Slægt

support Redwood Hill + Morild + Sinnrs
author AP date 16/11/19 venue Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN

Once a year, four Danish metal bands of a blackened colouration are united beneath the banner of “Night of the Black Attack”; an event conceived by the folks behind the Danish metal blog Heavymetal.dk. This fourth edition of the festivities is taking place at Pumpehuset for the first time, as the usual venue Forbrændingen in Albertslund decided only to book bands with female artists in focus this year, and the blacker extreme of Denmark’s metal scene is not exactly burgeoning with them, as we know. It is thus in familiar confines that I prepare myself for taking in what is perhaps the best line-up the event has been able to muster yet, one which includes a celebratory appearance by the elusive Redwood Hill, whose sophomore album “Collider” happens to be turning five this evening.

All photos courtesy of Peter Troest (except where otherwise noted)


Sinnrs

First on the agenda is a duo who have been generating a lot of buzz lately, but whom I am yet to have heard or seen. The two hood-clad musicians, known only by their pseudonyms Maestus & Nero, get off to a difficult start, as the latter’s guitar falls out of the mix almost instantly, rendering the intro piece “Nihil” and much of the subsequent “The Storm of I” an incomplete mix of thunderous drumming and dramatic, albeit far too prominent symphonic samples. Once Nero’s troubles are resolved, the full might of Sinnrs’ music finally becomes apparent, and even though I am not convinced by the efficacy of the songs themselves, one has to give the band some credit for creating such a racket with just two instruments. It is especially the enormous drumkit manned by Maestus that booms and rumbles in the soundscape, and more than once during the concert I am reminded of the legendary Hellhammer in terms of his style and power. It is shame then, that the one thing Sinnrs seem to lack is synergy; both of the musicians are adept at their handicraft, but the end result sounds untight, as if Nero cannot quite keep up with the speed and complexity of Maestus’ percussion. It looks like most of the audience shares my opinion, as there is very little response from the floor, with most people content to stand with their arms crossed, wearing an expression of skepticism on their faces. Things improve as the set comes to a conclusion with the brand new “Endless Day”, which is slower and more theatrical than what the band has presented to us thus far, and features the kind of ringing chords and Gregorian chanting that instantly send my thoughts toward Behemoth. If this song is anything to go by, there is reason to look forward to Sinnrs’ sophomore album, which they are currently working on. But on the other hand, if the show tonight sets the standard for their live capabilities, then I do have concerns about the longevity of this band.

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Morild

At last, the time has come for yours truly to see Morild live for the first time. The quintet belongs to an upsurge of atmospheric and post-black metal bands in Denmark (and indeed worldwide) in recent years, and their unique selling point is that the five musicians theme their music around an oceanic theme, and often splatter themselves with UV-reactive paint for their performances. And while the band may not have the additional splendour of an aquatic tank as their backdrop here, they are nonetheless the only ones on the bill tonight to enlist visuals projected onto a thin white veil that extends halfway down from the ceiling to the edge of the stage. But although the various morphing shapes and particles and reflections of light on this veil undoubtedly create an alluring effect when deployed in conjunction with strobes and ultraviolet lighting, Morild’s showmanship is strong enough in its own right to make such frills redundant. After the ambient sounds of the first song “Så kom mørket og tog mig på ordet” (which also opens Morild’s latest album) have set the mood, the group explodes into action in keeping with the dark and devastating cascade of black metal in “En sort sky af minder”.

Photo courtesy of Jacob Dinesen / Devilution.dk

The flickering strobes render the antics of the five musicians even more frenetic, transforming them into stop-motion silhouettes that twist and twitch in jarring movements amid plumes of smoke. Indeed, for a band often classified as blackgaze, there is very little actual shoegazing in Morild’s performance, with only the music sometimes taking on a calmer, post-rocking character in which sampled piano melodies and atavistically pounding drums take the leading role. And even these passages send bassist and backing vocalist Kristoffer Alm slaloming around his compatriots in a way reminding me of his counterpart in Kellermensch. This mysterious, atmospheric and thoroughly captivating show draws to a conclusion far too early, with a storm of ominously droning tremolo riffage by the three guitarists intertwining with shrill growls by frontman Tue Krebs Roikjer, as Simon Frenning Sørensen’s drums roar beneath with all the might of an earthquake. It delivers an extreme finale to a set in which the moody, the epic, and the intense find a perfect balance.

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Redwood Hill

As the devastation of “Microgravity” engulfs the room and red lights (naturally) are beamed into the audience, it dawns on me that while I have always called the music of Redwood Hill post-metal, it is in fact best described as black metal slowed to a crawl. But while their songs follow a slow or, at best, medium tempo, the showmanship of the five musicians is anything but subdued, with vocalist Marco Stæhr Hill pounding his chest with his microphone, lashing out at the air, and stomping the ground like the best of hardcore punk frontmen straight off the bat. His growling sounds absolutely harrowing tonight — like screams from the netherworld — enabling the band to deliver songs like the subsequent “Wie Ein Adler” with more savagery than ever before, and forcing the festive and talkative Saturday evening crowd to give up on their loud conversations. The rest of the musicians, too, leave a strong impression by virtue of their energetic, albeit introspective performances during the likes of “Albedo” and “Tabula Rasa”, both of which, however, suffer greatly from the blabbering that erupts from select attendees as soon as they reach one of their more contemplative sections. It is no fault of Redwood Hill’s of course, who press on without relent and lift their instruments up into the air in triumph when “Cytherean” eventually brings the proceedings to a conclusion. Still, for some reason the performance never manages to reproduce the magic of previous concerts played by this band, which might be a byproduct of staples like “Dybbuk” and “Nadir” missing from the set. These tend to be the songs that send audiences into a frenzy, whereas tonight, the reaction of the crowd never reaches a fever pitch. “Collider” is a less explosive album than its predecessor, 2013’s “Descender” so this makes sense, but still, one might have hoped for a more special concert given the occasion. Instead, it feels like the band is running through the motions tonight, even if they are making quite the show out of it.

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Slægt

Although the idea behind this event is to shine a light on Denmark’s black metal scene, it would be a stretch to call Slægt a black metal band. While there are elements of it in the Copenhagen-based quartet’s sound, even the intro track (Emily Bindinger’s “Song of Decision”) reminds us that Slægt are the least conventional artist featured on the bill tonight. I have seen the band so many times in a relatively short period of time that I know exactly what to expect once “Perfume and Steel” (from the group’s 2018 album “The Wheel”) gets going, but it has yet to grow tiring. Drawing inspiration from ‘80s hair metal for their extravagant showmanship, Slægt remain one of the finest live bands in the country, and they are not in a mood to soil their reputation tonight. Indeed, they seem to be unfazed by the thinned crowd and proceed through their set with antics that are as wild as always, with lead guitarist Anders M. Jørgensen especially putting on a performance of sheer excess. With his instrument pointing at the ceiling, his back arched like a limbo artist, and his expression that of a musician completely in love with his job, Jørgensen is a sight to behold, and even though the rest of the band are full of energy as well, the proverbial spotlight remains fixed on him most of the time. But even if Slægt’s demeanour on stage were substandard, the band would still be a success by virtue of their songwriting and skill of musicianship. The likes of “The Tower” (taken from 2017’s “Domus Mysterium”) and “Gauntlet of Lovers” (off the aforementioned “Wheel”) are brilliant in their marriage of glorious heavy and melodic progressive metal antics, and crackling black metal growls by frontman Oskar J. Frederiksen. And so while this feels very much like just another day at the office for Slægt, the band keeps such a high standard that even such an unsurprising showing from them as this, is still miles above what most other artists are able to deliver.

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