Dirt Forge

support Terminalist + Dying Hydra
author AP date 23/09/21 venue Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN

Life is finally starting to feel almost normal in Denmark again. Concerts are happening every week at full capacity, people are no longer afraid of indoor spaces or bodily contact, and the festivities do not need to end at 10pm anymore. All of this provides the perfect conditions for a metal concert (my first since mid-February in 2020!), one bringing together three exciting artists from the Danish underground within the pitch black walls of Pumpehuset’s smaller downstairs room. The turnout is decent, if not breathtaking, with a plethora of familiar faces greeting me when I arrive some 20 minutes before the kick-off. It is good to see people out and about again, good to order that first cold beer, and good to assume the distantly familiar reviewer stance (phone in one hand, notes app open, beer in the other) once more in order to assess the form of Denmark’s domestic metal scene. Without further ado, let’s get to it…

All photos courtesy of Peter Troest

Dying Hydra

Apart from the knowledge that the band’s line-up consists of three former members of the defunct sludge metal crew Barricade, my familiarity with tonight’s opening act Dying Hydra is limited. However, halfway into the first track on their setlist, I have developed an urge to dive into their eponymous 2018 EP (their only release thus far) straight after the show, as their early Mastodon vibes are tickling me in all the right spots. Although the group lacks a bassist, there is no shortage of low-end rumble in their darkly atmospheric sludge metal creations, with Tejs Kyhl’s drums enjoying a prominent presence in the mix and, from what I can tell, at least one of the frontmen, Lars Pontoppidan and Patrick Fragtrup, seemingly wielding a baritone guitar. Their interchanging growls — one deep and guttural, and the other more acerbic — also do their part in conjuring a soundscape that is as heavy as it is ridden with contemplative, and at times psychedelic melodies that evokes comparisons to artists like Abrahma, Dvne and Ufomammut as well. It is the sort of music one involuntarily becomes lost in, lulled into a trance by the litany of droning passages in tracks like the brand new single “Species Adrift”, and forced into submission by the sheer, deafening volume of the séance.

Dying Hydra’s stage antics are as one would expect given their style: not exactly wild, but nonetheless captivating, with Fragtrup and Pontoppidan attacking their microphone stands when it is their turn to deliver vocals, striking their six strings with vigour, and lacing it all with bouts of impassioned headbanging in between. They are at their most animated during the songs that pick up the pace and deliver straight-up sludge metal onslaughts in the vein of older High on Fire, and again more subdued during the slower, moodier pieces that, in honesty, are much more to my liking. All in all, this is an arresting performance that introduces me to a band who might have escaped my radar otherwise and provides an excellent start to my first standing metal concert since the novel coronavirus shut societies down back in March 2020. There is much more to come from Dying Hydra (their début full length “Of Lowly Origin” is imminent) and if their abilities on stage are anything to judge by, it will send some ripples running through the Danish metal scene in the near future. Until then, be sure to catch the trio live at the earliest opportunity.

7

Terminalist

Up next is a band I have anxiously been waiting to check out for some time now, not least because their début album “The Great Acceleration” is very likely to end up accoladed as the best Danish metal release of the year. The self-proclaimed hyperthrash unit wastes no time for formalities like an intro piece and launching straight into one of their ultra-technical, high-speed, progressive thrash assaults and causing most of the audience to take a step back in awe. At first, the quartet’s performance lags behind the intensity of the music, but after the first track rings out and the guitar-wielding frontman Emil Hansen has bid us a good evening, the rust and cobwebs are swiftly shaken off and replaced by an absolutely riveting show. It is one thing to be dizzied by the technical prowess possessed by the four members — it is another to realise they are perfectly able to nail their demanding, constantly evolving songs and display such energetic antics in the process. And their headbanging, windmilling and altogether fierce appearance quickly infects the audience, too, conjuring a moshpit that steadily grows with each passing track and even inspiring a couple of crowd surfing attempts from a handful of visibly excited attendees.

