A Colossal Weekend 2018

author LL date 24/04/18

2018 marks the third edition of A Colossal Weekend in Copenhagen arranged by the booking agency COLOSSAL. This year, the mini-festival for everything post-rock and post-metal stretches over three days but also features a bit fewer bands than last year, no doubt to the the immense booking of Godspeed You! Black Emperor on the Sunday. This year the chosen stages includes Lille VEGA and the intimate Ideal Bar, with the upstairs Lounge stage having been cut out as opposed to the last two years. On the Sunday, the festival upgrades to the bigger Store VEGA for the final two performances of the weekend. This works out alright but loosens up the experience of it as a united event compared to previous years. In general, things like the vinyl distro, pop-up burger stand, official after-party, and offers on beer that have been part of making it feel like a self-contained event in previous years have all been cut this year and especially the price difference on beverages at the different venues is a bit confusing.

The line-up this year seems to not draw as many people as the previous years, perhaps because it is slightly more uniform genre-wise than especially last year that really delved into some niche corners. On all stages the sound was spot on, though, and the only problem with scheduling as such was the very short change-over times that resulted in sets sometimes crashing when some bands went just a few minutes over time. Compared to the overlapping of last year, however, it remained a minor problem. Overall, we had a great time and you can read on to find reviews of all the bands. /LL

All photos by Michael Hyldgaard Løgtholt

FRIDAY

Sannhet @ 19:30-20:15 at Lille VEGA

The Brooklyn experimental metal/post-rock band Sannhet first popped up on my radar earlier this year with the release of their solid new album "So Numb" that presented some excellent cuts of how black metal and post-rock structures can be united. Thus, I was happy to see them announced for ACW and they kick off the first day on the biggest of the two main stages to a semi-full room. For the first couple of minutes, the instrumental trio seems to be finding each other as well as us in the music and then with the older expansive track "Revisionist", we get our first highlight of the evening. Newer tracks like "So Numb" with its yearning guitars and dynamic drumming as well as the heavier and more gloomy "Fernbeds" also make especially convincing appearances. Not all of the compositions are moving enough to make the talkative crowd listen properly and through the set, as more people arrive, the chatter in the room gets a little overwhelming during the calmer parts. The mix is nice and loud for the heavy parts, though, and there's generally a good flow in the set from climax to climax. On the visual side, they have a projector playing shadowy black and white patterns from the back of the venue to accentuate the music whether it be delicate patterns for the dreamier sections or more dynamic or swirling pieces for the more active parts. They don't say a lot but their energetic playing is visible especially in their bassist who is often taking a step up to the very front of the stage to get in our faces while banging his whole body and instrument. Definitely a fine opening to the weekend event and a showcase of a band that I would definitely not mind seeing at their own show in the future. [7½] LL

The two members of Sum of R crushing Ideal Bar

Sum Of R @ 20:20-20:55 at Ideal Bar

Sum of R from Switzerland is an entirely new acquaintance for me. Currently on tour with Sannhet, they create very slow-moving and dark instrumental music that might be placed tentatively somewhere in the crossings of post-metal, drone, doom, and cinematic post-rock. They perform as a duo on bass guitar and drums, playing in cycles with numerous drones and effect loops. What strikes me first is that their live sound is way more rumbling than I would have thought from their recorded material and a bit more messy as well, in a good way of course. This means that their sound is at least dynamic and organic to listen to even as the compositions evolve almost too slowly for the half hour they have at their disposal. The small Ideal Bar is crammed with people as they begin and unless you are lucky to be in the front rows, it is not the most immersive atmosphere to experience the band in. The big windows all around the room let in the remaining sunlight as well as streetlights, giving the duo's very gloomy music a bit of an odd setting as it contrasts with the fading brightness. Even though their heavy music has the most engaged audience members banging their heads increasingly actively up front, their performance is a challenging one and thus the crowd is thinning out slowly throughout their set. They play longer stretches of continually evolving sounds, mellowing out at times only to increase the volume and intensity of their many layers again and again. One final massive section ends the set before the music phases out, ending a performance that was no doubt hypnotic for some but didn't manage to really capture the whole room in the duo's grasp. [5] LL

