Death Alley

support Velvet Volume + Road To Jerusalem
author AP date 09/08/18 venue BETA, Copenhagen, DEN

Considering that one of the most popular rock bands in Denmark right now features on the bill, it is quite surprising to find out that BETA is not sold out for tonight’s trifecta of shows. Having sold out both the 400-capacity Lille VEGA and the 600-capacity Pumpehuset in the last few years, this evening presents a rare opportunity to watch Velvet Volume in a more intimate setting than usual, so one might have expected the trio’s growing fanbase to turn up en masse. But alas, they and the other two bands lined up — Death Alley & Road to Jerusalem — must make do with a more sparsely populated venue for this first show of the annual Dirty Days of Summer festivities that are now taking place for the seventh year running.

All photos courtesy of Peter Troest

Road To Jerusalem

I like to think that I maintain a pretty good overview of what’s cooking in the Danish punk, rock and metal scene at any given time, yet somehow, Road to Jerusalem has managed completely to evade me — a realisation made even more perplexing by the fact that Per Møller Jensen (the quasi-legendary drummer who plied his trade first in the Danish cult extreme metal act Invocator, and since in the Swedish death/thrash metal machine The Haunted from 2000 to 2011) features on the quartet’s roster. Not surprisingly, it is his jazzy and textured percussion that often steals the show in RTJ’s music, which is best described as progressive rock reminiscent of the Woodstock, NY-based band 3. This impression is completed by the angular riffs preferred by Michael Skovbakke, the noodling bass lines laid down by Andreas Holma and the impressively twangy voice of the American frontman Josh Tyree in songs like “Widowmaker” and “Stay Awake”, and as anyone familiar with my ramblings on this webzine will already know, that is the sort of stuff that I am particularly disposed to like — classic progressive rock with Pink Floyd influences aplenty, given a modern sheen.

Josh Tyree of Road to Jerusalem

Much of the band’s performance is centered on Tyree, whose heartfelt demeanour immediately reminds me of Grusom’s Nicolaj Hoffmann Jul. Every word is accompanied by an impassioned expression and the way he clutches the microphone, looming over it as he sways gently from side to side in the likes of “Poison Ivy” and the groove laden slow piece “Behold in Now”, suggests that these are deeply personal, meaningful tracks for him. He certainly pours his heart and soul into them, and although his cohorts assume a more peripheral role in RTJ’s overall showmanship, the result is nonetheless a band one cannot take one’s eyes off. I would admittedly have to be more familiar with the material in order to maximise the rewards from this concert, but at the very least, I am now aware of another strong contender in the notoriously secretive and quiet Danish prog scene.

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Noa Lachmi of Velvet Volume

Velvet Volume

Despite all of the hype enveloping sibling trio Velvet Volume, it has taken me unusually long to find out what it is that has put the Århusian band on everyone’s lips. Noa, Naomi & Nataja Lachmi released their début album, “Look Look Look!”, in the autumn of 2017, yet it was not until their booking for Dirty Days of Summer that I finally gave it a spin and took note of their energetic, no frills approach to rock’n’roll. It seemed perfectly suited for a venue in which bands get to be up close and personal with their audience, and my assumption is swiftly and decisively validated as “Fire” — the hit single off the aforementioned “Look Look Look!” — is aired packing a serious punch. Although the style of Velvet Volume is perhaps best described as garage-rock, the Lachmi sisters play with a distinctly punk attitude, which harks back to the ‘90s Riot Grrrl movement. Guitarist/vocalist Noa in particular has a devilish aura, baring her teeth and throwing one venomous glance after the other at the sweeter looking Naomi on the bass and vocals when it is the latter’s turn to sing. Us in the audience aren’t spared the glare either, as the trio hammers out “Runnin’ Wild” (which was originally released as a single in 2015 but then re-recorded and released again as part of “Look Look Look!”), surrendering themselves to passion and really striking those instruments with a vengeance — often on their knees.

Naomi Lachmi of Velvet Volume

Things are off to a riveting start then, and once the opening salvo rings out, the trio gives absentees yet another reason to regret their decision to stay home: two brand new singles are given their live début. While the rollicking first one (which might be called “Nighttime” or “Right Time” — I can’t tell) remains faithful to the style of “Look Look Look!”, it is especially the second one that stands out with its litany of cool solo bits (courtesy of Noa) and a feverish psychedelic segment in the middle, during which the two frontwomen turn to face each other and jam out. It would thus seem like the Lachmi sisters have not seen themselves satisfied with delivering yet another barrage of catchy, if ultimately quite homogenous garage-rock’n’roll on their future sophomore outing, preferring instead to continue pushing themselves creatively. With such explosive showmanship at their disposal, the trio looks seasoned enough to own much bigger venues (not to mention festival stages) already, and if that song is anything to go by, they will have the material to do so as well, soon enough.

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Douwe Truijens of Death Alley

Death Alley

Although this is already my third time watching the Dutch retro rockers of Death Alley live, I have not yet succeeded in unlocking the secret to what makes their fans tick. The enigma began to unravel this year, however, when the Amsterdam-born quartet switched out half of its line-up and issued its sophomore album, “Superbia”, which impressed me by virtue of the variety it boasts. Good ol’ fashioned classic rock mingles with progressive rock, proto metal and lashings of psychedelia on it to create a diverse and engaging listening experience, and that variety works wonders in the live setting, it turns out. While the simpler, rock’n’roll-style tracks such as “Black Magick Boogieland” (the title track to Death Alley’s first album, released in 2015) and “The Chain” (off the sophomore LP) provide opportunities to let loose some energy and headbang, these are balanced out by longer and more contemplative pieces such as “Headlights in the Dark” and “The Sewage”, in which feverish instrumental jams are put in the driver’s seat and the audience is slowly drawn into kaleidoscopic soundscapes and subjected to a kind of hypnosis. The first kind of song is needed in order to provide some respite from the intoxicating riff-o-ramas, but there is no question that it is the latter type of song that is Death Alley’s real forte. Certainly, the total psychedelic freakout that is the final of the evening, “Supernatural Predator”, also proves to be its consummate highlight.

Oeds Beydals of Death Alley

Another reason why Death Alley looks a different band now compared to their concert at Pumpehuset last year is the aforementioned fact that half of the line-up was replaced, with Sander Bus taking over from Dennis Duijhouwer on bass and Uno Bruniusson (of Procession) picking up the drumsticks left behind by Ming Boyer. There seems to exist a greater synergy between the four musicians now, which translates into a more intense and present showmanship from all four members. Unlike the show last year, it is thus possible to gorge on the visual as well as the aural component of Death Alley’s performance now, and with the setlist so expertly balanced between the rockers and the roamers, the end result is without a doubt the best concert that I have seen from the Dutchmen yet. The loud cheering and applause from the audience, especially after the more psychedelic cuts and despite the now-low number of people here, certainly seems to support my impression, and should be a guarantee for a better turnout the next time that Death Alley make their way up to this part of the world.

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Setlist:

  • 01. Black Magick Boogieland
  • 02. Headlights in the Dark
  • 03. The Chain
  • 04. Feeding the Lions
  • 05. Stalk Eyed
  • 06. The Sewage
  • 07. Murder Your Dreams
  • 08. Supernatural Predator

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