Royal Thunder

support Mojave Desert Rebels
author AP date 05/12/17 venue Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN

As ever, when lesser known acts arrive in Denmark to make their headlining début, the downstairs room of Pumpehuset is quite sparsely populated tonight, and it is thus very different circumstances that await Atlanta, GA’s Royal Thunder, than the absolutely jampacked venue they played to here as the opening act for Baroness in 2013. To be fair though, the band never made it to our pastures during the “Crooked Doors” touring cycle, which might go some way toward explaining the waning of people’s interest in catching them live now. Still, anyone who has seen or heard the band before will likely agree that it is more of a loss for those not attending than for Royal Thunder — after all, with just a few dozen persons turning up, the quartet can at least count on the majority of them to be ardent fans.

All photos courtesy of Michael Hyldgaard Løgtholt

Mojave Desert Rebels

The support act this evening was originally supposed to be the New York City, NY-born punk-blues duo The Last Internationale, but they were forced to pull out of the final stretch of this tour due to reasons left undisclosed. Mojave Desert Rebels were thus brought onboard to replace them and even though there is some musical distance between the Copenhagen four-piece and the headliner, they quickly prove themselves to be a good substitute. Without any prior knowledge of the band, I am at first guessing that with such a moniker, this must be some sort of stoner act. But once the muted notes from Morten Bernstorf Hansen’s guitar have begun their dance with the rhythms laid down by drummer Andreas Bütow Pröll and bassist Guillaume Blanjean Matthiesen in the opening track, “Wanna Lie”, it becomes quite clear that their music is far removed from my expectations. For lack of a better description, Mojave Desert Rebels sound like an r&b-ified take on Queens of the Stone Age, added the soul influence of bands like letlive., Night Verses and Denmark’s own Siamese — vocalist Gustav Bildsøe Lassen even sounds very similar to the latter’s Mirza Radonjica with his fantastic tone and flares of falsetto singing. The ladies seem to be thoroughly wooed, but so are the gents; not only can this dude sing, he also has a knack for transforming the likes of “Stand Up” and “What Do You Want” into some of the catchiest tunes to emerge from the Danish alternative rock scene since the aforementioned Siamese made their turn pop-wards.

Mojave Desert Rebels are far from a mere singer and his band type of constellation though. While it is true that Hansen does not make much of a figure out of himself on the right, Matthiesen has the moves to compensate for this on the left, spending hardly a moment to stand still between his twists, turns, jumps and vigorous handling of his instrument. And behind the kit, Pröll spares no energy either as he pounds his way through tracks like “Fire” in a way that is quite antithetical to the idea of drums as some sort of background element. Mojave Desert Rebels’ performance is thus as invigorating to watch as it is to listen to, even if the degree of energy expenditure is skewed toward the left side of the stage. Indeed, if the band can find a way to involve Hansen in the proceedings a bit more, and if Lassen develops an ability to channel some of his passion into a stage presence that is not just about the emotion of his singing, but also about taking a lead role in soliciting movement out of the audience, there is little else standing between them and bigger gigs than this.


Royal Thunder

When this Atlantan quartet last graced our shores, it was above all the bassist/vocalist Mlny Parsonz who swept me off my feet with her phenomenal singing and stage presence, and it is no different now, four years on. After the slowly built “Burning Tree” has rustled me away from perusing my notes on the opening act, she sends another cascade of chills down my spine with an immaculate rendition of the dark ballad that is “April Showers” off this year’s “Wick” LP. Even the sternest naysayer when it comes to women in rock and metal here must be shutting his misogynist mouth upon hearing what Parsonz can do in this track; it sounds even more emotive, more powerful than on record and provides an early highlight in one of the better concerts that I have borne witness to in 2017. And it is not just that she can sing — Parsonz also carries herself with so much passion on stage that when the beautiful “Time Machine” is aired in all its tragic, progressive grandeur, it takes serious mental strength to fight back the tears longing to add some moisture to my eyes. Particularly when she arches back from anguish and lets her cries of ”I’m not stranger to your black streak! / I see through, you’re my enemy / I ought to know / I wanna know you better than that!” loose as though they were her last breaths. I am clearly not alone in getting a shot of the feels here, as despite the audience only numbering some 40 people at the very most, the cheering and applause is louder than at some of the sold-out concerts that I have seen at this venue.

As you probably can tell, Parsonz has cemented herself as one of my absolute favourite front figures in rock and metal right now and it would be easy to continue on, describing the spectrum of pitch, tone and timbre that she masters or the expressiveness of her antics on stage. But that would be doing a disservice to her colleagues (guitarists Josh Weaver & Will Fiore and drummer Evan Diprima), who shoulder just as much of the weight by ensuring that songs like the psyched-out, ‘Sabbath-school “Whispering World” (taken from the band’s 2012 début album, “CVI”) often surpass their recorded selves. And while Parsonz may well look the most affected out of the four musicians at any given time, Weaver is no mere pot plant either; when the going gets energetic, such as is the case during “Mouth of Fire” — a track off Royal Thunder’s first EP, a self-titled outing released in 2011 — or when the quartet decides to jam out in best ‘70s fashion, as happens in the mesmerising finale of “Parsonz Curse”, it is easy to tell who the mastermind behind this stuff really is. In these moments, it almost looks like Weaver becomes possessed by the music, rocking out with a wild energy, which, curiously, reminds me of Caspian’s Phil Jamieson.

Unlike on other stops of this trek, the encore consists of two songs rather than one — undoubtedly a token of appreciation from the band, given the thunder-to-number ratio of the crowd’s response. The first one we are treated to us is the catchy psych-rock tune “Glow” off 2015’s “Crooked Doors” and while it offers a solid alternative to “We Slipped”, which I had hoped to hear tonight, it is the second piece, the newer “Plans” that provides the icing on the cake. The track is delivered in a duo format by Parsonz and Fiore alone and if there was a single shred of doubt still lingering in someone’s mind about the former’s singing prowess, then the contralto heard here should settle the argument for good. It is a stunning finale to a show which could only have improved through the presence of a larger audience and the more intimate setting that would give rise to, and one hopes that it will not take another four years before Denmark can feel this band’s power once more.



  • 01. The Burning Tree
  • 02. April Showers
  • 03. Low
  • 04. Time Machine
  • 05. Whispering World
  • 06. Hotel Bend
  • 07. Mouth of Fire
  • 08. Bella
  • 09. Parsonz Curse

— Encore —

  • 10. Glow
  • 11. Plans

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