Soulfly

support Aphyxion
author AP date 22/07/15 venue Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN

Summer in Denmark is anything but high season for concerts. One must therefore rejoice when an opportunity arises, and even more so when the headlining act is an international heavyweight such as Soulfly. Originally, it was to be my colleague Michael ‘MBC’ Blem Christophersen reviewing this particular concert, but when he was forced to surrender the gig for personal reasons, I did not need much convincing to take the ‘job’ off his hands. This is the band’s first time in Denmark since 2013, but since a large contingent of Danish metalheads have no doubt escaped the horrific excuse of a summer in Denmark this year for warmer pastures, the turnout is not larger than to host Soulfly on Pumpehuset’s smaller downstairs stage. It is busy, however, which usually bodes well for interaction and reciprocation between band and audience.

All photos courtesy of Stefan Frank thor Straten

Aphyxion

For a while now, Aphyxion from the Danish town of Ribe have been one of those bands lurking just beneath the surface, aching for more widespread success yet never reaching beyond the threshold between obscurity and awareness. One can thus understand the excitement beaming from vocalist Michael Vahl’s expression and demeanour, at having secured this coveted support slot for himself and his compatriots, guitarist Bertil Rytter, bassist Jais Jessen and drummer Jakob Jensen (rhythm guitarist Jonas Haagensen is replaced tonight by Mark Drastrup of Essence, as the two days notice Aphyxion were given about this opportunity meant Haagensen had not yet returned from vacationing abroad). Despite enjoying very little space on stage due to Soulfly’s instruments and amps already set up, Vahl’s antics are a lesson in the art of live performance: having studied his metalcore moves, the man hovers over the frontmost audience, gesticulating in slow, deliberate movements; never ceasing in his expenditure of energy whether it’s striking commanding poses, headbanging or stomping and always remembering to address us with enthusiasm even in the face of a rather docile crowd. His colleagues on the instrumental side of things are more constrained by the limited space available, but in their faces, too, there is the sort of glimmer that suggests Aphyxion wouldn’t want to be anywhere else tonight.

What seems to be preventing Aphyxion from penetrating the filter into greater things, however, is the music itself. Laden with breakdowns and chug, those unforgettable moments are all but nonexistent in the music, with just “The New Breed” presenting the sort of song-writing ideas needed to compete in the crowded market that is metalcore: a fantastic groove which demands headbanging, and without a doubt the most memorable chorus its host album, “Earth Entangled” has to offer. There are nuggets of brilliance scattered amongst to be sure, such as the Melechesh-recalling riff in “Awoken”, or the lead melody in opener “Transgress”, but much too often the band is prone to lapsing into a simplistic breakdown or Gothenburg staccato recycling. The promise is there, but without the necessary strength in song writing, and with the musicians’ (sans Vahl) largely static performances, it is difficult to maintain one’s curiosity for the duration of the six songs aired this evening.

6

Soulfly

Since bassist Tony Campos exited the band to join Fear Factory instead earlier this year, Soulfly has transformed into something of a family business, with two of Max Cavalera’s sons, Zyon Cavalera and Igor Cavalera Jr. now manning the drums and bass guitar, respectively. Just lead guitarist Marc Rizzo remains as the outsider, and the band thus has a rather curious look about it with two youngsters, and two grizzly old men comprising the quartet. Regardless, they are met with a heroes’ welcome by the busy (though not sold out) downstairs area of the Pumpehuset venue as they launch the proceedings with a medley of “Frontlines” and “Fire”. As ever, Max’s left hand barely moves from the lowest four frets of his guitar, nor is his demeanour on stage typically anything resembling energetic; so it is left to the remaining three members to carry the weight of showmanship on their shoulders for much of the set. It all begins rather sluggishly, and as a consequence Soulfly have great difficulty in luring the audience into a more participatory mood, but as soon as the obligatory fusion of Sepultura classics “Arise” and “Dead Embryonic Cells” is aired, the atmosphere is instantly transformed.

Fuelled by the moshpit now in operation, the enthusiasm of the Cavaleras and Rizzo receives a much needed boost here, with especially the younger Cavaleras delivering a masterclass spirit and stamina. Not one moment passes without Igor Jr. banging his head or swinging his instrument, while Zyon’s prowess on the drums, not to mention the ferocity with which he pounds them belies the 22 year-old’s experience. Even Max finds the gusto for a few jumps and bangs of the head. Mind you, the performance unfolding here is by no means wild — but it is convincing enough to be fixating, and the quality of songs like “Bloodshed” and “Tribe”, both full of Soulfly’s signature tribal percussion antics courtesy of Zyon and solo wizardry by Rizzo, is unmistakable. By the time the ordinary set reaches its pinnacle with “No” and a cover of Sepultura’s “Roots Bloody Roots”, the audience is absolutely boiling, with barely a soul inside the venue content with just standing still. It is a well-deserved accolade to Max and his crew’s heartfelt attempt at delivering an enthralling show, and also to their rich repertoire of music which never fails to impress — even in the shadow of Sepultura.

There is not much to complain about then, yet at the same time, yours truly has this nagging feeling that something is missing. The brand new track cringe-worthily dubbed “We Sold Our Souls to Metal” off “Archangel”, which releases next month, does not stand against the quality of their predecessors, yet above all it is the weariness of Soulfly’s main figure, Max Cavalera, pressing my verdict down. He certainly shows more fervour than some of the past times I’ve beheld one of his many projects live, but really, who can deny that the man is beginning to look and sound like a shadow of his visceral, past self? This is a feeling which persists even as “Back to the Primitive” and a medley of “Jumpdafuckup” and “Eye for an Eye” conclude the encore in stylish fashion to a raucous audience, and a feeling which ensures I am not entirely satisfied as I make my way home.

Setlist:

  • 01. Frontlines / Fire (medley)
  • 02. Prophecy
  • 03. Downstroy
  • 04. Seek ’N’ Strike
  • 05. Arise / Dead Embryonic Cells (medley, Sepultura covers)
  • 06. Blood Fire War Hate
  • 07. Carved Inside
  • 08. World Scum / Refuse/Resist (medley, Sepultura cover)
  • 09. Bloodshed
  • 10. We Sold Our Souls to Metal
  • 11. Tribe
  • 12. No Hope = No Fear
  • 13. Rise of the Fallen
  • 14. No
  • 15. Roots Bloody Roots (Sepultura cover)

—Encore—

  • 16. Back to the Primitive
  • 17. Jumpdafuckup / Eye for an Eye (medley)

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