When Copenhell Freezes Over

support I´ll Be Damned + Evra + Rising + Oxx + Slægt + Mandrakes Monster
author PP date 30/01/16 venue Lille Vega, Copenhagen, DEN

As has become an annual tradition, we find ourselves at the fancy interiors of Vega for a Copenhell-curated winter event, When Copenhell Freezes Over. It serves as a platform for Copenhell organizers Live Nation to simultaneously promote the awesome Copenhell atmosphere six months before the actual event and to allow them to hand pick young and upcoming Danish bands they see as the future talent on the scene. They also have a music export/import collaboration with Buma Rocks!, a Dutch festival which sends over one of their own in exchange for one of the Danish bands getting a chance to play in Holland instead.

The event takes place in Lille Vega and in Vega Lounge, the rarely open upstairs club area that allows for a two-stage setup without having to utilize the much too big Store Vega scene downstairs. The outdoor area behind Vega Lounge scene has been opened this year to serve as a combined smoking and dining area. Tommi's Burger Joint from the meat packing district had set up shop out there, and their burgers were truly excellent if somewhat small in size for 69,- DKK a piece.

The food came in handy considering tonight's festivities saw doors open already at 17:00 with a scheduled panel debate about the state of Danish metal next door at the Ideal Bar. Jeppe Nissen (Live Nation), Mirza Radonjica (Prime Collective), Martin Jensen (High Voltage), and Søren Weiss (Blastbeast) spent 90 minutes discussing various aspects of metal as guided by tonight's host Anders Bøtter (Sort Søndag/P6 Beat). I highly recommend everyone to get there early next year as both the questions and answers were extremely intriguing and provided good insight into the state of the scene. Especially Mirza hit the hammer on the head with his comment on why the Danish metal scene is weaker than the Swedish or Norwegian by saying it outright what us writing for magazines already know: Denmark is full of talented musicians but the songwriting is seriously lacking behind. Here at Rockfreaks.net, on any given week we receive a handful of submissions from Danish bands, most of them generic, derivative, boring, or all of the above, whereas the international submissions generally tend to sound far superior. Food for thought.

Later on in the night, Ideal Bar would re-open for an afterparty hosted by the Blastbeast guys with at least four hours of metal DJing planned that ranged from Limp Bizkit (seriously guys?) to Amon Amarth. It probably went on for longer but yours truly had a beer too many to stay any longer at that point. Great fun nonetheless. PP

Mandrake's Monster

Holland's Mandrake's Monster are the first on stage on the evening, and the only foreign element as well, appearing on the upstairs lounge stage. With only one or two hands shooting up upon the question of who here have heard of the group before, they face a mostly curious, yet numerous crowd filling up the room. Their sound is clearly the lightest and most 'rock' compared to the remaining night of metal, and the quintet certainly look the part, sporting rock star attire, some long mops of naturally black hair and a bit of a mustache on the tall lead singer Martin Duve that makes him look a bit like a pale Brandon Boyd. Their songs unwrap as an energetic yet measured hard rock, with carefully timed movements and smooth little guitar flourishes at the edges. There are verse bits which bring Incubus and a general 90s alt rock vibe to mind while some vocal harmonies reminisce of Muse, yet Duve's frequent leaps to his higher registry coupled with the guitarist Alex Freise's chunky riffing on a shiny Les Paul, first and foremost call for comparison to Slash and Myles.