møl @ 21:00-21:45 at Lille VEGA

Møl’s career has entered a phase of meteoric rise lately, with not only the media but also prominent artists such as Matt Heafy (frontman of Trivium), Winston McCall (vocalist of Parkway Drive) and Jean-Michel Labadie (bassist of Gojira) endorsing the Aarhusian ‘blackgazers’ as one of the most exciting metal bands of 2018. Combine the hype with møl’s performance tonight coinciding with the release of their debut album, “Jord", and the band is easily one of the most anticipated acts playing at A Colossal Weekend this year — which their commanding one of the largest audiences at the festival also confirms. Since the last time that I watched møl live, they have procured quite a cool setup, with pink LED garlands and various neon-lit shapes decorating the stage to create a futuristic, Tron-esque effect. The bright lighting goes hand-in-hand with the uplifting tone of the two opening tracks, “Storm" and “Vakuum", and provides the vital distinction from Deafheaven, to whom møl is often rightfully compared, and who prefer to keep their performances dimly lit and elusive. Both of the aforementioned songs feature on “Jord" but there is space for a pair of older cuts on the setlist too. “Atacama" and “Rush" from the band’s 2015 EP, "II", have this role, and although the two tracks predate vocalist Kim Song, one might argue that he makes them even better with his shrill, piercing screams and formidable stage presence. It is no secret that Song is inspired by George Clarke (vocalist of Deafheaven) and as ever, it is his pained expression, wild gesticulation, and way of imposing himself upon the audience that steals the show. That is not to say that his instrument-wielding colleagues are reduced to a peripheral role, however, as some of the most spellbinding moments of the concert are those in which all five musicians are transformed into frantically moving silhouettes by clever use of backlighting, such as during the hit single “Penumbra" and the groove-laden “Bruma". When the concert reaches its climax with the final track “Rush", Song picks up one of the strobe lights from the stage floor and points it directly at the audience to close the proceedings on a frenzied note, setting it in stone that møl is well underway to becoming one of the best live acts in the country right now. [8] AP

Arms and Sleepers celebrating their album release

Arms and Sleepers @ 21:55-22:45 at Ideal Bar

The electronic post-rock project Arms and Sleepers are very light and positive in their open-sounding music but still, they are currently releasing via Pelagic Records that we primarily know for heavier post-metal acts. Tonight, they are celebrating the release of their newest album, "Find the Right Place", that came out earlier on this very day and they greet and include us warmly in a casual manner that quickly sets a curious and cozy vibe among the audience even as most of us don't seem to have heard the band much before. On record, they work as a duo while their live shows in recent years have been based around just one of their members. Tonight, though, we get a full-band experience with drums, guitar, keyboards, and percussion as well as loops with guest vocals that flesh out their sound. Their atmospheric songs are pretty much equal parts trip-hop and post-rock and are supported by a constant flow of synchronized projected visuals, many in a distinct sketchy and dotty art style using primarily blacks, whites, and reds that add even more personality to their set. Especially the rhythmic and catchy single "Be This Way" gets the room grooving and overall their show is a positive surprise tonight where their playful and pleasant music really fills out the smaller venue and provides a welcome break in the more raw and distortion-focused sounds we have been presented with so far in the line-up. [7½] LL

And So I Watch You From Afar starting a math rock party in Lille Vega

And So I Watch You From Afar @ 22:50-23:50 at Lille VEGA

The Northern Irish powerhouse post-rock/math rock trio And So I Watch You From Afar waste no time tonight, immediately getting their energetic music across by starting with "Dying Giants" which is no doubt the most amazing track of their newest record, "The Endless Shimmering". Their music generally moves between busy, heavy sections and more serene, post-rock soundscapes but while also crossing into more playful indie folk territory at times, an element that seems to infect their music with their Irish heritage. This is especially true when their communally shouted vocals or hummings take the fore on tracks like "Wasps", "Like A Mouse", or "Run Home". The super intense and metallic "Search:Party:Animal" gets a jumping, pushing pit going up front and it begins to feel unnatural to stay far away from the stage as the intensity and joy of the band playing is simply drawing the audience nearer. Their set maintains its power even when quieter songs like the infectious "All I Need Is Space" gives us a breather and this is really what makes this the best show of the weekend for me personally. Their guitar skill-level is ridiculous and with a great sound mix like tonight, their heavy and complex but also catchy and relatively accessible music kickstarts a fitting party for a Saturday night. Their style really makes them stand out in the line-up this year and with a lot of heavier bands surrounding them, it's nice that there is also space for something a little more eccentric and melody-focused. Especially "Terrors of Pleasure", the very fast "Mullally", and finally the ender "Big Thinks Do Remarkable", that gets a communal singalong of the canon phrase "The sun is in our eyes", all provide highlights in a set that continually feels like it's outdoing itself. [9] LL

