Bersærk

support De Forbandede
author AP date 06/04/18 venue Lille VEGA, Copenhagen, DEN

That Bersærk has blossomed into one of the most popular metal bands in Denmark is obvious when entering Lille VEGA on this mild Spring evening. The venue is nearly at its maximum capacity of 500 attendees and there is a festive atmosphere in the air — not only because this concert marks the beginning of the band’s Spring tour, but also because this is essentially the release party for their sophomore album, “Jernbyrd”, for Copenhagen based fans. For me it also finally presents an opportunity to check out De Forbandede, whose latest outing, “Den evige nat", turned out to be such a positive surprise late last year.

All photos courtesy of Stefan Frank thor Straten

De Forbandede

Unfortunately, the psychedelic stoner rockers are plagued by sound issues from the get-go, with the bass guitar and extremely trebly drums taking up most of the space in the soundscape. This means that Michael Hansen-Buur’s keyboard melodies and backing vocals are all but missing from the mix, which in turn results in a less lush sound overall than on record. On the positive side, both guitarist/vocalist Peter Østergaard and bassist Nicolei Aagaard Rasmussen do their utmost to counteract the unideal circumstances with an extremely intense stage presence, surging and retreating in keeping with the dynamics of the music, collapsing onto the floor during the most emotive instrumental parts, and brandishing and thrashing their instruments around when songs like “Kun jeg er til” and “Byens ødemark” are at their most energetic. Until recently, De Forbandede have had a reputation of being mainly a studio project (something that has enabled frequent album releases), but tonight the quartet shows that it is more than capable of bringing its music to life in an exhilarating way also.

As ever, a band’s showmanship is not only measured by the amount of energy they exude, however. Factors like tightness, nerve and the degree of connection with the audience play an equally crucial role and in all of these categories, De Forbandede perform better than most. Whether it is the pride and delight of hearing quality rock music sung in one’s native tongue or something else that drives it, the crowd reacts enthusiastically throughout — especially when the band really hits its groove with their slower, moodier and jammier compositions à la “Gnist bliver til flammer" and “Evig ild”. It is during these last two tracks that Østergaard & Rasmussen seem to become most ‘lost’ in the music as well, pouring their heart and soul into the hallucinatory instrumental segments and solos. Despite the ongoing sound issues, De Forbandede thus end their concert on a high and no doubt inspire plenty of the attendees here to return to an eventual headlining concert.

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Bersærk

Bersærk receive a heroes’ welcome when they emerge from backstage and launch into “Kronen på værket”, which, in its capacity as the intro to the new album, serves well to build up tension in the live setting as well. And just as on the record, that tension is released by the onset of “Kampånd” — a stomper, which draws out a sea of horns and headbanging in one of the most instantly approving crowd responses to a Danish band that I have seen in this venue, perhaps even in general. It truly is a pleasure to witness the kind of grasp that Bersærk has on its audience, with not one of the sixteen tracks they air left wanting in terms of action and enthusiasm on the floor, even when the energy is dialled down for the likes of “Mørke”. It was a prudent decision by the band to introduce this slower, more brooding piece as a counterweight to the hard-hitting start early on so as to bestow the show with varied dynamics, but even though the track is not catchy in the same way as many of the other Bersærk tracks, its extended bridge nonetheless gives rise to a spine-tingling moment as vocalist Casper Roland Popp refrains and leaves it to the audience to sing, “I mulm og mørke / igen og igen / I nat lukker vi ulven ind”, over and over again.

That song is one of the first examples of guitarist Lars Evers, bassist Torben Egebjerg and drummer Simon Gleerup Meiner showing off their skill of musicianship and the symbiosis that exists between the three musicians. A lot of Bersærk’s music is quite straightforward, but during these intermittent instrumental segments the band is able to showcase a variety of more psychedelic elements that, at least for myself, are just as integral to why Bersærk is enjoying such success now. It is perhaps not a surprise then, that in my book, the consummate highlights of the show are produced by the likes of “Intet glemt, før alt er brændt”, “Solens folk” and “Trældom”, with their progressive stylings. But that should not suggest that I consider the balls-to-the-wall discharges of “Nordenvind” and “Nattesyn” to be somehow inferior — the poesy is still there in the lyrics that Evers has written for Popp, and these are unquestionably the songs that have earned Bersærk their widespread appeal and invite the most raucous reactions from the audience. These are the songs with which Bersærk forms the iron connection that they have with their fans, the ones that get the feet moving, the fists pumping and the pints of beer skål-ing. These are also the songs during which the four musicians’ heads and instruments are banging and swinging with the most intensity — not that their energy ever actually relents during the concert.

The only point of critique about the show tonight that I can justify offering is that over the course of sixteen songs, Bersærk’s music does begin to betray its main weakness, namely the rigidity of their formula overall. There is not always a whole lot to differentiate one song from the next (a fact only somewhat alleviated by the quiet/loud, slow/fast dynamics that exist within the setlist), but this of course comes down to Bersærk only having two albums and an EP to choose from. It is not hard to imagine that once the band has added an album or two to its repertoire and (hopefully) done some experimenting in the process, their concerts will also become more diversified in terms of the musical content. By now, they have the full support of their fanbase and can pride themselves with being one of the most invigorating live bands that Denmark has to offer — a fact underlined by Popp’s crowd-surfing during the aforementioned “Trældom” in the encore — and that is a stronger foundation than most of their peers have, upon which to build their career.

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Setlist:

  • 01. Kronen på værket
  • 02. Kampånd
  • 03. Skyggeland
  • 04. Jernbyrd
  • 05. Mørke
  • 06. Himlen skælver
  • 07. Nordenvind
  • 08. Fimbuls børn
  • 09. Intet glemt, før alt er brændt
  • 10. Tordensol
  • 11. År nul
  • 12. Nattesyn
  • 13. Solens folk

— Encore —

  • 14. Trældom
  • 15. Frost & flammer
  • 16. Dæmring

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