Envy

support Redwood Hill
author AP date 11/10/11 venue Beta, Copenhagen, DEN

It is no secret that Envy is considered something of a cult band in post-rock and post-hardcore circles, so it is unsurprising that only those in the know have seen it fit to show up for this highly anticipated show, although the fact that Denmark is simultaneously engaged in a vital Euro 2012 qualifying football match against Portugal might have something to do with it as well. Still, the turnout is better than it has been in the past few concerts at Beta, and missing even an important game for the experience offered by both of tonight's bands suddenly seemed entirely justified - read on to find out why.

Redwood Hill

Despite the fact that this is the first time Redwood Hill are performing live on stage, the local five piece manages to pull together one of the most impressive support shows this year. It was only a matter of time before a second generation of Danish post-metal would surface in the wake of the Psyke Project, and it seems Redwood Hill are among the first to jump in this bandwagon. There are moments in the band's music that share an uncanny resemblance with the harrowing dirge, primal guitar tone, and desolate atmosphere of the Psyke Project on "Apnea" and "Dead Storm", but fortunately rather than settle for mere idolatry, Redwood Hill draw equal amounts of inspiration from the American mastodonts in the genre, Isis and Neurosis, and complete the audioscape with their own depressive touch.

Indeed, there is little hope to be heard in the music of Redwood Hill, which resides primarily in slow-to-mid-tempo terrain and explores melodies altogether freezing and pessimistic in their nature. The songs are characterised by lengthy drones and dissonant legato scales, both main culprits in shaping the gloomy atmosphere that reigns inside Beta for half an hour and immerses the audience into a state of trance; few people are moving, yet almost everyone's jaw is figuratively glued to the floor. Rarely has such tragedy been captured so beautifully by a band of such inexperience. In fact, had we not been informed that Redwood Hill were playing their debut concert, it would have seemed impossible that this wasn't a tour-hardened band with international experience, hand-picked for the occasion by Envy.

Their performance also supports this impression. It is energetic when it needs to be, as in the explosions of noise that often arise from foreboding calms in the band's music, and restrained when the lulls call for it. Vocalist Marco retreats behind the rest of the band in the instrumental parts, often kneeling with his head buried in his hands whilst whispering distant, ominous lyrics, clearly living and breathing the music, only to surge to the frontline when the time comes to unleash his grueling screams. The rest of the band are also in complete sync with the music, standing still in the quiet parts and violently swinging their instruments in the noisy passages. As such, the only thing holding Redwood Hill back tonight is the virtually inaudible soft whispering and clean singing, which often creates the impression that Redwood Hill is mainly an instrumental band. Still, to witness this kind of performance from a band with almost no experience is positively surprising, and if they're able to sustain their momentum, the future bodes well for Redwood Hill.

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Envy

But even though Redwood Hill inadvertently set the bar high for the night, their performance is no match for the awesome might of Japanese post-rock group Envy, who execute their hour-long set with the kind of passion, conviction and skill that comes to a band only through two decades of relentless writing and touring. The performance is so invigorating, and the music so otherworldly that even the last strains of movement settle into the hypnotised mass of people caught in the devastating and beautiful layers of sound emanating from the speakers. There are no issues with the sound now, enabling the band to unleash what must be some of the finest, most monumental music of its kind without so much as a single cosmetic flaw. We are held captive by the cataclysmic wall of ethereal melodies, syncopated rhythms and echoing dissonance, our souls caught in a turmoil of emotions.

It really is difficult to convey in words how magnificent a band Envy is without having witnessed it first hand. It is Tetsuya Fukagawa, Nobukata Kawai, Masahiro Tobita, Manabu Nakagawa and Dairoku Seki tripping far out in their musical universe, appearing as mere vessels for the divine proportions of their music. It is their relentless energy and ability to depict the maelstrom of emotions present in their music through movement and expressions. It is the sheer unabated beauty, hyper-ambitious scope and colossal size of the band's music. It is the nerve-wrenching crescendos and discharges of energy leading to sonic epiphanies. It is the unanimous feeling of a shared, pan-dimensional musical experience that washes through the venue. It is the realization that this is more than mere music. This is art, pure and complex.

It makes no difference that probably no-one in the venue understands exactly what Fukagawa is singing and screaming about, or that the band's interaction with the crowd is limited to a few expressions of gratitude; Envy construct their songs with such universal appeal, and tear them apart with such devastating power that they transcend the meaning of the expression to be impressed, and utilize Beta's impressive sound system with such formidable skill that we cannot but stand back in admiration at what must be among the best concerts seen in Denmark this year. I for one leave the venue with my mind blown and my musical horizon expanded.

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Photos courtesy of Rasmus Ejlersen

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