Amorphis

support Soilwork + Jinjer + Nailed To Obscurity
author AP date 14/01/19 venue Amager Bio, Copenhagen, DEN

Amager Bio was missing from the gig circuit during most of 2018, as the venue was (and still is) undergoing extensive renovation. But for fear of missing out on lucrative packages such as the bands lined up tonight, it opened its doors again late last year, inviting audiences into confines that immediately feel more spacious than they did before, even if the foyer, upstairs section and toilets are not available for use just yet. The half-finished state of the place has not discouraged Copenhagen’s metalheads from turning up in force, however, and the four artists on the bill thus have a venue at maximum capacity to look forward to playing to on this cold and glum Monday evening.

All photos courtesy of Lykke Nielsen

Nailed To Obscurity

Having delivered a positive surprise with their latest album, “Black Frost”, this quintet from Lower Saxony was actually the band I had the highest expectations for on tonight’s bill. But at the same time, I had this nagging feeling that the group’s style of music — a classic take on progressive death and doom metal — might not lend itself that well to the live setting, unless vocalist Raimund Ennenga had the size of personality to fill an entire venue on his own. Alas, it turns out that while his presence reflects the music quite accurately, his movements ever so slight and the aura around him mysterious, his abilities as a frontman do not extend beyond the ordinary, and since both the guitarists (Jan-Ole Lamberti & Volker Dieken) and the bassist (Carsten Schorn) direct most of their focus into tight and true renditions of tracks like “The Aberrant Host” and “Tears of the Eyeless”, there is not much of a visual aspect to Nailed to Obscurity’s performance tonight. And even if there was, it would be difficult to surmise that, given the positioning of the two flood/strobe light stands on stage; whenever they’re turned on, the light is angled directly into the crowd’s eye-level, very likely blinding all who refuse to close their eyes. In between these eruptions of white, the lighting is esoteric and moody in keeping with the style of the music, and if you resign yourself to appreciating this visual aesthetic instead of hoping for a semblance of showmanship from the five musicians, and divert your attention toward the songs themselves, then Nailed to Obscurity actually put together a pretty decent performance. Certainly the audience seems to be enamoured by the likes of “Desolate Ruin” (off 2017’s “King Delusion”), with its bittersweet guitar hook in the chorus, and the titular “Black Frost”, which is sure to appeal to the Opeth fans in amongst us tonight. Still, I would love to see a headlining concert with this band before making up my mind about the degree to which they are able to blow the roof off a venue.

6

Jinjer

It is easy to understand why so many people are in thrall of Jinjer, yet on the basis of this concert at least, the Ukrainian five-piece does nothing for me. Granted, the set is harangued by a terrible sound mix in which the rumble of Eugene Abdiukhanov’s bass guitar and the thunder of Vladislav Ulasevich’s drumming are the only instruments audible. But by pressing my earplugs further in, it is possible to also discern the parts of guitarist Roman Ibramkhalilov somewhere deep within the core of songs like “Ape” (off the group’s newly released EP, “Micro”), and doing so does little to improve my overall impression of Jinjer as an extremely generic and at times schizoid band resting its claim for fame on the abilities of vocalist Tatiana Shmailyuk alone. Although her physical frame would suggest otherwise, she is an absolute beast of a frontwoman, giving Angela Gossow a run for her money both with the ferocity of her growling, and the tireless energy and imposing character of her showmanship.

But unfortunately, the philosophy underlying Jinjer’s music seems to be to sound as brutal and heavy as possible at any cost, resulting in songs that unsuccessfully attempt to fuse classic extreme metal with modern djent-style metalcore. I will concede that some of the tracks aired, such as “Who Is Gonna Be the One” (taken from 2014’s “Cloud Factory”), have a pretty infectious groove about them, and with Shmailyuk’s constant incitement of her audience they do provide enough fodder to keep a small moshpit going throughout most of the show. I will even concede to liking the one instance of melodic material (“Pisces” off 2016’s “King of Everything”) jotting out of the setlist — though only because it provides some respite from the brutalism otherwise dominating the set. But due to the uniform nature of Jinjer’s songs, these 45 minutes of savagery quickly grow tiresome even in spite of Shmailyuk’s charisma. If you ask me, her talent is wasted in dishing out this dime-a-dozen metalcore of the Butcher Babies school. But if you ask a sizeable portion of tonight’s audience, who seem to be having quite the party in the front and centre of the floor, their impression is likely to be very different to my own.

5

Soilwork

On this fourth time I am watching Soilwork, It is beginning to dawn on me that they simply aren’t a very good live band. This is supposedly a co-headlining tour, yet nothing about their performance tonight suggests they are one of the main acts. Although vocalist Björn ‘Speed’ Strid does a good job at ensuring there is a violent moshpit in action from the moment “Arrival” (off the band’s newly released album, “Verkligheten”) kicks things off to the classic “Stabbing the Drama” bringing them to a conclusion, he is a shadow of his cool and present self in the Night Flight Orchestra. When the colourful suit and aviator shades come off, it seems, Strid becomes a pretty ordinary frontman, content to remain fixed in one position for 75 minutes and inviting none of the fascination he does as his alter ego. It is fortunate that the band also includes guitarist Sylvain Coudret then, as without his rockstar personality, Soilwork would be contesting to be one of the least interesting live acts in melodic death metal. Coudret pours his heart and soul into every lead, every riff and every solo, making full use of his repertoire of face expressions and bodily movements to underline his passion for this trade, and thus stealing the spotlight during virtually every passing song. The likes of “Death in General” and “The Phantom” (both taken from 2015’s excellent “The Ride Majestic”) thankfully inject a bit more life into the other musicians as well, with especially Sven Karlsson on the keys and Sven Karlsson on bass guitar finding a nice symbiosis on the rear left of the stage.

