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Slayer / Emperor / Diamond Head: 23rd June, 2017 - Fredriksten Fortress, Halden, Norway

I hit the road in the rental car a little after noon on the Fredag Midsommar holiday and drove the 200km north for this legendary show. I didn't really know what to expect, driving to a different country and going solo but the trip was pretty straightforward and I just drove straight through customs with no security check.

The venue is actually a fortress built in the 1600s and was the site of a half-dozen invasions by the Swedish. It's the site where Charles XI, the king of Sweden, died in 1718.

Walking through the venue, there were a dozen vendors and three separate stages. Some people spoke English, but it was a struggle managing with Norwegian; it is a much different beast of a language than my ever-more-familiar Swedish is.

I got to the tent stage to catch Diamond Head, a band I never really had to see but hey, they're classic, right? They played a few songs between the list I show, but I only knew the four Metallica covers. The band was good and got better as the set went on, but after growing up listening to covers, the music was really rather slow. The intro, The Prince, remains the best cover Metallica has ever done and it plodded along lacking the upbeat pace I'm accustomed to. However, as the crowd filled in and the covers became more well-known, the set ended on a high note.

  1. The Prince
  2. It's Electric
  3. ...
  4. Helpless
  5. Am I Evil?

I'll be honest, I could skip virtually the rest of the bands just to see Emperor. The 20th anniversary of one of my favorite albums ever was to be played in its entirety. And with but seven dates on their tour and no other albums anyone actually wants an anniversary replay, this may be the last time they ever play. So, after sauntering around, checking the vendors and finding a grey Nightside 20th anniversary shirt, I went straight up to the barrier to wait. I found a guy with a spectacular Anthems anniversary shirt, so it was a rare two-shirt night. Right up to the front, the band emerged to a mediocre response. At 19:00, it's still light out (and is until past midnight, really, in June) and the crowd wasn't the usual, dedicated Emperor fans. After Alsvartr, perhaps the album's best song blasted forth and I just marveled at the wall of sound and wondered WTF Ihsahn was playing. He and Samoth together made a remarkable duo but they couldn't differ more than night and day. Samoth didn't display much enthusiasm but Ihsahn was clearly enjoying himself as they tore through the album. It almost ended as soon as it started, with Khaos being faster than any song ought to be and Trym handling drumming duties effortlessly. It might almost be more impressive if it appeared he actually had to try. The bassist, Secthdamon, wasn't as pronounced as his backing vocals from the first album, but the show was all Ihsahn. Actually seeing The Wanderer live was a beautiful album finale that they would never play live normally.

As grand as it all was, the album isn't built for a live set nearly as much as their debut LP. But that's OK, as there was still more. One track from IX Equilibrium was followed by an outro of epic awesomeness. The band's two biggest songs awoke the crowd that was generally subdued lost it. Much like when I saw them last, the finale, Inno A Satana is an incredible way to finish a set. Unlike last time, my hair was short, but the effect was no less potent. Final goodbyes to a remarkable band and likely the end of Emperor, I'm so glad I made the trip. I also got to meet Ihsahn between sets. Such a cool guy, he was happy to say hello to a few fans before joining his family.

  1. Alsvartr (The Oath)
  2. Ye Entrancemperium
  3. Thus Spake The Nightspirit
  4. Ensorcelled In Khaos
  5. The Loss And Curse Of Reverence
  6. The Acclamation Of Bonds
  7. With Strength I Burn
  8. The Wanderer
  9. Curse You All Men!
  10. I Am The Black Wizards
  11. Inno A Satana

I didn't do much over the next 90 minutes until Slayer arrived. Their backdrop was impressive and I pushed forward as the intro began. It didn't take long until I was two people from the barrier. Like 12 seconds, really. There was a healthy pit for the duration of the show, a smaller pocket but nicely represented by drunken vikings with a fair number of females. I was there for the duration, the best seat in the house: close enough to see but also on the verge of the pit if the need might arise. And arise it did. After seeing Slayer 9 times in 13 years, it's been 13 since I've seen them. Even the familiar cuts felt remarkable live. The Antichrist is always sing-worthy but War Ensemble showed me this band is still atop its game. No nonsense, straightforward GO. Tom smiled the entire show, enjoying the flash of tits when they happened and talking as if he were drunk. It was really no different from those other nine times, but it's so awesome he still enjoys what he's doing. Gary was his classic thrashy self, with his unique headbanging and shreddy solos. He was lower in the mix and he lost the beard, but it was my first non-Hanneman show and he fittingly sported his tribute guitar.

Bostaph was an utter machine. I wish I had a better vantage point to appreciate him and Kerry was the norm, a sleeveless shirt and dripping with attitude, his guitars sounded so goddamn heavy. There was no wall of Marshalls this time but it sounded no less impressive.

When Fight Till Death started, I was reminded of the time they broke it out during the Reign In Blood show in 2003. Bostaph is every bit as adept as Lombardo, despite his bass drums not having such deep end, but he one-upped his predecessor with a few double-bass bits that even surprised me. It was the highlight of the first half of the show though Hallowed Point and Born Of Fire were unexpected.

But the second half was just madness. The crowd seemed to get drunker and the camaraderie of the pit was evident as people were flying everywhere. Postmortem into Raining Blood. Mandatory and SoH each were so familiar but so great live. Then there was the finale. I was right into the pit for every portion and it was as if it were the '90s again, losing my shit during Angel Of Death. It was fucking perfect. They left the stage like they do every time, having slayed and destroyed everything around them. The slower points, both acoustic segments and the intro to Dead Skin Mask were the only repreives from the onslaught. While the band's longevity is indeed impressive, doing so with such intensity is incredible. I can't imagine performing show upon show with such a reception. It was amazing and memorable, on the site of the Swedish king's death almost 300 years prior. A long ride back to Sweden got me home about 1:30, sore, tired, and nigh voiceless. What a phenomenal trip and show. The setlist is the usual approximate, with the beginning and the end being accurate. But I think this covers everything they played. Five from Seasons and none from Hell Awaits, they played Pride And Prejudice on other dates, a song I would have liked to have seen. But with an 80-minute slot, I think I was treated to a pretty impressive set.

  1. Intro: Delusions Of Saviour
  2. Repentless
  3. The Antichrist
  4. Disciple
  5. War Ensemble
  6. When The Stillness Comes
  7. You Against You
  8. Fight Till Death
  9. Hallowed Point
  10. Born Of Fire
  11. Hate Worldwide
  12. Dead Skin Mask
  13. Postmortem
  14. Raining Blood
  15. Seasons In The Abyss
  16. Mandatory Suicide
  17. South Of Heaven
  18. Chemical Warfare
  19. Angel Of Death