Norma Jean

support The Chariot + Dead And Divine + Admirals Arms
author AP date 20/03/12 venue Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN

Few tours have been preceded with as much anticipation as this one, dubbed "The Evil Tiger Vulture European Tour", and featuring a treasure chest of musical maestros for fans of metalcore and hardcore of the finest caliber. As such it is hardly surprising that the black room of Pumpehuset is filled almost to the brim shortly after the doors open - a wonderful reaffirmation that the scene is still very much alive in Denmark despite the popular inclination towards metal of the more extreme kind. So, after beers have been bought and greetings exchanged with countless friends and acquaintances, it is time to do what we do best: review the shows from a fan's point of view.

Admiral's Arms

In charge of opening the evening's proceedings are the Parisian Admiral's Arms, of whom good things have been said but who nonetheless are a band that I have no previous experience with. Theirs is a brand of melodic hardcore not too distant from Norma Jean, characterized by a dynamicity that works to their benefit here tonight. Alternating between high and medium tempo, Admiral's Arms successfully incorporate a wide variety of influences into their musical palette, from flat out hardcore punk to reverberating post-hardcore to grandiose post-rock. The show itself is standard fare hardcore, with vocalist Hendrick Gorecki quickly establishing himself as the focal point while the rest of the band settle for delivering their parts in the background, albeit with sufficient energy so as to not be regarded as mere stage props. Gorecki is inclined to involve the already sizable crowd in his band's performance, showing no relent in his addressing of it, commanding it forward, and tugging at its hats and collars during his frequent ventures into its midst. To me, this has always been an admirable feature for a vocalist, and almost certainly tonight it earns Admiral's Arms a host of new fans. Nothing groundbreaking is created, but the set that these Frenchmen muster up tonight is nonetheless an unusually powerful demonstration to be coming from an opening act.

Dead And Divine

When it comes Dead and Divine's turn to show off the goods, the evening's selection of music takes a Southern twist and becomes noticeably less complex. But where these Canucks lack the depth and dynamics of the preceding act, they make up for in ferocity. Like Gorecki before, vocalist Matt Tobin instantly asserts himself as a formidable frontman, charging into the crowd to the tune of "Asphyxia Fiend", the opening track from last year's brilliant "Antimacy". His swagger and voice (which is admittedly not measuring up to the recorded stuff tonight) make him seem the oft-forgotten little brother of one Keith Buckley: the intermittent banter is warm and sincere, but as soon as the dirty grooves kick in courtesy of axe-wielders Chris LeMasters and Sebastian Lueth, he turns into an imperious presence with a harrowing scream and a hunger for violence. Dead and Divine's songs are shorter and more immediate than those of Admiral's Arms, but they push the audience into a maddening frenzy of flailing arms and legs and bodies smashing into each other in the night's first real moshpits. And to encourage such behavior, Mr. Tobin himself is often to be found in their midst, microphone stand in hand. For those more interested in a musical adventure, Dead and Divine have little grandeur to offer, but those looking for a fix of crazed hardcore fury will not go home disappointed.

The Chariot

Jesus. Bringing this band along as main support is always a perilous choice given their reputation as one of the most savage live bands in the world, but once again I must admit a certain level of surprise at just how unbelievable the Chariot is in concert. Some might say that once you've seen the band live the one time, there is little new to be found in consecutive shows, but such presumptions are rubbish. There is no simple way to describe the mayhem that engulfs the venue for 45 minutes, because at any given moment at least one of the band members - typically the jester bassist Jon Kindler, also known as KC Wolf, or guitarist Stephen Harrison - is not even on stage. Indeed, in the time it takes these mad geniuses to bring down their first two anti-songs, "Evan Perks" and "Teach:", KC Wolf has already managed to force the bartenders into a corner by throwing his body around in violent spasms and flailing his instrument around on the bar counter, Harrison has disappeared into the audience, and an unsuspecting crowd surfer has been thrown into a table full of beers, knocking it over, in glorious verification of the band's notoriety.

If their last Copenhagen show was somewhat lackluster by their usual standards due to the low ceiling at Loppen and a dwindling crowd, tonight they are the Chariot we see in videos setting fire to amplifiers, throwing their instruments around without any regard for safety, surfing the crowd, playing at the merchandise stand, bar and in the moshpit, deconstructing their own songs into live interpretations, and collapsing on stage from sheer exhaustion only to repeat the same insanity song after song. Small wonder the first-timers are trying to capture it all on film with their mobile phones. Of course from a musical perspective the performance is not exactly aesthetically pleasing unless you have familiarized yourself with the band's music and ethic, but it makes little difference given the Chariot's philosophy of show comes first - I don't even pay attention to what songs the band actually plays. But it most definitely is a show; in fact, it is an experience unlike anything other bands can offer, as even the manic confrontationalism of the Dillinger Escape Plan pales in comparison to this. The Chariot well and truly set the bar for Norma Jean, up next.

Video by SEJERSENkbh

Norma Jean

Indeed, it seems unlikely that a band like Norma Jean, with their multifaceted songs and taste for odd time signatures, can surpass the brilliance we have just borne witness to. But much to my surprise, they come within millimeters of doing just that with what is arguably one of the finest performances that any metalcore or hardcore band has been able to muster up in this country in a long time. Norma Jean are a very different beast than the Chariot. Their weapons are a fantastic sound mix to bring out the intricacies in their music, one of the most compelling front-figures in the genre in Cory Brandan Putman, and a passion and knack unlike anything I have seen before. Norma Jean's brilliance manifests itself through all these things, as well as a hypnotizing performance full of energy. It is not as unforgiving as that of the Chariot, but it is slick and effortless, and bears the mark of a band with more than a decade of experience in enamoring audiences across the world.

Norma Jean enamor with ingenious songwriting, such as in the opening duo "Leaderless and Self-Enlisted" and "A Grand Scene for a Color Film"; with mathematic fury, as brought to us by "Face:Face"; and with clever medleys that - to the untrained ear - go unnoticed. "The End of All Things Will Be Televised" suddenly crashes into the breakdown from "Songs Sound Much Sadder", while "Bayonetwork: Vultures in Vivid Color" ebbs and flows between its own structure and parts from "Creating Something Out of Nothing, Only to Destroy It" without any obstruction to their flow, and it feels like a gift to the most devout fans of the bands that have stuck along since the early days and the debut album "Bless the Martyr and Kiss the Child". The incorporation of cameos by Matt Tobin and Josh Scogin in "The Anthem of Angry Brides" and "Memphis Will Be Laid To Waste", respectively, is also done with a finesse that makes me absolutely fall in love once again with this fantastic band.

The Chariot may have spat destruction at us and earned a horde of new fans in doing so, but for most people, Norma Jean is still the main attraction, and a rare one at that considering just how infrequently the band has visited our country. As a result, the response from the audience is as magnificent as the performance that unfolds before our eyes, and the two elements and the fantastic sets by all three support bands combine to create one of the most memorable concerts in Denmark in a long time. What a show!

9

Setlist:

  • 01. Leaderless and Self-Enlisted
  • 02. A Grand Scene for a Color Film
  • 03. Face:Face
  • 04. Robots: 3, Humans: 0
  • 05. Dilemmachine: Coalition, Hoax
  • 06. Bastardizer
  • 07. The End of All Things Will be Televised
  • 08. Bayonetwork: Vultures in Vivid Color
  • 09. A Small Spark vs. A Great Forest
  • 10. The Anthem of the Angry Brides
  • 11. Memphis Will Be Laid to Waste

Photos courtesy of Jill Weitmann Decome

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