Barricade

support Redwood Hill + Justin Hate
author AP date 01/10/16 venue Beta, Copenhagen, DEN

The Danish sludge metal group Barricade issued their sophomore album ”Waker” this past Friday, and had chosen the following evening as opportune for throwing a release party. For the occasion, they invited two local outfits in Redwood Hill and Justin Hate, both well known in the country’s metal scene, to warm-up the large-ish audience that has shown up to assess Barricade’s new material in the live setting for the first time. Unfortunately, none of our photographers were able to be there, so please excuse the pure wall of text that is to follow…

Justin Hate

More than five years have elapsed since Justin Hate first crossed paths with me, at a poorly attended concert in 2011. In that period, the Copenhagen-based quintet has put out an EP as well as their début album, neither of which seems to have left much of an impression on our editor-in-chief. But over the course of those five-plus years, Justin Hate has also matured into a fearsome live act, centered on the possessed antics of their vocalist Kim Rock. His composed demeanour in between the tracks belies the true essence of his self, which reminds me above all of The Psyke Project’s (and now Czar’s) Martin Nielskov — when he is not conducting from the moshpit, he is ‘resting’ the microphone stand against the ceiling, screaming his shrill growls into it upside down, tugging his compatriots by the hair or thrashing and stomping around like a crazed orangutan. So savage is his performance that it undermines the bassist and two guitarists, who, under any other circumstances, would each come across as the most captivating fixture in the band by virtue of their own violent exertions.

Another aspect that has Justin Hate putting its past self to shame is the marked shift in style that the upcoming “Marrow” LP (out in early 2017, we are told) ushers in. No longer milking the standard fare metallic hardcore and death/thrash so popular and bizarrely beloved in Denmark, the group’s new material might be the explanation for their newfound ferocity. On tracks such as “Apophys”, grindcore with intermittent passages of eerie, blackened tremolo now seems to be the name of the game instead, and while that in itself is of course not too original, I am hard pressed to think of other representatives of the genre — let alone Danish ones! — who so seamlessly nail its intensity in both sound and visual aesthetic. Certainly based on their efforts tonight, Justin Hate is staging a serious claim to be considered among the best live bands in the country right now.

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Redwood Hill

Watching these purveyors of dark post-metal for at least the twelfth time tonight, I must admit that the setup feels somewhat predictable by now. The band seems to agree, too, announcing that this gig is to be their last until their third studio album, the successor to 2014’s “Collider”, has been completed. Bur even so, Redwood Hill remains a masterful live band — one of a dwindling few that Denmark has to offer, with a thorough understanding of the relationship between sound and light, music and physical expression.

True to tradition, all of the lighting is projected from behind the five musicians, all clad in black and — sans the guitarist and drummer — hooded, giving the band a shadowy aura akin to the style of their promo photos. And each of these silhouette figures controls his demeanour according to the mood and intensity of the music at any given moment, with vocalist Marco Stæhr Hill’s demonic body movements, huge, embracing arm gestures, and clawing the air as he fills the venue with shrill, black metallic growls constantly the focal point. For anyone who has seen Redwood Hill before, none of this would be a novelty of course, but still it never ceases to impress me how effortlessly the band can conjure and hold on to an atmosphere in songs such as “Poseidon” or the monolithic “Albedo”. If only the back half of the audience would cease its disruptive chattering and appreciate the dark beauty of those songs… It is interesting that when entering the clean sung quietuses in those tracks, Hill always turns his back to the audience to the effect that his soft singing seems to be coming from everywhere and nowhere at once. Again, this is no coincidence; in a Redwood Hill performance every such detail is carefully considered.

Another aspect of Redwood Hill’s performance that remains as convincing as ever is the balance of the sound mix. No instrument has precedence over the other, and as a result the bass guitar enjoys deserved prominence in the soundscape, its rumbling constancy playing a pivotal role in holding the frontmost audience captive, hypnotised. And once the musicians disappear backstage one-by-one until all that remains of “Albedo” is barren drumming, we can all rest assured that the coming break from playing shows will do Redwood Hill no disservice — they will surely emerge from the other side even more arresting, and with brand new material to boot.

Barricade

The trouble with picking such formidable support acts for a release party is that the main event risks being eclipsed. Barricade is a rather more static proposition than either of the two preceding outfits as well, so needless to say: the contrast is quite striking once the capital city sludge metallers start working their way through the opening track, “Axefinder”. Thus commences a play-through of almost the entire ”Waker” LP (just “Low on Ice” is omitted) with all but bassist Jonathan Reinhardt fixing himself in situ, yet paradoxically, the crowd enters its wildest state yet with the first casualty — a poor chap who slips in a puddle of beer and appears to slam the corner of his eye into the stage — happening already in the third song, “Juggernaut”. Perhaps it is the murderous, vitriolic sheen of Reinhardt that drives the frenzy?

Still, as a more casual observer of the proceedings, one cannot help but feel the concert lacks the special feeling of a true release show. The band plays the songs with a fervour rivalling what you hear on the record, but that intensity does not translate into the sort of physical dynamics that you would expect. It is all a little standard fare-ish, with the exception of some of the instrumental-slash-solo bits during which the guitarists engage in energetic jamming. It could also be that the older material à la “Sunblast” — a slower and groovier pick than anything off “Waker” — and “Terrorlight” appeals to my taste to a greater extent, as during the trio of retrospective songs that concludes the set (prematurely, it seems, as “Traitor’s Trail” is never played despite appearing on the setlist) I do find myself thoroughly entertained. Judging by the moshing activity as well, so too does a sizeable portion of the rest of the audience.

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  • 01. Axefinder
  • 02. Tartarus: The Oath
  • 03. Tartarus
  • 04. Devoured
  • 05. Imperial Eagle
  • 06. Forged by Thieves
  • 07. Juggernaut
  • 08. Slave the Fire
  • 09. The Pale
  • 10. Sunblast
  • 11. Terrorlight
  • 12. The Rage

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