Ufomammut

support Usnea + Late Night Venture
author AP date 16/10/17 venue KB18, Copenhagen, DEN

With Ufomammut fast gaining a reputation as one of the most mesmerising live acts out there in the metal underground, it is unsurprising to find the Danish scenesters shown up in such force to defy the Monday blues and trip out to the Italian trio’s deeply psychedelic stoner-doom. There must be a good one hundred patrons in attendance at KB18 tonight, which is a strong turnout by the venue’s usual standards and proof that we are not alone in thinking the band’s latest album, “8” (reviewed here), to be the pinnacle of their 18-year career thus far. One only hopes that the concert itself might turn out to be an equivalent triumph, because the bar was set high by the group’s excellent showing at this very venue four years ago (not their most recent Danish concert, mind you — just the last one that we attended).

All photos courtesy of Peter Troest

Late Night Venture

Recalling this band’s sophomore album, “Pioneers of Spaceflight”, as a cinematic, if quite dark post-rock affair, it comes as a shock to me how heavy a turn Late Night Venture’s music has taken since. The Copenhagen-born quintet kicks off with a brand new song, which leads the way to an almost all-new setlist of material that, above all, sounds heavily inspired by Neurosis. The whispery and baritone vocals that rhythm guitarist Michael Falk Schilling utilised on 2015’s “Tychonians” now frequently flare up into abrasive growls that resemble those of Scott Kelly, while the instrumental channels spew out the band’s most dissonant and metallic creations to date, bolstered by a volume that feels deafening even with earplugs. The lighter elements are still there, with plenty of echoing scales cascading down the neck of Søren Hartvig’s Les Paul guitar, but the contrasts are starker and in general the songs take on a more doomsaying character than was the case previously. This becomes especially clear during the final song, “Moon Shone on White Rock”, which, as a song off the aforementioned 2015 record, really juxtaposes the old material with the new.

The band’s musical evolution alone is enough to render watching them live here a fresh and positive experience. In terms of showmanship, Late Night Venture is a typically introspective outfit, with only Schilling anguished expression and brutal handling of his instrument standing out. As the next most energetic musician, Hartvig abandons his downward glance only in moments in order to enter into a possessed, crouched-over jitter when he delivers one of his signature tapped leads. The relative passivity of the five musicians is not really a problem, however, as Late Night Venture is very much the sort of band for whom music is the primary form of expression and their way to evoke an emotional response from the audience. And having been quiet for some time, tonight’s showing is a timely reminder that the band still remains one of the premier outlets for post-rock and -metal that Denmark has to offer. What’s more, the new songs aired expose plenty of untapped potential and as such, they bode well for the band’s future endeavours.

7

Usnea

On record, Usnea is one of those bands that do almost everything right, yet struggle with lacing their music with the nerve and edge needed to make a lasting impression. At least, that was my experience, listening to their third and latest album, “Portals into Futility”, prior to this concert. The Portland, OR-based quartet likes to keep the pace of their music glacial, the tone of it funereal, and the runtime of their songs elongated — a style which, without the presence of the some visual element to conjure up an atmosphere, rarely translates well in the live setting. And so it does not for Usnea, whose dragging us through their mournful grandeur inspires more yawns than applause, with guitarist and growling vocalist Justin Cory the only musician to express any sort of emotion through his performance. There are some rousing riffs and instrumental passages spliced into the first three songs (and 35 minutes!) that pull me back in from drifting thoughts, but not in a quantity that suffices to to keep me in that state for very long. In honesty, Usnea strikes me as little more than an au lait version of their labelmates in Graves at Sea most of the time, with just the magnificent closing piece — the 19-minute “A Crown of Desolation” — succeeding in its presentation of melancholy on an epic scale.

5

Ufomammut

Drifting off is fortunately never an option when Ufomammut is in residence. The Italian trio has a unique penchant for writing music that is both deeply psychedelic, and so astonishingly heavy that even though it induces a trancelike state, one remains completely alert to everything happening. By standing a couple of metres from the edge of the stage and facing each other rather than the crowd, bassist guitarist Poia and bassist Urlo adopt an unusual approach to showmanship but taking into account the nature of Ufomammut’s music — especially on their two most recent albums, 2015’s “Ecate” and the newly released “8” — it actually feels like a natural way of presenting their songs. This way, the performance is more akin to watching the three musicians jamming together than a show in the traditional sense, which no doubt is exactly how their records come together as well. And just as both “Ecate” and “8” are designed to flow as single, continuous pieces of music, it is unsurprising to find Ufomammut playing the latter effort front to back tonight, with only the encore offering a glimpse into the rest of the band’s repertoire in the form of the final song “God”, taken from their 2004-album, “Snailking”, and two other older tracks, the titles of which escape me.

For many other bands, deciding to focus exclusively on the newest album would be almost suicidal, but since organicity and flow are so crucial to Ufomammut’s music, it is doubtful that anyone in the triple digit attendance is upset about the omission of the seven other works found in the trio’s discography. A varied setlist would certainly provide a more nuanced picture of the trio’s repertoire, but it would inevitably fragment the set in a way that does not facilitate the style of their music, and when one looks around at the shut eyes and hypnotically banging heads of the audience, one feels assured that everyone accepts and welcomes the decision. Of course, this also owes to the fact that “8” is such an accomplished album, sounding even more imposing and mesmerising live than on record. Whoever is in charge of the sound mix tonight deserves a special round of applause, for seldom has a band this heavy sounded so good at KB18 — ear-shattering and gut-wrenching, yet with none of the cosmic melodies or samples that are so integral to Ufomammut’s music lost in between.

In the preamble of this article, it was mentioned that Ufomammut might have a difficult time living up to the expectations that their previous concerts in Denmark have given rise to. But once “Psyrcle” finally releases us from 45 minutes of stoning riffs, mind altering effects and endlessly looping, shamanic drumming, such worries have long since been swallowed by the sonic magma pouring out of the speakers. It is hard to argue against this being Ufomammut’s finest concert on Danish soil yet — and by some distance. And with the psychedelic forms of metal enjoying an upturn of late (courtesy of bands like Dark Buddha Rising, Minsk and Oranssi Pazuzu), it seems to be only a matter of time before Ufomammut, too, is deemed as one of the hip, and can begin to reap the rewards associated with more widespread recognition.

9

Setlist:

  • 01. Babel
  • 02. Warsheep
  • 03. Zodiac
  • 04. Fatum
  • 05. Prismaze
  • 06. Core
  • 07. Wombdemonium
  • 08. Psyrcle

— Encore —

  • 09. Unknown
  • 10. Unknown
  • 11. God

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