Dirt Forge

support Bersærk + Grusom + Slowjoint
author AP date 23/01/16 venue Beta, Copenhagen, DEN

Despite housing relatively many underground rock and metal bands, Denmark rarely sees extensive domestic tours that bring several of those artists together. It does happen from time to time, but it often feels like the potential in joining forces with two or three other acts of a similar stature goes unexploited, and instead, those bands end up playing individual shows to much smaller audiences. This opening night of the ‘Something is Rotten Tour’ though should provide a strong motivation for engaging the strength in numbers, as by the time the lights are dimmed for the evening’s first act just half an hour after doors, the venue is already bustling at near-sold out capacity.

Photos courtesy of Stefan Frank thor Straten

Slowjoint

As the only band on this bill that has managed to evade my searchlights thus far, my expectations for Slowjoint are based on two factors alone: their moniker, and their own description of their music as ‘bass driven bong sludge from southern Jutland’. Even though I consider myself a connoisseur of sludge and stoner rock/metal, I must confess to drawing the line at the slowest, druggiest variants of those sub-genres — and that is where I assume, mistakenly, Slowjoint to reside. Imagine my surprise then, when it dawns on me that the Sønderborg-based trio is neither sluggishly slow, nor fixated on mindless repetition; but instead, a veritable factory for first rate southern fried riffs. The band’s music reminds me in equal measure of Eyehategod and Weedeater, with the appearance and pleasantly maniacal, self-ironic demeanour of bass-wielding vocalist Dennis Petersen also drawing close parallels to that of Weedeater’s Dave ‘Dixie’ Collins.

His humour coupled with the glee with which the trio (completed by drummer Ricky Christensen and guitarist Patrick Bondig) performs gives their show this grounded feel; these are but three modest dudes slinging irresistible, parched riffs (often harmonised by Petersen and Bondig despite operating separate instruments) and if someone happens to fall for it, well that’s just marvellous then. Discounting the technical difficulties that strike Petersen’s instrument after the first song, Slowjoint thus manage to pull off a solid, convincing show that seems to go down well with most of the attending patrons. With such a lax approach though, and because the style of their songs betrays all the characteristics of a one-trick pony, it is difficult to see them breaking free of their underground reins. But that’s perfectly alright — sometimes just a fix of arresting riffs is enough.

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Grusom

Once heavy rock hopefuls Grusom are given the stage, things immediately turn more considered, more professional. It is not for no reason the six piece is regarded as the next probable breakthrough artist, as their performance has a very distinct international sheen. They rock out like seasoned veterans, but never at the expense of playing tightly, enamouring the audience not just with their well written material, but also with an energy and enthusiasm you sometimes miss when watching the more up-and-coming sort of domestic bands. Add the tantalising ability of guitarists Dennis Warburg & Thomas Ulrik, especially when delivering one of many solos, not to mention the overall catchiness of the songs, and it becomes impossible not to be humbled by just how good of a live act Grusom have evolved into. Seldom does one witness such confidence in such a relatively unknown band.

What holds them back somewhat tonight are the dynamics of their setlist; beginning with an infectious craze, the concert enters a lull of balladry in the middle which, though absorbing in its own right, reduces the momentum too much, and for too long. Rather than group their more contemplative pieces into a single lump, it would suit Grusom better to distribute them evenly throughout the set, thus to produce the necessary contrast for stompers like the excellent “Bleed for You”, and to dissuade us from thinking, ”Where did the energy go?” That minor stumbling block aside though, Grusom seem to be right in their element tonight, and this reflects in the total control they exercise over the audience. One can deduce as much from the grins worn by each musician as from the profuse headbanging and loud cheers of approval, that everyone at the venue recognises Grusom’s show as being at least a bit special.

Bersærk

There is something utterly humbling about Bersærk as they launch their onslaught with “De glemte”. The loudest of tonight’s entertainment by some stretch, the four Århusians have a sizable portion of the venue harshly exercising their neck muscles in no time, and soon enough the first moshpit of the evening erupts as well, and then continues to operate for the entire duration of the quartet’s 40-minute allotment. It has been said before, but let me just reiterate: while Bersærk’s debut album “Mulm” is a strong release, it is in the live setting that their music produces the greatest impact, with every carve of the low end by guitarist Lars Evers and bassist Bastian Popp quaking through the body and raising every hair. The whole setup is so intense, from the pained face expressions of the musicians to the deafening volume to the towering presence and all encompassing roars of vocalist Casper Roland Popp.

Disregarding the “Trældom” demo from 2013, Bersærk opt for playing “Mulm” front to back in order, and in a stunning testimony to its memorability, virtually all of Popp’s lyrics are faithfully and accurately reciprocated by most of the crowd. How liberating it must be, and what pride it must instil in the Danish metal fan, to hear such potent metal sung in his / her own language, and to witness it performed passion and fervour. Just as Grusom before them, Bersærk make it abundantly clear that they are ready for the next step; songs like “Nordenvind”, “Nattesyn” and “Ulm” would sound magnificent, resounding from a festival stage and to a thousand-strong audience. Here’s hoping that will happen in the summer to come.

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Dirt Forge

”The drunker you are, the better we play”, offers frontman Alexander Kolby to explain the fact that his band is playing last (in truth the four bands rotate, and set lengths are identical) after he has just lead his compatriots, bassist Yannick Bünger Kristenssen and drummer Nicolai Lomholt, through an extra aggressive rendition of “Ratcatchers” — the title track to their debut EP from last year. It is one of the better takes off that record, and clearly aware of its shortcomings, the setlist Dirt Forge have chosen for this tour rather boasts a selection of freshly baked tunes such as “Fortress Burning”. This Down-esque track seems to heed the call for more and better riffs for future releases and sets in stark contrast the simplistic approach used for the “Ratcatchers” EP, foretelling perhaps a movement away from Kolby’s taste for crusty hardcore, and towards a more doom- and stoner-based sound.

Although the trio could still work on their showmanship somewhat — there is a strange timidness to Kolby & Jensen’s antics — their musicianship has only grown tighter since the last time they played at this venue, with Lomholt’s drumming in particular a constant reason for awe. Whether laying down blast beats, d-beats or something slower, not only is his percussion tremendously textured, he also applies his tradecraft in a visual way that draws your eyes to him more often than his two colleagues. Not that those two are doing anything wrong per se; I would simply like them to exert themselves a little more, especially during the more explosive moments dotting their songs. ‘Slow and stupid — eager to fail’ may be their motto according to Facebook, but this evening, above all, they seem hellbent on converting people into followers.

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