Mimas @ 23:55-00:35 at Ideal Bar

The Aarhus-based Danish band Mimas have not been playing a lot in Denmark the past few years and in fact, I'm only lucky to know them as I experienced them at the now defunct Postfest in exactly Aarhus four years ago. Since then, I've been hoping to catch them around these parts and lo and behold, of course, COLOSSAL are the ones stepping up in that department. The band can best be said to play with styles in the areas of post-rock, math rock, indie, and 90's emo, the latter mostly showing in their dramatic and often provisionally shouted vocals. Thus, their songs can be both eclectic, intense, lighthearted, and super catchy all at the same time. They perform always in matching yellow and purple hoodies with a red, veiny heart on the front and indeed their music is the kind that carries its emotional heart on the proverbial sleeve. A personal favorite called "Sodapop Stalkers" opens their set in strong fashion and from there, they move organically through songs from their three releases. As they play through shorter indie songs full of communally shouted vocals from all members as well as more expansive, slowly evolving post-rock-dominated ones featuring trumpet parts, all the time they seem to be having so much fun with their music. This is an infectious vibe that affects at least the first few rows with happy smiles, especially for the humorous-yet-serious lyrics of songs like "Application" and "Don't Be Evil" that provide great highlights in their set. Still, perhaps because of the intensity of the band before them and the audience's unfamiliarity with them here, the heavier and more energetic parts of their music don't kick up the party as I suspect they could at a show of their own. As described, then, they manage to combine a lot of elements in an inventive and dynamic manner while also spacing out their different songs in the set so that we don't get overloaded completely by high-energy guitar melodies. In every way, this blend of music is one of my favorite kinds and Mimas pull it off both elegantly and skillfully as the fitting closer to the night after the math rock party just before them. [8] LL

SATURDAY

Ef @ 19:00-19:45 at Lille VEGA

The Swedish post-rockers in Ef create music that is filled with strings and that in general sounds very delicate in its nevertheless momentous build-ups that normally ebb and flow in very traditional post-rock manner. Tonight, though, the strings are only on the backing track while the five musicians instead create for us especially the many layers of sweeping guitars that flesh out their songs. The wonderful "Lake Vaettern" eases us into the universe of their sound with subtle guitar figures and the sparse crowd that has shown up early are calmly drifting away in the music all around the venue in no time. The true kicker in their set tonight comes with the complex 11-minute track "Yield, heart. Yield!" in the middle that leads in with fuzzy vocals and dominating drumming before escalating slowly into a tremolo-filled crescendo that dies out only to build up again with both glockenspiel and trumpets to be heard. It is intense and emotional and it seems to lift what has gone before as well as what comes after. The more energetic "Final Touch" follows it with louder and more free-flowing guitars at first before diving once again into heart-wrenching territory as their singer vulnerably croons "Say something / And close the door / Break the silence in our room" with a melodica supporting. Finally, a favorite of mine, the intense "11 Shots and a Sudden Death", ends the set with its precise and melancholic dynamic between twinkly light and devastatingly heavy post-rock parts. Still, despite the strong finish and the emotions rampant in their performance of the music, it does take away a bit from the live experience, to not be seeing all the additional instruments that are so clearly heard and that play such a big part in the atmospheres of the songs. [7] LL

