Slam It! 2017

author PP date 05/06/17

Slam It! is a brand new event from the buzzing hype machine and people behind Prime Collective, intended to emulate successful pop punk/core festivals such as Warped Tour and Slam Dunk Festival in Copenhagen. The idea is to book bands within those genres and gradually grow the concept into a Scandinavian behemoth within the genres where the target audience is a good decade or so younger than your average Copenhell attendee. Scheduling the event a week after Slam Dunk gives ample opportunity for booking precisely the kind of international bands needed to make the event a success, and with 550+ attendees at Pumpehuset in its inaugural year, all signs are pointing towards the interest being there from the audience's perspective.

So although the first event was more of a package tour (Issues, Crown The Empire, and State Champs) bolstered with solid local bands, next year could feel more like a one day festival than a long concert. The potential is certainly there. Blessed with great weather, the crowds turned out early at Byhaven for the free shows and excellent burgers in the cozy yard stage that Pumpehuset has consistently improved year-on-year and did not shy away from moving indoors in good numbers for CABAL's tour-de-force of deathcore downstairs nor Siamese's album release show upstairs.

Hearteater

Hearteater

I wasn’t actually supposed to review Hearteater today, but I’m here and the band’s doing a damn good job, so I might as well type a few lines. I honestly don’t know Hearteater’s material, but both their melodic post-hardcore and charismatic stage presence (especially that of the vocalist) is contagious. The guitar melodies that flow seamlessly beneath chugs and grooves add a nice element to the band’s overall sound, and although this isn’t my usually preferred kind of hardcore and metal, I’m convinced by the band’s show – especially midway through when the vocalist decides to get atop Byhaven’s stage and perform a song from there. I’ll definitely go check out their material and catch another show with Hearteater in the not-too-distant future. [7] MIN

Odd Palace

Odd Palace

The second band of the day was meant to be the melodic hardcore group Northern Blues, but with them pulling out, Roskilde-grown prog rockers Odd Palace stepped up to the challenge instead. Opposed to Northern Blues, Odd Palace, unfortunately, do not yet have their debut album out for people to be hyped up about, but as they've proven before and do again today, they're not really a band that needs people to be interested ahead of time. Their music - an eclectic, latin-inspired prog-rock which leans heavily on The Mars Volta and Closure In Moscow in terms of influences - is delivered with energy and precision by the young band, who maintain full control of a variety of extra flourishes from both guitar- and vocal effects, as well as the occasional bit of trumpet-playing from lead singer Gert Børsting.

Instruments are waved around wildly, Børsting finds room to backflip on the small stage and we get some wizardry in form of combined tapped riffs from Børsting's western guitar and guitarist Lasse Grube's electric one. Unfortunately the western guitar is a bit low in the mix, a small problem but still, yet the set's main hindrance is Odd Palace's general challenge at this stage of their songwriting: Namely that they still seem to be tinkering with the perfect balance of structuring their wilder prog-ideas, resulting in some songs that feel wound a bit too tightly for the band's exotic qualities to really shine, and others that take a little too long to get there. Odd Palace is the kind of group who are probably better musicians than most people watching them fully understand, and entertaining live performers to boot, yet the key to unlocking their full potential feels like it's just finding that sweet balance between prog exploration and maintaining intensity in the songs they have to play. [7½] TL

Natjager

Natjager

Imagine the brooding instrumentals of Deftones. Done? Now imagine the atrocious pop singers Kidd or Gulddreng if they stole Kanye West's autotuner and replaced their vocals exclusively by the most annoying tone of autotune possible. Now imagine that singer putting on a set of headphones Craig David style and being completely oblivious to the musicianship behind him, instead running his own show completely disconnected from the rest of the band? That's basically Natjager. The vocals - laden in echo and ridiculous autotune - are delivered without rhythm of any kind, often in hip-hop style, with segments more suitable for an R'n'B show than a metal one. Throw in unbearable synth melodies and the result is predictably miserable: a gimmick that's not just hopelessly terrible but not even comically bad. It's not even upbeat, which would've made it at least somewhat catchy! Sure, it is definitely unique. Yes, there are a few people in crowd who are loving it. And you can't fault the energy of the vocalist on stage nor the headbangs by the rest of the band. But this cannot be allowed to be the future of music - it needs to be killed with fire before it spreads. The songs - if you can even call them that - have no redeeming factors to them. How did the rest of the band - who are admittedly playing fine alternative metal - possibly think this was a good idea even on paper, let alone after hearing it for the first time in the rehearsal room? Here's to hoping this scathing review will lead into self-reflection internally within the band. [1] PP

