The Psyke Project

support Whelm
author AP date 09/10/10 venue Stengade, Copenhagen, DEN

Spillestedet Stengade, as some of you will know, opened with a blast mid September. The reborn venue has vowed to focus on rock and metal this time, but it wasn't until this dark October evening that the metal program was to be initiated. And what better way to kick off than with the one of the finest live phenomena in the country: the notorious Psyke Project. As one of only two exclusive shows the band has agreed to play this Fall before holing up in some dark forest to write new material, expectations were visibly high inside the rammed venue - not least because of the sound system, which defies the size of the place, and the intimate setting in which intense live acts like The Psyke Project thrive. But excitement and other positive emotions were about to receive a major blow from tonight's special guests, the local sludge-doom hybrid Whelm:

Whelm

Whelm are too bizarre to be a doom metal band, is the first thought to cross my mind. The band's instrumental setup includes both an electric cello and a mandolin; the vocals alternate between abysmal growling and neanderthal yelling; and the collective appearance is a strange concoction of hardcore, stoner and psychedelic rock. The music, however, belies these oddities, trudging along at a sluggish speed. It doesn't sound like the last agonising steps a human takes before tumbling into his grave though, so funeral doom this is not. The music is highly textured and contains that hypnotic element that makes watching it intently an inescapable requirement. Where the effect flutters a little, however, is in the light show, which in no measure reflects the droning beauty of the music. As I see it, the only way that music this slow and gradual is ever going to realise its full potential in a live setting, is if the show becomes an immersive, audiovisual experience. One might of course argue that the severe face expressions and restricted movement on stage are precisely the kind of thing I am referring to, but having watched bands like Neurosis and The Ocean accompany their performances with abstract projections and carefully co-ordinated light effects, Whelm leaves me a little underwhelmed.

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The Psyke Project

The Psyke Project has, of late, found a delicate balance between beautiful, lingering ambience and devastating pandemonium. The music found on "Dead Storm" and "Apnea" is both tranquilizing and causal to total discomfort. The songs on these albums are given room to breathe and evolve through constant tension and release, often starting with minimal notes, gradually exposing a crescendo, and finally concluding in systematic deconstruction of sound. But before the focus shift, The Psyke Project released two albums titled "Samara" and "Daikini". These albums drew on the chaos and relentless intensity of bands like Converge and Zao while leaving the prettier parts out, the remnants of which can still be heard on songs like "Panic". It is these songs that comprise a large portion of the band's notorious live reputation. Imagine then, The Psyke Project performing live only the songs on which they are at their rawest, guided by their most primal instincts. Sounds like mayhem, doesn't it? Well, it just so happens that in celebration of their tenth anniversary, this is exactly what The Psyke Project had in mind for tonight. Songs that feature any form of a quietus have been discounted in favor of a comprehensive trip through the most violent, chaotic and intense material of their career, including rarities like "Broken Promise" and "Just at the Moment" - the latter of which never even found its way to an album.

Set in the claustrophobic intimacy of Stengade, the result is the kind of voluptuous mayhem that ends in injuries. Injuries, which I must eventually surrender to, and extradite myself from the front of the stage where vocalist Martin Nielskov and assorted fans are taking turns at screaming the lyrics of "In the Mist". Being kicked off the stage by an overjoyous Christian "Bono" Bonnesen only to have this procedure reciprocated by a crazed fan behind me, has wreaked serious havoc on my right shin, which is pulsating with swollen agony. But fuck that, it is as though both the band, myself and the surrounding audience are under a spell and nothing matters; there is no threshold to the frenzy, increasing exponentially with every passing minute. The unrelenting psychosis that has possessed the band is approaching The Chariot like proportions, and speaks volumes about the benefits of bands like this playing to small, dedicated crowds in miniature venues. There is nothing to hold the band back; nothing limiting their expression. One would think that the low ceiling and limited space might constrain some bands from swinging their instruments too much, climbing on monitors and crowd-surfing, but for The Psyke Project these appear to amplify their aggression. This is, without a doubt, the most intense performance that The Psyke Project has ever delivered, if not the most intense performance ever delivered by a Danish band.

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Setlist:

01. The Forerunner of Death

02. Stockholm Bloodbath

03. Fimbul

04. Broken Promise

05. Note 1 (Darling)

06. Physical Romance

07. Polaris

08. Never Like Judas

09. Just at the Moment

10. I Get Paralyzed

11. In the Mist

The Psyke Project photos courtesy of Jacob Dinesen

- http://www.nrgmagazine.dk.

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