The drummer of My Beloved

My Beloved @ 19:50-20:25 at Ideal Bar

An unknown entity to me, My Beloved from Copenhagen fancies itself an ‘instrumental music noir’ band and in all honesty, that is a pretty accurate description of what they present to us tonight. Moving from tranquil post-rock compositions to darker, heavier and more mysterious segments that occasionally verge on post-black metal, the quartet’s songs are best characterized as crescendos, albeit ones that never seem to reach a climax. Although this means that the crowd is held in a state of constant tension, at times one also starts to feel like something more should happen in the music or that the musicians themselves could raise their gazes and accompany their swelling sound-tides with a more expressive or at least energetic performance. My Beloved’s concert is quite customarily post-rock in that sense; it feels like the band plays its songs not outward but inward, and beautiful though many of them are, the experience overall strikes me as somehow unresolved. [5] AP

The Ocean @ 20:30-21:50 at Lille VEGA

Without a doubt the most anticipated concert for the scribes of our webzine at this year’s edition of A Colossal Weekend, is The Ocean’s celebration of the 10th Anniversary of their landmark album, 2008’s “Precambrian". In the spirit of the overall theme of this festival, however, the band has opted to focus on the second half of that record, which begins with the instrumental piece “Siderian" and closes with “Cryogenian". The performance does not disappoint. From the dim, mysterious lighting to the crushing, yet also crisp sound mix, everything about the production aspects of the show seem to be meticulously arranged, giving the musicians the freedom to exert themselves with the intensity for which they have become renowned over the years. Indeed, collectively the band has these moments of explosiveness that are tied to the dynamics of the music, during which the stage transforms into a maelstrom of swinging instruments and thrashing bodies — all as silhouettes of course. But when the album enters one of its moodier passages, such as happens more than once in the standout behemoth of a prog piece, “Rhyacian", the six musicians adopt a much more introverted approach to performing, with vocalist Loïc Rossetti (whose left arm is in a sling for reasons left unexplained) resigning himself to the background for more muted rocking out. This contrast in the band’s demeanor is what makes The Ocean such an enthralling band to watch live; the music and performance melt together to form an immersive experience from which one neither can nor wants to escape. In the end, though, it is above all the opportunity of getting to watch one of my favorite progressive (post-?) metal albums played live, with all of the depth and oomph that live amplification brings, and the atmosphere that well-designed lighting adds. That The Ocean is such a phenomenal, intense live band, and that they throw in an excellent rendition of “Firmament" off their 2010 album, “Heliocentric", as the closer, are ‘merely’ bonuses, and even though there is plenty of room to breathe inside Lille VEGA (as is the case with the vast majority of artists at A Colossal Weekend this year, especially on this second day), everyone looks to agree that what we witness here is something truly special. [9] AP

Eigengrau @ 22:00-22:40 at Ideal Bar

Next up in Ideal Bar, we have a very promising Danish act who goes by the name Eigengrau. Though a fairly new act in the Danish progressive scene, the band has been gaining traction in the last year or so with the release of their EP, “Leap", and this show at A Colossal Weekend is in fact also in support of their debut full-length release “Radiant", which released just the day before this gig. To people not in the know, Eigengrau play an instrumental form of progressive metal and post-rock. Boasting no less than three guitarists, a bassist, and a drummer, the goal of the band is clearly to create massive sounding atmospheres and grooves, which is just what we get from the first track performed, which incidentally is also the first track off Radiant. “Once I Was" is almost 12 minutes of layered, ethereal guitars and a heavy groove meets the well-crowded second stage of the weekend. The first worry I had going into the set is quickly put directly to sleep: the sound is fantastic. A lot of smaller bands playing support slots often run into trouble with having mediocre sound but this is certainly not the case here. Everything is crystal clear and when things get heavy, they also sound heavy. Part of the crisp sound is also just down to the fact, that the members of the band are playing almost perfectly tight, which keeps the complex rhythms and compositions from sounding muddy.

