Solbrud

support ORM
author AP date 24/11/17 venue DR Koncerthuset, Copenhagen, DEN

If I am not mistaken, tonight marks the first time that the Jean Nouvel-designed DR Koncerthuset venue, which houses a symphony hall as well as three recording studios, has hosted black metal artists. To make the occasion even more special, the two artists in question are both of domestic origin — and as such it is unsurprising to find Studio 3 nearly at maximum capacity and bristling with excitement when I arrive at this beautiful building. I am excited, too; there is no better acoustic setting in which to experience the grandiose and transcendental style for which Solbrud and ORM both are renowned than in a room designed to convey all of the intricacies of a classical orchestra.

All photos courtesy of Peter Troest

ORM

True to the genre, the four musicians of ORM are wearing their most brooding expression as they let loose the first piece of ‘deathened’ black metal, but in what must come as shock to most people in attendance, it takes some time for the sound engineer to get his head around the acoustics of the venue. The two opening tracks are lost to a thunder of bass and drums, annihilating the dynamic between the melodic and the extreme that is so crucial in ORM’s music, and in the wake of such a meagre start, the quartet faces a tough battle to win the audience over. Acknowledging that black metal is typically enjoyed with one’s arms crossed and one’s head slightly bowed, most of the crowd looks unusually thoughtful — critical, even — as it takes the proceedings in. Once the sound issues have been resolved and the magnificence of ORM’s songwriting becomes apparent, the show takes a positive turn, at least in terms of the music. “Apotheosis” has seldom sounded so grand, let alone so melancholy, while the razor-sharp tone separation in this room ensures that the Behemoth-esque “Serpent Mother” is rendered extraordinarily imposing tonight.

But although neither the music nor ORM’s hellbent manner deserve to be criticised, the audience remains subdued. One suspects that this is because the atmosphere never becomes as intense or as enveloping as when the band supported Wolves in the Throne Room earlier this year — a symptom of DR Koncerthuset’s not being so accommodating to this genre after all. ORM sounds gorgeous; the layered interplay between the shrill and deep growls by guitarists Simon Sonne Andersen & Theis Wilmer Poulsen, respectively, sounds more textured than ever, and their melodies take on an almost spiritual character here. But in such a wide open and artistically decorated space, and with a light technician on duty, whose ideas about setting the right mood for an extreme metal concert immediately expose him as a stranger to the genre, the band ends up looking pretty tame.

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Solbrud

Solbrud is thankfully spared the sound hiccups that ORM initially had to endure but recalling the dim blue lighting, candles and incense that contributed so much to the aesthetic when the atmospheric black metallers played a more intimate show at BETA two and a half years ago, one does feel quite perplexed by pink lighting chosen to reflect the mood of the third song, “Besat af mørke” (off this year’s “Vemod” album), with the title of that song translating to possessed by darkness. Although one can choose to see the amusement in this, there is no escaping the fact that while it may have worked for Deafheaven on “Sunbather”, the colour is completely unsuitable in the context of Solbrud’s grim and atavistic soundscape. On a positive note, that bizarre moment is a rare stumble in an elegant and at times otherworldly set in which the band sometimes looks more mesmerised by the long-drawn cascades of droning melodies and hypnotic rhythms than the audience. Like their idols in Wolves in the Throne Room et al., Solbrud plays a variant of the genre that lends itself particularly well to shutting your eyes and letting your mind drift off.

Having said that, Solbrud is nonetheless a quite visual outfit and as such it pays off to keep one’s eyes peeled. A hidden fan to the left gives the four musicians a windblown appearance, as though the show was taking place at the summit of some tundra during a storm, with the array of strobes on the floor behind them creating the illusion of lightning tearing through the venue when the likes of “Skyggeriget” (taken from the group’s eponymous début) and “Afbed” (off 2014’s “Jærtegn”) grow particularly intense. Contrary to ORM, and with the exception of the transient pink lights, the venue takes nothing away from Solbrud’s performance — if anything, the size of the room actually complements the enormity of their creations. Indeed, I am sure that I am alone in thinking that the closing track, “Dødemandsbjerget”, has never felt this forlorn or monolithic before. This is thus another fine showing to add to Solbrud’s growing repertoire of lauded concerts and yet more evidence that AR&M’ers and promoters across the world need to be keeping a close eye on the band.

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Setlist:

  • 01. Forfald
  • 02. Skyggeriget
  • 03. Besat af mørke
  • 04. Afbed
  • 05. Dødemandsbjerget

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