MØL

support Numenorean + Gaerea
author AP date 05/12/19 venue Stengade, Copenhagen, DEN

The year is winding toward its conclusion, yet there is no let-up in the number of shows that the Danish bookers have pulled out of their sleeves for the final quarter. Only painstaking prioritisation has kept me from spending almost every evening since the beginning of October watching bands live, and among the victors in my scheduling was this triple biller of blackgaze at Stengade, which received a major upgrade of its sound system earlier this year. Out of the three artists featuring, it was especially the Canadian unit Numenorean who enticed me into attending, with their latest LP “Adore” making a solid impression on me earlier this year, and this being their first-ever concert in Denmark. And I am not alone in harbouring the sentiment, either; the show is completely sold out and there is an excited buzz in the air when I arrive just in time for the opening act.

All photos courtesy of Peter Troest


Gaerea

Gaerea from Portugal are the only band lined up tonight of whom I have no prior knowledge, but despite their young years (the quintet was formed in 2016), they do not suffer from any beginner’s woes. The five musicians are all wearing black clothes and black hoods that cover their faces, yet unlike other artists who employ this technique in order to transform themselves into mere vessels for their music, Gaerea are actually a very present and engaging act to watch live. The vocalist, positioned behind an ornate, metallic microphone stand, is a vivid and expressive front-figure who waves his arms, gesticulates wildly, surges toward us threateningly, and is possessed by bizarre dancing when he is not growling or yelling his ashen gospel at us. And around him, his colleagues give everything they have of intensity to create a performance best described as imposing. Out of the three artists on the bill, Gaerea are without a doubt the darkest, their songs reminding me of the atmospheric, northwestern U.S. style of black metal pioneered by the likes of Wolves in the Throne Room and since adapted on this side of the pond by groups like Wiegedood and, to an extent, Misþyrming. That is to say, the Portuguese outfit’s music is evocative, grand and melodic, with occasional forays into doom, shoegaze and percussive ritualism. Indeed, Gaerea are a nice surprise. It is not always one is so positively struck by a band completely unknown to oneself, but their combination of an excellent sound mix, a commanding showmanship, and well-written songs leaves not only me but, by the looks of it, the entire audience awe-inspired when the last of many epic crescendos brings the set to a conclusion some 45 minutes later.

8


Numenorean

Numenorean are less blessed when it comes to sound. It is difficult to make head or tail in the opening track “Nocebo”, which is rendered into a punishing rumble of bass and drums that drown out the trident of guitars wielded by Byron Lemley, Roger LeBlanc & Evan Paulson, which, in this genre, is quite perilous considering how heavily reliant blackgaze is on melodies. All is not ideal in this début on Danish soil then, but at the very least, vocalist Brandon Lemley looks to be unfazed by the circumstances. His presence on stage is not unlike that of Deafheaven’s George Clarke, by whom he probably is inspired, arching back in fits of passion and always using his spare left hand for emphasis as he sends his shrill screams in songs like “Portrait of Pieces” and “Horizon” unto us. Despite the fact that neither of these tracks are shy about the influences underlying the band’s music, the infusions of scintillating post-rock and tremolo melodies in buzzing, warm tones that are just about distinguishable nonetheless showcase why the aforementioned “Adore” is such a good album, but it is not until the uplifting title track arrives that a genuine highlight is produced. Against all expectation, however, it turns out this is the final song in a set that omits more than it offers and leaves most people scratching their heads about the concert’s brevity. It was obvious from the get-go that this was not going to be Numenorean’s evening, however, and while the six musicians do what they can to deliver a compelling performance, one glance around the audience confirms that only a handful of the people here seem to be feeling it. Alas, I must therefore write Numenorean’s first appearance in our country off as a bit of a disappointment — but judging by the energy with which the band performs even in subpar conditions like these, this is obviously not the maximum of their abilities.

5


MØL

The past couple of years have established MØL as a force to reckon with not only in Denmark, but also abroad, so it is not surprising to witness the Århusian five-piece getting a heroes’ reception. Although the group is, strictly speaking, not on home ground here, everything about their concert tonight points to a classic case of home field advantage. The sound is perfectly balanced between clarity and density, and the audience reaches a boiling point already during the opener “Storm” (off 2018’s “Jord”) — which, in turn, provides the fuel MØL needs to deliver a performance that is even more spellbinding than usual. Just like the music, the antics of vocalist Kim Song Sternkopf are larger than life itself, and there are no holds barred in his domineering showmanship, which sees him burrow through the crowd on more than one occasion to join in on the moshing and drill his icy screams into our faces at point blank range. He does so again during the mesmerising “Ligament”, a godsend of a song with a cathartic character, before practically hanging from the low ceiling and hovering over the frontmost audience in the following, likewise excellent “Penumbra”. It is hard to find frontmen with as much passion as Sternkopf, and as such, it is no wonder that most eyes are firmly fixed on him and his intense face expressions, even though the rest of the band is not far behind in terms of expending energy.

Sternkopf masters the art of riling up and controlling his audience, but there are other factors that render MØL’s performance tonight special at play, too. Whether it is the meticulously orchestrated lighting in neon hues and bursts of strobe, or the tightness with which the quintet plays songs like “Atacama” (from the band’s 2015 EP “II”), everything about this show emanates professionalism, albeit not in a way that threatens to render it sterile or excessively streamlined. Indeed — while the music is delivered with virtually no difference to what one hears on MØL’s records, there is a constant sense of unpredictability about the showmanship that keeps you on your toes throughout, and time after time, Sternkopf lives up that sensation by suddenly charging into the crowd, wielding his microphone stand like the standard bearer of an army coursing toward victory. And that is exactly the direction in which MØL’s concert tonight has been heading all the time: triumph. It is thus no surprise that the floor explodes when the fan-favourite “Bruma” is penultimately aired, nor to find Sternkopf standing in the middle of it with a satisfied grin. He, too, knows that MØL have surpassed themselves here, and the applause that erupts when “Rush” eventually brings the show to a conclusion only strengthens that impression.

9

Setlist:

  • 01. Storm
  • 02. Vakuum
  • 03. Ligament
  • 04. Penumbra
  • 05. Atacama
  • 06. Jord
  • 07. Bruma
  • 08. Rush

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