Eigengrau truly impressing in Ideal Bar

Post-rock in itself could be seen as a bit of an introvert genre, meant for closing your eyes and escaping into the music. This can certainly be seen in the band's performance, as they are mostly swaying back and forth with closed eyes, and especially “lead" guitarist Daniel, playing with bare feet, does a great job of conveying the emotional qualities of the music. However, even though more movement is seen during the heavier parts, the band does feel a bit disconnected with the audience at times and I would have liked a bit more energy and communication from the band. Their drummer Simon plays the part of entertaining the crowd between tuning sessions and does a fine job doing so (“Vi er glade for at se jer... og leverpostej!"), but a bit more recognition of the crowd during the songs would have really pushed the show over the edge. I also think the band truly shines when the heavier, djenty parts kick in, which is why I was glad to see the new single “Nuuretarik" being played, alongside the only track off their EP, “Wound", which is possibly the heaviest track they have written. The outro gets the necks banging from parts of the audience (or at least trying their best to, seeing as it’s played in a 7/8 odd meter) and the audience pays a great response after the track abruptly ends. People generally seem very excited by the performance and it should come as no surprise that I personally shared that excitement. Eigengrau have proved to be quite a force in the Danish progressive scene, a force you should definitely check out if you get the opportunity. [8] KW

An emotional performance by Jacob Bannon of Wear Your Wounds

Wear Your Wounds @ 22:50-00:00 at Lille VEGA

As something of a scoop for this festival, it is surprising to find Lille VEGA so sparsely populated for Wear Your Wounds’ first, and potentially last, concert ever in Denmark. This is actually the solo alias of Converge vocalist Jacob Bannon, which has been cooking up since 2003, until last year when he finally released a debut album in the shape of “WYW". But on stage, the project transforms into a veritable supergroup, with Adam McGrath (of Cave In), Mike McKenzie (of The Red Chord) and Sean Martin (of Hatebreed) wielding guitars, and Chris Maggio (of Trap Them) manning the drumkit, while Bannon himself handles the bass guitar. Why the quintet should not have inspired more curiosity is perhaps explained by the fact that Bannon is so far outside of his comfort zone with this emotive blend of folk and post-rock, and still in the process of finding his feet in terms of delivering a show on par with those of his main band. Wear Your Wounds should not and cannot be compared to Converge of course; there are no frenetic screams, the songs move slowly and the atmosphere is altogether downtrodden, reminding me most of the little-known split EP between Envy and Thursday, which was released in 2008. That record is entirely instrumental, and perhaps so should Wear Your Wounds be, listening to Bannon’s struggling to make an impression with the monotony of his clean voice. It fits the sullen tone of the music, but there could certainly be some more color to the vocals to complement the soaring instrumental crescendos and quasi-psychedelic jams that appear in most of the songs. During these segments, Wear Your Wounds sound almost transcendental, but this is a fleeting sensation which does not flow much beyond the conclusion of the set with “Goodbye Old Friend". It is interesting to experience such renowned musicians trying their hand at an unfamiliar style, and even if the performance lacks that final edge needed to push it toward a triumph, there is so much emotional weight underlying these songs that it is difficult not to become immersed in it. This fact is exacerbated by the recent passing of Cave In’s Caleb Scofield, who was a close friend to most of the musicians that comprise Wear Your Wounds; there are times when it looks like Bannon might break down in tears as he grooves his way through another instrumental segment. But ultimately, nothing about the show leaves a truly lasting mark on me, tightly and elegantly played though it is. Indeed, Wear Your Wounds feels very much like a side-project — one which I am happy to tick off the list but would not be racing to watch again. [6] AP

Stearica closing Saturday evening

Stearica @ 00:10-00:45 at Ideal Bar

The second day’s proceedings conclude in energetic fashion in the company of Stearica from Torino, Italy, whose effect-drenched, instrumental rock is some of the fastest music in the festival’s line-up this year. It is also some of the most eclectic, drawing inspiration from far and wide, including punk, jazz, and even drum’n’bass, to concoct a series of explosive discharges that inspire the drummer to stand up and scream (profanities? encouragement?) in Italian after nearly every song. His enthusiasm is palpable both in the violence with which he strikes his drums and his refusal to sit still for even a second, and it culminates in his touring the room on foot, using anything he can get his hands on — the bar counter, glasses, the floor, an audience member’s back — as a percussion instrument on his way. His two compatriots on guitar and bass remain on stage to keep the groove going, facing each other seemingly for cues for the direction of their jams. The passion and energy of this band are absolutely irresistible and as such, it is no surprise that there is hardly a person inside the venue who is not donning a wide grin when the show finally spirals into a conclusion just before 1 am. The trio’s songs are not very accessible but as a live act, they leave little to desire. [7] AP

