Mars Red Sky

support A Horrible Death To A Horrible Man
author AP date 17/03/15 venue KB18, Copenhagen, DEN

It's always disheartening to arrive at a venue at the scheduled show start to find that you're the only person there. Such is the situation at KB18 tonight, and naturally it means that the supporting act's slot is pushed back until at least some people arrive to check them out, even if said people eventually number no more than 20. These are sad circumstances for what I perceive to be one of the most exciting prospects on the stoner rock market right now, the French trio Mars Red Sky, yet I convince myself that they should be seasoned enough to overcome the demotivation that this produces and still deliver a solid performance.

Photos courtesy of Peter Troest

A Horrible Death To A Horrible Man

As of yet an unknown entity to me, my first guess as to A Horrible Death to a Horrible Man (henceforth referred to as A Horrible Death...)'s style of music is noise rock judging purely from guitarists Peter Echwald & Jesper Hesselbach's usage of Fender Jaguars (or possibly one of the other offset models), which in my experience is a staple of that genre. But while there is certainly a noise element present in the band's songs, the music doesn't quite classify as noise rock, as inspiration from doom and stoner rock is also clearly audible, placing A Horrible Death... in relative proximity to their countrymen in Black Book Lodge. The formula is based on repetition and a less is more-philosophy, which in honesty makes this stuff difficult to penetrate without prior listening - especially as three songs in, any truly noteworthy moments have thus far failed to manifest in the slow burning compositions.

In the fourth track, the pace does pick up, but it too suffers from the aforementioned conundrum: that nothing heard here tempts me to slip in the band's new mini-album "Escape Escape" (released this coming Monday - expect a review shortly) and give it some spins. As such, my attention diverts toward the four musicians' performance: the four musicians play with precision, and whereas Echwald & Hesselbach assume an introverted, though strangely alluring posture, bassist Nick Ebert finds his personal groove early and in liaison with drummer Christian Lee quickly establishes himself as one half of a constant flurry of movement. It's a nice contrast, the two guitarists focusing on lacing their licks with a plethora of effects and methods to generate harmonic feedback to fill in the gaps; the two rhythm providers bashing it out like this is some huge party (there are approximately 20 people present at this point...).

As the set progresses, I do admittedly find myself getting it a little more, as Echwald's elusive baritone vocals and the hypnotic constancy of the songs drawing me into a pleasantly hazy mind state. The highlights, for me, arrive toward the end of the concert, first through the energy and first recognisable signature riff in the most stoner rock-inspired of tonight's songs, and since via the deafening multi-string shredding and ultra-groovy bass signature in the most noise rock-inspired of them. Still, it strikes me that perhaps the coolest parts in A Horrible Death...'s music live are the bursts of fleeting, atmospheric noise that serve as seamless transitions between one song and another, leading me to conclude that while A Horrible Death... are certainly onto something here with their slow, dark, entrancing style, they haven't found their footing just yet. That the newer songs aired tonight impress me the most, however, implies that they're already on the way toward addressing that issue.

6

Mars Red Sky

Noting that the attendance has barely improved as these French psychedelic/stoner rockers take the stage, and seeing in the trio's faces the look of utter disappointment, I fear the worst for this performance. And despite the large projection canvas behind Matgaz' drumkit providing an additional visual angle to distract from whatever issues might arise, the band helmed by vocalist/guitarist Julien Pras initiate their proceedings timidly, indifferently even as footage of the Niagara Falls filmed from a variety of abstract angles runs in the background to the tune of opener "Falls". This instrumental piece I am not familiar with, having been introduced to the band via their excellent sophomore album "Stranded in Arcadia" last year, but its heavy riffs and profuse usage of pedal effects nonetheless signal the direction in which the concert shall proceed.

Not until the following "Be My Guide" do Pras' delicate, almost feminine vocals make an appearance, breezing atop rigorously wah-wah-ed melodies as Matgaz makes his presence felt and seen. In contrast with the more reserved stances of Pras and bassist Jimmy Kinast, Matgaz is a maelstrom of energy, especially in a heavier track like "Hovering Satellites" where he's able to really slam those skins. Come this third song, the (fortunate) enthusiasm of the small audience is beginning to bleed onto the musicians as well, with the first smiles and "Thank you!" aired and both Pras & Kinast becoming visibly more comfortable and happy with the situation. All of this sends Mars Red Sky's performance into an upward spiral in which the kaleidoscopic jams, deep grooves, and the band's impassioned playing send us ever deeper into a state of lightness and imagining.

Both "Join the Race" and "Marble Sky" form highlights early on; Matgaz' inspired drumming in the former truly comes to life in a concert setting, while the latter, with its looped bass riff onto which Pras patiently builds ever more elaborate hallucinogenic leads, is every bit as entrancing as on record - possibly even more so. The blues touches of "Way to Rome" later also have me up in arms, and despite needing to duck out before the grand finale, I am confident in asserting that Mars Red Sky pull through in flying colours, having defied the circumstances tonight with admirable professionalism and love of music. The 30-or-so people in attendance may have thinned out somewhat towards the end - weekday night and all - but it seems likely that those who choose to remain at least, now count themselves among Mars Red Sky's fanbase. A solid show, this, against all the odds.

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