The Psyke Project

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author PP date 03/10/14 venue Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN

This is it. The last time we'll get to experience the best live band in Denmark. After weeks and months of anticipation, word-of-mouth advertisement and hype amongst heavy music fans in the country, the final celebration of The Psyke Project's career at the forefront of the Danish metal scene was here. The clock had just passed 19:00 upon my arrival to Pumpehuset, and the free beer was already flowing to the hundreds of people who had shown up early to queue in anticipation of the doors opening at 20:00. It didn't take long until the line stretched well around the corner towards the Palads movie theater complex, after all, there was a real risk of the event selling out with more than 600 people in attendance on the Facebook event and the top floor of Pumpehuset being able to house exactly that amount of people on a sold out night. This was clearly going to be the biggest headline show The Psyke Project will have played during their career (festival shows aside), and a quick round with people in the queue (and later in the venue) proved that many were here just because they knew it was the last show, because they were curious, or because they had been told by one of their friends how crazy this band usually is in a live environment.

Martin Nielskov of The Psyke Project

After some cheap Pumpehuset beers and DJing by our very own AP and Blastbeast in the lounge, we made it upstairs to discover the band's instruments positioned on the floor right in the middle of the venue. A few elevated platforms had been stationed across the four corners, and the normal stage itself was also open for anyone to stand on to ensure a decent view to the floor, where it would soon be difficult to identify who's in the band and who's a part of the crowd, unless you had a perfect vantage point like yours truly by sitting up at the windows. Golden choice, as it turns out, if you didn't feel like getting battered by the mosh pit all night long.

The Psyke Project 1995-2005

The clock strikes 21:30, which was the officially announced starting point for the concert. But people are still making their way upstairs from below, packing themselves tightly into the open space around the band and climbing up on the windows, on the platforms, and the mosh warriors positioning themselves right on front of the band, so we wait a little bit extra just in case. Finally, the lights dim, and a Metallica song is used as the intro music for the band to enter stage. The first set, we've been told, consists of material from their early releases, which all of us assumed would be primarily from "Samara" and "Daikini" albums, but it turns out TPP had other plans for us. They kick off with "Buffalo Soldier" from their very first demo EP, a classic nu-metal inspired screamo track which has vocalist Martin Nielskov looking like Fred Durst as he's bouncing up and down during the rap parts waving his arms around like a crazy person. "Gate" and "Just At The Moment" follow from their next demo, the "You're So Beautiful" material from 2002, where the band had already all but abandoned the rap metal vibes in favour of an early peek into the metallic hardcore that was to come later on "Samara" and "Daikini" in particular. And though the crowd is mostly confused by the songs (let's be honest here: these two demos were just that: demos, and don't exactly appear on anyone's regular TPP best-of lists), already at this stage I have given up all hope of seeing guitarists Mikkel Schmidt and Christian Bonnesen, let alone bassist Jeppe Skouv, thanks to them standing in the midst of naked upper bodies moshing their lives away. The temperature is rising at a rapid rate already after just three songs, so the vast majority of the pit start losing their t-shirts resulting in one sweaty mess of bodies crashing into each other at a constant, albeit predictable rate following the barrages of distortion and brutality being sent our way from the scene.

Pretty much description of the whole show, this

Once the demo material is over and we reach into "Samara" stuff with "Gliding Shadows" as the introductory track to that album, the crowd experiences something of an enlightenment as they connect with the horror chord-driven melody and the chaotic, yet oddly textured barks by Martin Nielskov at one of the more hardcore/punk oriented tracks the band has written. By the time we reach "Broken Promise", the first casualties in the pit have met their maker and have moved to the side as we reach sauna-like temperatures in the venue. The band is almost completely invisible even from the high point where I'm sitting, with only the drummer and Martin to be seen amongst what is already now an insane looking pit counting at least a hundred if not two hundred people. The mic is often shoved in the faces of people at the front, giving ample opportunity for fans to participate in the final celebration of these songs, but at the same time the band makes sure not to overdo it so the core structure of the songs stays intact without constant interruptions by different vocals.

Notice the shoe position in this photo

That said, a number of sanctioned guest vocalists do help the band out from time to time, with at least Redwood Hill's Marco being invited on stage to help out during the old songs, as well as another guy that I couldn't recognize. "Never Like Judas" and "Blood Red Sun" are also aired from "Samara" before it's time for the "Daikini"-era material. And oh my, if you thought the pit was crazy for "Samara"-era material, then the crushing heaviness off "Fimbul" provided by the melodic insanity of "45 Tears" provide one of the most ridiculous mosh pits I've seen manifest for a Danish band. The latter song in particular produces a violent pit, after which Martin has to tell a guy off in the crowd for pushing people a little too hard, echoing the crowd safety discussion that has been vivid on the internet in recent weeks thanks to Joyce Manor's eruptions at stage divers overseas and the widespread commentary and discussion that resulted from it.