Indeed, those with an affinity for bands like Dark Angel, Vektor or Voivod, should be impressed by the spectacle unfolding before their eyes. The sheer amount and complexity of the sweeping arpeggios, buzzsaw shredding and thunderous blastbeats erupting from the stage is enough to make one’s head spin, and yet amidst all the mayhem, there are — much to my surprise — moments that sound almost… catchy. The trouble with technical music is often that the musicians in charge of it get stuck up their own arses, but this is not so for the four dudes that make up Terminalist; they have an appreciation for the more traditional kinds of riffs and grooves that made the Big Four so revered and thus ensure that in every song, there is always a respiting passage or two offering the chance to headbang and have a sip of one’s beverage. And also for the band members to rest their aching wrists and thighs, one would imagine. Eventually, as the concert nears it conclusion in a long and epic instrumental crescendo full of slick neoclassical touches, it seems like the entire audience numbering 150 people or so is either moshing or headbanging or both, in a clear testimony to both Terminalist’s skill of musicianship and the ferocity with which they deliver their songs in the live setting. Paralysing stuff.

8

Dirt Forge

This Copenhagen trio has always had a propensity for the tongue-in-cheek, as their choice of an intro track — Erasure’s electropop classic “A Little Respect” — proves once again. It is the perfect way to put the audience in a dancing mood, even if the hammer of a track that is “Rust & Copper”, the opener to Dirt Forge’s 2017 début album “Soothsayer”, is not exactly one to inspire any dance moves on the floor. The three musicians have spent a much longer time sound checking than the previous acts did, and the result is ear-shattering to say the least, but without compromising the balance of the mix. It is heavy and loud, exactly as one wants sludge metal to sound, and the crowd is soon overcome by the urge to train their neck muscles a little bit more. Dirt Forge have been off the live circuit for quite a while by now, and during that downtime they have not only been working on their sophomore record, but also spiced up some of their older material, which is obvious from tonight’s rendition of “Fortress Burning”. Nicolai Lomholt’s drumming especially seems to include lots of new fills and textures slotted into the original patterns of this track and indeed also the aforementioned “Rust & Copper” to render them richer and more varied than was previously the case.

One wonders if the old material has been reworked somewhat for the live setting in order to exist more harmoniously alongside the brand new songs to which we are treated next, all of which seem to herald a major stylistic evolution for Dirt Forge on the upcoming album. They are markedly moodier, more atmospheric, and even psychedelic, with plenty of long-winding passages reminiscent of the mighty Sleep and an increased deployment of clean vocals by frontman Alexander Kolby, who has mostly preferred his deep and guttural bellow until now. I am huge fan of this new direction for the band not just because it is more up my alley, but also because it sets the band free from never-ending comparisons to artists like -(16)-, Black Tusk and High on Fire and develops a firmer personal identity for them. Both of the tracks, “Left in the Lurch” and “Miscommunison”, embrace the stoner metal spirit and result in some truly gripping pieces of music that I instantly start looking forward to hearing on record. The crowd is admittedly a little more reserved when these songs are delivered (perhaps people simply need to familiarise themselves with them first?) but thankfully there is no shortage of energy or passion from the three musicians during them or any of the older songs. Lomholt is a whirlwind behind his kit, bassist Yannick Bünger Kristensen is jamming away merrily in his increasingly hippie look, and Kolby attacks his microphone with fire in his eyes whenever the music takes on an aggressive character as in “Intet tabt, intet hændt” and the concluding piece “Ratcatchers”.

With such a long break from performing live, there is some rust in the tendons of Dirt Forge still, but this is nonetheless a very satisfying return to the stage by the boys. Once more of the new material is ready and starts replacing some of those less riveting, pure sludge metal ragers on the setlist, the trio is almost certain to grow into a force of nature in the live setting as well, one capable of holding onto the entire audience even on a week night such as this. Unfortunately, a not insignificant portion of the crowd trickles out during the latter half of the concert as the clock starts to close in on midnight, and while this does not seem to affect the band to any measurable degree, the overall atmosphere inside the venue has dampened a bit by the time their set finally winds to a close.

7

Setlist:

  • 01. Rust & Copper
  • 02. Fortress Burning
  • 03. Moralterations (Intro)
  • 04. Left in the Lurch
  • 05. Miscommunison
  • 06. Soothsayer II: Die Waiting
  • 07. Soothsayer III: For Our End
  • 08. Intet tabt, intet hændt
  • 09. Ratcatchers

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