Baroness

support Black Tusk + Royal Thunder
author AP date 05/10/13 venue Loppen, Copenhagen, DEN

Arriving at Loppen at the usual concert start time of 22:00, I am immediately awestruck by the sheer amount of people packed into the venue tonight. Having sold out in pre-sale, the venue has decided to continue selling tickets on the door, with the result that the audience is well past the maximum capacity of 400, buzzing in anticipation of this strong tour package spearheaded by legends-in-the-making Baroness. Barely able to squeeze into the vicinity of the stage, I occupy a position at the back, just to the right of the stage, without a clear vista of what's actually going on on stage as the evening's first band make their presence known.

All photos by Julie Weitmann Decome

Royal Thunder

Prior to this evening, I had only heard of Royal Thunder by name, and their moniker had led me to expect them to play some sort of classic hard rock or heavy metal with melodramatic power vocals. I was mistaken. The trio - comprising bassist/vocalist Miny Parsonz, guitarist Josh Weaver and drummer Evan Diprima - practice the hip-as-hell fusion of blues, 70's rock and doom, with Parsonz' singing style influenced by gospel, soul and R'n'B. If that rings a bell, it's probably because I just posted a review of Blues Pills' similar debut EP "Devil Man"; however, Royal Thunder are a somewhat heavier proposition by virtue of the doom element incorporated into their palette.

From my position Parsonz is all but obscured by one of the infamous pillars supporting this venue's ceiling, but glimpsing Weaver on the left in a flurry of constant movement - hopping up and down, banging his head and brandishing his instrument - and witnessing the enraptured crowd response, I can confidently deduce that Royal Thunder are absolutely ripping it. Add to that a perfect sound mix and a selection of otherworldly songs with the capacity to drive a heritage rock aficionado such as myself into ecstasy, and it's easy to see why Baroness have hand-picked the three-piece for support duty on this tour.

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Black Tusk

Ahead of the evening's second artist - the sludge metal and hardcore (or, as they themselves like to dub their style, power heavy metal) fusionists Black Tusk who were a late addition to this tour and noted as special guests - I manage to plough my way to the very front at the left side of the stage, determined to devour the what is sure to be an enthralling performance from the best possible angle. The way the audience, when numbering this many people, encircles the low stage in an L-shape at Loppen provides an incredible setting for an underground sensation such as Black Tusk, as their raw, dirty and intense brand of metal is best experienced in hot, suffocating intimacy.

Again, huge applause must be extended to the sound engineer tonight for his ability to conjure a flawless mix out of the venue's sound system without compromising on the heavy foundation of Black Tusk's music or on the volume (which the trio implore him to dial up at the beginning of the set). I remember this band as a good live act, but perhaps I'd forgotten just how fantastic they actually are. Guitarist Andrew Fidler and bassist Jonathan Athon charge at us like fuming bulls, delivering their crushing songs with searing intensity, up close and personal. Indeed, with the audience so close and so involved in the performance, Black Tusk are given the extra fuel needed to deliver something extraordinary, and as such not a moment goes by without one or both of the axe-men flailing their bodies around and surging toward the front and sides of the stage where enthusiastic fans are going apeshit.

"Set the Dial" sounds as monolithic as it does malicious, rattling the venue like an earthquake and driving the audience into an insane frenzy from the get-go, and the remainder of tracks such as "Bring Me Darkness", "Embrace the Madness" and "Red Eyes, Black Skies" offer absolutely no respite to a set that thunders on with the pedal floored and the level of energy splitting the ceiling. This is an absolutely devastating demonstration of brute force from one of the best live bands in the sludge metal genre, and an impromptu encore featuring John Baizley and Peter Adams of Baroness joining Fidler and drummer Jamie May to perform four Misfits covers provides the icing on the cake.

Baroness

Baroness' triumphant last performance in Denmark, rounding off the Dirty Days of Summer events at Beta, was unfortunately eclipsed by the tragedy which struck the band shortly thereafter when the brakes in their tour bus failed, sending band and crew plummeting into a viaduct near the English town of Bath. As a result, Baroness parted ways with drummer Allen Blickle and Matt Maggioni, both of whom suffered fractured vertebrae in the accident and were affected by it to an extent that they did not wish to continue touring as a band. These two gentlemen, never to be forgotten, have since been replaced by Nick Jost on bass guitar, and Sebastian Thomson on drums, as vocalist/rhythm guitarist John Baizley and his compatriot, lead guitarist Peter Adams have soldiered on through recovery and rehabilitation with admirable resolve.

And here they stand, just over one year later, in an absolutely rammed Loppen, to prove that form tragedy, they've emerged stronger. Indeed, as I clutch onto my front row position with teeth and claws, I bear witness to a true masterclass in performance art, Baroness emanating more enthusiasm than ever before and dispensing more energy than should be possible, given the complex nature of their music. Tonight's setlist is heavy on the most recent "Yellow & Green" double-album, my personal favourite thus far, and the pair "Take My Bones Away" and "March to the Sea" ensure a formidable start to a show Baroness themselves described as one of the most intense and physically demanding shows in their 10-year history. It's sweaty, it's intimate, and it's intense; a transcendental prog-rock experience that will go down as one of those shows the 500-or-so people at Loppen will never forget.

Baizley, Adams, Jost and Thomson are frankly on fire, with songs like "Swollen & Halo", "Sweetest Curse", "Jake Leg" and "Isak" transforming the venue into something resembling a thunderstorm, the low end coming through with threatening urgency, and the abundant lead melodies ripping through like bolts of lightning. More than once I catch myself thinking "Fuck, this is good!" and forgetting I'm on review duty, immersing myself in the band's spaced out psychedelic bits, the monumental weight of their rhythm section, and Baizley's melancholy vocals, and dissolving into the the mass of equally awestruck people swaying in unison in front of the stage. An absolutely stunning feat by one of the most inventive metal bands in existence right now!

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Setlist:

  • Ogeechee Hymnal
  • Take My Bones Away
  • March to the Sea
  • A Horse Called Golgotha
  • Foolsong
  • Little Things
  • Green Theme
  • Swollen & Halo
  • Board Up the House
  • Sea Lungs
  • Cocainium
  • The Line Between
  • EULA

--Encore--

  • The Sweetest Curse
  • Jake Leg
  • Isak

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