Gorgoroth

support Vader + Valkyrja
author AP date 03/11/11 venue The Rock, Copenhagen, DEN

With no let-up in sight, The Rock have established themselves as the prefered venue for extreme metal of late. A most welcome addition to their calendar was the announcement that the Sign of Hell tour featuring Norwegian black metal band Gorgoroth, Polish death metal pioneers Vader, and Swedish black metal purists Valkyrja, would be stopping over at the venue as one of the first performances on the extensive European trek; a show that we would naturally cover with a live review. Read on to find out what kind of experience it turned out to be.

Valkyrja

Valkyrja are the only band on the bill whom I've previously had the pleasure of watching, approximately one year ago at this very same venue. The band plays a Swedish brand of puritanical black metal, complete with corpse paint and smudge marks painted across the various members' skins, rich with melody yet never compromising the extremity of the genre. Although their approach is hardly novel, there is enough variation in tempo and dynamics present here to warrant my undivided attention throughout, with especially the inspired drumming leaving a lasting impression. The guitarists consistently create atmospheres of gloom and darkness to back the somewhat atypical growling, alternating between fast, pummeling onslaughts and slower, progressive moments with an ear for detail and successful transitions. But beyond playing quality black metal of a brutally melodic sort - the kind that tends to sit well with me - Valkyrja do lack some edge à la 1349, Taake and Ragnarok to warrant their morbid appearance. Alas, once again it must be said that when it comes to black metal, no one does it better than the Norwegians. Still, a solid performance by one of the flagships of Swedish black metal.

Vader

Watching a band like Vader, deathcore as a genre suddenly feels utterly irrelevant. This is death metal of the purest form, with real feelings, not synthesized pseudo-heaviness; completely devoid of triggered breakdowns and exaggerated growls, I am reminded above all of Morbid Angel in terms of the class with which Vader take us through their set. Each song is carefully introduced together with its position in the band's discography, and each song is played with utmost precision and passion exuding from every clef and tone. On stage the band appear as seasoned veterans, full of confidence in their postures and synchronized headbanging and windmilling without ever venturing into hyperboles. We are given snapshots from the entirety of Vader's repertoire, ranging from their 1992 debut "The Ultimate Incantation" to this year's "Welcome to the Morbid Reich", including outtakes from a number of their EPs, and given the varied nature of the band's music, stretching from classic death metal to blackened thrash, the hour allocated to the band flies by all too quickly even with an unexpected encore featuring "This is the War" - how many support bands come back to do an encore? All around me there is chatter expressing disbelief that Vader is, in fact, supporting tonight when they should be headlining, and watching this demonstration of prowess one is inclined to feel the same way. Gorgoroth would have difficulty surpassing the quality of this performance.

Gorgoroth

It turns out that the task proves too difficult for Gorgoroth, a band whom I've been wanting to check out for some time now. Having watched the infamous DVD from the band's 2004 show in Krakow, Poland, which featured a massive stage production including fantastic pyrotechnics and naked models hanging from crucifixes, it is with slight disappointment that I realize no such controversy is going to be happening tonight. Instead, Gorgoroth walk on stage without much fanfare and proceed to grind through an hour and 15 minutes of predictable Norwegian black metal. I am initially intrigued by the band's brooding, atmospheric take on the genre; by the cavernous, echoing melodies and vocalist Pest's shrieks, but as the set draws on I become increasingly conscious of the one-pronged nature of their songs. There simply isn't enough happening in the music to maintain my interest for a set as lengthy as theirs.


Most of the songs are based around the same formula: lots of tremolo but no actual grabbing riffs per se, and considering the relative infamy surrounding the band, the show is surprisingly nonchalant, especially show with the aggressiveness of the recent Taake show here fresh in my memory. In what I'm guessing are old songs toward the end of the set - I cannot claim to be familiar enough with the band's repertoire to know which songs are played - things become slightly more interesting, with excellent dynamics introduced into the songs. But the performance sees no such improvement, which inclines me to conclude that the Gorgoroth of today is a far cry from its triumphant years with Gaahl in the front, coming across too tame and too uninspiring to leave a lasting impression. Vader, it turns out, should indeed have been headlining.

7

Photos courtesy of Rasmus Ejlersen

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