This review is the second of three live reviews I'm writing in a row, after having attended three shows in a row last week.
There are some combinations within the world of music which sorely needed to happen, and one of those things was the combination of power metal with the bagpipes, an instrument which is so self-evidently metal that I'm genuinely shocked it took so long for a band to emerge who used them well. Fortunately, Argentinian band Skiltron decided to do precisely that; fuse the bagpipes with metal, and, perhaps predictably, Scottish themes. The resulting concoction was something I discovered by chance one day when I was about fifteen, and awed by the bagpipe-wielding music since that time, I always said that if they ever toured, I'd go an see them play, which I have now done.
The show was slightly late on starting - I can't recall if this was a direct result of someone having to scrape vomit off the monitors from the previous night's Eyehategod show, or if that was merely mentioned in passing. Either way, I found it vaguely amusing. As can only be expected, the crowd was a little bit smaller this time around compared to the same venue the night before, but it was still pleasantly busy - or at least, not everyone was sitting down.
First on were one of Scotland's few credible folk metal acts, Norderobring, who play an interesting amalgam of blackened folk metal. I know a number of the members of Norderobring well enough to elicit a "Oh Christ, he's reviewed us again" sentiment, and probably the irritating knowledge in them that none of the positive things I say are likely to be able to quote without the risk of it's impartiality being questioned, but, for the most part, I like to think that knowing a band shouldn't impact my ability to say horrible things, should that be required, which, fortunately for everyone at the dinner table, wasn't the case. Musically solid, and interesting to listen to, while at the same time commanding a fairly enthusiastic crowd, I think it's safe to say that Norderobring played well throughout their set, which contained a couple of songs I recognised from previous encounters, and possibly several others which I've heard but since forgotten; either way, the keyboards were a crystal clear injection of Celtic atmosphere, and the generally tight playing rendered the band streamlined, solid and enjoyable, managing to be remarkably sincere and at times deeply atmospheric, despite for the most part being relatively cheerful people, and painted blue.
Next up were Arceye, who were described to me before the gig as "Lamb of God type stuff", which made me a little sceptical, for however legit a band might be, there's no compensating for personal taste, and I won't for a moment deny that Arceye's material, while much better than I anticipated, wasn't quite my cup of tea. I don't want that to stand in the way of me giving the band some praise though, and they managed to keep the crowd interested with memorable riffs with a solid tone, and a reasonable amount of variety within their set. Arceye's music seems to swing between intense groove-metal and thrashy fun, with very overtly agile and disciplined musicianship meeting headlong with interesting and fairly dynamic song structures. All of this is united under the banner of modern aesthetics and song-writing styles - in other words, the sort of thing which ranks in the top 10% of what is broadcast on Skuzz, but still clashes with what I tend to go for when it comes to metal. I'll hand it to them though, they had a solid stage presence, and were easily interesting enough to prevent me from wondering off for half an hour, which I had premeditated to do in the worst case scenario. Fortunately, Arceye were actually quite enjoyable, and damn good at what they do, proving to be a "great band that I'm not really into" as opposed to a bad band in any sense of the word.
Skiltron have an eclectic touring line-up, with an English vocalist, and the guitarist from Achren on bagpipes, but still sounded easily as good on stage as they do in a lot of their studio material, with, of course, that little bit of magic which only live shows can have - for some reason, especially power metal ones. Over the years, I've listened to the first and second Skiltron albums extensively, and should have probably revisited the rest of their material before seeing them, however, I didn't really have time. Fortunately, I recognised a lot of their songs anyway, especially "Bagpipes of War" and "By Sword and Shield" - the latter being the first song by the band that I discovered, and was extremely impressed by. Live, it had just as much ferocity and power-metal grandiosity, without any of the elements being sacrificed - I even managed to sing along slightly, something which I almost never do. I had no idea bagpipes would fit so nicely into the natural sound of a live metal band, but as it turns out, they didn't vie with the other instruments for space, instead coming through very clearly. Skiltron very much gave the impression of a band who enjoy playing live, and indeed seemed both excited and pleased to be playing the show - always a great contributor to a good atmosphere at shows, which this one very much had; while there wasn't a huge crowd, almost everyone in it was extremely enthusiastic about the music being played, including the unexpected encore of "Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n Roll)", Bagpipes and all.
Sometimes the smaller shows you attend can be the ones which are most enjoyable. While certainly not the most packed venue, or loudest crowd, or heavyweight line-up, seeing Skiltron is almost certainly going to be an experience I remember - there's something about seeing a band you first listened to when you were fifteen that you certainly can't feel when it's a band which you've only been listening to for a couple of months - there's a certain closure, when the journey from first hearing them to finally seeing them live is so long. But as the band said, with reference to their journey from Argentina to Scotland; It's A Long Way to the Top, If You Wanna Rock n' Roll.