Skeletonwitch

support Mantar + Deathrite
author AP date 14/11/18 venue Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN

Pumpehuset beckons me for the third time in five days tonight, with the second last in a string of must-see concerts the Copenhagen venue is hosting in a short period of time. On the bill is a varied package of extreme metal artists, each with a brand new record out, yet it has not succeeded in drawing enough people to warrant putting the larger upstairs room to use here. There is a decent buzz in the downstairs room, but you do get that familiar midweek feeling that could turn out to be poisonous for the intensity potential of the three shows that have been lined up for the occasion.

All photos courtesy of Mathilde Maria Rønshof / Heavymetal.dk

Deathrite

In charge of opening the proceedings is Deathrite — a crusty, nasty death metal force out of Dresden in Germany, whose opening track instantly reminds me of the late Vallenfyre, as well as the usual suspects from the old guard of Stockholm, Sweden’s death metal scene. The band would benefit from playing to a more incensed audience, though vocalist Tony Heinrich does not seem too discouraged. He attacks his microphone like an officer leading his men to war, often treating its stand like a banner pole or lance, and generally comes across as an imposing character, towering over the frontmost crowd as raspy growls erupt from the pit of his stomach. They do so onto a musical foundation which leans heavily into grindcore and hardcore punk, the guitars churning and crackling, the drums conforming either to a d-beat or blastbeats, depending on the song in question. There is not much by way of variety in the set, except for the odd burst of harmonised melody or groovy, metallic hardcore-style riffage, but one has to admire the potency of the quintet’s energy on stage, not to mention the way they harness eerie hues of light to ramp up the visual aesthetic of the show. It has a basement-like intensity about it that yearns for moshing — at least until the majestic closing piece, “Temptation Calls” off this year’s “Nightmares Reign” LP, which presents an entirely different facet of Deathrite than what we have witnessed thus far. Long, darkly melodic, and at times even doomy, the grandiosity of the song catches me completely off guard and then paints an approving smile on my face when the two guitarists, Andy Heinrich & Tom Michalis, rip through a pair of classic heavy metal solos near the end. It is without a doubt the most interesting song aired by Deathrite tonight, and as such it baffles me that the band is not keener to embrace this side of their music during the 35 minutes of their performance. Certainly, this would have given the show more texture and kept me on my toes.

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Mantar

Not a lot has changed in the performance style of this Berlin-based duo since they visited us as the main support for Kadavar at this same venue last year. The two musicians — Hanno Klänhardt on guitar and vocals, and Erinc Sakarya on drums — did put out a new record (“The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze”) of sludgy extremity a few months ago, so there is fresh material to be aired, but as far as their antics on stage go, this is vintage Mantar. Klänhardt still does not take himself too seriously, wearing a lunatic grin as he bends and twists his lanky body, spits out his tongue and squats in that distinctly crablike, Abbath-esque manner, whilst inciting his audience to “f**king destroy something!”. He looks and acts like the psychopath in some second-rate splatter movie, surging toward us with bulging eyes and touting his instrument with menace whenever his growls are not needed, forcing Sakarya to keep his eyes peeled for the next move. Indeed, one of the things that makes Mantar such a pleasure to watch live is the feeling of unpredictability that perpetuates their shows; it removes the focus from their music, which tends to be quite uniform in its style, and instead invites the audience to revel in the sheer intensity of the duo’s performance. But while their show certainly is unpredictable, the synergy that Klänhardt & Sakarya share never seems to be at risk, their facing and feeding off of one another ensuring that the likes of “Era Borealis” (off 2016’s “Ode to the Flame”) sounds almost tighter than they do on record. Once again, Mantar thus disprove the suggestion that a duos are somehow inferior to full bands in the live setting, dispensing more energy between the two of them than most of their better numbered colleagues. Although pits still remain unstarted, Mantar’s full-frontal approach at least manages to rustle some more life into this zombielike, Wednesday audience, as well as cementing the band’s reputation as having probably the best intensity-to-member-count ratio in extreme metal right now.

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Skeletonwitch

Current vocalist Adam Clemans may have shunned the savaging spikes that used to adorn the arms of his predecessor (Chance Garnette), but as his performance with Skeletonwitch tonight goes to show, the vocalist has lost none of his character. The late start means that people are already trickling out of the venue by the time these Athens, OH-born thrashers reach the third song of their setlist (the title track to their 2013 album, “Serpents Unleashed”), but Clemans seems totally unperturbed. When he is not leaning over the stage edge to offer the front rows close encounters of the growled kind, he often drops to his knees in demonic worship, shoots from side to side and flails his arms as though his soul had been commandeered by Satan himself. His colleagues are more reserved in their demeanour, although it is obvious that a couple of hours spent indulging in the craft beer selection at the WarPigs brewpub earlier in the day has worked wonders on their rowdiness as well, resulting in an intense and engaging performance all around. The band’s energy is the perfect companion to riffs that cascade down Nate Garnette & Scott Hedrick’s guitars so fast in the likes of “Upon Wings of Black” and “Beyond the Permafrost” (both taken from Skeletonwitch’s sophomore album from 2007), that even a roadrunner might have trouble chasing the notes down, and it ensures that the concert retains its ferocious nature even in the face of the withering audience.

I have to admit, however, that although the high saturation of wicked melodies in Skeletonwitch’s is exactly my cup of tea, the construction of the setlist for tonight leaves something to be desired. Many of the cuts stem from the Athenians’ latest album, “Devouring Radiant Light”, which, in my opinion, suffers from a lack of differentiation between one song and the next, and compared to some of the other shows I have seen this band deliver in the past, the sheer volume of eerie staccato riffs being unleashed here does get pretty monotonous after some time. The quintet’s performance is only slightly marred by this fact, however, with the cool, dim lighting scheme and the take-no-prisoners attitude of Clemans and his cohorts still ensuring that the onslaught at least remains visually enticing throughout. It is a solid barrage of blackened thrash metal we are treated to tonight then, but when even the furious “I Am of Death (Hell Has Arrived)” fails to kick up much of ruckus on the crowd-side, you are admittedly left with a flat feeling — like the concert never reached its full potential despite Skeletonwitch’s best efforts.

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