Wall of Death happening

As we go through material from "Daikini" the evolution of the band becomes more and more clear. These songs have a more deliberate, crushing feel to them, whereas "Samara" material was faster and more circle pit friendly. People have their favorites, but it certainly seemed to me that "Daikini"-era songs got the best reception from the crowd during the first set. And after a crazy hour that also includes "Note 1: Darling", "Som Soldater", and "Chaplin's Dream", it's time for the band to end the first set with the quintessential The Psyke Project track: "In The Mist", which has that call-response style scream section and a pummeling instrumental backing to produce absolute and total chaos both on record and in a live environment.

One of the opening moments to the show

You may notice I've talked a lot about the pit - and that's for a reason. This show was primarily one huge pit - even though the band itself weren't quite as visibly crazy as they were in their younger days, with the exception of Martin's numerous crowd surfing adventures already during the first set. Excellent start.

Setlist:

  • 1. Buffalo Soldier
  • 2. Gate
  • 3. Just At The Moment
  • 4. Gliding Shadows
  • 5. Broken Promise
  • 6. Never Like Judas
  • 7. Blood Red Sun
  • 8. Fimbul
  • 9. 45 Tears
  • 10. Note 1: Darling
  • 11. Som Soldater
  • 12. Chaplin's Dream
  • 13. In The Mist

Playing in your face just got a new meaning

The Psyke Project 2005-2014

30 minutes of breathing room later, the Metallica tune interrupts our chatter and the band is back on stage, this time focusing on material post-2005. Despite the early material being more violent and unpredictable in terms of song structure, I think it's safe to say that The Psyke Project's best material from a compositional point of view stems from their newer material. It is here that the band sacrificed some of that speed and barrages of breakdowns and stop/start style tempo shifting towards a more distinct sound of their own. What started on "Apnea" was fully completed on "Dead Storm" and later "Ebola" and "Guillotine", where the band became a truly Nordic unit whose soundscapes were as cold and barren as the long, gray winters we experience here year in year out. The musical texture is more droning and hypnotic in its nature, which means you get absolutely captivated by it live as the sheer brooding force of their music hits you wave after wave after wave.

One of vocalist Martin Nielskov's many crowd surfing tours

"Voice Of Commandment" from "Apnea" opens the set in line with the idea from the first set that the songs are aired in chronological order album-to-album instead of mixing it all up, allowing us to fully understand and marvel at the evolution this band has taken over the years. Sure, "I Get Paralyzed" ensures the pit is back at the level where going anywhere near it means you're going to a) engage in a circle pit or b) get bruised with 100% certainty, but afterwards the intensity level fell down a bit (as expected) due to the comparatively more calm nature of the songs. This was a welcome change both for the people in the pit but also for us onlookers, because it allowed us to appreciate the performance itself a little more rather than just eye what the hell is going on in front of the band in the crowd. That being said - wall of death, circle pits et cetera were still frequent sights during the second set as well.

We scream together.

By the time the band is finished by track three, "Stockholm Bloodbath", they are simply blowing everyone away at the venue - even those with little prior The Psyke Project experience. The songwriting prowess showcased by these three songs is simply so strong it's difficult not to have your jaw glued to the ground, especially when the band combines it with such a vivid on-stage performance at the same time. They are, as usual, ashed in black coal on their faces to emphasize the performance art-like package that "Dead Storm" and "Guillotine" represent. An omnipresent sea of headbanging surrounds the lengthy, tremolo-style instrumentation on stage as we plow through these songs and simply listen and marvel at how well they are written. The pit intensity has lowered down significantly - but is still at crazy levels compared to most other shows - because people are now paying attention. This gives vocalist Martin more space to do his crowd surfing maneuvers where he's screaming as he is flying across the venue on top of people's hands, only to be joined by his fellow guitarists and bassists shortly after.

This is pretty much the pattern we go with until the end of the show, where the band finishes off with "Guillotine" from the new album. Except - they return for one more time to finish the TPP chapter once and for good. So they've gone through most of their classics by now, what could they possibly do to finish off the show on the top? Well, why not perform "In The Mist" from "Daikini" for the second time tonight? What a way to finish the set, which has received nothing but praise from everyone I've talked to. An absolutely crazy night with insane pits the likes of which we may never see again from a Danish band. But this is how we remember The Psyke Project in the first place - so it felt like a natural perfect finish to an evening where the people as a collective proved why so many of us have been singing high praise about this band over the years.

9

Setlist:

  • 1. Voice Of Commandment
  • 2. I Get Paralyzed
  • 3. Stockholm Bloodbath
  • 4. Polaris
  • 5. This Road To Hell
  • 6. Only I Remain
  • 7. Battles
  • 8. Partisan
  • 9. The End
  • 10. Ghost Fight
  • 11. Good For Nothing
  • 12. Guillotine
  • 13. In The Mist

All photos by: Peter Troest

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