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Live Report: Eneferens, Gates to the Morning, Windfaerer, and Frost Giant in Philly

Celtic-tinged, anthemic metal might seem a little out of place during an evening of contemplative noise, but nobody told Frost Giant. A fan had dreads down to his knees, and he danced way before it was too early to blame the alcohol. More likely it’s the injection of speed and that almost assuredly came from spending more time listening to hardcore. Even with a fiddler, it was more punk than Pagan. This kicked off last Friday evening here in Philly.

Speaking of fiddlers, Windfaerer also employed a violinist, though theirs was far more audible in the mix. The venue felt like a glorified squat with a makeshift bar at one end of the room and bands setting up on the floor at the opposite end, so the band’s ability to get such a full sound out of a nonexistent PA was pretty amazing. Being able to hear everything was very beneficial, since there’s a lot going on with Windfaerer: atmospheric cascades of black metal riffs are set to Maidenesque gallops while the classical strings added piercing solos and depth. Their intricate musicianship made the band’s prog-metal bonafides evident, but not so much to feel out of place in the corner of a room upstairs from a South Philly bar. The way it all flowed felt like a long journey at sea — they should cover “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” immediately.

While the preceding band hinted at prog rock, Gates to the Morning makes no apologies embracing it. It’s not a huge shock that the band started over a decade ago, first as a solo project for Sean Meyers who handles drums and vocals in concert, given the indulgent nature of the band, but it is a shock that playing live is a recent development since the band he assembled didn’t feel like hired hands.

Despite being obviously accomplished musicians, the Jersey group doesn’t see knowledge of advanced music theory as a genre unto itself. They draw on a lot of influences — the solos and interplay between the band’s members invoke jazz and the likes of “Crestfallen” put those chops for the use of darkness. Progressive post-black metal is indeed a thing and a surprisingly potent one in the capable hands of this band in particular.

Eneferens’ Jori Apedaile took the concept of being a one-man black metal band quite literally and in a fairly unprecedented way. Performers of this niche genre will sometimes recruit musicians for shows while others misanthropically eschew live performances altogether, whereas Apedaile played guitar and provided vocals to a prerecorded track of drums and all other instruments and the stage was otherwise empty.

Getting past the shock at hearing fairly complex drum patterns coming out of the speakers while the previous band’s kit behind him sat undisturbed lasted far longer than maybe it should have. This is likely a Pavlovian limitation. He admitted from the stage that “Eneferens is not a full band,” so if he feels that this is the best way to present his music, it’s arrogant to tell him otherwise. Maybe, though, it’s easier to replicate what he recorded since most of it was recorded, but there isn’t a degree of difficulty that changes the grades. He gets so many textures out of his guitar that it’s difficult to ascertain how much of that instrument was live and how much was Memorex though watching him closely, he definitely kept himself busy.

Two factors need to be kept in mind at all times: all of the prerecorded stuff was actually written and played by Apedaile (this wasn’t some metal Milli Vanilli), and all of it was fantastic displays of atmospheric black metal, some of the most sublime you’ll find, truth be told. He took time in the middle of the set to answer some questions and tell jokes that fans wrote in advance at the merch table; honestly, this whimsical interlude was more jarring than the band’s makeup. It contrasted the remaining 40 minutes of some of the most insurgent, emotional, genuflective black metal around.

This is obviously personal to Adepaile, so much so that he doesn’t entrust anyone else to replicate it. It makes for a show as intimate as an acoustic performance but with the majestic, overblown sound that makes all of us love electrified distortion. Once you get used to it, it’s quite easy to get lost in the grandeur of Eneferens.

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