The first thing you need to know about seeing a metal show in the American South, Atlanta in particular, is that almost every person in the audience is going to look nearly identical. It’s beyond bizarre. Standing there in the middle of the ballroom floor at The Masquerade, my wife and I could have easily been at a casting call for actors looking to play Slayer’s Kerry King in a movie. Short, squat, bald with scruffy beards, tattoos and black shirts. How do the police ever tell them apart?
The evening started promisingly enough. My wife and I were accosted by some inebriated, bearded lunatic in a panel van who slowed up to tell us his motor was dying, then drove off when he noticed the can of mace my wife was clutching tightly in her right hand. The van, which had an ominous Mothers For Palin sticker emblazoned on the back, had clearly been used in some sort of white slavery ring that we collectively wanted no part of. But these things happen from time to time.
We were there to see In Solitude, but most of the throngs of concertgoers were there to see Down. We had no such plans. We are two middle-aged adults who have learned to value a good night’s sleep over the wild excesses of staying out past 10 to see a band. The original plan had us dipping out by 9 o’clock after the In Solitude set so that we could collapse into an orgy of Chinese food and Friday night re-runs. Unfortunately, The Masquerade pulled the old bait and switch on us and put some highly talented but unfortunately named band called “Pony Killer” on before In Solitude. My wife and I retreated to the benches outside where I was given a Nobel worthy dissertation on the entire life history Jeff Loomis, formerly of the band Nevermore, by some complete stranger with a broken leg wearing a shirt featuring Jesus smoking a cigarette.
As we walked into the club, I noticed Crowbar singer and Charles Addams cartoon character Kirk Windstein standing about 15 feet away from me. I have always loved Crowbar and I thought strongly about getting a picture with him, but I had some concerns. I had met Windstedt once before in Albany, New York when they were opening for Sacred Reich in the mid-90s. Our brief meeting took place as we stood next to each other at a urinal before their band went on. I excitedly stammered, “YOU’RE The GUY from CROWBAR!!!!!” Windstein silently looked straight ahead at the wall and tried to escape my glowing gaze. When I reached my hand out to try to pat him on the back, he sprinted out of the restroom with a terrified look on his face. It was a highly awkward moment that I had repeated over and over in my mind for the last 15 years. Out of sheer concern he might have remembered my poorly timed outburst, I put my head down and kept walking.
I was horribly bored standing in the audience before the set. The thing you forget about shows when you are not there is the pure tedium between bands. Standing on your left foot, then your right, smelling the guy next to you who hasn’t washed his Watain shirt in about five concerts, watching the one lonely guy in the Incantation shirt pace and talk to himself, randomly thinking about how your 401K performed last week. You get a brief rush when the guitar tech comes out to check the levels, then, nothing. Ten more minutes of overhearing conversations about what the real meaning of black metal is. Sheer mind-numbing misery.
All of a sudden, I felt my head snap backwards. In a wild rush of incense and power, In Solitude appeared on stage and launched into a violently surging version of “The World, The Flesh, The Devil”. Adrenaline shot through my veins. My pulse went from a calm, resting 60 to an unrestrained, thumping 180 in a fleeting span of seconds. I felt like a had been sleeping in the middle of a highway and raised my head up only to see an 18 wheel tractor trailer bearing down on me. IT had begun.
The way they started out was pure magic. The first thing you notice about In Solitude is presence. Some bands act like they plan to spend the entire show apologizing to you for being up there. Other bands act like they completely and unquestionably belong where they are. They command your attention and hold it unreservedly for the duration of their set. In Solitude falls squarely into the latter camp. They are there for a reason and you WILL understand that reason before they are finished. The stage was simply too small for them. They were hooked uncompromisingly into the Master Cylinder, bringing a message that transcended all other thoughts and ideas that had existed in me up till the moment of their arrival. They demanded complete and total connection and, with their every action, settled for nothing less.
Their set covered most of the critical material from their two albums. The crowd, which was clearly more inclined to listen to slow, lurching southern metal riffs, was won over by the third song. Wild-eyed singer Pelle “Hornper” Ahman managed to work the crowd into a bloodthirsty frenzy through a series of high-pitched shrieks and animalistic antics that ran the gamut from spasmodically shaking his thin frame to ramming the microphone into his head. The only thing I could possibly compare his energy level to are the few live recordings I’ve seen of Paul Di’Anno fronting Iron Maiden at The Ruskin Arms around the time Killers was out. Ahman simply hemorrhages sweat and intensity to the point where you are concerned for his well-being. By the time Down front man and metal legend Phil Anselmo strode out on stage in a Ghost shirt to bellow a few bars of “To Her Darkness” with the band, there was no doubt that this was an act on the precipice of greatness.
There is simply something unique and memorable about In Solitude. They are cut out for greater things. Even my wife, who finds the B-52 to be a bit on the heavy side, seemed deeply impressed with how they carried it. We witnessed something arrestingly powerful last night at The Masquerade and everyone there knew it. The performance seemed to be part of an elaborate first act in a career that will have a lot to say about the direction metal music is going in.