Loppen, Copenhagen, DEN - 5/12
This Gift Is A CursePrevious Next
support Hexis + Manatees + Redwood Hill
author AP date 06/09/12 venue KB18, Copenhagen, DEN
Let's be honest. If you came to KB18 in high spirits, expecting to leave with a smile on your face after these four bands, your night was well and truly ruined. For four hours, KB18 transformed into the stuff of nightmares by some of the most hellish and misanthropic music in the Danish and Swedish DIY undergrounds. Then again, it could be such a thing puts a smile on someone's face, in which case I would recommend a thorough psychological evaluation. But in any case, there wasn't a shred of doubt in anyone's mind that tonight's performing artists were going to put on fantastic shows.
What is it with Redwood Hill? It seems like every show they play is unforgettable, and every show they play is better than the last. Even more so tonight, as the tireless rehearsing and gig playing is starting to bear fruit and improve what was already a meticulously designed live show. You see, watching Redwood Hill live is not just about listening to some of the most evocative music to come out of Denmark in years; it's about absorbing the music on a deeply personal level and allowing the moods and atmospheres to guide your way through the band's depressive soundscapes. Even if the band stood completely still and didn't utter so much as a word during their half hour set, it would still go down as one of immaculate prowess. So when you combine that impression with what is now a genuinely engaging live performance not unlike the chaotic orchestrations of their domestic peers in The Psyke Project, what you have is truly one of the best bands Denmark has to offer in the live setting (and, I would imagine, on record, once that thing actually comes out).
There are moments of haunting silence, during which a gentle, droning touch to the cymbal is the only sound audible in the venue, whilst the band members stare callously into the ceiling with empty eyes; and moments of explosive energy that take me back to the "Daikini" years of The Psyke Project. But never once does the band step out of the misery that so weighs down their music (in a good way of course), and I dare say that no other band in the country is able to capture the sensation quite as accurately as Redwood Hill. When they label their own music "depressive Nordic metal", it's for a reason - and it's that reason that should convince you to come down and see the band play live at your earliest convenience.
Given the musical eclipse just before, Manatees - the only non-Scandinavian band on the bill, coming out of Carlisle in England - manage to stick out like a sore thumb with their more upbeat style of drone. The music is largely instrumental, save for the occasional barrage of indistinct roars, and jampacked with pedal- and trick based effects which the trio execute with convincing skill. They also play loud as a motherfucker, to the extent that those without the sense to wear earplugs are swiftly forced to extradite themselves to the bar (where they still need to cover their ears), and those of us with enough sense get a nice vibration treatment for our bodies. Manatees play what seems like just three or four lengthy, droning songs without much fanfare or, for that matter, audience. But while it's not a particularly impressive sight, there is an element of sludgy groove that speaks to me, so I decide to stay put and watch the whole thing and come to the conclusion that it's actually a pretty decent set, if not quite the journey that Redwood Hill just was.
Hexis allegedly take great pride in boasting a live show that is a little bit different to most other bands. "Turn all the lights off", instructs vocalist Filip in the beginning of their set - a sentence that also describes precisely what happens musically when they start to play. The only light source is a powerful quadruple strobe light rig behind sticksman Simon, so the visual side of the band's show is quite frenetic to say the least. Filip's high octane movement at the front of the stage appears almost in slow motion, and the flickering halos around the quintet's silhouettes give them a ghastly, terrifying semblance that perfectly complements the pitch black darkness of their music. Hexis, for those not in the know, play a very underground hybrid of black metal and hardcore, delivered through predominantly short and fast blasts they call songs, and were it not for a disfunctioning dry ice machine, their performance would essentially consist of five silhouettes - inanimate vessels for the relentless battery that is their music. Fortunately Hexis play a somewhat short set; a welcome touch given the migraine inducing epilepsy machine that produces their light. But seriously, if there is a more visually exhilirating, original band in Denmark right now, raise your hand. If not, go see Hexis at once. Mind equals blown.
But just as I thought it could not get much blacker or more repugnant than Hexis, this Swedish quartet forces the ultimate plunge into darkness with what must be some of the dirtiest, most antipathic and extreme music in existence. So loud and punishing is their take of the black metal/hardcore hybrid that the hairs on my skin are raised, my pupils expand, and adrenaline starts pumping into my system. This is some next level shit, especially as This Gift Is A Curse are not just content with raising hell with their music; they throw rags stained with tar around the stage and rub themselves in it so that we can smell them. And just like Hexis, all light is sucked out of the venue, only to be blasted at us in a storm of flickering strobe programmed to follow the drumming, which is essentially a relentless barrage of blastbeats. There is melody in the mix, but it tells of nothing pretty. Everything turns to black, and clearly for at least half the audience that was there during Hexis' set it is simply too much, too abhorrent. I for one rejoice the opportunity to hear music that has no other ambition than to intimidate, confront and terrify the listener, and will most definitely be there the next time these guys make their way across Øresund to play for us.
Photos copyright of Rasmus Ejlersen