Stella Blackrose

support Bullet Train Blast + The New Heartaches + Oliver Weers
author TL date 03/04/10 venue Råhuset, Copenhagen, DEN

Two nights later than the night the previous article described, Rockfreaks.net's reporters find themselves back in Råhuset (minus photographer, hence the sub par photos), attending Target Label Nights. Having been forced to miss the 'indie' instalment of the event due to a good friend's birthday, we are back with a vengeance to witness and assess the four bands from Target Records, the subdivision of the company that's dedicated to more straight forward rock'n'roll, as opposed to the indie- and metal-focused ones that provided the entertainment on the previous night. Being the highly professional organization that we are, PP is of course already battling to keep a straight face when we arrive at the venue, and with more free beers and shots in store for us, it never really comes as a surprise to me that I end up having to own up , being the mature one, shouldering the obligation of reviewing. So with no further ado, let's get to it, shall we?

Bullet Train Blast

Opening things up are Bullet Train Blast, a hard rocking five piece from Aarhus, intent on conquering the early crowd with fast paced, no-nonsense rockin' and rollin'. Soundwise, the boys position themselves very solidly between Guns 'N Roses and Aerosmith, especially courtesy of the high and strained delivery of singer Larsen, yet they put their own twist on things by keeping things consistently more up-tempo than the groove-oriented swagger you'd expect from the two inspirations I claim to detect. In terms of performance, there's little to complain about, as the band appears as un-phased by the early spot as can be, squeezing out their tunes like they don't do anything else all day, yet still, they are the first to also manifest a rather unfortunate trend that will persist in all bands throughout - Filling out the blanks in a verse-chorus-verse-chorus-solo-chorus formula that never ventures outside the good old 4/4 time signature, BTB are the first band to bring a convincing attitude, yet leave you stranded short of amazement, courtesy of a lacking ability to do much else than present the same kind of rock tune six times over.

The New Heartaches

The New Heartaches then, being the only band on the bill of which I have no prior knowledge, prove to be both and an improvement and the contrary. On the upside, they are the band on the bill presenting the most original and interesting sonic expression, with a curious mixture of elements from both punk-rock and rock'n'roll that's topped off with nasal and strained dual vocal harmonies, that has the term 'emo' luring cautiously in the back of your mind. Sporting a somewhat more conscious visual performance, TNH raise my level of attention for a few songs, until it unfortunately becomes apparent, that not only is frontman Dennis Samara struggling slightly with the highest notes of his singing, the band is also going to follow up on BTB's set, by delivering another batch of songs which you can predict the sound of before each is halfway done. Already now, I'm beginning to think that a simple switch to 3/4 or a song based on progression rather than chorus-structure really wouldn't hurt, but as it turns out, TNH aren't ones to read my mind on the matter. Ah well, one step forward, one step back.

Oliver Weers

Next up is Oliver Weers and his supporting band. To those not familiar, I can introduce Weers as a pseudo-famous x-factor reject from the first Danish season of the show, in which his particular style singing - being very classic heavy metal - was deemed unfit for the show, but his talent didn't go unnoticed in rock circles, and soon the man was involved with several seasoned musicians in the making of his début album. As the man and his hired helpers take stage and sound off, the memory of that album comes back to me in an instant, which I guess means it wasn't totally forgettable, and it doesn't take long to notice that this ensemble has a noticeable edge of experience over the two previous acts. Technically speaking, both vocals and instruments sound confident from the speakers, like well oiled machinery, delivering Weers' 80's worshipping hardrock with a seamless ease. Unfortunately though, outside of the sole new track the band airs to honour their new guitarist (didn't catch his name I'm afraid) - which sounds mildly interesting - The performance has exactly the same feel as the man's album. Weers and his voice is in front, and all thoughts of originality, ambition and band-equality is hidden in the back, behind his living of 80's rock'n'roll dreams. It's really well played, even catchy too, but it still challenges the very boundaries of the term "irrelevant".

Stella Blackrose

Closing off Target Label Nights then, is the reason for my being here, Stella Blackrose. I'll leave it no secret that leading woman Rebecca Armstrong and I went to grade school together, and as I search my memory, I think tonight is actually the first time I've seen her since then. At present moment, Stella are already starting to stir hype up around their upcoming début "Kiss The Dirt" (review soon!), earning festival spots state-side and in other manners separating themselves from your average selection of local bands. In one way, you get an idea why, because while Stella are essentially just as bound by the same old same old 4/4's and verse/chorus song type, they catch your senses easier than any of the other bands for two rather obvious reasons. First, their sound is just a slightly more detailed and fine tuned one, with little extras added in and around the obligatory parts, most of which are easy to pick out, even to the average Joe, and that's the kind of thing that makes them appear more impressive to this writer. Secondly, Ms. Armstrong's pipes have not gathered attention without justification, and with a female rock'n'roll vocal as sharp as hers, eyebrows will inevitably be raised, and combined, Stella's sound provides catchy choruses for the audience to easily get into. Still though, after an entire evening in 4/4, you really really have to be a traditionalist for there to be any chance that this is going to be a sonic epiphany of any kind to you, and considering that we're watching a showcase with barely room for fifty people, it's not like there's a riot occurring to awaken your senses. In Stella Blackrose, there seem to be just a slight bit more drive and strength of character than in the supporting bands, but in all honesty, all four bands sound like they need to start taking some chances, lest they remain in the land of "solid", never to stroll in the gardens of "brilliant".

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