SUNDAY

Briqueville @ 19:30-20:15 at Store VEGA

Briqueville belongs to an elusive caste of bands who do their utmost to conceal their identities so as to uphold a sense of mystery around themselves. Bathed in dim green light, the five musicians, all of whom are donning black hooded robes and golden masks, unleash an inferno of dark, meditative post-metal that seems only to intensify — never calm down. Its ritual character is emphasized both by the astonishing volume at which it is delivered, and by the messianic vocalization and assortment of percussion instruments like cajón, maracas, and tambourine that sometimes accompany it — to an extent that one no longer feels like one is watching a concert, but some satanic séance. There is a transcendental quality to the tides of noise that wash over us from the stage and although most of the audience tonight seems to consist of Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s disciples, the large hall of Store VEGA looks to totally succumb to it. There is no chatter, only bewilderment, and people who look like they’re in a state of trance, which probably is exactly what these five druids are hoping to achieve with their ‘live rituals’. Indeed, although fans of the more extreme end of post-metal are certain to find much enjoyment in the music on record as well (like the undersigned), this is absolutely a live band first — one which perfectly embodies the experimental spirit of this festival and delivers one of the most captivating experiences of its 2018 edition. [8] AP

GY!BE opening with their “Hope Drone"

Godspeed You! Black Emperor @ 20:30-22:30 at Store VEGA

No doubt one of the most well-known bands in the post-rock genre, the Canadian collective Godspeed You! Black Emperor always have a lot to live up to with their live performances. They exist in the more experimental end of the genre and insist on an almost meditative approach to music that will probably have you both hypnotized and floating away in their synesthetic soundscapes and huge visuals and on the other hand alienated and exhausted but hopefully in a good or at least meaningful way. Tonight, they lead in with a drone that begins to soften us up for the experience even before they go on stage. This evolves into the session called "Hope Drone" that has the musicians slowly joining the soundscape one by one, accompanied by visuals where the word "hope" is scratched over different dark backgrounds. It's like they want to reassure us before the bleakness of their very industrial or dystopian themes takes over. The immense new three-part track "Bosses Hang" follows with its recognizable main theme that fits the majestically rising skyscrapers on the backdrop perfectly.

Skyscrapers rise monumentally during “Bosses Hang"

Most of the members of the band are sitting down during the set, with easy access to pedal boards and effects, the exception being their violinist who is also often very present in the music with echoing, thin notes and melodies that are often the figures I lock on to in my experience of the songs. For the next section a saxophone player enters the stage and performs in an extended blooming session of what I believe to be the three-part "Anthem for No State", "Fam/Famine" and "Undoing a Luciferian Towers" all in one. An especially poignant picture of an eternally falling airplane with smoke coming out of it in an obviously disastrous way features in the final part of this, really playing well with the uncertain flailing of the music. The saxophonist plays mostly with her back towards us, at most turning so we can see her sideways, and this is a testament to the very communal way GY!BE perform their music. The many members are only present on stage when they are actually playing, with members coming and going for different segments of songs, and they are always turning towards each other in a kind of musical circle. This is no doubt part of why their somewhat highbrow experimental music feels very organic and grounded at the same time and it helps to make it more accessible.

A communal approach to music

Towards the end, a stand-out moment is their old track "BBF3 (Blaise Bailey Finnegan III)" from their 1999 EP "Slow Riot for New Zero Kanada" featuring a rambling recording of an old vox pop interview with a disillusioned American man, among other things listing all his many guns. In its own way, it cements the gloomy and hopeful atmospheres that are always at odds in their music before the set ends with a final drone loop section, where a few members of the band walk around the stage, turning certain knobs and adjusting the sound until it finally fades. Just as last they played in Denmark, this has been an emotional and intense experience but when it clocks in at two hours, it would really be nice to experience it sitting down sometime in the future. During one of the middle parts of the set tonight, the instrumental jamming becomes kind of cacophonic and loops around itself for maybe just a little while too long, and this is also when multiple people take their leave either just for a break or some even for good. Whereas the set last time had a clear progression from start to finish, tonight feels like it starts strong and ends the same way but with a more mellow middle part. It’s still a magical, pristine show overall, nothing less, but the conditions around the music could be more optimized for the experience. [8½] LL

See you next year!

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