In the beginning, Duve's shrill notes have some difficulties with finding the right volume in the mix of riffs, and although this is gradually remedied, the band's main drawback feels like it's their choruses, and how those can be a bit one-note and uninventive, feeling slightly lacklustre when they cap off otherwise interesting verse parts. On the flipside, there's nothing wrong with the band's confident stage behavior in a foreign environment, with axes being brandished with coolness, and Duve gesturing boldly to raise our cheers. The set is highlighted by one or two occasions of particularly rocking instrumental parts capping off the ends of songs while leaving us with impressions of a tight and entertaining group that mainly needs to find ways to emphasize a unique identity through the songwriting. TL

7

Slægt

Slægt

Slægt, whose name roughly translates into a family/lineage/bloodline from Danish, enter the stage tonight with a soothing intro track in the background while the stage baths in dark blue lighting. They've been sold to us as a black metal band up front, and while that's true, they're certainly not a typical black metal band. Armed with rollicking riffs and a groovy folk metal vibe, there are moments during their set where the only thing black metal about them are the shrieked, roughened vocals. A wealth of twin guitar harmonies and heavy/power metal style riffs sound so much like Iron Maiden that it's fair to say if Maiden played black metal, this would probably be it. Still, the brutal vocals, the shredding, and breakneck speed tempo to the percussion remind us we're firmly in black metal territory even if another moment suggests an underlying folkish element. Primordial says hi.

Slægt

Slægt's songs are lengthy, averaging around the six and a half minute mark, but they never feel too long for their own good. Interesting riffs and an engaging performance with constant movement and headbanging on both sides of vocalist Oskar Frederiksen make sure that's not the case. Still, the band should probably go with a different colour face paint than they did tonight: in the darkness from a slight distance it simply looks like the band members have a serious case of acne going on. A good introduction to the Danish metal scene, albeit not a spectacular one. PP

7

Rising

Rising

For three reviews of ours prior to the band's appearance tonight, Copenhagen metallers Rising have been described mainly as a sludgy outfit, yet the line-up they appear with tonight and which has new material on the way is a new one with a new twist to their style. Morten Grønnegaard on vocals is the main signifier of this, bringing a drawn-out, wavering, top-of-his-lungs style of clean singing to bear that is more heavy/power metal than what the band has previously been known for. And generally the songs they present showcase them in the borderlands between exactly that, an epic, traditional heavy metal force, yet with a mean, hard-edged and occasionally thrashy edge, which preserves a kind of seriousness to proceedings when compared to the occasionally silly and overblown melodiousness of full on power metal bands. Trivium comes to mind as a band to compare them with, having similarly grappled with the heavy metal vocals with the hard edge and with the crossing of thrashy influences and the desire for epic songwriting.

Rising

While the music comes across powerfully enough, Rising have a problem in the company of tonight's remaining bands, namely that they stand out strikingly in their looks and behavior, as a group of normal dudes who come together to also play metal. You can argue of course that looks should not mean too much in music, but following the coolness of Mandrake's Monster and the trveness of Slægt, Rising lack a comparable visual sense of personality. And then, circling back to Grønnegaard's vocals, while he displays a grasp of the various techniques that characterise a proper heavy/power singer, his voice behind the technique has moments where it is not entirely convincing. You hear him bellow and waver yet think 'hmmm, was that note really there or was it a bit on the shrill side?'. Strictly instrumentally, Rising have the tightness and the sheer force to still solicit the desired headbanging, but they're outmatched tonight when it comes to showing rock star potential on stage. The meeting of their new heavy/power influence with their older sludgy tendencies may prove a saving grace, but for the time being, it feels like a listen to their impending next release will be needed to determine that for sure. TL

Oxx

Oxx - the guitar tab for a repeated open chord i.e. potentially a one-dimensional breakdown. I see what they did there because their music is literally the polar opposite of simplicity. Instead, you're treated to a constant WTF as the band's jazzy brand of experimental metal takes you through The Fall Of Troy style insane technicalities to nonsensical Ephel Duath style avant-garde phases. Primal yells compete for even time with shrieks, while their guitarist demonstrates technical mastery on the scale during the second song. But while the opening couple of tracks are strange to say the least, it's the ultra weird, off-tune saxophone usage that takes the cake. Here, the passages are totally disconnected from each other, which doesn't exactly make them anything else but a novelty that wears off rather quickly.

