Whoever curated Decibel Magazine‘s most recent tour, featuring Abbath, High on Fire, Skeletonwitch, and Tribulation, knew exactly what they were doing when they set the lineup. By the time Abbath came out on Thursday night in at the Roseland Theater in Portland, the crowd had already been battered into a mindless pulp and ground into submission. Abbath’s punishing headlining set sealed the deal, delivering a set that mixed newer stuff and Immortal songs nicely, with highlights including “Nebular Raven’s Winter” and my personal favorite, “Count the Dead.”
The curated experience was evident, as the audience was exposed to two somewhat fanciful, theatrical European bands (Tribulation, who started the evening, and Abbath, who ended it) and also two no-frills, pummeling stateside bands (Skeletonwitch and High on Fire, who both crushed it). I came into the night believing Tribulation to be one of the more overrated bands I’ve been exposed to, and honestly their set was solid enough to get me to reconsider that stance, although I still think last year’s album The Children of the Night got way too many accolades. Skeletonwitch was black and thrashy as always, though truthfully I prefer the old singer and his signature rasp. High on Fire delivered a set one would expect from a veteran, workhorse American metal-band: relentless, considered, and crowd-pleasing.