Mono Goes Metal

support Baest + Horned Almighty + Woebegone Obscured + Diabolus Incarnate + Unseen Faith + Death Rides A Horse + Piss Vortex + Hiraki + Death To Seattle + The Sleeplings
author RUB date 02/09/17 venue Mølleparken, Århus, DEN

For the second time in a row, Mono Goes Metal and the booking agency Understrøm hosted a mini-festival as part of the Aarhus Festival Week; 12-hours of metal — straight, from noon till midnight. The two aren’t unfamiliar actors in the metal scene either; usually, they host a two-day metal festival in January, which will be celebrating its 10th Anniversary next year, by the way. This event, just as the one in January, focuses on the underground part of the Danish metal scene. So even though some of the ‘bigger’ names in Danish metal are present as well, you won’t find the absolute biggest among them. This comes naturally, since the entire event is free of charge! You are not even obliged to buy beer in the public park where the event takes place, even though doing so of course ensures the future survival of the event. And when one looks at the variety of bands hired to guarantee its success, I personally hope that people will be thinking about this when rocking out.

The event kicked off with two DJ-sets lasting one hour each, with the last hour dedicated to the memory of Chris Cornell. Towards the end of the second DJ-set, people had already gathered in the park; families with small children, random passers-by, punk-rockers, homeless people, some alcoholics — and of course metal heads in various sizes and ages were present, which ensured the audience was very diverse compared to your normal metal/rock crowd. Now, onto the bands…

The Sleeplings @ 14:00-14:30

Being the first band on the bill always puts some pressure on the shoulders of the performing band. The Sleeplings — not a band I previously have encountered — have existed for 10 years and to give you an idea of their sound, they play a mixture of rock à la Muse, older Kashmir and Sort Sol — at least in my ears. The sound is solid but it is also clear that people aren’t quite ‘there yet’, being so early into the program. Perhaps it would have been better to start out with some more upbeat music, thus perhaps catching the attention of people passing by; but on the other hand, I guess that’s just a matter of taste. This could, however, also be a trick to lure in more spectators that otherwise would’ve been scared away by some of the more aggressive bands that feature on the bill today. Whatever the reason, this is a solid performance by The Sleeplings — and even the sound is in order, which isn’t something you always find with the first couple of bands (or on an open air scene like this). In the end though, the band’s efforts are still not enough to keep me interested for the 30 minutes that the show lasts.

Death To Seattle @ 15:00-15:30

As mentioned in the description of the event, Death to Seattle is a grunge band with post-hardcore and punk elements mixed in. The announcer emphasizes the ‘grunge’ part more, but this particular setlist to me sounds a lot more punk and post-hardcore — even grind-ish at some points — to me. It comes to show that it is a quite exciting mixture of genres, especially when coupled with raw and shrill vocals and an infectious energy. Already from the get go, there’s a lot more energy to the proceedings than was the case with The Sleeplings, and it is also visible that the audience has grown in numbers. After a couple of tracks, the vocalist announces that ”this is probably the last ballad of the day” and with that, increases the tempo whilst also upping the grunge element, which is boosted even further when the band covers Nirvana’s “Tourette’s”. At other times, I get the feeling that I’m listening to a song by Every Time I Die and to me, it looks like the audience is enjoying themselves very much in tune with the high energy music.

This isn’t necessarily a grunge band by heart, or at least this gig isn’t a lesson in the traditional ‘90s Seattle format (as the name of the band suggests, perhaps?). It is a more interesting take on the genre, which is underlined during the performance — the music packs a punch, power and lots of humour! Before the last song, the lead singer says with a grin: “We’re a Christian band and there’s black metal playing later. Be very careful! They eat their own shit!”, ensuring that everyone is left with a smile on their face. On top of this, both the bass and the guitar get smashed onto the stage, which apparently isn’t even unfamiliar for this band. This was the start to the day that I was looking for earlier!

7

Hiraki @ 16:00-16:30

Before I dive into this review, I should note that the genre in question is noise rock; a genre, which I have little to no previous experience with. This could perhaps cloud my judgement but I thought I would give it a go anyway. Hiraki is announced as a band with ”shrill vocals that gives you headache”, and that is actually quite accurate. The music is raw and ambient with long, droning passages accompanied by electronic and synthesized sound effects. On top of that, you have the aforementioned shrill vocals that fit the music well. But the end product is, as the genre suggests, noise. I’m quite sure there is an audience for this — and I cannot emphasize this enough — but at the same time, this is such a niche genre. I get that you should be able to present a broad spectrum of the Danish metal scene, but when the stage is in a public park during the afternoon, I’m just not sure it’s the right audience to play it to. Not surprisingly, this is also visible in the reduced numbers of the audience compared to the previous band. Hiraki, on the other hand, delivers in what looks like their usual fashion and a few people have gathered in front of the stage to participate in the chaos. I might just be old and grumpy, but they don’t exactly gain a new fan in me. Hopefully there is still something to look out for on record, but the overall expression is just not convincing in this particular live setting.

