Solbrud

support Ajuna
author AP date 12/09/14 venue Stengade, Copenhagen, DEN

Following an unusually long break from gig going, and intrigued by our review of the band’s newest outing “Jærtegn” (which refers to a supernatural, often divine omen of dramatic events to come), I found myself spending this mid-September Friday night in the company of one of the most exciting professors of black metal in Denmark, Solbrud, who had chosen the occasion as the official release party for said album. There’s a sizable audience numbering in the hundreds in attendance, suggesting to me that Solbrud, and supporting band Ajuna for that matter, are starting to enjoy enormous respect in the domestic metal scene. This would be an opportunity for me to find out if such praise is deserved.

All photos courtesy of Jacob Dinesen

Ajuna

Fiercely independent, outspoken defenders of the underground, and regarded by many as elitists, Ajuna have always been ones to polarise opinion. Yet they command respect all the same, not least my own, as talented musicians willing to push their sound in whatever direction they please without shedding concern for what Danish metal should sound like. There is no light beaming through the darkness and misanthropy upon which their music - a fusion of the coldest black metal, grinding hardcore and atmospheric post-metal - rests, and this they translate into the live setting with a total absence of front light and dim shades flickering behind them. It looks seriously distressing, and vocalist Anders ‘Hufsa’ Andersen (Hufsa is the Swedish word for the monster Groke in Tove Jansson’s Moomin stories, and he certainly lives up to the nickname) earth rattling growls, unearthly shrieks and seething snarls certainly do their part as well, in giving rise to the band’s deliberately menacing expression, part black metal terror, part hardcore urgency, part post-rock contemplation. Couple this with the felt performance of the two guitarists, and the cool nonchalance of Andersen as a frontman, and there’s very little to put a finger on in terms of lacks in Ajuna’s capabilities as a live band.

At the same time, as Ajuna course through “Tyran”, “Suntomb”, “Esoterik” and “Ild” early on, it becomes clear to me that they’re still a band in the process of perfecting their sound. There’s bite to the stuff to be sure, but it persistently feels like they’re falling just short of their promise when it comes to song writing, with those tracks exposing quality, yet never reaching past the threshold of solid that, for example, Deafheaven seem so readily capable of. There are instances of such brilliance to be found in the set as well, fortunately, with the threefold barrage of “Medicin” (off last year’s debut ”Prisoners of the Sun”), “Sort” and “Tribute” (also off that album) striking an instant chord with me through exquisite harmonies and inventive dynamics. With one of these tracks fresh out of the oven, Ajuna look to be unfolding their immense talent to an even greater extent now, and a future sophomore album should thus address some of the concerns that I, at least, have when it comes to the strength of their recorded output.

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Solbrud

When it comes to writing a striking tune, Solbrud suffer from no lack of ability. This much is clear amidst the display of murky lighting, candlelit lanterns and fragrant incense through which the Copenhagen born quartet bring their evocative black metal to life. It’s another world entirely from what their Norwegian brethren tend to prefer, with corpse paint, Satanic symbolism and such left out of the proceedings in favour of a deeply atmospheric, and earth near approach. Our writer MST heaped a lot of praise on the band’s sophomore record ”Jærtegn”, and instantly it feels justified (having not had the time to check out that album with the proper attention just yet, I am hearing these songs for the first time tonight).

The songs are longer, and seem more profound than the visceral take on the genre professed by support act Ajuna just before; the work of musicians who develop their songs with patience, over time, allowing them to grow and evolve without setting temporal constraints for them. It speaks to their impact that drummer Troels Hjorth is slamming his skins with one hand, having fractured his index finger recently, and that the missing dimension is extremely difficult to notice; however, the sound mix tonight is far from being in Solbrud’s favour, meaning that much of the intricacies in the melodic work of frontman Ole Luk & guitarist Adrian Utzon Dietz drowns in a muddle of punishing low-end. Pushing my earplugs firmly into my ears does allow some of this majesty to shine through much to my welcome, and doing this, it is easy to side with the notion that Solbrud’s music is unspeakably well written, the guitars often used in unorthodox ways, for instance to produce sounds not unlike the howling of bells in the evening’s second track so as to create a magnificent contrast to the rumbling bass beneath.

It is also evident that Solbrud place huge emphasis on their visual expression, having all the appearance of vessels - not persons - for the conveyance of their music. The entire place is enveloped in a thick mist of dry ice that extends into the upstairs bar and the toilets in the basement, and towards the end of the band’s set, the concert room is so ridden with the smoke that it is nigh impossible to actually see the band as anything but silhouettes. It’s hard to breathe, but whether or not this is due to the intense, suffocating nature of Solbrud’s music or the soup of dry ice remains unclear. What is obvious though, is that in Solbrud, Denmark has one of its most exciting metallic prospects, one which deserves all of the attention they’re getting at the moment.

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