City Of Ships

support Rising + Whelm
author PP date 16/04/10 venue Lades Kælder, Copenhagen, DEN

It is my opinion that City Of Ships are one of the most underrated and under appreciated bands around at the moment. With a sound directly comparable to the greatness that is Thrice, roughly from the "Vheissu" era, it's difficult not to appreciate the bands intricately constructed sound bursting of intelligence and subtle catchyness. So when they're playing at the 80-person capacity Lades Kælder in central Copenhagen, supplemented by two Danish metal acts, one unknown and one up-and-coming as well as Roskilde Festival relevant, who's gonna say no to that? Apparently way too many Copenhagers considering the disappointing turn out. Oh well, they don't know what they missed tonight.

Whelm

I've seen a ridiculous amount of shows to date so it has become very difficult to blow me away the first time I'm watching a band in a live environment. But it took Whelm all of three minutes to do so, as they slowly launched into their down tempo, sludgy doom metal characterized by enthralling atmospheres and two very different, and very good vocalists. One is a deep growler doom metal style, the other possesses more of a Mastodon type roar that occasionally slips into amazing pained semi-clean delivery, while the music itself consists of painstakingly slow buildups and tightly knit, lengthy all-instrumental sections pushing most songs well beyond the seven minute mark. As a result, most people being City Of Ships or Rising fans here, the crowd at first quickly disappears from the front of the stage, but it doesn't take long for curious souls to return to figure out what it is about this murky outfit that draws them towards the stage. Me, I'm just sitting there with my jaw half-dropped, just staring at the band, forgetting all of my surroundings and immersing myself into their slow but incredibly detail-rich soundscapes, completely hypnotized and unable to move even though my beer ran out 35 minutes earlier.

I keep staring for what feels like an eternity before an awkward pause awakens me from a trance by taking away a chunk of the atmosphere, because the band need to set up a mandolin (!) and an electric upright bass for the remainder of their songs, but it takes them exactly 30 seconds of the mandolin-driven intro to the song to win me back over. I look around me, and I see that the audience has more than doubled, with people holding precisely the same expression as that on my face; one of awe, one of amazement, one where you can just tell that the person has let the music completely surround his current reality, where everything else has almost ceased from existing. Another ten minute mammoth follows, and at some point near 70 minutes or so we are treated to a breathtaking extended tremolo-shred finale, bringing melody at such dark levels it redefines the meaning of back-chilling. This stuff has enormous potential, and it would almost certainly only benefit from a midnight-showing at a larger stage for example at Roskilde Festival. Without the mid-set pause, this would've been one of my highlight shows this year.

Rising

The next 15-20 minutes were spent simply absorbing the immense atmospheres of Whelm over a few beers, before it was time for the up-and-coming Copenhagen metalheads Rising. They also feature a primal roar type of vocalist, and have a very masculine, muscular sound that relies on sludgy grooves and convincing roared vocals, amounting into an overall muddy and gruff sound not much unlike Mastodon or Baroness. The first song the band launches into definitely makes it clear why the bassist is sporting a Baroness shirt, and anyone familiar with Mastodon would've found references to the band as well as to Down and Pantera all around Rising's sound. A sound, which both looks and sounds way better than what my impression was from their Myspace page and the bits of their EP that I checked out based on AP's review last year. The music is played with a strong attitude typical to post-metal / sludge bands, with headbangs and nice energy all around leaving the band dripping of sweat after just two tracks into their set. That's always a good sign, and it is this give-it-all, no crowd-interaction delivery that makes Rising look so much more experienced live than what they should be at this stage of their career. Where many bands of this kind fail to interest me live or on record, Rising's set is neither boring nor tiring to watch, and hence it keeps me well entertained for the 40 minutes or so that the band plays. Once they step off the stage, they should do so feeling good about themselves, as a great deal of the crowd is impressed, including this scribe, who might just defeat his usual "no bands during warm up" policy and make it to their Pavilion Jr set at Roskilde Festival this summer for more Mastodon-inspired muscular riffs and grooves.

7

City Of Ships

After two such convincing sets of two very different styles of music, City Of Ships have a mountain of a task ahead of them if they are to beat Whelm in atmosphere or Rising in pure energy. The climb is conquered within the first song already, as the band pounds through one of their best songs "Wraiths In Flight", showing off their brilliant subtle melodies that take care of the soundscape part, while the drummer is going mental in the background, smashing out crazy rolls and fills in unconventional time signatures providing both texture and energy to the band's set. The ambient nature of the atmospheres instantly capture the whole crowd, highlighting just the reason why these guys are so critically acclaimed and often garner comparisons to one of the most intellectually challenging bands of the last decade or so, Thrice. The intricate riff progressions leave no one cold in the crowd, except of course those of us standing right in front of the stage where Lades reminds us of its notorious problems with vocals: with no amp behind the band taking care of the vocals and the two ceiling speakers positioned slightly too ahead of the stage, the only place you're going to hear the vocals is from the monitors if you're standing within two meters of the stage. It's a trade off many are willing to accept, however, because the guitar melodies of "Praise Feeder" among others are just too incredible to miss by watching from further aback, especially because the band's movement on stage is spot on perfect for the type of music they're playing. A little bit of mystique, and a whole lotta intelligence, that's what it's all about for City Of Ships, and that's why tonight serves as a huge question mark as to why these guys aren't playing at much larger venues already.

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