Rotting Christ, Borknagar and more at Exit/In Venue (2022)

Exit/In Venue (Nashville, Tennessee)

Rotting Christ, Borknagar, Abigail Williams, Ghost Bath, Vale Of Pnath, Stormruler
This was the second show of the year for me and I was just as […]
By Justin “Witty City” Wittenmeier, Joe “Chockflopple” Wittenmeier
May 11, 2022
This was the second show of the year for me and I was just as excited for this one as I was the other one.  I have been listening to Borknagar for 21 years and never thought I'd ever get to see them live!   When they announced their first American tour in 24 years as apart of Devastation On The Nation, my excitement was clearly evident.  However, that excitement died during the pandemic.  The tour was canceled TWICE and my hopes dwindled.  But it was for naught, as third time really must be a charm, and the show went on, finally.

I have heard of the legendary venue that is Exit/In but have never been there until this show.  I must say, I was impressed.  The venue is small but not overly—even when floor became crowded, I was still having a comfortable experience.  But the sound of the venue is what is most impressive.  Despite the small nature of the room and the obviously big sound from the bands, it wasn't super loud and everything could be heard clearly, no matter where you stood.  I definitely hope to see more shows here.

STORMRULER opened the night for us.  Having formed in 2019 and just having one album under their belt, this band was the least experienced of the six. However, after their vicious set, I am confident they will be around for a long time to come—and won't be regulated to opening for too much longer.  Their brand of black metal is epic as hell—and full of delicious melodies and ripping solos.  Vocalist Jason Asberry has solid blackened screams, which were loud and clear.  But it is his guitar playing that really burned up the night.  It has been a long time since I've seen someone play guitar as fast—and yet smooth-as him.  His fingers were so fast, they were a blur as they picked the guitar strings to pieces.

J. Schobel's drumming was fast yet tight and crisp—he definitely provided that much need hard hitting rhythm while also being a spectacle and vessel of energy himself.  They looked they were having a ton of fun on stage and it is clear they walked away with quite a few fans.  At the very least, they pumped us up for VALE OF PNATH.

VALE OF PNATH is a band I discovered a couple years ago but apparently somewhere along they way they lost some members because they are apparently also ABIGAIL WILLIAMS, as the band was made of their members, including vocalist Ken Sorceron.  There seemed to be some technical problems with the sound during their first song but it was corrected soon enough.  The band's performance was absolutely blistering! Ken's screams and growls were bordering on scary…he is indeed an imposing presence on the stage.  Their set list was short (I'm assuming because they also had to do the AW set)  but they had every head in the crowd banging until the last second.  Despite the brutality, their bass was audible which is something I appreciated because, especially in the live setting, the bass guitar is so important for that low end.  I'm not sure who their bassist is but he was more than just a wall of sound—his playing shined through well.

GHOST BATH were the third band up and my favorite of the first three.  They are also a recent discovery of mine but I've heard about the "controversy" when it turned out they were not from China but America.  I don't see the big deal either way—I find them to be a damn good black metal band.  It was interesting to see their mystique yet often abrasive sound translate to the live setting so well.  The way they move, their corpse paint, their stage presence….everything about them dripped danger and excitement and the crowed loved them.  Of the first three bands, they had the largest crowd and people were noticeably excited about them and several were singing along to their songs.

They have three guitarists but their multi layered music demands it to be so. Their style can go from searing to introspective at a moments notice.  As many heavy riffs as the guitars pump out, there is also plenty of ambient and post elements as well.  Even when things were clean, quiet, and atmospheric it was still extreme in its own way.  Dennis Mikula's vocals were one of the highlights of the entire show—he is just some kind of beast.  I really enjoyed their set and was happy to see they seem to have a decent following.

ABIGAIL WILLIAMS was up next but I missed most of their set, aside from two songs, to interview Lars from BORKNGAR.  I don't have any complaints or regrets on that end but I hope I'm able to see them again soon. What little I did see from their set was tight as hell—include Ken's guitar playing and clean vocals.  What can't this guy do?  Also Bryce Butler, who was also drumming for VALE OF PNATH earlier, almost collapsed the entire building.  During my interview with Lars back stage, I could feel his drums threatening to kill us all.  He also had a nice little drum solo that was slick as hell.

Then finally the moment arrived.  I like all the bands on this tour but I was here for BORKNAGAR. I discovered them back in 2001 when I bought "Empiricism" on a whim after reading an interview of them. Their live show met every expectation I had and then some—worth the 21 year wait!  I'm a pretty big VINTERSORG fan and would have loved to see them live with him at the helm but ICS VORTEX obviously isn't a slouch in the vocal (or bass) department either.  He also shares clean singing duties with keyboardist Lars.  The two of them sound great live, especially when they harmonize together.   Both of their voices are loud full and carry over the instrumentation amazingly—each of them sounded like they were singing from up top a mountain.  Lars' keyboards could be heard over all the metal and they sounded as fantastic and organic live as they do on record.  ICS Vortex's bass had some sound issues in the first song, "The Fire That Burns," but he handled it well and even had a smile on his face.  I don't know his name but their second guitarist put on a great performance too and has an awesome blackened voice as well, as he helped Vortex out on the heavier parts.

Speaking of which, every member of this band was smiling—anyone could see they were having a grand old time up there on stage.  It has been 24 years or so since their last North American tour, and their first tour in general for True North, so maybe that is why they were so happy.  Even the usually stoic  Oystein G. Brun, had a smirk under his beard. Their set list was pretty great too and a decent overall display of their more modern era.

I want to specifically mention two songs from their set: "Up North," and "Voices."  These are the two of the singles from their now three year old album "True North," and obviously very popular songs.  But when they played these two, it became an enchanting and magical experience.  The crowed sang each song along with the band as long as possible and even the bands members that don't do vocals could be singing each of these songs to themselves.  Clearly, these songs mean a lot not only to us fan but the band members as well.  I just love that; I love knowing musicians write songs they truly care about it because that isn't always the case with some.  I got into more depth about it in my interview with Lars but "Voices," is a very special to me and I'm glad it seems to resonant with many others as well.  I think these two will be in the set list for the band for many years.

As headliners, ROTTING CHRIST were the last band to play and did so the longest, even coming out to an encore.  I've only been into the band for a few years, familiar with mostly everything from their "Aealo" album forward.  They played quite a few older songs but regardless of what they were playing, they brought their "A" game.  Their sound, especially in their more recent albums, has become very tribal and ritual in its atmosphere.  This translated immensely to their live show:  their sound is huge and filled the entire area, and my ears, up to the brim.   Their songs tend to rise over time and this boiling crescendo kept coming in waves after waves.  I felt like I was having an out of body experience, watching myself get beat to death by pure blackened walls of sound.

They also had the most clear sound too. Every bass note, every cymbal crash, every little lead or melody….it all came out raging yet coherent.   Sakis' voice has held up very well—no offense to him but he is probably one of the oldest guys in the scene but you can't tell with the way he moves, plays, or sounds.  The dude, and the band, has earned their legendary status.

Thus ended an epic night of metal and I hope every band is able to continue their success and make it back to Nashville.

Written by: Justin "Witty City" Wittenmeier
Photos by: Joe "Chockflopple" Wittenmeier

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