Magnified Eye

support Bersærk
author LF date 30/08/14 venue Atlas, Aarhus, DEN

At Atlas this evening, a whole new thing starts. This show is the very first event arranged by the new metal and hard rock club in Aarhus which is simply named HEGN. (For foreign readers "Hegn" means "fence" in Danish, a shorthand for our word for "barbed wire", which in turn is loving slang for rock, ed.) It is the result of a collaboration between the venue and local metal aficionado and event coordinator DJ Bager, and I should think that the simple fact that I've been looking forward to seeing every band booked for tonight bodes well for the endeavor. Unfortunately the support band, Phoebus Cartel, have been forced to cancel their appearance, and from what I gather during the evening it has something to do with their guitarist having sadly cut his hand fairly bad. I am naturally bummed about this, as the band has appeared on my radar recently with their well-executed and deeply interesting take on progressive rock. They are a band at an intriguing point in their development and with the extremely immersive atmosphere they set at their live shows, they were actually the band I was most interested in experiencing tonight. But while I'll have to save my excitement for Phoebus Cartel for some other time, Bersærk and Magnified Eye are two Danish bands that merit interest as well in each their own way, so let me get right down to explaining why that is and how well they fared this evening.

All pictures courtesy of Atlas


Bersærk, who plays a forceful mix of stoner rock and sludge metal, is still a new band to me as they basically exploded onto the Danish metal scene earlier this year, and I might as well admit right now that they have completely won my heart since then. Tonight is the fourth time I see them live, and the fundamental part of their live performances is still vocalist Casper Roland Popp downing beer and throwing himself chaotically around the stage to the potent beats of the music, his long hair swinging while he improbably hits every note with immense energy and in superior style. Tonight however, bassist Bastian Popp and guitarist Lars Evers command attention visually in each their own way. Popp, who usually holds his own while grooving introvertedly at the side of the stage, sports two braids in true Gallic fashion. This somehow fits the viking theme that has been taking form around the band recently, as they include runes in their visual design, sing in their native tongue, and enter the stage tonight while a regular Nordic chant runs on playback. Evers' sort of controversial choice of t-shirt for this evening somehow supports this image as well, promoting what you might deem traditional values, as you can see below.

Not a whole lot of people are present for the show tonight, but in the front lines people are rocking out. I have declared before that I doubt this band can even play a bad show, and the conviction doesn't falter after tonight. As a band who have by now cemented their musical skill and insane energy level in everything they do, I'm very curious to see how they will continue from here with all that potential. They play a new song tonight which I am told is called "Ulm", and it matches their older material in every aspect, with a chorus that wonderfully contains the energy levels of the composition, only to release it all later on. While their set tonight is solid (as always), this is not the most explosive performance I've seen from them, but their material definitely still holds up.

Magnified Eye

When this show was first advertised, I wondered a lot about why I had never really heard of Magnified Eye. The explanation is however pretty simple, as their latest release seems to be from 2005, that is a full year before teenage-me really got into metal. As such, I don't really know what to expect from them tonight, but as they begin playing I am intrigued by their sound. It's basically heavy stoner rock, but where you'd expect a four-piece to consist of a standard set-up of vocalist, guitarist, bassist and drummer, this is somewhat different. Their sound develops between a sturdy drummer, a bassist who plays a sexy five-string, a vocalist who also plays the only guitar in the band, and then, finally, a man whose role in the band seems to consist simply of spicing up their sound on his cheeky harmonica, add a few yells or screams, and then otherwise look like the biggest, baddest metal head while playing an apparently very low-hanging air-guitar. While this works really well in some songs, I have to comment that there's after all only so many different ways to utilize a harmonica, and his contributions to the compositions stop being truly interesting after a short while. Despite this minimal amount of instruments, their sound fills out the room well. The harmonica-player seems to be mostly a live member of the band, and he disappears when some of the newer compositions are played. The bunch of new songs we hear tonight continue very much in the same style the band has already laid down for us in their older songs. They give no actual estimate for when they might release them, and to actually release something new, as vocalist Torben Egebjerg says with a friendly grin at one point, would be a success for them in itself.

As you might guess by now, the atmosphere at their show is extremely laid-back. Egebjerg casually converses with and receives a few drinks from the audience and later laughs at the obligatory comments from Danish crowds at metal concerts to "play something by Slayer!". As they play through their set however, I find that the newer compositions and the relaxed atmosphere dominates a bit too much, because in combination it results in the band effectively just jamming some of the new riffs they have come up with, at one point leaving out the potential vocals of one song. Now, this can be an interesting insight into a band's songwriting process, but tonight it ultimately makes me lose interest as there's nothing exceptional for me to be impressed by in these very basic skeletons of songs. Near the end of the set, Egebjerg urges us to sit down and just enjoy the following song, which turns out to a very psychedelic rock ballad with a long, noodling guitar solo. The fact that people immediately react to this request confirms my impression that the performance of the band tonight is very well matched with the expectations of their audience, and as such, all is well. In terms of musical quality, live energy and general ability to set a unique atmosphere through their set however, I must admit that I would prefer if Magnified Eye were a little sharper in their execution, as they sound to me like they could really go places if they focused their attention more.

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