CABAL

CABAL

CABAL are among the most brutal deathcore bands Denmark has seen to date. Their record has an eerie sense of pure evil, and the band does their absolute best to capture that atmosphere in a live performance as well. Tonight, as we move inside from Byhaven, it takes a few long minutes for our eyes to adjust to the total darkness that envelopes the venue purposefully to underline the blackened atmosphere CABAL are known to produce on record. On stage, the band engages in constant synchronous headbangs - we're talking deep down in crab position in the vein of Attack Attack!'s "crabcore" but without the slightest hint of irony: instead the band looks even more brutal and powerful live than expected. The breakdowns are absolutely humongous to an extent that it often feels like the entirety of the venue is shaking to its very foundations as a result. And although the beginning of the set feels rather anonymous due to the monotone nature of their brutalized songs, once the venue fills up and the sizable crowd starts lapping up the atmosphere, the small intricacies and horror chord melodies start catching on. Things get even better when the tempo slows down to a crawl, resulting in breakdowns that can safely be described as behemoths within their kind. Guest shrieks from DTHRNR's Neema Rad add further contrasting elements to the deep growls of CABAL's own vocalist, and the crowd cheers them on. Just like the band on stage, the audience is engaged in constant headbangs and violent pit activity, surprising this scribe by how much of a following the band have attained in such a short period of time. Solid stuff. [7½] PP

Siamese

Copenhagen veterans Siamese are the first to take proceedings upstairs in Pumpehuset tonight, and supposedly no less should be expected considering that a) they're releasing their 4th album and international label debut "Shameless" today and b) their singer Mirza Radonjica is organizing this whole event. With a) in mind, it's no surprise that their set today is heavily tilted towards the new songs, opening with the mellow balladry of "Make It Out" to then ramp directly up into "Tunnel Vision" and get things started for real. It's the band's first show since January, and perhaps as a combination of that and of nervousness about people's reaction to the new material, you sense that although they're, energetic the boys are not forcing the intensity up like they do when in top form.

Siamese

The new track "Soul & Chemicals" goes down a storm though, after a bit of pre-prepping the audience on the chorus, and people are increasingly spilling up the stairs and filling up the room as they hear the show from below. Any nervousness is thus shaken as the crowd and band find each other through the thundering new track "Cities", the band's heaviest in a while, and through the trip back to the last album's big single "Tomorrow Never Dies" and the airing of the band's currently most streamed track "Ablaze". At the end of the last song, the band fades things into one of their live staples - a dubstep/breakdown combo that goes hard and ends things at maximum intensity. It's not the most assertive Siamese show to date, but the test of the new material feels like a clear win judging from the mood of the room regardless. [8] TL

Aphyxion

Hailed as one of the finest melodeath bands in Denmark right now, I've struggled to come into terms with their vocals due to the lack of variety. Typically this type of problems should only accentuate in live environments, but the opposite is true for Aphyxion tonight. With more powerful delivery resulting in a dominant presence vs. the instrumentals, he does a great job in his delivery that certainly explains why they are starting to gain buzz as a melodeath band, which isn't an easy feat as we all know. I'll put it down to their charming, friendly Jylland attitude that so often comes forth in shows by metal bands from the region.

Aphyxion

On stage, Aphyxion has brought a combination of aggressive strobe lights and smoke pillar effects to give their show a good amount of visuals. In the meantime, the material consists of some very catchy tunes for this genre, alongside thick, brooding metal segments, of course. These are played in energetic fashion, but unfortunately the band never really gain momentum during their set. The reason is simple: there's too long between the great songs and too many anonymous tracks in between. Still, a decent performance that arguably was a little more metal than most of the audience is used to (CABAL being part of the -core crew, essentially). [7] PP

State Champs

Compared to the many people who filled Pumpehuset’s upstairs stage an hour ago during Siamese’s show, the crowd gathered for State Champs’ first Danish appearance is surprisingly small; the American pop-punk-“revival” band have gathered quite the following by virtue of their latest album “Around the World and Back”, and their debut “The Finer Things” is a surprisingly fresh modern take on the genre. However, as the band takes the stage tonight, something feels off. It feels like vocalist Derek DiScanio can’t quite keep up with his own material, as every time the songs reach a section that features lyrics that are supposed to be delivered fast he’s honestly hard to hear. Choruses and slow parts are delivered convincingly, but elsewhere his voice is simply too uncertain or low (seemingly due to his own inefficiency rather than on account of the sound guy) and doesn’t break through the upbeat melodies. I’m surprised that despite the fact that I know most songs the band’s released, I have a hard time following where we’re going. I suppose tonight is for the die-hard-fans only – the ones close to the stage or sitting on the beam on my right who know all of the words just by the opening chords.