4

Piss Vortex @ 17:00-17:30

Even though grindcore is somewhat a niche genre as well, the chaotic force with which Piss Vortex deliver their 30-minute show is so much more convincing than the previous band; very chaotic, menacing and malevolent grindcore in the vein of Benighted and Rotten Sound — just to give you an idea of what to expect. The chaotic aspect should not come as a surprise though, as it is Christian Bonnesen of The Psyke Project fame manning the axe, which is audible both in the song structure and the live energy. It quickly becomes clear that the band’s music has international potential and could easily see them on the same bill as the aforementioned bands and their likes.

This chaotic energy is also something that rubs off on the front row, with intense headbanging and moshing (albeit only to a small extent) now taking place. People are finally starting to wake up and get this metal party into full gear. And as the set progresses, I start to notice both interesting drum patterns and rhythms that make for an interesting listen, too. On a similar note, the overall sound is still very good when one takes into account that this is an open-air stage. This is especially important, because the soundscape that Piss Vortex works with is so chaotic and immense, and were the sound mix not ideal, this could’ve made for a very muddy concert sound-wise. Before wrapping up the set, Piss Vortex treats us to a similar humorous remark as Death to Seattle earlier: “Are you looking forward to Baest? We have never heard about them!” The comment actually sums up the experience of watching Piss Vortex live well; albeit sounding extremely brutal, the band manages to keep the proceedings humorous, cozy and warm. If you haven’t yet checked out Piss Vortex — either on record or live — you’re definitely in for a treat.

Death Rides A Horse @ 18:00-18:30

Time for some heavy’! Death Rides a Horse plays ‘70s inspired doom and heavy metal and it instantly strikes me that the band’s sound is quite dirty and raw —almost in the vein of High on Fire, though not on every song. But where they differ is that they have a bass-wielding frontwoman. This, of course, is not unfamiliar to me, but I’m still struck with awe at how incredibly well this combination works. This is perhaps due to the vocals of Ida Brunn Marcussen Hollesen working so well with the music — and to give you an idea of how she sounds: it reminds me of Jill Janus of Huntress fame. The result? A very good first impression, since this is not a band I’ve heard anything by previously. Most metal fans probably have an opinion about the more well known female-fronted acts such as Arch Enemy or Nightwish, but what Death Rides a Horse shows is that you don’t have to focus on a single direction in order to make a lasting impression. The band still packs plenty of power and rawness in their music and often ends up sounding like the legendary Kyuss, though with their own, special character that makes their music an interesting listen.

By now, the crowd has swelled to an even larger size, making it impossible to sit on the grass provided you still wish to be able to see the stage (due to the curvature on the field). Plenty of interested bystanders seem to dig this as much as I do, which is all the more striking due to the fact that this is partially a doom metal band and might therefore come across as a bit too outside of the mainstream for the casual listener. Both performance- and music-wise though, this is different, exciting and awesome, so whatever reason you have to dig it, I can only agree!

Unseen Faith @ 19:00-19:30

Next up is the only metalcore band on the bill today: the Århus-based Unseen Faith, who have been garnering a lot of hype of late. Not only is it worth noting that this is a Christian metal band, but also that they won’t give up on the metalcore scene without a fight. Guns blazing right from the beginning, the band shows that the younger generation of metalcore still has something to offer. At times the music is brutal and deathcore-like but it never forgets its origin. True to its nature, the music is packed with heavy elements and breakdowns but these are never used excessively. Whether you like this music or not, you thus have to hand it to them; they know how to put together a well-written piece of metalcore. Fans of both Heaven Shall Burn and the band’s fellow Danes in CABAL should feel right at home with most of the elements used in Unseen Faith’s songs, and even though this genre is a stretch away from my regular listening habits, this won’t be the last time I’ll be seeing them live. Indeed, these guys show international potential and manage to keep the crowd entertained throughout their 30-minutes of allocated set time, and not even the well-executed pig squeals manage to scare away the people gathered in this public park.

