Mighty Fight Night 2012

support Pitchblack + Siamese Fighting Fish + Contrition + Shaped Like Swans + Sort Regn + Barricades
author TL date 14/01/12 venue Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN

It's Saturday night, it's fairly cold, considering the otherwise mild winter Denmark is currently having, and there's a considerable line outside of Pumpehuset. People are slowly being funneled in for the 2012 installment of Mighty Music Records' "Mighty Fight Night" event, during which three upcoming Danish metal bands will compete for a spot on this year's Copenhell Festival, as well as three stop mini tour of the country in the spring. Truth be told, I originally planned to come here for my own enjoyment, but given that our much more metal-inclined writer AP was prevented on the day, I have agreed to cover for him, bring my.. hmm.. vast knowledge and appreciation on and for metal to bear instead.

Before we get to the musical performances, I'd like to quickly drop a few words about the decor, seeing as this is my first visit to Pumpehuset since the venue closed and re-opened last year. The place which was traditionally divided into a downstairs bar and wardrobe area and an upstairs stage, is tonight limited to only the downstairs. A row of pillars divide the room across the far length of its rectangular shape, with the stage and bar hugging the end of either side of the division. The stage however, is facing outwards from the corner of the room, meaning that while there's a clear distinction between an 'action' area and a more casual space, the bands still seem to be playing to everybody. I dig this arrangement right away, and more importantly, I dig the beer prices ranging from 25-35 kr for a drink, so all in all, it's a thumbs up to the new Pumpehuset, and to the conditions for the competition.

Barricade

Truthfully though, most of these observations are made through the corner of my eye, because as I enter the venue, MFN's first contestant, the local Copenhagen quintet Barricade is already ripping into their opening song. Really though, from the look of their performance, it seems more like they're playing their last song. Ever. Talk about a band giving it their all to get a good shot at the competition. Each of the band's three standing members are giving it their all, fiercely brandishing their instruments over the edge of the stage while roaring out lyrics like lives depended on it. Couple this with what Barricade sound like, and you get a show that's dominated by some of metal's most gritty of traditions - as in: it is loud, mean, energetic and anything but pretty. Power is certainly emphasised over finesse, as Barricade power through a set with a Motorhead-ish no-nonsense quality, focusing mainly on giving the audience a show, less so on giving them an easy time of hearing any finer points in the band's murky, aggressive music. The bottom line is that these half bearded, half bald dudes look terrific while playing, even if they sound less so, with especially the cleaner of the two vocalists sounding more.. well, more punk than good if you get my meaning.. and with the drums occasionally coming out a bit flat compared to the vicious axes - which I consider weird for a band with two drummers? Regardless, it's a surprisingly solid start, and I would probably lean towards half a grade more than is given, if I didn't need the diversity of grades to mark the differences between all the bands tonight.

Sort Regn

The next men up are also a quintet, this time from Ølstykke, whose name translates to "Black Rain" and who, predictably, play black fuckin' metal. Prior to the show, I've been thinking that the band name is rather shitty - choosing a name in a different language just seems counterproductive when you sing in English anyway - but then I guess we have someone like Taake in the genre to show that this is not necessarily true. In either case, the main impression given to me by Sort Regn as I watch their set, is that their band seems to have had as its goal to mark every item on a checklist of "Black metal clichés" and not come up with anything original. It really is all here, just as it is likely described in whatever black book of Belzebub black metallers use as a handbook for their bands. You've got the black clothes, the spikes, the long hair, the corpsepaint and the microphone stand adorned with the horned skull of some animal. You've got remorseless double pedals firing at full speed, relatively simple melodies produced by aggressive tremolo shredding, and the bands main vocalist changing between a high raspy croak and a deep guttural growl while at all times trying to appear as grim as possible. There's even something going on with some fake blood towards the end of the performance. As for the crowd, there's at least a handful of bare-chested fans going at it, trying to match the windmilling on stage, but overall, activity seems a little lessened compared to what Barricade whipped up. And for a good reason, because if you ask me, I neither see nor hear anything to suggest that Sort Regn have any ambitions of being more than just a textbook BM band. And in my view, if you don't have your own identity, you don't have much, even if I do tend to tip my hat to bands that dare to engage in theatrics to liven up their live shows.

6

Shaped Like Swans

The final contestants to play on the night are also a quintet, namely the young metalcore outfit Shaped Like Swans, who are also from Copenhagen, and who boast some minor star power, what with counting former As We Fight and Road To Manila vocalist Jesper Gün among their ranks. These lads play a relatively aggresive branch of metalcore, seemingly borrowing elements from the likes of Misery Signals and Bring Me The Horizon, and easily making them least heavy among the contestants, surely making genre purists present shake their heads at their more modern approach. That being said, with the hardcore-inspired breaks, they are by far the most rhythmically interesting listen tonight, and chances are their slightly lighter guitars are also the reason why their sound is both clearer and catchier than anything that's gone before. And while the dudes in the band look neither as menacing nor as intense as the previous bands, they still bounce about with considerable energy on stage, one which is also matched by a reasonable contingency of fans on the floor. Things culminate when Gün takes to the floor to briefly demonstrate some hardcore steps and guitarist Nicholas Meents goes riding on the back of an audience member while still desperately trying to crank out his parts despite the distance to his monitor. Could be my prior familiarity with these guys that come in here, but if you ask me, their performance offered the best balance of sound, performance and originality tonight, although Barricade were not far behind, mostly courtesy of their delivery in the two latter categories.

