Pelagic Road Fest 2018

support Abraham + Set and Setting + Future Usses + Nordsind
author LL date 22/10/18 venue Hotel Cecil, Copenhagen, DEN

The record label Pelagic Records should be a familiar name to anyone with a long-standing interest in post-metal or the harder ends of post-rock. Bands like The Ocean, Cult of Luna, pg.lost, and Wang Wen, as well as LLNN from our own backyard, are among their most prominent names. The Pelagic Road Fest that travels around Europe this month features three of their perhaps lesser known names, at least around these parts. As support, the upcoming Danish group Nordsind who mix post-rock and black metal have been added. For a person curious about the genre and already somewhat familiar with 3 out of 4 names on the poster, the chance to check out these 4 bands on the same night (at a cheap price as well) seems like a welcome opportunity, but unfortunately, not many other Copenhageners seem to have thought that tonight. Admittedly, this has been a busy month of shows for what might be put together under an umbrella term like "alternative metal" but the measly turn-out here is such a shame for the bands who in each their way provide interesting musical experiences.

All pictures by Peter Troest

Nordsind

I've only seen Nordsind play on a smaller stage before and as they get ready to play to a dead silent room tonight, it's hard to know what to expect from them in terms of performance. It doesn't take many seconds of their instrumental blackgaze-like music, though, before it's evident that they are not fazed at all by the room. In fact, it suits them just fine with extra space to move about on and none of them really stand still at any point in the set, banging their heads and bodies to the riffs, spinning around themselves, or even jumping off one of the speakers to the side of the stage. It doesn't feel forced but rather like it's growing straight out of the yearning, dynamic music and the engaged applause and cheers from the audience in between songs indicate that they are quickly convincing us of their merit. They only have one EP out so far and they play all of that plus a couple of tracks that will feature on the next one. Especially "Tankerejse" makes a great impression early on here and especially their drummer draws our attention for his impressive contributions that seem like he is constantly pushing himself to his limits.

One of the new songs features some truly cold and mean black metal vocals in Danish by Kim Rock (also of JustinHate) as opposed to the otherwise strictly instrumental set. That song, in particular, has a great and somewhat pompous old-school black metal riff that makes it stand out from their surrounding music even as it retains the atmospheric soundscape qualities that bind the well-flowing set together. In general, the songs are very dynamic and the band members are good at emphasizing new parts of riffs that make them seem new and ever-evolving even as the songs have hypnotic and repetitive qualities to them as well. The sound-mix is generally super clear and makes their music stand out beautifully even as a few mistakes here and there also ring through with the same clarity. That doesn't take away from the fact that they play a very cohesive set that definitely matches the performances of the international bands here tonight.

Future Usses

American band Futures Usses from L.A. have been presented to us tonight as a new project built around Sacha Dunable whom you might know from the great progressive post-metal band Intronaut. As such, I am intrigued even as Future Usses is also labeled as "doom" which I am usually not so partial to. They start their set off with a looping backtrack of what sounds like distorted Gregorian choir music that sets an ominous but also upwards-striving tone. They add bursts of guitars and drums to it which presents us with the doomy tempo that is prevalent in their music as well as heavy slabs of riffs. And yet, the music is somehow the least accessible we experience this evening. The songs are cut off at the end very abruptly throughout the set, enhancing the experience of them as somewhat disjointed experiments in loops and sounds, despite the fact that there is a double 10 and 6 string guitar in the mix along with another regular guitar which should provide plenty of opportunity to explore more cohesive atmospheres and songs. It is unclear to me whether that is a kind of impatient choice becaue of the low turn-out of the evening or if the songs are really just written that way. In any case, the disjointed character of the also very different songs leaves the audience in a somewhat uneasy and unengaged state which is really a shame as the set, to me at least, only really begins to have its effect in its second half. More melodious and lighter sections appear here and especially when the 10-string is put to use, some serene soundscapes start to appear, and finally the set ends with what seems by then a pretty out-of-character elaborate uplifting riff at the center. A couple of band members from the tour show up to wave lighters in front of the stage, only underlining the melancholic ballad-like element to the song. 25 minutes after they went on, it's over without the band having really cemented itself in my memory with any clear sound or style although the set definitely did have moments of beauty as well as heavy ominous atmospheres.

