Kadavar

support Mantar + Death Alley
author AP date 09/11/17 venue Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN

Kadavar’s visits to Danish concert venues are not exactly few and far in between, yet it seems like the amount of interest in seeing them live only increases each time. Tonight, the trio is to play its biggest headlining show in the country yet, at the 600-capacity upstairs room of Pumpehuset and even though there are still some tickets for sale at the door, the population of people in attendance is far from sparse. Indeed, Kadavar’s popularity shows no signs of decline, even though they threw a bit of a curveball with their latest album, “Rough Times”, and perhaps next time, we can expect to be watching the band in even larger confines than these.

Main photo courtesy of Jacob Dinesen / Devilution.dk

Death Alley

After our joint trip to cover Roadburn Festival in 2016, my presently hibernating colleague Ellis ‘EW’ Woolley could not stop raving about the ”punked up proto-metal” of the Dutch debutants Death Alley. The band earned a praising review from us and as such, having missed their performance myself, I had been looking forward to catching them live at last. Contrary to that Roadburn’ show, however, there are no special guests making cameos during Death Alley’s set tonight, with the band instead set up in its usual four-piece configuration in which vocalist Douwe Truijens invites most of the spotlight onto himself. The man has a distinctly ‘80s-style, boastful style of performance that reminds me in equal parts of Freddy Mercury and the Rival Sons’ Jay Buchanan. During the likes of “Supernatural Predator”, it looks as if Truijens is sharing a boogie with his mic stand, swinging, twirling and carrying it around the stage in much the same way he would a woman in a dance routine.

But his spirited antics have the adverse side effect of reducing his compatriots — guitarist Oeds Beydals, bassist Dennis Duijnhouwer and drummer Ming Boyer — into a backing role and as you might expect then, there is not a whole lot of spright coming from those positions. The only exception is the tantalising, psychedelic rock jam which arrives at the very end of the concert to shine a light on the collective talent of the musicians surrounding Truijens. Although it sees the vocalist toning down his role somewhat, the piece has no trouble emerging as the consummate highlight of Death Alley’s set tonight, and had the quartet been afforded the same 70 minutes that they enjoyed at Roadburn’, there is no question that this type of song would have found its way onto the setlist more often. It is here that the band feels most creative and engaging, with the majority of the material presented tonight sounding decent, but lacking the wow-factor to create a truly lasting impression.

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Mantar

Having seen Mantar in the much more intimate confines of BETA in 2016, it was difficult to imagine the primitive style of this Hamburg, Germany-born outfit translating well onto a bigger stage. But it turns out that the added space serves only to create more atmosphere and maximise the intensity of Mantar’s performance. The flickering candles and inspired utilisation of strobe lighting, not to mention the capitalised words POWER and VALHALLA adorning two of the towering amp stacks on the right side of the stage give the proceedings the eerie and ominous vibe of a black metal concert, as opposed to the stripped-down, basement punk feel of that show at BETA. And whatever skepticism still might arise from the fact that Mantar consists of just two musicians — guitarist Hanno Klänhardt and drummer Erinc Sakarya — is completely undue; the duo not only manages to generate more noise than most fully manned outfits of their ilk, they also make for an extremely riveting live act. Indeed, looking at the possessed antics of Klänhardt and the no-sweat-spared work ethic of Sakarya as they pummel through the likes of “Cross the Cross” and “Praise the Plague”, it is easy to forgive the band the lack of diversity in their blackened brand of sludge metal, even if it does mean that on record, they are unlikely to impress anyone to the same extent. Whether he is convulsing on the stage floor like some demon spawn, engaged in a charge-and-recede game with his three enormous stacks of amps, swinging his guitar around in violent jerks or practically swallowing his microphone whilst growling, Klänhardt is an absolute menace on stage — and apparently quite captivating at that.

Considering how misplaced Mantar must seem to most people on this otherwise retro-rocking bill, it is a testimony to the band’s showmanship that pretty much the entire audience stays put for the 45 minutes occupied by their set. This does not go unnoticed by Klänhardt, who tells us that on this tour, crowds have tended to disperse after a couple of songs and then proceeds to thank us for our love of ”fucking things up and destruction”, which he admits is ”pretty much the only thing [they] know how to do.” That may well be the case, but as it is said: if it ain’t broken, don’t try to fix it. There is a time and place for subtlety, but there is also a time and place for discharges of pure and unadulterated vitriol and roaring ”This is era borealis! This is death über alles!” — which is the essence of what Mantar offers us here. It is neither elaborate nor innovative, but it does get your head banging, your blood pumping and your primal instinct running amok.

