Norma Jean

support Liferuiner + Night Verses + Branson Hollis
author PP date 06/04/14 venue BETA, Copenhagen, DEN

This time of the year tends to be when the best tours come to town, partially due to Groezrock happening in a few weeks' time, but also because this is when most records are released so bands are out promoting their releases. I don't think we've ever had this strong lineups in BETA in the past as in April, especially considering the Comeback Kid entourage that just passed by here last Sunday. One week later, it's metalcore titans Norma Jean showing what's up on another beer-driven Sunday night. They didn't fare as well as Comeback Kid did though against a tough and sober Sunday audience in Scandinavia, but more on that later. A breadth of support bands to discuss first.

Branson Hollis

Branson Hollis

First up are French newcomers Branson Hollis, the odd one out in today's lineup considering they're more of a post-hardcore band worshipping Anthony Green and Saosin rather than the southern fried mathcore barrage of the headliners. They're armed with multiple vocalists tonight, each wielding an instrument as well, ranging from a roughened delivery in the vein of Thrice's Dustin Kensrue to high pitch cleans, and supported by subtle electronics as delivered by their keyboardist. The songs are lengthy, often approaching the five-minute mark, and have a progressive nature to their slow structures, which means the band are almost completely stand still on stage. Their songs are decent, but not enough to support the band on their own, so more movement is needed. The last song features an explosion of energy from the band, but it's too little too late. An OK performance that didn't leave many memorable impressions.

Night Verses

Night Verses

Next, we have Night Verses, who have been in the receiving end of quite a bit of hype across the internet as of late. It's easy to see why. From the very beginning, their stage energy is infectious, with their vocalist counting among the most active ones this venue has seen (think letlive's live show). He'll send tearing screams our way while leaning down to scream, occasionally practically lying on the stage floor before exploding upwards in a flurry of energy. The whole kneeling/praying on stage while screaming is on the menu as well tonight, as are kicks, jumps and all sorts of activity that makes the band fantastic to watch live. Musically, they draw from the more intellectual end of post-hardcore, showing cues to Glassjaw at times, and to other renowned bands characterized by depth-laden songs rather than catchy choruses. There's also a little banter - their lead vocalist tells us among other things that he went on a run in Copenhagen earlier today and found it beautiful. Little anecdotes like these make you think that the band actually cares about the cities they play in, which is always a good thing. Nonetheless, one thing to take out of their show is their energy which is very impressive throughout, even if I didn't find their material too interesting on first listen (probably because it's grower type in its nature).

Liferuiner

Probably the most generic band on the book tonight, Liferuiner from Canada play a style of melodic hardcore that should remind you of genre heavyweights Hundredth and The Ghost Inside, although in a more chug-chug oriented section. Still, these are constantly contrasted by melodically flavored, uplifting sections where lingering melodies add depth to their expression. "Fissure" is an early highlight, and the crowd gets its mosh on properly for the first time tonight. Seeing this, their vocalist Johnny O'Callaghan decides to join the crowd and spends the majority of his time here for the remainder of their set. "Dreamcatchers" is another highlight with its back-chilling melody sections, but unfortunately these moments are too often ruined by lots and lots of anonymous chugging. Inconsistent, which is what I've thought of their albums all along as well.

Liferuiner

At one point, we find O'Callaghan setting up a diagonal space in the crowd almost all the way to the back; he rushes through the crowd after an epic melody and crashes straight into the center monitor for much hilarity on the crowd's side. What's impressive is that the band is here at all. Their guitar player Mike Short's father passed away last night, so they've hired some guy from an Austrian band to fill in on extremely short notice. This is acknowledged by cheers from the crowd, but O'Callaghan isn't done yet, and goes onto a lengthy speech about how "1990" is about a friend passing away and how it relates to this situation. More applause from the crowd, and an extreme display of passion from the whole band during the song with O'Callaghan again kneeling against the stage, screaming on the floor and that sort of thing. A good set that's partially degraded by the chug-chug sections that serve no purpose in their sound.

Norma Jean

Norma Jean

While people have curiously looked at (and occasionally participated in the crowd) for today's support bands, it is clear that Norma Jean is the one everyone came in here for. The mosh pit opens immediately, albeit it's far less intense than I remember from their Pumpehuset show a couple of years ago. It's a Sunday crowd, so it's a tough one, meaning vocalist Cory Brandan has to ask people to get to the front, and for people in this room to lose their voices tonight right before "Wrongdoers". Up until this point, the crowd has been a mild disappointment, but here we get the first sing along tonight, albeit a smallish one. The band recognizes it as well and Cory proclaims that the room has about "50% less oxygen now" after the song. The momentum starts to build from here with the crowd invited on stage to sing along to "Sword In Mouth, Fire Eyes". It was certainly a slow start, but now it feels like the crowd is awake and Norma Jean are on fire as usual. "Bayonetwork" therefore sees everyone compress against each other in the middle going crazy, and "The End Of All Things Will Be Televised" from "Redeemer" receives a scream along during the "the south is on fire" repetitions. "A Small Spark Vs. A Great Forest" sees a sea of fists in the air and bouncing up and down from the crowd's side shortly after. "Memphis Will Be Laid To Waste" closes the set with the Liferuiner vocalist on stage for a brief moment.

Norma Jean

Still, the intensity just isn't what it's supposed to be at a Norma Jean show, neither from the crowd's nor the band's side. Yes, Norma Jean have displayed decent energy on stage, but the setlist has been riddled with weird selections and surprisingly much material from their first two albums. It is telling that it seems like there's going to be an encore happening - given the feedback that's continuing long after the last song finishes, but there isn't a "one more song, one more song" chant from the crowd, and people are leaving instead so it seems like it was dropped on-the-go from where I was standing. What we're left with are a few strong sing alongs but overall a somewhat disappointing show - mostly because the dynamic wasn't present in as prevailing manner as it has been in the past. Just imagine how good Norma Jean shows are in normal circumstances.

Photos by: Peter Troest

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