Set and Setting

The heavy post-metal band Set and Setting from Florida is probably the name on the bill tonight that I have seen around for the longest, making me extra happy to finally be able to witness them live in action. They soundcheck loudly for a while before they are finally ready to slay, a good fifteen minutes behind schedule - a delay that persists, I think, due to Nordsind playing slightly longer than they were meant to. In any case, their spirits seem high and they delve right into some of the most choppy and heavy riffs we hear tonight. Somehow they also come off as the most uncompromisingly heavy act here, even as there are many quieter atmosphere-building moments in their set. They reveal after a while that they are currently playing their entire new album "Tabula Rasa" in full, and there is definitely a good balance and flow in as well as between each of the songs presented. "...Perennial Longing" with its recognisable main melody and hypnotic tremolo midways makes an especially convincing appearance early on, while "...The Black Swan" and its repetitive, chugging riff has heads banging a little later. They definitely succeed in setting a heavy tone apart from the bands we have heard so far and especially the latter half of their set gets happy cheers from the audience. And yet, despite their efforts at engaging us and staying active on the stage, they seem to lack some of the added energy that only happens with a give-and-take with an audience that is simply not numerous or engaged enough tonight to help take the show to another level.

7

Abraham

Abraham from Switzerland is a band whose name I have definitely taken notice of before but it is only with the release of their recently released post-apocalyptic double album "Look, Here Comes the Dark!" that I have begun listening to them. They have a more post-hardcore influenced sound than the previous bands, and their shirts referencing Part Chimp and not least Converge make a lot of sense for their musical style. Their progressive music is definitely the stuff that captures my interest the most tonight and just like Nordsind at first, they act out their music with their whole bodies as if the room had been way more full than is the case. Their sound comes across as thicker and heavier than other bands tonight simply because they are more members and utilize more background-heavy instruments with their line-up consisting of a Moog and a keyboard as well as two guitars, bass, and drums. Their Moog player also takes care of most growling or singing although their drummer also provides some very Dustin Kensrue-like vocals that fall somewhere between singing and yelling and really give texture to some of their songs. The groovy and somewhat chaotic "Wonderful World" from their new album makes an early appearance and their vocalist is quick to begin pacing the stage amongst headbanging guitarists and is constantly getting his microphone chord stuck in various other equipment on the stage from his seemingly wanting to go everywhere else than his designated spot.

The more lowkey snare beat of "Sanctuaire" also makes an impression later on and really showcases the breadth of their expression as it develops into a mathy riff section along with both vocalists overlapping in dynamic ways. A little further in the set, a song beginning with wave-like effects recalls the coldness and immense finality of one of the ending tracks of the new record and really, the apocalyptic vision of the piece shines through in their material here tonight. As the show goes on, it also becomes slightly more weird, as their vocalist begins to roam the venue as if in a sort of trance, singing lines while putting his arms around various crowd members, sitting calmly down on the side speakers, and pulling gently at his bassist's hair like a kind of curious primate. Finally, he throws himself on his knees in front of the stage and begins to stretch out his arms and bow in worship, amusingly soon joined by a couple of crowd members as well. As the final notes ring out, he crouches on the floor in a fetal position before their bassist comes down and begins doing somersaults into and over him. In the end, their musical performance is definitely impressive and has only given me an excellent excuse to go home and listen to their new album on repeat but on the other hand, as for the whole evening, it's really hard to swing a metal show up to any higher level when there aren't more audience members present than is the case here. One can certainly always hope that Abraham will be a part of some upcoming tour in these parts again soon, as I'm sure they would put on an even better show under better conditions.

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