Procession

support Altar Of Oblivion
author AP date 15/11/17 venue KB18, Copenhagen, DEN

Although Procession enjoys a status as something of an underground sensation, I am not surprised to find KB18 low on attendees this evening; the band is yet to catch on in Denmark and the casual listening segment has both Marilyn Manson and Stone Sour as alternative gig choices. But having been completely mesmerised by the Chilean-Danish-Swedish doom metallers’ sophomore album, “To Reap Heavens Apart”, it was not a choice at all for me — especially given the prospect of hearing material off the group’s third opus, “Doom Decimation”, played live for the first time.

Altar Of Oblivion

Until last year, it had been a while since the Danish metal scene last heard a stirring in the berth of Altar of Oblivion, but after issuing a new EP in the shape of “Barren Grounds”, the Aalborg-based melodic doom metal crew has slowly been restoring itself to the gig circuit. Having seen the band supporting Eyehategod in 2013, I know reasonably well what to expect: an intense and passionate performance in which it is the subtleties that hope to capture your imagination. These five musicians are seldom regarded as the greatest of showmen but when their songwriting comes together, as in the likes of “Wrapped in Ruins” and “The Graveyard of Broken Dreams”, they can nonetheless be quite mesmerising to watch. The former is an older piece taken from the group’s celebrated début album, “Sinews of Anguish”, and involves the same sort of drama and grandeur as the works of Candlemass, and one can tell from the shut eyes and emotive expression of vocalist Mik Mentor that he invests every inch of himself to convey its devastation to us. The latter — off the band’s sophomore outing, “Grand Gesture of Defiance” — enlists a catchier approach centered on a chorus, but it is the ripping solo by rhythm guitarist Jeppe Campradt that arrives halfway that steals everyone’s attention.

But as brilliant as the two songs are, they also highlight a dichotomy which seems to exist within the band. While Mentor obviously lives and breathes the music and becomes completely immersed in it, and while Campradt rocks out and swings his Flying V as if this was NWOBHM’s glory days, the rest of the band is swallowed by their shadows, looking so withdrawn that a more cynical person could blame it on indifference. The worrying thing is that lead guitarist Martin M. M. Sparvath and bassist Christian Nørgaard both have more than two decades of Altar of Oblivion under their belts, yet come across as bit part-players in the band’s overall aesthetic. The two brand new songs aired tonight, “Seven Spirits” and “Language of the Dead”, are indicative of another fantastic record on the horizon, but unless the band tackles its shortcomings as a live act, they will have a difficult time capitalising on their potential. Make no mistake: collectively, the band obviously pours its heart into the music — it is just often hard to feel that heart beating when they are playing in front of you.

6

Procession

When Procession played here in 2014, there were exactly two dozen people in attendance — tonight, that headcount has risen by fifty percent, so an optimist might say that the doom metallers’ stock in Denmark is soaring. Jokes aside, this quartet has never been bothered by low turnouts, as whether they are playing to thousands or only a handful of their disciples makes no difference in terms of how much passion they are willing to put into their performance. Procession know only one way, and that is to play their metal hard, with banging heads, thrashing hair and hellbent eyes. But although the band’s showmanship is unusually brisk and direct for the doom metal genre, anyone who has heard the aforementioned “To Reap Heavens Apart” LP will know that their compositions are nothing if not elegant, and their huge scope and well of emotion is best experienced live, where the likes of the titular “To Reap Heavens Apart” and the tragic “Chants of the Nameless” (off the band’s 2010 début album, “Destroyers of the Faith”) are able to fill the air and envelop the audience. It is rare for a band to achieve such an effect with most of the venue a gaping emptiness, but through the sheer enormity of their music, Procession has no trouble managing the feat.

Having released their third opus, the imposingly titled “Doom Decimation”, two weeks ago, the brunt of the setlist expectedly consists of new material, however. But unless you consider Procession and their ‘breakthrough’ album to be inseparable, this is not grounds for disappointment. In subscribing to a similar formula as their predecessors whilst also presenting catchier elements, songs like the opening “When Doomsday Has Come” and the monolithic “Lonely Are the Ways of the Stranger” co-exist peacefully with older tracks, with the former in particular delivering an early highlight with its calamitous riffs and frontman Felipe Kutzbach’s powerful, Alan Averill-esque roars in the chorus. The roots thus remain in place, but especially for newcomers to Procession, these new creations are effective in engaging the audience immediately. It is hard to say whether the people in attendance tonight belong in that category of course, but judging by everyone’s reaction — especially the three patrons headbanging hard upfront — there isn’t a hint of grudge about the band’s decision to focus on “Doom Decimation” to be felt tonight. Once the concert rounds off with “One by One They Died”, the four musicians seem genuinely taken aback by the enthusiasm of their tiny audience and elect to repay its dedication by playing an unrehearsed rendition of “Like a Plague Upon the Earth” — a faster and more primitive track featuring on their first EP, 2009’s “The Cult of Disease” — after an encore. Truly, the showmanship, skill of musicianship and songwriting prowess on display make it baffling that the band still remains so underground in Denmark. But here’s hoping that they will continue to find the motivation to return to entertain their limited but passionate following here.

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Setlist:

  • 01. When Doomsday Has Come
  • 02. Raven of Disease
  • 03. All Descending Suns
  • 04. To Reap Heavens Apart
  • 05. Lonely Are the Ways of the Stranger
  • 06. Amidst the Bowels of Earth
  • 07. Chants of the Nameless
  • 08. One by One They Died

— Encore —

  • 09. Like a Plague Upon the Earth

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