The neckbeards gathered at Club Europa, Brooklyn on November 11th celebrated National Metal Day the right way: with a metal show. On the menu was local Villains, Philadelphia’s Infernal Stronghold, and black metal sorcerers Absu, who recently released the second instalment of their enigmatic trilogy, “Abzu”, on Candlelight Records. The final chapter, “Apsu”, already has music nerds in a frenzy, trying to guess what spell these mystical musicians will cast next.

Absu and Infernal Stronghold have also released a split only to be sold during this East Coast tour, featuring one new track from each artist. You won’t find it anywhere else, so get your hands on it while you can.

Staten Island’s Villains brought their raw intensity and New York attitude to Europa’s stage, avoiding the unfortunate fate of most opening bands, who unintentionally become a bar mingling soundtrack. Lucky for Villains, they went hard enough to roar over and cockblock everything in its path.

Infernal Stronghold took it up a notch by being awesome enough to interest the ladies in the crowd by playing thrashy black metal with punk catchiness and looking pretty damn good while doing it. It’s impossible for this band to be overshadowed by any headliner. There needs to be more young bands like Infernal Stronghold out there, paying tribute to the old school by not sounding just like the old school. I see big things for these guys.

With more and more people pouring in every minute, Absu took the stage, and based on the trio’s appearance the anxiously awaiting and half drunk New Yorkers were about experience a very powerful awakening. From Proscriptor McGovern’s dazzling circlet to Ezezu’s intimidating bracers, Absu made it clear that they were not here to fuck around.

Live performances are never complete without a mechanical failure or two. In this case, the sound just blew. It was absolutely awful. But Absu managed to make it work, and it’s an admirable accomplishment and a credit to their musicianship that they were still able to pull off an excellent show. Proscriptor is a vicious drummer, as well as an occult Phil Collins.

The crowd was in good spirits, a good part standing almost in awe of what was before them. A band has a true following when the bar is empty.

Ezezu has a knack for amping up a crowd, and his on stage presence factored into a dense, fog-like atmosphere that swallowed up the room. The three musicians worked together in a way that had them towering over the stage like a giant’s looming shadow. With Vis Crom shredding it up, Absu has no need of an additional live member; if I hadn’t looked it could have been a five-man band.

The twelve-song set (not including encore) played out like a ritual. Fan favorite “Earth Ripper” literally sent tremors through the crowd, as well as “Skrying in the Spirit Vision.” These guys were as aggressive as it gets, and that energy was necessary to overcome the shit acoustics. Also, gauntlets.

The great thing about Europa is that it transforms into a Polish disco after ten or so. As Absu’s set went on, the clubbers crept in and failed to assimilate with the black shirt leather jacket crowd. It was interesting watching the reactions of those who clearly had no idea what they were getting into. A surprising amount of scantily clad chicks and not so scantily clad bros walked closer to check encore “Highland Tyrant Attack”. Since no one ran screaming in the opposite direction, I’d say that Absu’s performance was a total success.

Photos by Summer Lacy