Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN - 13/3
support Sepultura + Soilwork + Aborted
author AP date 06/02/17 venue Amager Bio, Copenhagen, DEN
On paper, the line-up presented by Amager Bio on this frosty Monday evening was one of the strongest in some time, and as such, given the close relationship between metal and beer, it was a shame this concert could not take place on a Friday night. But no matter: the Danish metal scene still shows up in force and, as a testimony to the quality of this sold-out package, it also shows up early, with the queue already stretching down to the street when I arrive five minutes before the doors open. For once, even the opening act looks to be getting a crowd worth mentioning.
With such legend plastered all over tonight’s poster, it surprises me to grant that Belgium’s number one deathgrind institution steals the show to a degree. Seldom has a band of such brutal disposition managed to sound this balanced — their music tends to scare me off by being so impenetrable, yet suddenly, almost like an epiphany, all of the reasons that other people offer when asked how they could possibly like Aborted, sound plausible. The technical abilities of this band have always been unquestionable (hell, don’t you wish you could look as nonchalant as drummer Ken Bedene when gunning out blast beat-based patterns at lightning speed?), but to discover the wealth of nuances like eerie ambiance, sweeping guitar scales and dense grooves actually housed by Aborted’s music, is much more rewarding. Now, I can appreciate this punishing style and feel engaged by tracks like “Coffin Upon Coffin” and “Threading on Vermillion Deception”.
Still, Aborted has always been better live than on record, largely by virtue of Sven de Caluwé’s knack for translating the deranged and intense nature of the music into an equally deranged stage personality. His violent expressions, gestures and motions envelop the band in an aggressive aura, and give the remaining musicians (guitarists Mendel bij de Leij & Ian Jekelis and bassist Stefano Franceschini) the freedom to focus on precision. Indeed, the three axemen contribute little else than bouts of windmilling and headbanging. It also means that as a spectator, you rarely stumble over any notable mistakes and are instead able to focus on and be caught in the minimum one enticing groove that each song seems to offer. As the opening act, the bludgeoning is a fairly brief affair, which is probably a good thing considering the uncompromising style of Aborted’s music. But on the other hand, if the band is able consistently to deliver this degree of sound quality, there is reason to believe that the Belgian madmen could easily handle a longer set as well and still emerge victorious.
Since 1995, the Swedish town of Helsingborg has kept its own stake in the melodic death metal movement birthed some 200 kilometres north of it, in the shape of Soilwork. But while especially the genre’s younger connoisseurs have flocked to the band’s cause, I never managed to warm up to them, finding only a handful tracks to get excited about in their 11-album discography. The music has often felt flat to me, and the sound mix by which they are cursed here does nothing to change that impression now, as Soilwork either sounds like a malfunctioning subwoofer or an over-amplified synthesiser. Vocalist Björn Strid seems to be the only member capable of striking through the rumble and chime with a series of potent growls and clean sung segments — that is, until much of the melodic flourish is stripped to accommodate the meatier, simpler older songs: “Bastard Chain” and “The Chainheart Machine”. At last, there is discernible structure and riffs coming through, probably aided by my familiarity with both pieces.
What makes it all a little bit comical is that Soilwork’s musicians seem to be oblivious to the marring sound problems. Strid and lead guitarist David Andersson especially perform with a palpable enthusiasm despite the fact that only a true fan could possibly know what is going on, which song is being aired. The circumstances are beyond the group’s control but honestly, even if they had been graced with Aborted’s mix, I am not sure if Soilwork have the edge, imposition or striking songs to be an elite live act, ever. Certainly tonight, everything about them feels like dime-a-dozen.
Not having grown up with Sepultura ringing in my ears, I never became infatuated with the band in the same way that a lot of diehard metallers seem to be. I will concede to having a later-developed affinity for 1989’s “Beneath the Remains” and 1991’s “Arise”, but there is also a gaping hole where everything from 2001’s “Nation” to 2013’s “The Mediator Between Head and Hands Must be the Heart” should be in my memory. I simply lost interest. Then the group’s latest outing, “Machine Messiah” (reviewed here), landed on my desk and suddenly, they had my attention again. I had particularly been looking forward to experiencing the prodigious drumming of Eloy Casagrande first hand, so imagine my dismay at his positioning at the right extreme of the stage, almost hidden from view. What brief glimpses I do get, however, verify my conviction that the 26 year-old has swiftly and decisively established himself as the most invaluable member of Sepultura, next to guitarist Andreas Kisser. Not only do his skill and technique breathe new life into classics like “Inner Self” and “Arise”, there is also a swagger and energy about his performance in the likes of “Alethea” that Iggor Cavalera lacks. Casagrande should be sitting at the focal point in the middle — not tucked away on the side.