Another thing responsible for deflating the experience is the sound mix, which, for some reason, is lacking power. “Bastard Chain” (off 2001’s “A Predator’s Portrait”) and “Stålfågel” (another piece from “Verkligheten”) are the only two songs out of the 16 aired here that hit as hard as they should, while the rest of the material sounds oddly shallow. It leaves a flat impression on me, as though all of the intensity of Soilwork’s music on record had been extracted for reasons beyond my comprehension, and looking around me, I am not alone in harbouring this sentiment. The pit is kept active by a small fragment of diehard fans, but the rest of us are left wondering how Soilwork could have transformed into such a weak force over the years. It is ironic that poppier new material à la “The Nurturing Glance” and the aforementioned “Stålfågel” elicit the strongest reaction from the audience, while older and heavier cuts like “As We Speak” (off the band’s 2002 album, “Natural Born Chaos”) are hardly even noticed as they pass by — perhaps it would have served Soilwork better to focus on the post-naughties portion of their discography tonight? Regardless, fans both old and more recent are no doubt left perplexed by the total absence of punch from Soilwork’s efforts tonight.

6

Setlist:

  • 01. Arrival
  • 02. The Crestfallen
  • 03. Nerve
  • 04. Full Moon Shoals
  • 05. Death in General
  • 06. Like the Average Stalker
  • 07. The Akuma Afterglow
  • 08. Drowning with Silence
  • 09. The Phantom
  • 10. The Nurturing Glance
  • 11. Bastard Chain
  • 12. As We Speak
  • 13. The Living Infinite II
  • 14. Stålfågel
  • 15. Witan
  • 16. Stabbing the Drama


Amorphis

It seems like the oomph that was missing from Soilwork’s set just before has been commandeered by Amorphis. The opening track, “The Bee” (off last year’s “Queen of Time”), hits us hard, imposing itself upon us with the subtlety of a wrecking ball. The volume is high enough to drown out whatever chatter there might have been before the arrival of the Finns on stage, but above all it is the sheer weight of the mix that leaves me humbled. Nothing drowns in it, yet the low end (including the deep growls of vocalist Tomi Joutsen) enjoys a prominent role in the overall balance, enabling songs like the standout “Message in the Amber” to sound absolutely monolithic without sacrificing the melodiousness for which Amorphis is revered. You feel the music churning in the pit of your stomach, you feel it vibrating on your skin — and that power subjugates the audience to an extent that Joutsen has to do very little before he has everyone in the palm of his hand. When he raises his horns just before the finale of that first song, he knows he has the crowd onboard for any amount of clapping, headbanging or singing along that he should desire — and he receives the proof during an evocative rendition of “Sky Is Mine” (taken from 2009’s “Skyforger”), one of many highlights dotting the band’s 80-minute performance here. Joutsen is everything Strid was not: expressive, intimate and present.

It also helps Amorphis’ cause that all of the six musicians are willing to do their part in delivering an engaging performance. When Joutsen retreats to the back, turning his side to the audience for the melancholy “Wrong Direction”, the rest of the band readily takes over, playing the instrumental parts with nerve and actually looking like they still have something to prove to us. This is the first time Amorphis has managed to sell out a concert in Denmark, and the elation this must have caused amongst the six musicians seems to be the thing that lifts the show onto another level tonight. Indeed, while the Helsinki-based outfit has always struck me as a solid live act, they have never looked or sounded better than during the sublime renditions of “Silver Bride” and “Daughter of Hate” to which we are treated here. Amorphis are thriving as the ‘real’ headliners tonight, making full use of their allocated time to present a wide variety of tracks, albeit mostly from the post-‘90s portion of their discography. While “Black Winter Day” (off 1994’s “Tales from a Thousand Lakes”) is the only instance of Amorphis’ earlier, folksier style, there are still plenty of gems to be treasured tonight, with especially the darker and proggier side of the band heard in “Daughter of Hate” and “Hopeless Days” standing up as clear highlights. Naturally, there are a number of songs included that elicit less of a reaction from yours truly, but overall, given the passion with which every one of these tracks is delivered tonight, I leave the concert with an excellent taste in my mouth, already looking forward to the next time I’ll have the chance to watch this group live.

8

Setlist:

  • 01. The Bee
  • 02. The Golden Elk
  • 03. Sky Is Mine
  • 04. Sacrifice
  • 05. Message in the Amber
  • 06. Silver Bride
  • 07. Bad Blood
  • 08. Wrong Direction
  • 09. Daughter of Hate
  • 10. Heart of the Giant
  • 11. Hopeless Days
  • 12. Black Winter Day

— Encore —

  • 13. Death of a King
  • 14. House of Sleep

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