The Psyke Project

support The Burning + Scarred By Beauty
author AP date 25/09/09 venue The Rock, Copenhagen, DEN

Doubling as a goodbye party for me, before heading back to the United Kingdom for yet another semester of hard work, harder play and true gigmania, was one of the most anticipated underground music events this year (for me, at least) - the release party for one of our candidates for album of the year: "Dead Storm" by the infamous Psyke Project. With promises of free beer, hanging out with the band members, and hanging out with some of my closest friends, this was to be a night to remember (and when it became late enough, forget some details from it). So excuse me, but here is a personal thank you to every band that participated in the showdown, you sent me off smiling.

Scarred By Beauty

When these boys came on stage, confusion erupted in the venue because, where the hell was Joller, their esteemed vocalist? In fact, and I have my poor recollection to thank for this, I was convinced that the band on stage was The Burning, that the set times had been exchanged at the last minute. Which was strange, considering my familiarity with that band's music; strange that it had become so much more melodic all of a sudden. I remember expressing my pleasant surprise with this new turn to the hangarounds that were there with me and enduring the entire show confused as to whether it was a new born The Burning I was listening to, or had Joller undergone some kind of metamorphosis... into an eerily familiar character I could swear I had seen and met before. Silly me. Turns out Joller was busy with his touring commitments with Hatesphere, and that the vocalist brought in to stand in was none other than Kim Jarlholt of Vira.

In retrospect the difference in vocals was so minute it is hardly worth mentioning, which just goes to show what an able vocalist Jarlholt actually is. Then there were the present members of SBB, who, alongside an experienced, if borrowed frontman staged one of the most exhilarating performances I have seen from Danish upstarts. It was disciplined without being too tame. It was melodic without being overtly catchy. It was technical without being overindulgent.

Unlike many of their peers, SBB are at one with their instruments, which enables them to have all kinds of stage antics that make their music that much more interesting to watch in a live setting - not that the music isn't interesting enough on its own. In fact, my indifference to the bands debut EP (a review of which you shall find here shortly) turned into intrigue, with guitar duo Daniel Leszkowicz and Asser Topp-Mortensen providing a torrent of chilling, thoughtful melodies juxtaposed with groovy lo-fi passages that had the floor bobbing in no time. All this while broadcasting a seamless ease with a stage presence that screams experience although they have very little. Even my entourage, who were of a far less metallic disposition, admitted that this band shows promise - and I doubt that had very much to do with their captain for the night, Mr. Jarlholt (though all the respect to him for filling Joller's shoes and delivering his trademark roar in an extremely faithful adaptation of the original).

The Burning

I know that our entrusted TL gave them a bit of thrashing for their latest album, so in light of that it may sound a little hypocritical to offer them such praise. It was therefore admittedly with the lowest of expectations that I anticipated The Burning's alleged embodiment of the most one-dimensional and stereotypical metallic hardcore imaginable, and it was perhaps for this reason that their performance this night was such a positive surprise.

Much of its entertainment value owed to the band's vocalist and madman Johnny Haven' Jydsk persona - cracking anti-Copenhagen jokes at every opportunity, visibly drunk and unaware of the risk. But where some of my friends found his overt moronism distracting, to me his jesting was as necessary as it was hilarious given the otherwise savage nature of the band's music. In fact, the music itself did not leave me with much of an impression. It was Mr. Haven's frivolous showmanship that kept my attention, not to mention the rest of the band members, whose demeanor could not be described as even remotely normal. But that's a good thing, because one got the feeling that The Burning were there to entertain themselves as much as they were there to give us our money's worth. And for what it's worth, the music itself was far less horrific than I had been led to believe, featuring plenty of tight musicianship from particularly the lone guitarist, Alex Kjeldsen.


The Psyke Project

At this point in the evening the generous treatment courtesy of The Psyke Project before and during the interview was beginning to take its toll on my blood alcohol level. Not to worry though, because if there is one band I would slice my wrists over forgetting, this would be it. [Excuse me while I switch to present tense to better place those of you who were unfortunate enough to miss the show, there inside the venue with me]. When they take the stage, they ensure that the prevalent feeling inside the venue is one of total discomfort and this time is no exception. Amid smoke and murky blue light, the band's silhouettes let loose an ethereal, yet very disquieting clean introduction, engulfing the room in a sinister, otherworldly atmosphere. The chatter dies down to an eerie quiet and all eyes fixate on the stage, before a scathing amount of feedback takes over and the drums begin that hypnotic 'march' rhythm of "Fire Blizzards".

All hell breaks loose when the doom and gloom of that song kicks in - on stage and within the crowd. Bleak, unforgiving storms of noise come at us with full force only to disappear into the distance to make room for an uncomfortable calm, as vocalist Martin Nielskov places a finger in front of his lips, ensuring that the only noise audible inside the venue is drummer Rasmus Sejersen's gentle tapping on the rims of his drums during "Storms of the North". Queue another explosion of sheer, distorted noise and the picture is complete. The intensity is difficult to express in words, the music simply comes in waves; waves that drag each crowd member into a whirlpool inside his own mind and incite violent moshpits.

Volume has been cranked to the max and it sounds absolutely terrifying, especially during the brief bouts of uncontained fury that encapsulate the band's earlier material. Add to that a stage presence that often gets compared to the likes of The Chariot, Converge and Dillinger Escape Plan, and you've got yourself a performance to remember. What differentiates The Psyke Project from those bands, however, is that their inclination is not toward chaos and destruction, but toward creating landscapes and moods with their sound - so that one moment they may be wildly bashing their instruments, and the next crouching on the floor in despair. If there is a darker, more atmospheric, and better live band in Denmark, then someone please take me to them. Until then, The Psyke Project remain the crowned kings of Danish metal as far as this scribe is concerned.

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