Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN - 15/4
support Deville + Dot Legacy
author AP date 23/11/16 venue Beta, Copenhagen, DEN
This Wednesday evening marks my third concert in just four days, as we race toward the year’s end. It is easy to tell: my enthusiasm is clouded by exhaustion (too many beers, too little sleep, early wake-ups…), and I must not come across quite as buzzing as I should be about the prospect of finally seeing Truckfighters live. I missed their last appearance here due to unforeseen circumstances, and so, too, their concert at the 2013 edition of Hellfest due to high winds and rain threatening to blow the Rockfreaks.net delegation’s tent away. So even though my body says no, I am determined to now prove the legitimacy of the old proverb, third time’s the charm.
Parisian four-piece Dot Legacy is one of the most bizarre introductions I have had this year. Not only is the band’s music impossible to categorise without listing a host of stylistic nuances found in their music, the four musicians seem to be completely out of their mind. Imagine a guitarist (Arnaud Merckling) playing keyboard whilst doing split jumps, every member engaging in a kind of call-and-response rap battle (in multiple sections of the opening track, “Rumbera”), and a band leaping between fuzz, psychedelic, punk, stoner and good ol’ fashioned rock’n’roll within the space of a single song. It is also bizarre that such a circus-like spectacle needs the frontman, bassist Damien Quintard, to actually ask the audience to step forward and fill the three metres of gaping emptiness in front of the stage — I, at least, am completely mesmerised as soon as I step into the room!
Admittedly, there is a world of difference between Dot Legacy’s début album, which forms the brunt of their half-hour setlist, and the brand new “To the Others” LP, which at the time of the concert was two days shy of its official release. It seems that up until now, the Frenchmen have relied on the explosiveness of their showmanship to turn audiences in their favour — whereas the psych-country feel of “Horizon”, with its usage of an old-school microphone with a distorted, megaphonic effect, suggests a considerable improvement in the band’s compositional skills. The following “Pyramid” is taken from the début, but unlike the other songs played, it seems to herald the coming of this new era for the band that has the capacity to take them places. Mixed feelings, then: I am sold on the quartet’s live energy, but unconvinced by the jagged incoherence of much of the music.
Out of the three artists booked, Deville is the only one whom I have seen live before. That was six years ago, when The Rock was Copenhagen’s premier nightclub for fans of rock and metal, Helhorse was still called Dødning, and stoner rock was like a swearword to me. As such, I am interested to find out how my immersion in the genre since then, might affect my opinion on this Malmö, Sweden-based quartet. The most obvious description, in light of the overall bill tonight, is that Deville is the diametrical opposite of Dot Legacy: they come across as more tempered in terms of their antics, but the songwriting is at a level that comes with more than a decade’s worth of experience. The songs just work.
For connoisseurs of the riff, Deville provides ample opportunities to satisfy your thirst. Whether slinging the dark and primitive, Mastodon-esque variant or the more traditional, stoner type, the music is built around and emphasises the role of guitarists Andreas Bengtsson & Andreas Wulkan, and the two gentlemen seem to have an endless supply of grooves to grace us with. But still, I cannot shake the feeling that Deville might forever be confined to the ‘b-list’ of stoner-rock bands — not one of the tracks aired tonight manages to deliver me from the riff-induced trance and jot it down as particularly noteworthy, despite those songs being far more structured than e.g. Dot Legacy’s. Perhaps this is indicative of the fact that Deville needs to consider how to harness Bengtsson’s singing in a more impactful way?
Perhaps it makes sense then, to use the two supporting acts as the palette for explaining where Truckfighters’ edge comes from. Rather than subscribing to the tirade that their old stuff was better, I actually feel that the Örebro, Sweden-born trio has become more interesting over the years, thus far culminating in the progressive melancholy of this year’s “V”, and also impressing on its predecessor, 2014’s “Universe”. The band’s ideas on both of those records are ambitious, yet their execution was not at the expense of lasting value, as a song like the opening “Mind Control” so effectively proves. Whenever you hear a Truckfighters-song, the sombre style both of Oskar ‘Ozo’ Cedermalm’s singing and bass licks, and of Niklas ‘Dango’ Källgren guitar riffs and leads is instantly recognisable amidst the fuzz. The atmosphere this creates, of a kind of lonely space odyssey, is so essential to finding the memorabilia in Truckfighters’ music.
Ironically, the trio’s style of performance is a far cry from the tone of their music. Dango especially is a sight to behold, spending the vast majority of the concert off his feet, charging from side-to-side and foraying into the audience; ”He looks like a sick animal who should be put to sleep — in a good way”, remarks one of my friends. He is the yang to Ozo’s yin, whose measured presence on the right side of the stage forms a stark contrast to Dango’s crazed, unhinged demeanour, and it is all tied together in the middle by Daniel ‘El Danno’ Israelsson’s enthusiastic beating of the skins. The interplay between the three musicians ensures that Truckfighters’ performance remains extremely manifold; whether you want to focus on the whirlwind that is Dango, the pillar of temperance that is Ozo, or the monolith to rocking out that is El Danno, the band’s showmanship seems to offer something for every taste.
The music subscribes to a similar philosophy, divulging a wealth of influences across the span of the concert. There is a touch of Kyuss’ desert rock to the groovy swagger of “Hawkshaw”, an ounce of the sadness and mourning of doom in the controversial “Calm Before the Storm”, and a dusting of the scorching quintessence of stoner-rock to the encore-ending “Desert Cruiser”; all ensuring that the structure of the proceedings remains as dynamic as the physical delivery. There does not appear to be a premeditated order, as the band seems to simply fling them onto the setlist at their own discretion. Were it not for the intermittent sound problems (Dot Legacy’s Arnaud Merckling is charged with the mix, and seems rather confused by BETA’s setup at times) drowning a number of the songs in an ocean of bassy rumble then, this might have gone down as the most essential stoner-rock concert of 2016.