Crowbar

support Black Book Lodge + Dirt Forge
author AP date 03/08/15 venue Beta, Copenhagen, DEN

What better way to spend a sun soaked afternoon than grilling, quizzing, lounging on fatboys and listening to some southern fried tunes? Now in its third year running, the mini festival Dirty Days of Summer has grown into a summer staple of Copenhagen, and judging by the turnout and best-yet execution of the event, none should fear the concept dying anytime soon. This year, other plans prevent our writers from attending the thrashier first day of these festivities, but we’re there early on the second day to suck in the atmosphere and UV rays, sample the excellent Jambalaya and pulled pork sandwiches, and get our buzz on in anticipation of a trifecta of bands representing sludge, doom, stoner and prog and helmed by the iconic Crowbar. Read on to discover how each of the three artists fared in Beta’s steamy confines.

All photos courtesy of Stefan Frank thor Straten

Dirt Forge

It often feels like balancing on a tightrope to critique the artistry of one's friends; you don't want to step on their toes and sour your relationship, yet simultaneously, some people might interpret your praise as a form of favouritism. Fortunately, this new-ish capital city trio is renowned for its members' sense of self-irony, and much to my welcome, they're actually a pretty decent live act based on these 35 minutes of allotted stage time. And simplistic though Dirt Forge's take on sludge and doom metal may be, there is no escaping the efficiency of frontman Alexander Kolby's weed-reeking guitar riffs, the surprisingly textured drumming of Nicolai Lomholt, nor the rumbling grooves of bassist Yannick Bünger Kristensen, who much to my amusement, has trimmed his instrument down to just three strings - all that's needed, apparently. The virile bellowing of Kolby is striking as well, and more often than not it is the look of sheer vitriol on his face, the urgency with which he plucks and shreds his guitar, that provides the extra nudge to make Dirty Forge's songs something else than your dime-a-dozen sludge/doom.

None of it sounds that original to be sure - Black Tusk seems to have played a heavy party in shaping this stuff - but the boys churn it out with the same sort of edge-of-the-seat intensity as their idols. Particularly so in the final and longest track "Hide from the Sun", which sees Kolby sinking to his knees with an expression of pure passion during its noisy, doom laden crescendo, and his two compatriots headbanging with the semblance of possessed men. Their performance tonight is full of positive impressions then, with both the group's stage presence and the promise in songs like "Stone" leaving a lasting mark. Whether or not Dirt Forge intend to push the band to a professional and internationally recognised level remains to be seen, but certainly, if they continue to work hard at their tradecraft and performing skills, they have the potential to do just that.

Black Book Lodge

For me, the most sonically interesting band on the bill tonight is Black Book Lodge — and that’s not some chafe at Crowbar’s repertoire. But on a bill focusing on the slow and brooding, the steps toward a richer and more progressive sound taken by these Copenhagen residents on their sophomore album “Entering Another Measure”, represent something a little different. And already from the first song aired tonight, it is obvious that the quartet has built more confidence and worked hard at their visual aesthetic since I last saw them at Copenhell ’14, becoming a rather fixating presence on stage in the process — in clear contrast with the reserved, timid demeanour seen back then. Despite the fact that the room is only half full for the duration of Black Book Lodge’s performance, the band succeeds in keeping the 80-to-90 watchers spellbound with wonderfully lush, euphonic renditions of “New Provenance” and “27 Years”, a moody lighting display, and of course the spaced out grooving of vocalist/guitarist Ronny Jønsson, bassist Trygve Borelli, guitarist Steven Ardilsø, and drummer Jakob Gundel.

As a slightly sped up version of the towering “Martyr” encompasses the room, there is no escaping Jønsson’s sullen yet powerful voice, a kind of mixture between Tim Christensen and Josh Homme. His singing is at all times melancholy, but there are plenty of pitch changes, bouts of falsetto and other technically demanding feats packed into it preventing the man from sounding repetitive. Granted, he and his colleagues aren’t too keen on interacting with the audience, but for me the chasm works in Black Book Lodge’s favour; their music is designed for the mind to wander — not for immediate rewards and direct confrontation. So while the frosty grunge of “Battering Ram” off the group’s debut album ”Tûndra” resonates from the speakers, it is with no doubt whatsoever that I conclude this third time in the company of Black Book Lodge is, for me, the best yet. They have in “Entering Another Measure” an album bristling with potential, and with the aforementioned improvements to their live show as well, the future seems full of promise for the quartet.

7

Crowbar

Crowbar is swiftly becoming Beta's house orchestra, dutifully playing there at least once per year. Nothing ever changes though - even the setlist remains largely unchanged because... well, that's what their fans are looking to hear. Predictably, tonight is no exception. The group, lead by the iconic Kirk Windstein on guitar and vocals, relies on the collective experience of its members to hold a crowd’s attention captive, which in liaison with the mournful grandeur of songs like my personal favourite “Planets Collide” or the mighty “Cemetery Angels”, is just enough to preserve Crowbar’s status as a consistent and worthwhile live act. But the suffocating heat inside BETA’s rammed concert room, and the fact that Windstein and his companions, guitarist Matthew Brunson, bassist Jeff Golden and drummer Tommy Buckley do little beyond asserting their might from fixed positions, makes it difficult to remain focused, and indeed inside the room altogether.

Truly, one needs not watch Crowbar in the live setting in order to feel the crushing weight of a song like “Walk With Knowledge Wisely” or “Existence is Punishment”, and this is perhaps their greatest asset. Few other artists are able to conjure such heavy misery with their music, yet plant such euphoric grins on people’s faces; even fewer can harness adverse conditions such as the oppressive temperature now hanging over us to their advantage. Seriously, the best way to experience Crowbar must be when a mixture of beer, sweat and condensation is dripping down the walls, and when the air feels like you’re standing knee deep in a Louisiana swamp. When the band whips out a monolithic cover of Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter”, I must admit I cave in and make my way to the bar area to watch the remaining songs from there. But even from that vantage point, the immense power emanated by Crowbar and Windstein in particular, is humbling. Be that as it may, however, my personal quota for Crowbar concerts is well and truly filled for the foreseeable future, and there is no way around the fact that the band’s greatest stumbling block is the fusion of an extremely static stage presence and songs that (as good as they are) rarely differ from one another in terms of the formula used.

Setlist:

  • 01. Sever the Wicked Hand
  • 02. Planets Collide
  • 03. All I Had (I Gave)
  • 04. The Lasting Dose
  • 05. To Build a Mountain
  • 06. The Cemetery Angels
  • 07. Walk With Knowledge Wisely
  • 08. Conquering
  • 09. No Quarter (Led Zeppelin cover)
  • 10. Existence is Punishment
  • 11. I am Forever
  • 12. High Rate Extinction
  • 13. I Have Failed

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