Halshug

support Slægt + Wölfblood
author AP date 20/10/17 venue Musikcaféen, Copenhagen, DEN

Despite Musikcaféen being one of the smallest venues that Copenhagen has to offer, it is no less exciting to witness it selling out with an all-Danish line-up. The bill is very diverse, too, stretching from metal’n’roll through blackened NWOBHM to crust hardcore, providing the various subcultures that exist in the underground of Danish music a rare opportunity to mosh and headbang the Friday night away together, and (hopefully) gain and/or nurture an appreciation for each other. At the very least, no one seems to be here to see just one of the three artists; the venue is absolutely rammed even before the opening act, Wölfblood, takes to the stage.

All photos courtesy of Peter Troest

Wölfblood

Over the past few years, Tiago Dias has established himself as something of an omnipresence in the Copenhagen metal scene, both as the vocalist of Cacus and Dreich and as someone you can expect to run into at pretty much every doom, sludge or stoner gig in the city. At the beginning of this year, he widened his repertoire by forming the ‘motorpunk’ outfit Wölfblood, who released their début EP, “Nightriders”, late in the summer, and are now set to play their first official concert. And it is easy to see that the quartet has not fully gelled yet; the guitarist and bassist mostly stick to the shadows, not contributing much to the performance in terms of showmanship, while Dias and the drummer give it their everything, with the sweat of passion streaming down their foreheads and their faces contorting into one fervent, heartfelt expression after the other. It must be said, however, that even though the guitarist shies away from the spotlight, it is the creativity of his riffs and solos that makes Wölfblood tick. It almost feels like the man has been given complete liberty to just jam out — as long as whatever he comes up with keeps to the rhythm — and as a result, tracks like “Fury Road” and “Rot & Roll” sound completely organic in the same way that Martyrdöd’s music does. There is of course not a whole lot of variety to these d-beat/rock’n’roll fusions, so it helps Wölfblood’s cause that they keep their set brief and to-the-point, finishing off with a cover of Tank’s “Turn Your Head Around” after some 20 minutes on stage. If the band can get the other two musicians in sync with the intensity of Dias and the drummer, there is potential in Wölfblood becoming a potent live act. But as for now, they have difficulty even getting what must be a predominantly punk- and hardcore-oriented crowd to move just a little bit.

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Slægt

Slægt have garnered a reputation of playing more or less every gig offered to them, regardless of how well the other artists on the bill align with their blackened style of heavy metal. By doing so, the Copenhagen-born quartet has had myriad opportunities to hone their showmanship — and as most metalheads in the country would undoubtedly agree, they are now among the best live bands in the country. The fusion of NWOBHM with black metal of the Norwegian variant serves to unshackle Slægt from the rigidity that so often mars ‘pure’ extreme metal bands, making it perfectly legitimate for guitarist Anders M. Jørgensen to sling gloriously cheesy guitar solos with a red Flying V and rock out like the best of the hair metallers, even as guitarist/vocalist Oskar J. Frederiksen is spitting out some of the grimmest of snarls you’ll hear in the genre. This creates an interplay that is both fascinating and ludicrous, yet it never threatens to become farcical — Slægt’s music is too well-written for that. Although the three songs clock in over 25 minutes between them, “The Tower”, “Domus Mysterium” and “I Smell Blood” have the entire venue in thrall of their progressions and constant juxtaposition of the raw and unforgiving with the melodic and grandiose. And when such songs are played by musicians who resemble Iron Maiden with their energetic and expressionistic style of performance, it seems impossible that anyone in attendance at Musikcaféen tonight could be turned off by Slægt.

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Halshug

Halshug is the only one of tonight’s artists to inspire a proper moshpit, and it remains operational for the entire duration of their concert. Personally, I don’t have enough experience from seeing the trio live to know whether this is the normal circumstances under which they perform, but regardless, the three musicians seem to feed off the crowd’s energy in order to stage an intense performance of their own. Even when he’s not screaming with vitriol, bassist/vocalist Jakob Johnsen surges toward the audience with threatening lunges and bulging eyes, while it is hard to even see drummer Mads Folmer Richter through the blur of motion he is creating behind the kit. Despite taking place on the third floor of the building, the show feels like a true basement punk gig, with arms flailing, bodies flying into one another and the band exorcising any notion of bulls**t. It feels honest and real.

The nature of Halshug’s music dictates that the band keeps things brief — both on record and in the live setting. Not only is the material quite monotonous when played in succession, the lyricism is so suffocating that listening to it for more than 30 minutes, one runs the risk of complete exhaustion. For instance, “Sort Sind”, which serves as the title track to Halshug’s sophomore album and kicks off their set tonight, begins with an anguished scream of ”My brain hurts!”, and later on we are treated to the comforting words: ”Birds… I don’t think they sing — they just screech in pain.” Both samples serve to create atmosphere but even so, the decision to limit their concert to just over half an hour seems prudent, as the best way to experience Halshug’s music is through short but severe discharges. And since the better part their material hovers around the two-minute mark anyway, the band still manages to get through most of their two records, 2015’s “Blodets Bånd” and the aforementioned 2016-effort, “Sort Sind”.

Certainly, Halshug remains a band whose music is likely to put off as many people as it interests. Crust hardcore tends to have that effect. But even those in the audience tonight with no special affinity for the trio must concede that they make for an excellent live band. There is no violent dismantlement of the instruments at the end of the set this time around (as happened at Roskilde Festival in 2016) but make no mistake — Halshug still plays and performs with an intensity that almost becomes too much at times.

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