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Live Reviews : Dimmu Borgir & Earth Rot @ 170 Russell, Melbourne 16/10/2018

By on October 17, 2018

Images: Rebecca Houlden
Words: Mitch Alexander

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Tonight’s vibe was weird. Usually, a gig is either great or shitty, and there are a couple of stand out things you can point to that, when compared to the parts of the night that are just “average”, either make or break the whole show. But tonight, there were more highs and lows than the readout on JonBenet Ramsey’s parents’ lie detector test, and I’m still not sure how I feel about it.

Walking into a worryingly empty 170 Russell, I was initially struck by the vocals of Earth Rot. Not the music, but the vocals, because they were so loud in the fucking mix I could hear them resonating up the stairs and into the night like a terrible, ironic choice at karaoke. Their mix was an unhappy “Screams & Snare” mess, but at the same time, whenever the guitars had room to breathe they sounded excellent. So even leaving aside the Opening Band’s Dilemma (do bands have average sound because they’re opening, or are they opening because they have average sound?) the sound was both good and bad.

Earth Rot

Likewise their stage show. Earth Rot are fucking great musicians and performers, and they did exactly what they were supposed to do. What they were supposed to do, however, was play in a slowly filling venue as the opening band for Dimmu fucking Borgir on the night that didn’t sell out. So while I think they did well and couldn’t have done much better, and it looked like they were enjoying themselves, their singer’s rather consistent pleas for something, anything, to happen in the pit left me with a sour taste, which ironically wasn’t helped when he asked if anyone in Melbourne had any cum in their balls, a question asked to account for the somewhat subdued response from a crowd not there for them. Now I’m not a doctor, but I don’t think the Western decline in male fertility from an unexplainable drop in sperm count has any relation to overextending yourself as an opening band, nor do I think that the inevitable social pressures we’ll face trying to support an aging population with a gutted social welfare system bare any causal relationship with the one man who very loudly tried to convince himself that he did, in fact, have cum in his balls and that he was, in fact, having a good time, but I’m happy to look at the evidence. Earth Rot were good. The people who liked them (most of the crowd, myself included) really liked them. But their set was just… weird.

After checking the merch desk between bands, I realised I forgot to refinance my mortgage and so wouldn’t be able to put a down payment on a hoodie, which was a shame. But not to worry! I’d soon be able to watch Dimmu’s set through the sea of screens held aloft by lazy fucking losers, too slow to get a ticket to the good night and yet somehow convinced they or anyone else will ever want to watch a shaky 15 second clip of 6 blurred figures blasting distorted noise into a fucking phone you pack of cunts.

Dimmu Borgir

At this stage of their career, Dimmu Borgir can do whatever they want. For instance, they can hold a gig on a Tuesday, or play an oddly truncated set full of songs from the album that’s not THE album. Most people don’t even get to experience this level of self-assuredness and respect interacting with their loved ones, so watching a legacy band headline comfortably is always a delightful exercise in power fantasy, let alone enjoyable for the musicianship on display. At the same time, a band of their stature and heritage has nowhere to move.

There’s not much else Dimmu could do with the night they were given; the lighting was effective and unobtrusive, the sound was balanced and clear while still being loud, the venue was mostly full of adoring fans, the theatrics were on point, their playing was collectively tight as fuck and individually impressive, and the set was considered and well-paced. They are international headliners more than two decades deep into their career; they are always at their best, that’s just what they do. Yet for my money, something still felt a little odd. Admittedly I might just be dead inside, and I’m definitely not a super-fan like I used to be, but it never felt liked it “popped” like it could have. And given that all the elements were in place for the gig to be ridiculous, I can’t help but feel that maybe the pall hanging in the air was a type of FOMO, a recognition that this whole gig was itself an opening act to the SOLD OUT show happening tomorrow.

Which luckily means that every single other person seeing Dimmu on this tour is gonna get a good show. They’re incredible. If you’ve ever liked them, you’ll enjoy yourself (and yeah, they play that song). It’s just an unfortunate truth that every so often a gig is only “pretty good” instead of “phwoaaar, fuckin’ hell.” And no doubt some of the people here tonight will emphatically disagree with me. And that’s great! Music is such a wonderfully personal medium, something something the beauty of experience. Write your own fucking review if you hate this.

About

Mitch is a 26 year old vegan, socialist, atheist, utilitarian, reductionist metalhead, stand up comedian and philosophy major that hates labels. When he isn't being politely ignored at dinner parties he's being politely ignored on comedy nights around the country.