The Ocean

support Redwood Hill
author AP date 19/05/15 venue Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN

Arriving at Pumpehuset just ten minutes prior to the scheduled start of tonight’s atmospheric proceedings, it strikes me as disturbing that so few people should be at the venue. Has the evening’s headliner, the enigmatic Ocean, not been universally praised in Denmark for both their outstanding work on record and their abilities as a live band? Fortunately, the venue’s decision to push the start of Redwood Hill’s support slot by some ten-to-fifteen minutes pays off as a hundred people manifest as if from nowhere just as the Copenhagen-based masters of darkness take the stage amidst dim red lights.

All photos courtesy of Peter Troest

Redwood Hill

It is a rare thing for a band to never grow tiring, regardless of the number of times one hears them or watches them live. Danish black/post-metal fusionists Redwood Hill fall into this esteemed category, not least by virtue of their famously tantalising performances. It has been said before: I’d love to level some punishing criticism at the quintet just to prove they’re human, yet tonight - now the tenth time for yours truly - offers little hope of shattering the group’s consistency. Even at their weakest, Redwood Hill scrape the floor with the majority of their domestic peers, and in my optics, such a feat is equivalent to a legitimate claim for the throne of Danish live music.

Den som ryster borden (in English, That which shakes the Earth), reads a sticker on bassist Jens Veggerby’s instrument, and it might as well be the band’s mantra; such are the tremors emanating from the power amplification system once “Wie Ein Adler” erupts in the wake of its quiet, foreboding intro that they induce a kind of paralysis, with most of the audience fixed to the ground in awe moving only their heads in hypnotic thrashing movements. It’s not all maelstrom of course; as ever, Redwood Hill’s set is distinguished by its dynamics, the constant oscillations between the violent and the subdued, whose unifying factor is the perpetual melancholy darkness that reigns supreme in the outfit’s soundscape.

Even without the contributions of Cody’s Thomas Kaae and Stærosaurus’ Andreas B. Stær, “Albedo” sounds absolutely magnificent, a rare showcase for vocalist Marco Stæhr Hill’s clean singing abilities as well as further proof for the track’s swift becoming one of the finest pieces of music Redwood Hill have given birth to yet. The following “Tristesse” then proceeds to melt some faces with its monumentally crushing signature breakdown, before fan favourite “Poseidon” delivers the needed melodic respite after such hammering and morose tones. Closing with the discordant “Dybbuk” much to the crowd’s liking, Redwood Hill leave little to decry, and much to rave about - be it the authority and furious energy of the frontman, the wild physical immersion of Veggerby into the music, the somber demeanour of guitarists Brian Michelsen & Tobias Lind Rasmussen, the elegant rhythmic constellations of drummer Andreas Jauernik Voigt; or simply the raw beauty of Redwood Hill’s music.

What makes all of this more remarkable is that Redwood Hill are able to pull of such a convincing performance even when the audience is as sleepy as is the case here, and even when the quality of the sound mix is a little too generous on the low end, thus eradicating some of the dark grandeur ever present in their songs. At just 30 minutes, the concert is too short for generating a truly all-encompassing sensation of trance as well, but given that such circumstances are not out of Redwood Hill’s control, it would be unfair to let this affect the overall impression of yet another show of force from this electric band.

The Ocean

Despite my initial fears for a low turnout, the audience has steadily been swelling throughout the evening, and by the time the primarily German progressive metallers appear on stage, the venue’s downstairs room is verging on maximum capacity. No surprise; since their inception in 2001, The Ocean have established themselves not only as one of the most forward thinking bands in the genre, but also as a formidable live act guaranteed to dust the weekday sluggishness off our feet. Indeed, it is only a matter of seconds before the front half of the crowd is boiling, so much that in the second song proper, “Bathyalpelagic I: Impasses”, vocalist Loïc Rosetti erupts from the stage into the welcoming arms of his fans, surfing on top of them to deliver the most powerful moments of this excellent song. It turns out his antics are a recurrent feature of tonight’s performance, and why not? The couple of hundred of people in attendance are lapping it up, and I’d be lying to claim such displays of enthusiasm didn’t ratchet up the overall quality of the show.

Rosetti and bassist Paul Seidel are absolutely not in a weekday mood, surging to and fro’ on the stage, shoving microphone, instrument and their own bodies into the frontmost crowd’s faces at every opportunity, and in doing so the more reserved demeanour of the two guitarists, Robin Staps & Damian Murdoch, is less distracting. Of course, the role of those two should not be understated: the former is the mastermind behind The Ocean’s music, and buoyed by the generous level of volume (driven up with each passing song in response to Rosetti’s upward pointing finger), the texture and complexity of songs like “Hadopelagic II: Let Them Believe” and “Demersal: Cognitive Dissonance” translate just as well here, in the live setting, as they do on record. In that respect, when you then add the evocative lighting and oceanic projections behind session drummer Chris Breuer, The Ocean’s performance is possible to appreciate on multiple cognitive planes.

On the negative side of things, there are times when the volume of Seidel’s bass is driven so high the music suffers, and arguably Rosetti is not having an ace day when it comes to delivering the powerful clean vocals in tracks such as “Bathyalpelagic II: The Wish in Dreams”. And while the decision to perform 2013’s “Pelagial" in full is easy to understand, it leaves little room in the strict time constraints of a week night show for much else, with the three-song encore offering just “Firmament”, “The Origin of Species” and “The Origin of God” (all magnificent songs, mind you) instead of a wider selection of material from The Ocean’s impressive six-album discography. But even with these criticisms, it is hard to resist the all-encompassing, immersive nature of the concert, let alone the white hot intensity with which the five musicians perform.

8

Setlist:

  • 1. Epipelagic
  • 2. Mesopelagic: Into the Uncanny
  • 3. Bathyalpelagic I: Impasses
  • 4. Bathyalpelagic II: The Wish in Dreams
  • 5. Bathyalpelagic III: Disequilibrated
  • 6. Abyssopelagic I: Boundless Vasts
  • 7. Abyssopelagic II: Signals of Anxiety
  • 8. Hadopelagic I: Omen of the Deep
  • 9. Hadopelagic II: Let Them Believe
  • 10. Demersal: Cognitive Dissonance
  • 11. Benthic: The Origin of Our Wishes

—Encore—

  • 12. Firmament
  • 13. The Origin of Species
  • 14. The Origin of God

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