support Nocturnal + Demon Head
author AP date 19/10/13 venue Stengade, Copenhagen, DEN

Sweden has, over the past five years or so, grown into a veritable mecca for the heritage rock movement, with countless acts old and new blipping on my radar ever since I first discovered Graveyard through "Hisingen Blues" - hitherto the best record to emerge from the genre thus far in my opinion. One of these blips appeared this year with the tag Horisont (which, non-Scandinavian speaking readers may already have guessed, translates to Horizon), and so when Stengade broke the news that they'd landed a concert with the band, I immediately pounced on the opportunity to experience them live. Here's my report of that first encounter.

All photos courtesy of Henrik Moberg Jessen

Demon Head

I am continuously impressed by the scale of support yielded by concert goers at this venue to local, and often completely unknown opening acts. Demon Head for instance, despite perhaps not being strictly an unknown outfit anymore, are met by a roomful of buzzing people numbering at least 75, and it makes me wonder: what is it that Stengade does that venues such as KB18 or BETA do not, to be able to attract so many people to watch the bands of tomorrow on a weekday? This is not meant as a stab at anyone; rather, it is a compliment both to Stengade and the people who've turned up, and an interesting contrast considering that the aforementioned venues book acts of equivalent quality on a weekly basis. But enough ranting.

Naturally, Demon Head look beyond impressed with the turnout, and despite a relative lack of experience glistening on each band member's performance (ultimately betrayed by the nervous and virtually non-existent communication with the audience), the setting provides them with the best possible outset for a successful concert. Unfortunately, not all of Demon Head's compositions are mature or meticulous enough to forge a lasting impression, and there seems to be a distinct lack of variety plaguing their material. But when they do hit their stride, they expose genuine potential, and it will certainly be interesting to watch where such potential will take them in the years to come. And in any case, their Black Sabbath and (for a more contemporary reference, ironic as it may sound in the context of this genre) Kadavar influenced songs are easy enough on the ear so as to facilitate a thoroughly enjoyable (if by no means spectacular) concert.



The Swedish Nocturnal are visibly more versed in the art of staging a concert and, like the rest of the bill, have their feet firmly planted in heavy 70's rock. Curiously, a significant portion of the crowd that was just in here to watch Demon Head has dissipated come their turn, so the conditions, in that sense, are not as optimal. What is optimal (at last), however, is the sound mix, which now affords much more lead guitar to beam through - a vital aspect when it comes to this genre, given its love of the guitar solo and blues. Though with Nocturnal, too, one is left wanting for greater differentiation, there are sufficient alternations to the palette during their set (such as a number of excellent melancholy ballads), and the gentlemen handle themselves with the utmost professionalism and have the necessary charisma to command a live audience.



Horisont distinguish themselves with a slightly different take on 70's rock than expected, blending into it strong nuances of power- and heavy metal (Iron Maiden, in particular, is a name my thoughts keep scurrying toward whilst attempting to formulate an accurate description of the band's music during their set), as well as a trace of classic progressive rock. By and large, however, Horisont have an instrumental foundation that bears an uncanny resemblance to that of Graveyard (listen, for instance, to the excellent slow burning ballad "Crusaders of Death" and you'll immediately note the similarity to "No Good Mr. Holden"), and what sets them apart from the Hisingen based quartet, is really only vocalist Axel Söderberg's Bruce Dickinson inspired, high-pitch singing.

That is not to say that Horisont are much worse than their idols though. True their songs are generally not as immediate in creating an impact, nor are they as memorable; but songs like "Time Warrior", "On the Run" and the scintillating "Writing on the Wall" still contain all the characteristics of well written, carefully arranged, timeless rock songs, and pack an overdose of impressive musicianship conveyed through teary eyed blues parts, soulful solos and searing fuzz riffs. The audience, yours truly included, is endeared at least, and the tiny confines of this venue, as well as the flawless sound mix, ensure there is a perfect sense of intimacy to the proceedings.

Horisont perform with the sort of slightly paradoxical juxtaposition of introversion and enthusiasm I have come to expect in this genre - that is, you can feel the emotion struck into each note and chord by guitarists Charlie Van Loo and Kristofer Möller; the passion sequestered by Söderberg to muster such power from his pipes; and the rhythm bassist Magnus Delborg and drummer Pontus Jordan must possess in order to produce the groovy, and at times jazzy low end in Horisont's music. Indeed, each member looks like they're in love with their own music, and as a spectator therefore, it's hard not to fall in love with it also.

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