Crowbar

support ASG + Anciients
author AP date 16/04/14 venue Beta, Copenhagen, DEN

BETA pulled off quite a scoop in convincing Anciients & ASG, who have been touring the continent together, to join in on the festivities on this fine Wednesday evening - the beginning of Easter holidays for most - and thus bolster what was always going to be an excellent showing by Crowbar with an additional two international acts instead of the usual local band (not that there is anything wrong with that). What this translates to, then, is a concert not unlike those we've seen at BETA's annual Dirty Days of Summer shows, and expectedly, it has been sold out far in advance.

All photos courtesy of Peter Troest

Anciients

Anciients are the odd fellows on this bill with their brand of progressive, Opeth inspired metal. But never one to oppose diversity, I welcome this different style with open arms, even as much of the audience looks puzzled and somewhat reserved when the post-metal stylings at the beginning of "Raise the Sun" off last year's debut album "Heart of Oak" envelop the room. I immediately note that the volume and the balance between the clean guitar, bass and drums is bordering on the sublime; the venue's sound master extraordinaire having ensured - once again - that watching bands here is a fully immersive experience.

The Vancouver, BC born quartet have the stage for the next 40 minutes-or-so, choosing bravely to end their set with a brand new 12-minute behemoth. But despite the songs rarely falling short of the 7-minute mark, there is such intricate texture and song writing genius to be appreciated in each one of them that one never feels Anciients draw things out for too long, or outstay their welcome. Granted, given the technical nature of their music, and the fact that both guitarists, Chris Dyck & Kenneth Paul Cook, also double as vocalists; Anciients are not the most lively of bands to watch. But there is still enough energy exuding from them through headbanging, ground stomping and what have you to rescue them from being mere listening music. This is their first time in Europe, and it bodes well for the foursome's future that the amount of people in the room steadily increases as their set grows older.

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ASG

ASG is an acronym, I believe, for The Amplification of Self-Gratification, which also serves as the title to the Wilmington, NC based stoner rock group's sophomore album. They've been around for the best part of 13 years now, yet since 2007 their output has consisted solely of splits and singles - until the release of the "Blood Drive" LP last year. This absence of real albums for 6 years perhaps explains why my familiarity with the band is so shallow, having heard of them only by name before spinning "Blood Drive" several times last and this year.

Stylistically, they're a far cry from the morose soundscapes of the evening's headliners in Crowbar, but they serve as a good bridge between Crowbar and the darker and more mysterious Anciients with the instantly engaging, guitar centered approach of songs like the title track to said 2013 album. There's a selection of insane riffs and grooves in their backlog, it seems, yet I can't help but feel they lack immediacy and/or memorability in other aspects of their music. As such, there are a number of anonymous tracks dotting the setlist as well that are made more alarming by the 40 minute length of their set. But no matter: I must still confess to deriving huge enjoyment from this stuff, which seems custom designed for eyes shut headbanging in best stoner rock fashion. And as a live act, ASG are that much more engaging and enthusiastic as the preceding Anciients, with vocalist/guitarist Jason Shi especially looking positively ecstatic to be playing for us.

Crowbar

The audience looks riveted even before Crowbar take to the stage, the room now packed to its limits as I find myself, miraculously, at the very front surrounded by photographers. It's not that often the sludge metal stalwarts pay these pastures a visit, but when they have, such as for the two performances at Roskilde Festival and Dirty Days of Summer at this very venue in 2012, they've been in impressive form. As such it is hardly a surprise tonight's concert sold out far in advance, and that people are battling for a good spot as the legendary Kirk Windstein casually strides on stage, doing the last sound checks.

When he is shortly joined by his compatriots Tommy Buckley, Matthew Brunson and Jeff Golden and the proceedings begin, they do so in retrospective style with "Conquering", the opening track to the group's 1996 LP "Broken Glass", followed by the magnificent "High Rate Extinction" from their self-titled 1993 sophomore effort. It's always a little strange to watch bands that began playing music approximately when I was born and to claim to be a huge fan despite the fact that most of my favourite songs of theirs were written when I was still listening to chart pop and - yikes - hip hop. But even so, I can't help but feel a certain degree of nostalgia with songs like these. That nostalgia coupled with the power and authority with which these ageing gentlemen still deliver them makes it nigh impossible not to enjoy Crowbar, even if they are beginning to show signs of wear and tear and thus stage a much less interesting visual presence than was the case here two years ago.

Somebody near me is expressing their dismay, upon stealing a glance at the setlist, at Crowbar's decision to omit the classic "Existence is Punishment" tonight, but I personally cannot side with such petty entitlement given the amount of excellent material they've resurrected for the occasion. "Vacuum" (taken from their 1991 debut album "Obedience Thru Suffering"), "All I Had (I Gave)" (off the aforementioned self-titled sophomore album) and the scintillating "Planets Collide" (snapped from the much revered 1998 LP "Odd Fellows Rest") all make convincing appearances, as does the 'newer' "Cemetery Angels" ("Sever the Wicked Hand", 2005); and as is now a BETA staple courtesy of Toftelund, the sound quality is absolutely ridiculous (read: in the most positive sense), allowing me once again to lose myself completely in Crowbar's dark and mournful universe.

It's not quite up to par with that DDoS performance in 2012, but still the kind of show of force you would expect from a band with 25 years behind them. And it never ceases to surprise me how humble and down to earth Windstein (I mention only him, as the remaining members have all joined in 2005 or later) remains despite his legendary status in the global metal underground.

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Setlist:

  • Conquering
  • High Rate Extinction
  • Lasting Dose
  • Burn Your World
  • Vacuum
  • The Cemetery Angels
  • Let Me Mourn
  • Sever the Wicked Hand
  • Liquid Sky and Cold Black Earth
  • New Dawn
  • I am Forever
  • Planets Collide
  • All I Had (I Gave)

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