Acid King

support Child + Drukner
author AP date 09/10/18 venue KB18, Copenhagen, DEN

Although the news has gone under our radar, KB18 is set to close down at the end of the month, and as I arrive tonight, it strikes me that this concert is going to be the last I’ll ever see in these garage-like confines before the venue is demolished in order to make room for a new primary school. Gentrification thus claims another victim, but before the bulldozers are unleashed, there is still heavy music to be heard here, and a surprisingly dense crowd has turned up to check it out. This is hardly a surprise though — the doom/stoner scene in Denmark is in good health and Acid King is something of a cult act in those genres.

All photos courtesy of Stefan Frank thor Straten

Drukner

The evening kicks off at the behest of Drukner — a local stoner/doom outfit who like to let their riffs do the talking, and as such only utilise vocals limitedly. This turns out to be an advantage, as when guitarist Palle Skovhede does open up his pipes in the first and last songs, the mantric power of his voice is all but lost beneath the volume of the bass, guitars and drums. These instruments are, however, well balanced in the mix, allowing the band’s Church of Misery-esque grooves to flourish in their full glory on both “Drukner” and the brand new single, “Discordia”, which will feature on an upcoming split release with Gaia. But like so many other artists of their ilk, Drukner seem to have an unfortunate tendency to run in circles here and there, resulting in material such as the all-instrumental “Get High on Your Own Supply”, which seems to repeat the same couple of bars over and over and over again for a staggering 13 minutes or so without ever reaching a climax, let alone establishing a clear direction. It is a shame that this piece eats up a significant chunk of the 40-minute set, as otherwise the tracks presented tonight tend to get the heads banging and the minds wandering with their stomping rhythm, excellent riffs and swathes of psychedelic pedal effects. The quartet’s performance is also a bit too laissez-faire for my liking, recalling the likes of Bethmoora and Gaia in its doom-typical frigidity. Nonetheless, it would be a lie if I wasn’t raving to my photographer about “Discordia” after it has brought the show to a conclusion with a promise of better songwriting to come. Indeed, once those riffs that Skovhede and his colleague, Mikkel Rishøj, are harnessed into some more nuanced songs, the Danish doom metal scene could well have another powerhouse on its hands.

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Child

With their bootcut trousers, loose, patterned silk shirts and heel boots, this power trio from the Australian city of Melbourne looks as retro as they come, and have the tunes to back up their visual aesthetic. Child’s music is based in boogie rock and heavy blues, but the band trawls far and wide in order to bring in inspiration from Graveyard, Jimi Hendrix and even the late Pet the Preacher over the course of their set. The legacy of Hendrix is especially strong, with many of the songs rocking and spacing out so hard that even the amp stacks seem to be jittering to the rhythm — albeit they are helped along by the fervour with which drummer Michael Lowe attacks his kit. There are moments of relative calm, too: a slow, moody piece here, a classic ballad there and a venture into doom metal near the end. But although the singing talent of guitarist Mathias Northway shines brightest in these tracks, they are not ones to remember Child by; the three musicians seem more in their element, swinging their manes and driving their guitar strings to near breaking point during one of the more driving and energetic songs that comprise the brunt of their setlist tonight. With the exception of a brief segment in which Northway uses his voice to add another layer to his guitar melody, there are, however, very few novelties in the group’s music to pique my interest, and as such it comes across to me as pretty standard fare ‘70s rock. This absence of truly striking material is redeemed by the trio’s impassioned showmanship to an extent, but the unenthusiastic reaction of the audience still paints a clear picture: what we have seen from Child tonight is nothing extraordinary.

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Acid King

Starting out with “Laser Headlights”, I think, from their latest album, 2015’s “Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere”, it immediately strikes me as impressive how easily and quickly the band locks into a groove and casts a spell unto the audience, binding us into trancelike headbanging and offering no respite from it during the next 70 minutes or so. While guitarist Lori S. Joseph's lethargic style of singing remains a take it or leave it kind of affair, this San Francisco, CA-based trio has the riffs to give Sleep a run for their money. Slow, circular and rife with psychedelia, they are played at tremendous volume and mingle well with the subtle scent of weed lingering inside the venue, and give rise to the sort of drowsy and hazy atmosphere that is so integral to a good stoner gig. The musicians themselves seem to be lost inside some astral dream, their eyes shut and the movement of their earthly bodies always keeping the languid beat of Bil Bowman’s drumming.

Atavistic and droning though the nature of Acid King’s music is, however, there is plenty of room for nuances like the folksy melancholy of “Silent Circle” (off 1999’s “Busse Woods”), the Tom Morello-esque string bends and hammer-ons that define Joseph's riffage in “Sunshine and Sorrow” (from 2005’s “III”), and the faster tempo and more textured drumming in “2 Wheel Nation” (also off “III)” in it as well. This not only makes the experience of watching Acid King live hypnotising, it also keeps you on your toes, which is not very common in this genre. But above all, Joseph, Bowman and bassist Rafael Martinez are just so damn good at putting together jams and so damn tight in their execution that the trio’s performances are excellent almost per automata, whether they’re playing on a big stage (like at the 2014 edition of the Hellfest in France) or a basement-like space such as KB18. I do, however, continue to miss some form of visual component in the band’s live act (projections or simply more elaborate lighting, perhaps?), as while keeping it barren and basic does afford Acid King an air of authenticity, there seems to be an opportunity foregone here to make their concerts an even more psychedelic experience than it is already.

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