State Champs

Furthermore, the band’s delivery sounds flat. Every member plays their part, but their joined forces fail to leave any lasting impression; like individual parts that don’t quite function as one synchronized machine. This is where DeScanio is supposed to pick up the overall performance by engaging with the crowd and getting us hyped, but here, too, the performance is stale and shallow. Sure, DeScanio tells us that it’s awesome we showed up and that he’s glad to be here, but he never reaches into the crowd to get close and personal. Compared to other punk shows, the ledge dividing band and audience feels bigger than ever. Luckily, the band have a major asset going for them: they have some god damn bangers. Especially the one-two closer of “Elevated” and “Secrets” sees the whole room sing along, and a larger stirring than the fizzled teenage-shuffling appears up-front. No, State Champs’ first show in Denmark was far from perfect – in fact, it wasn’t very good – but the hit-factor of some of their material combined with the devoted fans present tonight still made the show worthwhile. However, I can’t help but feel disappointed, and I can’t grant the show any more than I this: [5] MIN

Crown The Empire

Following a very forthcoming State Champs performance upstairs, it's time for Crown The Empire to meet a quickly full-looking downstairs area, yet it quickly turns out that things are not going to come together for them. On one hand, it feels like some expectations management has been skipped in the band, for while the bassist appears in silver jacket and with glowing bass ready to make an impression, their singer looks more like he's just rolled out of his bunk and decided to take this one his routine. And while of course appearance isn't everything, the other side of the performance, the sound, doesn't really do them any favors either, being cranked up thunderously - bordering on unpleasantly - loud.

Some benefit of the doubt should perhaps be extended their way then but - full disclosure - despite having spent time reviewing two albums of theirs in the past, absolutely none of their material has stuck. And upon getting reacquainted it sounds mostly like a very unambitious bid at metalcore for the youngest audiences. Simplistic, unremarkable, heavy riffage is the bread and butter, with uninventive clean/scream dynamics being applied in the songwriting in assembly-line fashion, with a vocal style of the overly dramatic kind that frankly gives emo a bad name. Slam-It being an event that is intentionally targeted towards the younger alternative audiences, there are unquestionably those who enjoy the set regardless, but throw some years of experience on your reviewer and he's forced to write that Crown The Empire don't perform like a band you put in the bank and age with. [4] TL

Issues

Slam-It's headliners may seem like a very polished type of band on record, but as they take to the stage tonight, the surprising impression is that their live performance is actually rather raw and real. On the downside, this is felt with a dodgy mix that never gets quite right - which hurts, in particular, Michael Bohn on the screamed vocals, which are already the least convincing ingredient in the band's style anyway - but on the upside, you get the feeling of a band actually playing and enjoying themselves doing it. There is a backtrack of course, but it remains low so the various electronic flourishes in the band's sound can be made out and doesn't dominate the live instruments. And the music's prime drawing points come through clearly, specifically the grooves from guitarist AJ Reboloo and bassist Skyler Accord and the clean pop choruses from Tyler Carter.

Starting things off in somewhat relaxed fashion, a Slam-It audience now noticeably deep in its cups receive Issues with high energy and loud singing back, putting smiles and expressions that look a bit like "wow, didn't expect quite this" on the band's faces. The set thus increasingly grows into a party, where the band's excellent hooks do some major weight-lifting for the suboptimal sound, as the audience's hunger to join Carter in tracks like "Home Soon", "Coma", "Princeton Ave." and "Mad At Myself". Carter himself seems rather effortlessly capable of singing with the same skill he impresses with on album and that's enough to set everyone off repeatedly, with ample time for moshing and hard dancing during the breaks where Bohn screams lead and the instrumentals are heavier. The set then, is perhaps not the pinnacle of finesse or production, but still, a highly satisfying get-together between a well-loved young band and an audience that's looked much forward to seeing them - exactly as a concert above else should be. [8] TL

All photos by: Philip B. Hansen

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