support Ragnarok + Valkyrja
author AP date 08/09/10 venue The Rock, Copenhagen, DEN

Wednesday nights at The Rock are usually quiet, but tonight's all-star black metal bill ensures the venue is rammed by the time the contingent arrives. Clad in our signature bright blue tees, the surrounding organisms with their stern expressions and dark merchandise stare us down and we feel out of place. This is no surprise though, as for the undersigned tonight's performance is the first true black metal concert he has ever attended. Expectations are thus high, and as the lights dim and an ominous, orchestral intro piece fills the premises, discomfort turns into sheer exhiliration. But such emotion, I have been told, is unacceptable in these circles, so my expression remains grim and my arms firmly crossed as Valkyrja enters.


The first thing to notice about this menacing proposition, is that the drumming is absolutely immense and has been given well-deserved prominence in the overall mix. J. Wallgren pummels his skins with such prowess that for a moment, all that matters about Valkyrja's performance is the monumental sound of the double pedal and the blastbeats for which it lays the foundation. Then one starts to throw glances at the other members, shredding away at fearful tremolo riffs and delivering just the kind of trademark shrieks one would expect from a black metal band. All is black, white and blue of course - including the dim stage lighting, the various instruments and outfits, as well as the obligatory corpse paint that each musician bears - giving rise to a murky, yet brilliantly theatrical atmosphere. There is enough variation in Valkyrja's music to render each song interesting in its own right, though vocalist A. L. leaves more to be desired with his monotonous formula. Naming individual songs in tonight's set is out of the question for a newbie such as myself, but judging from crowd response, all the right classic tracks are delivered with admirable precision and even the newer songs are received with enthusiasm (an emotion that is extremely difficult to detect in the majority of the crowd in attendance) - and by enthusiasm I mean abundant clapping and horns of course. But while this is a set of indisputable quality, I find myself drawing less from it than I had hoped for, being rather impressed by the drummer's antics than by the music overall, and as such, the grade that reflects these sentiments is



Ragnarok have a gruesome appearance, splattered in fake blood and painted from head to toe with corpse white and charcoal emblems. Vocalist Hansfyrste, in particular, resembles to me the impersonation of some mythical Norse figure, which is fitting considering the pagan and folk undertones in the band's music. Coupled with a frenetic stage persona of Hansfyrste and the murderous hate flowing out of every glance and chord of the remnant musicians, these subtle allusions to Nordic mythology make Ragnarok's music a far more interesting affair than Valkyrja's, though one might wish for some extra punch in the hefty drumming. Hansfyrste's vocal style is also far more befitting the genre than those of A. L., sounding like a thoroughly pissed off Thor thundering at his disciples, and when one combines this with the long-winding, epic melodies and chord progressions that guitarist Brigge lays down, Ragnarok easily take the prize as the best band tonight (at least so far) and leave Marduk with a difficult challenge. Ragnarok are simply a sight to behold on stage, in that they do not restrict themselves to mere still-standing and grimacing but instead, compose themselves as an organic and catastrophically ferocious outfit, discharging at us pure evil and wishing us devastating harm. And the fact that songs like "Collectors of the King" and the absolutely fantastic "Murder" happen to be as splattered with brooding melodies and (arguably) hooks as their bodies are with blood makes their expression all the more captivating.



Marduk are welcomed as heroes, and why not, for this is no small time black metal gang. Described as one of the heaviest (and by some as the most blasphemous) black metal band in the world, the weight of this band's music in a live setting is difficult to put in words. Particularly the older material, which nods towards death metal, results in one mammoth of a wall of sound, although it must be said that these songs are definitely the less impressive inclusions in Marduk's set tonight - at least to people not accustomed to such extreme music. The more interesting compositions are from the mid-era "Panzer Division Marduk" album, as well as the faster, more intense black metal pieces from recent years, as they are high on melody as well as crushing heaviness, and not just the latter. But something about Marduk's performance fails to engage me - it's not that they're uninteresting to watch or that they lack passion in their delivery, but that the set winds in at over an hour and the material is far less versatile than what Ragnarok had to offer. One member strikes out though, namely vocalist Mortuus, who stages one of the most grueling, agonised and sharply contextual performances this scribe has ever witnessed, absorbing the theatrics of the music in full and unleashing a storm of distressing emotion on the bewildered audience. His antics admittedly lift Marduk's show up a great deal, but one still feels like something is absent; something that would make the show fantastic rather than very good.

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