Diabolus Incarnate @ 20:00-20:30

Even though the main focus of Mono Goes Metal is on the Danish underground scene, they still have booked one foreign band: Diabolus Incarnate from the United Kingdom, who play black metal but forget all about corpse paint and the like and thus come across as quite streamlined, if one can use that word about black metal. It’s symphonic, albeit without a keyboard player, but not to the extent of Fleshgod Apocalypse, since it’s far from as grandiose. Unfortunately for this performance, the sound mix comes across as a bit off at times; the vocals simply drown in the drum- and bass-heavy soundscape. At the same time, the show lacks intensity and energy, with the members remaining quite stationary throughout despite the fact that the music doesn’t seem so demanding or technical as to require one’s undivided attention. There is no headbanging, no real or noticeable interaction with the audience — no particular movement whatsoever. And worst of all, you don’t feel the intensity or extremity that is so central to black metal. As a result, Diabolus Incarnate have a difficult time, keeping me interested throughout, which is sad, considering how solid the music itself is. But in the end, when the physical delivery lacks both style and energy, the whole experience ends up feeling quite lacklustre.

Woebegone Obscured @ 21:00-21:30

“We are Woebegone Obscured and we are here to kill you!”, bellows the lead singer as the introduction to the evening’s next band: Woebegone Obscured, whose trade is funeral doom. Therefore, as expected, the music is extremely dismal and gloomy, which also reflects in the fact that all of the families with children have left and darkness has descended upon the stage. To be sure, this music is not for children; it is slow, ominous and bleak, though as a brilliant juxtaposition to this, the vocalist boasts an amazing vocal range. He switches from beautiful singing to mean growls as if he had been doing this for ages (think Alan Averill of Primordial for a good reference) and his range keeps surprising me as the concert progresses. Coming together gracefully with the other instruments and the band’s hauntingly beautiful visual aesthetic, it is this voice that ensures Woebegone Obscured manage to push their doom metal to the next level.

8

Horned Almighty @ 22:00-22:30

Compared to the previous black metal band of the evening, my experience with Horned Almighty tells me that they should take notes on how black metal should be done properly in a live setting. Although we’re dealing with a different style of black metal than that of Diabolus Incarnate (that is, with corpse paint and a non-symphonic sound), Horned Almighty knows how to make things sound ominous — and look ominous, too. Frontman “S” enters the stage wearing a skull covered hoodie and both the stage and microphone stand are covered with various taxidermy. A bleak light fills the stage, and thus begins the black n’ roll bombardment.

After the first song is finished, “S” loses the hoodie and continues the set in his regular, demonic get-up. And finally, the entire concert area fires up, packing the front of the stage and completing the transformation from a ‘free gig you walk by’ to an actual metal show. As announced before the show began, Horned Almighty is currently working on a new album, and so they treat us to a new song this evening. Crushing as ever, and reminiscent of older 1349 mixed with melodic pieces, the track definitely sounds like something to look forward to. Overall, this a lesson in black metal — packed with punch yet still managing to sound menacing and malicious. The only downside is that this is very short set. But if you haven’t seen these guys live yet, be sure to check them out, as they are yet to play a disappointing concert in the eyes and ears of yours truly.

8

Baest @ 23:00-23:45

The final artist of the day, Baest, has taken Denmark by storm. Having just returned from a successful tour around the country, it is clear that people have been looking forward to them playing on home ground once again. And god damn if the intense touring doesn’t show in their performance and on-stage experience. Lead singer Simon Olsen runs from side to side in a furious attempt to drive people into gear, and the crowd response is expectedly loud and clear. It must be said though, that now that the space in front of the stage is packed, it becomes painfully obvious that these surroundings aren’t built to facilitate crowds much larger than this. The curvature of the terrain I mentioned in one of the previous reviews makes it hard for people to get a decent pit going, whilst also making it hard for the spectators in the back to fully see the stage. This doesn’t stop the crowd to absolutely lose it as they give it their utmost to party and go crazy one last time though — Olsen commands the crowd to form a pit and instantly, a small one forms in the front.

The audience is also treated to two new tracks, both of which sound promising to say the least, and even though it isn’t quite enough to replicate the spectacle they staged at this past summer’s Roskilde Festival, it still underlines just how well these youngsters perform live. There can no longer be any doubt that Baest is ready to expand into unknown territories across Europe. Towards the end of the set, Olsen lunges into the crowd to surf whilst continuing to sing, and this stunt of course ends up in the obligatory wall of death, albeit on a smaller scale than what the band is probably used to at this point. This entire show of mischief is delivered with high energy, showing once more how quickly Baest has risen to be one of the heavyweights of the Danish death metal scene.

8

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