Unfortunately, Kisser seems to be the only other musician of Sepultura willing to partake in any acts of passion tonight. The crowd is of course emboldened by the fact that seven out of the twelve tracks aired stem from what you might call the ‘classic’ era up to an including “Arise”, the other five being brand new picks. There is a moshpit operating throughout, and it would be hard to find a single person not off their feet during the obligatory “Refuse/Resist” and “Roots Bloody Roots”. But a lot of the time, one cannot actually sense the power that vocalist Derrick Green usually emits, nor tell if bassist Paulo Jr. is human or just a prop. And as wild though as the audience antics might look, the amount of chatter resonating in the room as well makes me think that it might all just be an automated response to hearing a classic metal song. You feel obligated to show some respect. Something as simple as moving Casagrande to the front and middle (oh, how it works for Kadavar!) and giving the sound mix some additional low-end punch might have worked wonders and resulted in a gig that you could truly feel.
For the first time ever, I have been excited about the prospect of watching this Teutonic thrash institution live. Kreator’s show of force at the Copenhell festival two years ago combined with a new album refreshingly low on bullshit and instead chock full of glorious metal clichés — in the best possible way! — gave birth to high hopes of a proper, old-school thrash fest. But as ever, that prospect heavily depends on the form and temperament of the man, the legend: vocalist/guitarist Mille Petrozza. And tonight, as it dawns on me after only a handful of songs, Petrozza has left his A-game on the tour bus, sounding about as venomous as a garden variety wasp and going through the motions (guitar & horns in the air? Check! Gutsy introductions to the songs? Check!) in a hurried and automated manner as though the prospect of a warm shower and a good night’s sleep felt a little too inviting for someone supposed to just be getting started during “People of the Lie”.
Luckily, Kreator has the advantage of being seasoned veterans — even when their passion is vacationing, the four musicians never allow themselves to slip. Whether they are digging deep into their classic 1985-début “Endless Pain” with “Total Death” or giving one of the brand new tracks like “Gods of Violence” an airing, the music is delivered with precision and finesse by misters Petrozza, Giesler, Reil and Yli-Sirniö, and purely by virtue of the reverence in which much of Kreator’s discography is held, the audience is of course more than willing to reciprocate each two-syllable punchline thrown at them in a chorus with a collective roar and to keep the moshpit operational for the duration of the 18-song set. Watching the group trawl through their three decade-spanning repertoire, it really is remarkable to realise how different each of their stylistic periods has been, yet how recognisably theirs all of it nonetheless sounds.
Despite the symphonic proportions of the new LP, “Gods of Violence”, Kreator’s performance is low on theatrics. The flourish is restricted to two masked and robed figures setting ablaze a cauldron on either side of the stage during the sampled intro, “Choir of the Damned”, and returning to bang on marching drums during the likewise sampled instrumental piece, “Apocalypticon”; the rest of the business comes down to playing like hell, headbanging, and occasionally foraying to an elevated platform behind Reil aka. Ventor’s drumkit or exchanging positions with one of the other standing members. In a way, Kreator reminds me of Iron Maiden without the huge robots, ever-changing backdrops and, regrettably in the case of tonight’s showing, blazing energy. Still, even though the German quartet is far from its optimum, the top-notch delivery results in plenty of musical highlights such as the metal bro-hymn, “Hail to the Hordes” or pretty much any of your classic “Extreme Aggression”s, “Civilization Collapse”s, “Flag of Hate”s etcetera, and the only disappointment you could realistically be feeling is that the concert is not even better.
- 01. Hordes of Chaos (A Necrologue for the Elite)
- 02. Phobia
- 03. Satan is Real
- 04. Gods of Violence
- 05. People of the Lie
- 06. Total Death
- 07. Phantom Antichrist
- 08. Fallen Brother
- 09. Enemy of God
- 10. From Flood into Fire
- 11. World War Now
- 12. Hail to the Hordes
- 13. Extreme Aggression
- 14. Civilization Collapse
— Encore —
- 15. Violent Revolution
- 16. Flag of Hate
- 17. Under the Guillotine
- 18. Pleasure to Kill