Thou

support Moloch + Hexis + The Arson Project
author AP date 24/07/19 venue Basement, Copenhagen, DEN

As the summer heat settles over Denmark at last, I am discovering a new venue in Copenhagen for the second time in a short period of time. An increasing amount of shows are being booked for Basement right next to the iconic VEGA, and after I have descended the metal stairs leading to its barren confines, I can certainly see what has inspired the name of this place. The decor consists exclusively of metal and concrete, while the bar and stage look like a hastily assembled afterthought; the perfect setting for the variety of hard-hitting bands set to perform tonight — not least the Baton Rouge, LA-based sludge metallers of Thou. Having inspected the venue thus, I grab myself a Høker Bajer draft beer (a déjà vu from the concert I went to at Ungdomshuset in the week before) and take up a position on the footbridge that cuts through the room and offers a good vantage point over a crowd at maximum capacity.

All photos courtesy of Jacob Dinesen / Devilution

The Arson Project

The first item on the agenda is to rattle everyone awake, a task for which Malmö, Sweden’s Arson Project is the perfect candidate. The trio’s feet are firmly rooted in grindcore and powerviolence but after the initial discharges of cacophony have passed, they begin to unveil a more varied set of influences as well. There are bits of death metal groove audible in the older piece “Forsaken” (taken from 2008’s “Blood and Locusts” LP), while touches of sludge metal also manifest themselves in the song that precedes “God of War” toward the end of the set to ensure that the band’s set is not rendered pure noise. But even so, it is hard to argue with the fact that The Arson Project’s music tends to be pretty monotonous, offering too few ah-ha! moments like the two mentioned just before to leave a lasting impression on me. What does inspire awe in me, however, is the tirelessly intense showmanship of vocalist Niklas Larson in particular, who never ceases to hammer his fists into the ground, pump them in the air, gesticulate wildly and stride across the stage as his two compatriots — guitarist Elis Edin Markskog & drummer Oscar Lindberg — deliver their parts with precision. It surprises me that while Lindberg understandably seems to be out of breath after every song, no one in the audience is reciprocating the band’s energy, creating an awkward divide between the two. It is a decent effort by The Arson Project then, but far from their finest hour I’m sure.

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Hexis

There is now letup in the intensity as one of Denmark’s trustiest live bands, Hexis, unleash their noisy, blackened hardcore at us in pitch darkness, with only the flicker of their signature strobe machine providing illumination. In spite of having seen this five-piece live countless times by now, this light effect is yet to grow tiresome, as it brings uniqueness to their performance by almost burning still images of the band onto your corneas and giving rise to an air of unpredictability even if you are already familiar with Hexis’ musical output. In the midst of the flicker, vocalist Filip Andersen flails himself around like a man possessed, flanked by two guitarists and a bassist, who are not sparing any energy either. While Andersen is busy grabbing somebody by the neck and screaming his verses into that person’s face, the three take turns in arching their backs and brandishing their instruments as walls of noise are let roll over us like the waves of an unstoppable tide. True to tradition, Andersen announces the onset of the band’s final song just 15 minutes into the show, and for the next seven minutes or so, the mayhem slowly grinds to a halt with what must be one of the longest, if not the longest song in Hexis’ repertoire. Most of the band has dived into the pit to play this droning track amongst the audience in yet another showcase of their DIY ethic and strong relationship with their home fans. Even if the 22-minute set has not been extraordinary by Hexis’ own standard, it is still well beyond what most other bands in Denmark can muster up on stage.

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Moloch

Out of the at least 13 bands named Moloch that exist, the one on today’s bill is the British incarnation and the only one to practice doom metal. But alas, just like their moniker, the quartet’s music has trouble standing out as a beacon of the genre. It strikes me as the doom equivalent of so-called three-chord punk, offering virtually no shift in terms of rhythm, riffs or melody within or even between the songs. What does make an impression of sorts, however, is the sheer extremity of it; the music is at times so heavy and dense that it raises the hair and rattles the bones, reminding me of the domestic act Bethmoora, whom I have also always had problems ‘getting’. Such eviscerating music requires some extra effort before it is able to open itself to me — like expressive showmanship or some visuals — but the band also seems to summarily reject anything that might be considered a frill. Glued to their positions, the four musicians seem to be trying to be uninviting, with vocalist Chris Braddock even making a point out of standing with his side to the audience as he sways into and out of his microphone and issues his low, uniform growls. I seldom use the word boring to describe a concert experience, but there is just no way around my concluding that Moloch must be one of the least interesting representatives of this genre that I have endured in some time. But hey, that’s just, like, my opinion, man — and it could be these Britons are simply having an off-day.

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Thou

The hour is late as the headliners launch their performance at 11:20pm (10 minutes ahead of schedule) to an almost full house still, with “Immorality Dictates” off their 2014 album “Heathen” leading the charge. As ever, vocalist Bryan Funck presents himself as a curious personality, standing eerily still and glaring at us intensely from beneath his cap as he slouches over his microphone like a zombie. In between the songs, he offers amusing banter that reminds me of Eyehategod’s Mike IX Williams and even uses Snapchat to communicate with his sister, who apparently has never seen Thou live in spite of the band’s 14 years of existence. In general, the six musicians look to be having an awesome time, with plenty of rocking out and grins to go around — which of course stands in stark contrast with the anguished and often vitriolic tone of Thou’s take on doom and sludge metal. The energy and visible fun the sextet is having performing to us eventually infects a segment of the crowd as well, with Hexis vocalist Filip Andersen taking matters into his own hands and stage-diving to incite a moshpit during one of the songs.

Where Moloch only succeeded in testing my patience with their endless iterations, Thou have no problems piquing my interest with a delightfully varied setlist in which the slow and heavy riffs that are the ultimate staple of the genre are balanced with epic, bittersweet melodies that even verge on post-metal in spots. But just as the concert seems to be preparing to begin its ascent toward a climax, it is brought to a very sudden ending around midnight, leaving many an attendee scratching at their head and attempting to convince Funck & his colleagues to deliver an encore to no avail. But even though the performance thus feels a little stunted, these 40 minutes have nonetheless presented Thou in excellent form and proven that whether it is in front of thousands of people on Roadburn Festival’s main stage or in a tiny desolate basement such as this one, this band has a way of putting a spell on people.

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