7

Contrition

With the three competing bands over and done with, it's time for the three bands of the night that are strictly here for the purpose of our entertainment, and the first of those is Contrition, who won the competition last year. Personally, I had seen Contrition once earlier, when they supported Siamese Fighting Fish in the spring last year, and back then both AP and I noted how the band had some knack for penning textbook metalcore with hooks, yet needed to gain some confidence and experience to really slay on sizable stages. Tonight I am surprised to discover that Contrition sound quite a bit harder and heavier than I remembered, lurking somewhere in the vicinity of the same stylistic area Shaped Like Swans portrayed. Furthermore, there's not much insecurity to be spotted, as the five guys - who also look quite young - seem to act with the confidence of players twice their age, cockily moving about the stage and engaging the audience as best they can. Again, a solid group is going for it on the floor, but I can't help but to think that Shaped Like Swans actually just played some slightly similar music in a more varied and hence more interesting manner. And when singer Nico occasionally opens his mouth to try something reminiscent of clean singing, I suddenly understand why the band doesn't seem to feature much of that anymore. Again, a pretty solid performance, but one which will suffer a slide of about half a grade because of the direct comparison to the other bands on the night.

6

Siamese Fighting Fish

After Contrition, Siamese Fighting Fish are next to grace the stage, which could be a little worrying for someone like me, who knows the band well enough to know that they are considerably less metal than any other band billed tonight. Singer Mirza Radonjica knows it too, as he kicks things off with a challenge, telling the crowd that he's about to divide the room into the people who like his band, and the people who thinks he's lame because he can actually sing in a clean voice. In actuality though, no noticeable schism occurs, as the experienced entertainment machine that SIFIFI have gradually become, easily draws the biggest group of movers to the venue floor, even despite playing a set half of which is dedicated to the testing of unreleased material. This newer material sees the band focusing less on melodic hooks and grand climaxes and more on rocking grooves and breaks that incite all sorts of dancing, jumping and moshing in the audience. Crowd surfers suddenly come sailing from the stage regularly, so much in fact, that a venue guard soon takes exception and breaks up that particular practice. This only dampens the spirit of the show for the briefest of moments, as people faithfully rock out to such arrogantly titled cuts as "Ham Lightning" and "Punk Ass Crap Shit Bitch". Time flies, people are entertained and soon SIFIFI round things off with "K.I.T.T. and The Hero Villains" and encore "Gods On Tv", solidifying for Lord knows which time, that they can deliver a good time even when they're really just using the opportunity to play new songs and gain chemistry with interrim violinist Christian Lauritzen.

Pitchblack

Being the closing act tonight has fallen to five more Copenhageners that make out Pitchblack, and when I say they close rather than headline, it is because they initially come on stage to a venue that looks a bit depopulated compared to moments ago when SIFIFI went off stage. It quickly turns out that a fair few people are just smoking or getting fresh air though, as the crowd in front of the stage does thicken over the course of a couple of songs. Thematically, we're almost coming full circle, as Pitchblack's brand of straight-forward, no bullshit metal isn't too far from the - granted, somewhat sludgier - offering with which Barricade opened the evening. The band presents themselves like men of experience, assuming powerful stances on stage and gesturing and playing like they do this every day of the week. That said, it seems to me that I may not be the only one who's just about had my fill, after some 5 hours of straight metal (keep in mind, this is not my usual genre of choice), because apart from the crowd eagerly rocking out to the show, and the loyal fans still waiting to hear the result of the contest, it seems people are gradually syphoning out of the venue, aiming to pursue other plans for the night. Just another symptom I guess, supporting my observation that Pitchblack - despite a solid showing - were more closers than headliners.

Before ending this article however, it is only fitting to reveal that Barricade eventually took home the prize, winning both the vote of the majority of the audience as well as the one of the judges appointed by Copenhell and Mighty Music. Hence we see it only fitting to congratulate them, and we hope the fans and readers will join us in wishing them good luck with the shows they've now won the opportunity to play! Remember to check them out at Copenhell Festival if you're going, and to keep an eye on Mighty Music if you're interested in the more metallic releases coming out here in Denmark.

Finally, if you like the photos in this article, keep an eye on photographer Jonas Smidt Mogensen on his facebook, where he will be posting extensive galleries shortly.

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