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Kadavar

Kadavar is quite a rare band in the sense that coming into one of their concerts, everyone knows what to expect. There are seldom other surprises in store than the occasional cover song or rarity finding its way into the setlist, yet the trio’s performances consistently turn out to be outstanding. It is the tiny nuances that decide whether the Berlin-born outfit’s show on the night is magical or ‘merely’ excellent, and as such it is no exaggeration to claim that Kadavar is one of the best live acts in the world right now. This Kadavar proves once again, despite bringing a lot of brand new material to the table — material that, as described in my review of Kadavar’s fourth and latest studio album, “Rough Times”, sees the band incorporate heavier and more stoning influences to its palette. One can tell that the audience has not become accustomed to tracks like the titular “Rough Times” or “Skeleton Blues” yet, reserving the thunderous reactions for the likes of “Doomsday Machine” and the always fantastic, Survivor-esque “Old Man”. It seems like those songs need a little more time to sink in before being regarded as live staples, even though their fuzzed-out, bone-rattling qualities make them the perfect fit for Kadavar’s bombastic expression live. That fans are yet to fully endorse Kadavar’s stoner-rock ambitions becomes even more obvious when the band airs “Die Baby Die” — one of the new songs that continue to embrace the familiar, doomy ‘70s rocking style of their first three albums. Although this is its live début on Danish soil, the piece is met by a loud sing-along and the kind of intense bouts of headbanging that certify it as a future Kadavar classic.

As the trio works its way through a slew of crowd favourites, they once again do so with an energy that few others can parallel. There is nothing unusual about it, and unless you are a debutant to Kadavar’s live shows, you might even suggest that a certain kind of routine has started to creep into the proceedings. On the far right, guitarist/vocalist Christoph ‘Lupus’ Lindemann strikes his axe like it deserves to be punished, thrusting it through the air as he rocks out to the tune of one searing wah-wah solo after the other. Dead centre, drummer Christoph ‘Tiger’ Bartelt looks like a tornado of hair and flailing arms, beating the skins in a way that shuns elegance in favour of sheer power. And on the far left, bassist Simon ‘Dragon’ Bouteloup is finally starting to look like he has absorbed the essence of what it means to play in Kadavar and established himself as a proper replacement for his predecessor, Philipp ‘Mammut’ Lippitz. No longer the introvert of the bunch, Bouteloup is now the musician with the most interaction with the audience, brandishing his instrument, bulging his eyes and sending roars worthy of his moniker over our heads at every opportunity. But as awesome as all of this looks and sounds, the veteran fans among us will agree that by the standards of Kadavar’s shows in Copenhagen in 2012, 2015 and 2016, a lot of what we witness tonight feels like simply going through the motions.

But although the concert never reaches a fever pitch, there is so much quality to this band that the last thing one should feel is disappointment. Were it up to me, the likes of “Pale Blue Eyes”, “Into the Night” and the cover of The Damned’s “New Rose” aired in the encore, could have been shaved in favour of some non-recycled cuts such as “Rhythm for Endless Minds”, “Liquid Dream” (both of which appear on 2013’s masterful “Abra Kadavar” and have, to my knowledge, never been played within Danish shores), or even the intoxicating “Goddess of Dawn” (off 2012’s self-titled album). Such a decision against playing it safe might have pushed my exhilaration through the roof, yet as already mentioned, business as usual for Kadavar still means something extraordinary in a wider context. While not completely mesmerising this time, the trio’s retro rock explosions have lost none of their catchiness, oomph or capacity to invigorate audiences, and as “Come Back Life” rounds the evening off, most attendees are without a doubt already looking forward to the next time that Kadavar visits this social democratic haven.

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Setlist:

  • 01. Rough Times
  • 02. Skeleton Blues
  • 03. Doomsday Machine
  • 04. Pale Blue Eyes
  • 05. Into the Wormhole
  • 06. The Old Man
  • 07. Die Baby Die
  • 08. Black Sun
  • 09. Living in Your Head
  • 10. Into the Night
  • 11. Forgotten Past
  • 12. Tribulation Nation
  • 13. Purple Sage

— Encore —

  • 14. The New Rose (The Damned cover)
  • 15. All Our Thoughts
  • 16. Come Back Life

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