Black Tusk

support Mirror Queen
author AP date 07/05/19 venue Loppen, Copenhagen, DEN

The meagre crowd that has turned up at Loppen this evening, numbering perhaps 20 people in total, must be a disheartening sight for the two American bands on the bill tonight. This kind of turnout (or rather, lack thereof) also all too often portends the shape of things to come, and it would not surprise me if the headliners — Black Tusk — in particular make a mental note of not returning to Copenhagen again. The uncompromising style of sludge metal dished out by the band should be right up the Danish metal fans’ alley, and since are no other standout concerts taking place in the city at the same time, it boggles me that virtually no one is here. Oh, well — it is not the first time this has happened and I, at least, am not one to allow such happenstance affect my own experience. Onto the evening’s first show, then!

All photos courtesy of Peter Troest

Mirror Queen

Mirror Queen from New York City, NY certainly do not seem put off by the low turnout, nor by frontman Kenny Kreisor’s sore throat, launching straight into “Poignard” off their 2017 record “Verdigris” after casually introducing themselves. It provides a good overview of the quartet’s diverse palette, which mixes ‘Sabbath-school pentatonic riffs with the minor-key twin leads popularised by Thin Lizzy and applies them to an ever-changing selection rhythms by drummer Jeremy O’Brien. And when lead guitarist Morgan McDaniel lets loose a psychedelic solo in the dark and esoteric “Scaffolds of the Sky” (taken from its namesake 2015 album), there is an uncanny resemblance to “Crack the Skye”-era Mastodon to the music as well. In spite of his position on stage left, McDaniel is quick to invite the spotlight onto himself — not only by virtue of his skill with a six-string, but also his showmanship. He seems to deal with the minuscule audience by completely losing himself in the moment, even kneeling down in front of a crowd member whom Kreisor initially mistakes for Greenleaf’s Tommi Holappa to give him a very personal experience of the ripping guitar solo in “Lazarus” (a track featuring on 2011’s “From Earth Below”).

But while McDaniel makes for an awesome sight on stage, his colleagues are not exactly pot-plants either. Kreisor leads the pack with dry humour and often draws both McDaniel and bassist James Corallo to himself for one of those iconic back-on-back heavy metal poses for the many instrumental passages housed by the band’s songs. Mirror Queen thus make for a convincing act both musically and in terms of their abilities as live performers… which makes it all the more disappointing that more people are not here to witness them and drink from the energy they are so generously dispensing to a nigh empty room. On the basis of tracks like the steamrolling “Starliner” and the brand new “Devil Seeks Control”, not to mention the four musicians’ efforts despite the suboptimal circumstances, Mirror Queen have provided plenty of justification for their return to Denmark for a headlining concert in the near future. I hope they have not been turned off the idea.

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Black Tusk

“You’re in for a surprise set tonight!”, roars guitarist/vocalist Andrew Fidler after setting the tone with a ferocious rendition of “Brewing the Storm” (off 2011’s “Set the Dial” album). His words have an air of sarcasm about them and thus ring like an omen in the gaping emptiness, suggesting that Black Tusk are in no mood to pretend like they are happy with the situation. But even so, one must commend Fidler and his colleagues — bassist/vocalist Corey Barhorst, drummer/vocalist James May and guitarist Chris Adams — for flooring the pedal and keeping it there for the entire duration of their set. The three standing musicians bristle with intensity as they surge toward and recede from the edge of the stage where a few of the attendees are headbanging and even windmilling to the tune of tracks like “Closed Eye” (taken from the band’s 2018 offering “T.C.B.T.”) and “Enemy of Reason” (off 2013’s “Tend No Wounds” EP). If there was a proper, big audience here, these proceedings would undoubtedly result in sweaty mayhem — but even under the present circumstances it is difficult not to be in thrall of Black Tusk’s raucous showmanship.

While much of the group’s discography until the aforementioned “T.C.B.T.” has subscribed to a no-frills approach to sludge metal, there is now a greater focus on melody in the new songs à la “Scalped” and “Agali”, which helps bring much needed variety to the concert. When I last saw Black Tusk live in 2015, I felt they were best had in short doses — yet ironically, as it becomes clear that Fidler & co. have no intention of playing longer than 35 minutes for us tonight when they exit the stage in the wake of “Agali”, I am left wanting for more. After some friendly protests from the audience, the four-piece does return for one last track in the shape of “Ghosts Roam” (also off “T.C.B.T.”) but even so, it feels like there is unfinished business here. While I am sympathetic to the reasons that unquestionably lie behind the early goodbye, it nonetheless leaves me somewhat disappointed. It was just getting so good!

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Setlist:

  • 01. Mass Devotion
  • 02. Brewing the Storm
  • 03. Closed Eye
  • 04. Enemy of Reason
  • 05. Scalped
  • 06. Crossroads and Thunder
  • 07. Vulture’s Eye
  • 08. Gallows
  • 09. Agali

— Encore —

  • 10. Ghosts Roam

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