thirteen continued to shine amidst his reinvention by performing his slow burning but climactic black metal hymns to the Egyptian gods and the elements. Gone are the days where Thirteen dawned the corpse paint and “black metal” regalia to usher a more intimate set where his bare face is now lit up with ambient imagery from his projector. Before the frontman wrapped up his set, he shared the wealth and announced that there were free 3 track samplers from I Forever End by the merch stands. If you haven’t had a chance to check out Morphesia, you are missing out my friend. I Forever End is shaping up to be quite the album based on what we’ve heard that night and in the sampler. Don’t believe? You can check out what the Klown thought about it so far.

The venue soon became a dark alley where the order of black metal assassins known as Sicarius ditched their cloaks and busted out their daggers. Not even the Great Wall would be able to contain frontman Kurt Karcass’ militant vigor. Karcass stalked the eager crowd in front of him while he released his growls and reaped their souls with his antagonistic glance. That look the vocalist always brings to every unholy gathering is a feature no black metal prop will ever match up to when it comes to setting the mood.

Sicarius ditched their cloaks and busted out their daggers.
(L to R: Guitarist Merihim, vocalist Kurt Karcass, drummer Brandon Zackey and guitarist Argyris)

Karcass jumped right into the jaws of the pit to get a closer look at his prey and encircled his targets while his harsh vocals blared in the mic, fueling the thrilling atmosphere. The frontman unloaded his melodic fury on the crowd which was fed by Argyris and Merihim’s riffs. Bassist Carnage along with drummer Brandon Zackey maintained their rhythm sneakily devouring your ear drums. The Californian quintet prevailed once again and continued to wow with another unforgettable performance and are sure to lure new spectators in to their creed.

The newly signed symphonic black metallers Empyrean Throne rolled in with the ceremonial and cinematic strings of “The Twilight Order” with vocalist Andrew Knudsen wearing a medieval doctor’s mask while gently swinging a thurible. After Knudsen marked everyone with the incense and finishing the first song, the quintet appropriately transitioning to “The Devouring Mark.”Empyrean Throne knew that fresh blood was needed for this sacrifice and busted out a newer song “None Shall Rise” which will enchant the masses on August 11 in their debut LP Chaosborne.

The newly signed Empyrean Throne reign in their court.
(L to R: Guitarist Mike Brennan, vocalist Andrew Knudsen, drummer Leviathan , and guitarist Spencer Strange)

Though the animal skull and the four sets of candles they had on display conspired against the band to steal the show, Knudsen and company didn’t let that stop them from continuing their dark ritual and shared a few laughs about it with fans. M-Audio Theory Records’ latest talent brought a fresh and fun attitude that some black metal bands would shy away from. These guys can make you the main offering and you won’t even know it because their playful attitude will distract you and you will see them grow dark when it’s too late …we ain’t even mad at all. We can’t wait to see what this Californian quartet will do next.

After Empyrean Throne finished their black metal ceremony, Helheim took the American stage for the first time! Whoa…How lucky were we?!! The Norwegian black metallers were surprised by the reception and love they received from the intimate crowd, making that moment a testament of quality over quantity. Helheim wasted no time and kicked off with “Madr” and “Jernskogen” and shifted to their latest material such as “Synir af heidindomr,” “Rista blodorn” and the haunting “Ymr.”

Ørjan “V’Gandr” Nordvik and guitarist Noralf “Reichborn” Venås of Helheim have a little showdown.

“Ymr” was sure to reach your core because of the emotion Ørjan “V’Gandar” Nordvik evoked by expertly transitioning back and forth between clean and harsh vocals which are sure to give you chills when it seeps in to your ears. In the instrumental parts of the song, V’Gandar spread out his arms with his eyes shut like a holy man channeling turning this song into a dark and beautiful incantation.

Helheim continued to craft and charge the atmosphere with more mysticism by letting loose the battle hymns “Raunijar,” and “Baklengs mot intet” and paid homage to the great Bathory by covering “Home of Once Brave.”

V’Gandr is in a reverie.
(L to R: Vocalist/bassist Ørjan “V’Gandr” Nordvik, lead guitarist Noralf “Reichborn” Venås and rhythm guitarist/vocalist Tom “H’Grimnir” Korsvold )

Before wrapping up their set, Nordvik addressed the situation that threatened to dismantle this tour and thanked those that attended the show. The vocalist promised Taake would return and we hope to see Helheim back as well for a second coming to take us through another stroll into the Norwegian black metal forest.

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