Oxx

Just as during the previous time I watched Oxx play, the crowd is largely unfamiliar with the group, and alas, they get a formidable reception in the beginning as people are curious about their challenging and ultra-experimental offering. The initial excitement doesn't last all too long and the crowd has noticeably thinned out towards the end, probably because the music is in a serious need of a red thread. As it stands now, it's merely weird for the sake of being weird. PP

Evra

EVRA

The stoner-rock/hardcore fusionists in EVRA have been looking to go places following the 2015 release of their debut album "Lightbearer", with increasing amounts of eyes gradually turning upon them, also on this night, with the lounge being rather full as they come on and start up their noise. As usual, the way they get started reveals something about the band that is a kind of trashy without the 'h', things initially sounding like a glorified mess until the ear catches a hint of the badass riffs that are fused into the backbone of the band's music. Thus an initial sense of awkwardness dissipates rapidly, probably also triggered by tonight's recreation of "Lightbearer" 's cover art, with two females temporarily framing the crowded stage, clad only in thongs and black bags over the heads, while holding up knife props. Sadly - for the completeness of the artistic impression - yet understandably, real knives are not allowed in front of what very suddenly becomes the night's most frantic mosh pit. The listening experience shifts frantically between wanting to air guitar to the resounding, eerie riff melodies, and between wanting to scream your lungs out in response to frontman Frederik Emborg's doing the same.

Evra

While the lanky, heavily tattooed group plays behind Emborg with a sense of exhausting energy, the vocalist is in the audience's face, gesturing to encourage the wild movement before him and even sharing the mic on one occasion. His performance tonight is favoured more in the sound than on previous shows we have reviewed, and seemingly also in the monitors, as we get to really hear his breaks from his high, raspy screams, where he sings in a low, textured clean voice - something which grounds the songs well on record and is nice to hear more of live for a change. And with all their facets coming together, EVRA's set seamlessly transforms the room into their room. Fans in the know mosh with wild exhilaration while the back rows nod along to the riff barrages bearing expressions of recognition. The result is that EVRA is the first band of the night to be called back for an encore, something which the format is not scheduled to allow, yet something which tonight's appointed host, Anders Bøtter, smartly gives the go ahead to. Thus the fans, both prior and new, are allowed a final purge of energy in communion with the grateful band, marking a high point of the evening so far, where powerful noise and audience engagement meshed the most. TL

8

I'll Be Damned

I'll Be Damned

I'll Be Damned have a reputation of being one of the best live bands in Denmark according to many I've talked to. Tonight, they seek to prove that statement through a flamboyant performance which combines classy outfits with a rowdy southern rock atmosphere. Throughout the performance, we're treated to enigmatic, attitude-driven showmanship by vocalist Stig Gamborg, who isn't afraid to utilize the entire stage and the crowd for his purposes. It starts out innocently enough: a few leans into the front of the crowd with the mic stand in his hand, and mostly standing still otherwise as we go through "People Who Hate People (Come Together)" to start the set, but this is a deliberate method of firing up the crowd by gradually increasing the intensity as the set goes on. It works very well as the audience slowly gets into their set, and Gamborg ups his game accordingly.

I'll Be Damned

First it's facial expressions mimicking the song sections looking like a crazy person. Then it's standing on the monitor cheering and waving around a hand-operated light blaster during "Schizophrenic Homos". And then it's time to jump right into the action: Gamborg makes his way halfway through the crowd to take a position standing on the seating area on the left. Later, he slowly starts stripping off his clothes during "Fever". Here, the rest of the band start rocking out proper like they should have done all set long. Because while all the attention has been on Gamborg's quirks, the rest of the band have played a rather unflashy set until now. Here, the charisma of their vocalist starts rubbing off into the rest of the guys, and the muscular southern riffs come out the way they should. Still, musically the band is still somewhat inconsistent with every great song pairing up with a generic rock'n'roll song. Fortunately, Gamborg's antics lift their set considerably, even if it's not comparable to the total chaos we saw at Evra's best concert to date. PP

7

Photos by: Peter Troest

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