Dopethrone

support Dreich + Bethmoora
author AP date 26/07/16 venue KB18, Copenhagen, DEN

After the summer holidays and no concerts, it was time at last slowly to easy into the thick of things this past Tuesday, to the tune of some doom and stoner metal. The show had been generating a lot of buzz in Copenhagen’s metal underground, so the largish crowd gathered outside KB18 to soak up the last rays of sunshine of the day was to be expected. And since poorly attended gigs here have rarely gone down in history, this is an early indicator that tonight’s proceedings could well parallel the success of e.g. High on Fire in 2014 or Dying Fetus in 2012.

All photos courtesy of Jakob Muxoll

Bethmoora

At the risk of sounding too harsh, bands like Bethmoora make stoner-doom sound like the least demanding metal sub-genre to play. The sluggish rhythm and recursive, down-tuned chords do not exactly require years of rehearsal or a deep understanding of musical theory, but such an approach can still produce successful results if applied with the right finesse. That reference is made all the more apt by Conan’s endorsement of Bethmoora earlier this year, and to some extent it feels like the Copenhagen five-piece relies too heavily on their idols’ praise. It is true that when their songs flower into a crescendo — with thundering tom-toms, huge melodic chords, and ominous monotone chugging generating something akin to the sound of the world ending — the potential Conan sees comes to light. But the artificially prolonged passages leading to these moments are so anonymous it is difficult to see why Bethmoora, as the opening act, should have been given 45 minutes in which to ply their trade. The band has some way to go yet, in terms of harnessing that momentary grandeur into songs that are impactful overall, and not just in glimpses. And with the exception of vocalist Anders Kofod, whose demonic glare and slow, deliberate swaying is oddly fixating, the challenge of taking much else away from this set is made even more difficult by how dreadfully indifferent the musicians seem to personifying their music. No wonder the space between the audience and stage remains gaping throughout.

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Dreich

Dreich was recently announced as one of the six bands featured in this year’s ’New S**t’ initiative for up-and-coming bands, so naturally the excitement surrounding this multi-national, Copenhagen-based collective has been building of late. Last time the band was hindered by technical difficulties and a relatively uninteresting stage presence, but tonight, once the initially overpowering bass is tempered and the band’s exploration of the many corners of extreme metal is allowed to be more nuanced, the story is entirely different. Not only is Dreich a much livelier proposition than at that May show, the axe-wielding musicians no longer fixed to the spot and the vocalist coming across as far more expressive in his face contortions and gesticulations, the songs, too, seem to have more dynamics about them (or they are simply better conveyed?) as opposed to just dishing out standard fare stoner-doom riffs en masse. Dreich’s set undulates from slow dirge to eruptions of vicious black metal and everything in between in the space of just five songs — a brief but effective hammering heightened by the band’s unhinged behaviour and an audience that finally seems to get what this band is all about and responds with the appropriate fervour. Now all that remains is to spice those songs with an ounce more lasting value.

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Dopethrone

When it becomes the Montreal, QC born headliners’ turn to woo us, the crowd size has reached its maximum potential and because of that, those of us who are not blessed with a famous nordic height and are stationed at the back, must resign ourselves to catching mere glimpses of vocalist / guitarist Vincent Houde, bassist Vyg, and drummer Big Borman, whilst absorbing the endless torrent of pentatonic stoner riffs cascading from the PA. Just as I hinted in my recent review of Dopethrone’s fourth album “Hochelaga”, the trio’s music is designed to rip live when played at such enormous volume. This is music you feel in the bones and at the tip of every hair; the kind that sends a large portion of the audience into an absurdly slow moshing display and the rest of us into a trance-like state of headbanging without a conscious effort. What fortune that the sound mix is so balanced then, even if Houde’s whispery growls are a little hard to hear at times.

Despite having a cast around his leg, Houde and Vyg perform with an arresting intensity, those bulging eyes and wildly swivelling dreadlocks generating this crazed, unsettling visual aesthetic that is so appropriate for the style of Dopethrone’s music. Part stoner, part demonic, the two are the physical embodiment of songs like “Dry Hitter” and “Chameleon Witch”, both of which sound even more venomous aired live than they do on record, their slow, ritualistic groove providing the perfect outlet for the beer and weed that has gone into many a patron’s brain tonight. And with faster, more insistent picks like “Devil’s Dandruff” off the group’s third album “III” also included, the concert proceeds with sufficient dynamics to keep the clear heads bobbing as well. Indeed, seldom does one witness a crowd with such energy to spare at a Danish show, and on a weekday to boot — a proper, zero-bullshit stoner show which maintains a high standard throughout and sends KB18 boiling into the late night.

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