Rotten Sound

support Abigail Williams + Cult Leader
author MIN date 22/04/16 venue BETA, Copenhagen, DEN

Tonight is a night I have been looking very much forward to. Last year, Cult Leader released the best heavy album of 2015, and Rotten Sound prove time and time again that they’re in the top tier of their genre. As for Abigail Williams, the second band of the night, I can’t say I knew them when the tour was announced, but after having heard some of their material before the show it’s safe to say that they’re the odd one out on the bill – but more on that later. Needless to say, with this lineup I’m hoping for quite the attendance – which is why I’m greatly disappointed as I enter the venue.

Press photo originally from rottensound.com

Cult Leader

When America’s Cult Leader take the stage, they’re met by an audience whose number you can count on both hands. There are a few people in front of the stage roaring loudly as the band sets off, but from the rest of the crowd there’s only an obligatory courtesy clap. However, as soon as the four-piece from Salt Lake City hurl several hardcore grinds at you, it’s hard not to be impressed by their precision and skill. Drummer Casey Hansen is like a Gatling gun, each single blow is fast and heavy, each arm and leg a different barrel, and as soon as he shoots he’s almost impossible to stop; vocalist Anthony Lucero throws himself back and forth, giving his all to the task at hand; Mason and Richards on guitar and bass, respectively, are both in-sync with the rest of the band. But unfortunately, the two latter members seem to stand a little still in comparison to both Hansen and Lucero. They both posses excellent skill, but both sides of the stage are almost inanimate, which unfortunately causes the first ten minutes of the set to feel homogenous.

But only the first ten minutes. The next song, “A Good Life”, is one of the longer, slower and more ambient and noisy tracks off the band’s debut LP ”Lightless Walk”. It takes a few seconds for the sound-engineer to make Lucero’s deeper and more quiet vocals fit the mix, but when it hits, it destroys. The build-up created by the band slowly creeps up on you with its droning guitar-wails and strangely-patterned drum-fills until Lucero breaks into a loud growl leading into the devastating lyrics: ”I stand alone watching a perfect little worm as it feeds on dirt”. As if this song gave the band momentum, every member suddenly seem to move more, and as a whole they feel much more comfortable. It’s as if the band’s set was divided into two sections: One with relentless hardcore punk and grind, another with controversial song-structures featuring everything from sludge and post-metal to noise and ambient. The audience, too, has grown considerably in size, and when the rest of the setlist features such excellent tracks as “Sympathetic” and the beautifully grim “Driftwood”, it’s hard for not only myself but also the people present to get their hands down from this impressive 30-minute performance.

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Abigail Williams

Next up is Abigail Williams from Phoenix, Arizona. Whereas both Cult Leader and Rotten Sound are (more or less) rooted within the same genres, Abigail Williams play black metal. The crowd has been exchanged – some people from the Cult Leader set haven’t shown up inside the room whereas several newer have arrived – and the stage is being taken over by a thin veil of smoke. Although there are more people present than during Cult Leader, few in attendance really seem to care, but in all honesty, Abigail Williams is doing a pretty good job. The band’s material sound to me like a mix between classic black metal a la Immortal mixed with some of the elements from newer acts such as Deafheaven or even Danish møl; although most of the set consists of pretty traditional black metal filled with blastbeats and melodic guitar riffs, an occasional pedal-effect and solo arises amidst the dark and presents something new now and then.

I must admit that, to me, a lot of the songs sound more or less the same, but I can definitely hear some promising elements and I’ll admit I enjoy some of it. The band’s playing good despite the fact that many some of the melodic parts seem to drown in the murky soundscape that’s presented during their set. But personally, Abigail Williams’ performance tonight won’t make me go home and check out their discography, nor do much of the set stand out to me as special.

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Rotten Sound

Finally, people have decided to show up. The venue looks just a little filled, and you actually feel the excitement in the room as the band opens with the song “Yellow Pain” off their new album ”Abuse to Suffer”. It’s one of their slower songs, for sure, but maybe it’s a good thing to lure in the crowd before smashing them to pieces. And so they did: Primarily featuring songs off their latest album, “Abuse to Suffer” was heavily featured during the set with crushing performances such as “Fear of Shadows”, “Brainwashed”, “Trashmonger” and many more. Occasionally an older song or two arrived during the concert, and especially a song like the slower “Slay” from the band’s album “Exit” helped create diversity in the setlist. You could hear the talent and potential of the band present on stage, but unfortunately not everything seemed to work out during the show.

First of all, the sound is off. I know that Rotten Sound is a band whose songs primarily are centered on the rhythm-section – and indeed, both Sami Latva (drums) and Kristian Toivainen (bass) do a great job pummeling through the crowd like a maelstrom tearing apart the sea – but it’s just way too loud in the mix from where I’m standing. I manage to get in front of the sound-engineer after a few songs to see if that’ll help, and in a way it does. The drums and the bass are definitely not as loud, but there’s still something off about the guitar. It suddenly occurs to me that one of guitarist Mike Aalto’s pedals is too far off the rest of the sound mix. Each time he switches to this particular pedal (people with more knowledge about guitar equipment will probably know which one) it becomes too distinctly cut out from the rest of the mix and thus damages the full picture. I know that the guitar on Rotten Sound’s albums feature some chords, riffs , etc. that are supposed to be highlighted, but instead of being put on display they occasionally feel alien and void of cohesion.

Vocalist Keijo Niinimaa’s voice sounds great even on his worst day, and tonight he is just as brutal as I imagine he is every other day. He has an impressive ability to growl, shout and sneer out words fast and clear, and he has a few crowd-interactions where he thanks us for coming out and tells us that this is the first show of the tour. These words are fairly greeted, but in all honesty, the crowd isn’t all that worked up. There are a few up front that lets Niinimaa feed off their energy, but overall the band’s stage-presence feels lackluster; chemistry is a two-way street, and the crowd aren’t doing their share to establish it. Ultimately, it feels like the band is doing a really great job in playing some crushing and grinding hardcore-songs, but some key-elements to a memorable night are sorely missing. After a little more than 20 minutes, Niinimaa proclaims that they have only three songs left and the set ends after only 30 minutes. I can’t quite pick up on which songs these are, so I figure they must be some of the band’s older material. During them the sound actually melts perfectly together and they’re done with such might and intensity that I hope for more. Sadly, these three songs are all we’re left with and the band exits the stage afterwards. Next time Rotten Sound comes around, I hope everything will work out just as well as it did during these last few minutes.

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