support Psycroptic + Leng Tche
author AP date 17/02/12 venue Stengade, Copenhagen, DEN

Driven almost exclusively by volunteers and activists, Stengade is usually a safe bet for truly underground musical experiences. Not so tonight. The venue's bookers do occasionally muster up some seriously eyebrow-raising concerts, and the world class extreme metal on display on this fine Friday night is proof of that.

Leng Tch'e

In charge of initiating the proceedings is Belgian grindcore - or as they themselves like to be dubbed, razorgrind act Leng Tch'e, who have garnered a formidable reputation in the genre during their 11 years of existence. Much has changed since of course: no original members remain in the line-up (among whom was current Aborted vocalist Sven de Caluwé); the band's current vocalist Serge Kasongo appears on just the latest studio album; and current percussionist Olivier Copens joined the troop as late as last year. As such it is a vastly refurbished Leng Tch'e that we are to bear witness to in these intimate confines tonight. So what of the performance?

One thing Leng Tch'e, courtesy largely of Kasongo, does well is dispensing energy. Although the remaining musicians are less keen on putting on a show of any note, Kasongo ensures that despite the rather repetative nature of many of the band's songs, there is never a moment worthy of a yawn or watch check during the 40 minutes of set time allocated to the band. When he is not launching himself at the audience, unleashing violent screams, growls and howls or contorting his face into expressions of a man possessed, he takes care to address the audience, thank us for our support and involve members of it in vocal duets that - in my opinion - sadly sound like little more than gibberish when attempted by various drunken fans.

It is this energy coupled with a number of notable songs ("Silence is Better Than Unmeaning Words", "Violence Does Even Justice" and "Wirehead Imbeciles" come to mind) that maintain my interest in Leng Tch'e's performance from beginning to end. On the other hand, theirs is not a performance that would ever rank highly in my best of list as it lacks the unpredictability and grandeur to be me truly memorable. What Leng Tch'e do not lack, however, is conviction, and out of the many grindcore bands I have seen to date, they, among such icons as Lock Up and Napalm Death, would be a band I'd highly recommend checking out if the genre is of interest to you.



With the crowd so energised now, I have my reservations about Psycroptic being able to deliver it further given the demanding nature of their music. Turns out that such fears are completely unfounded, as this Australian four-piece is collectively a much livelier proposition, both in terms of their animated demeanor on stage and the variety in their song material. No member of the band stands in that still concentration you might expect was necessary in order to execute such technical songs with any sort of precision; instead, guitarist Joe Haley, bassist Cameron Grant and vocalist Jason Peppiatt are constantly engaged in movement, whether it be windmilling fast enough to produce a strong magnetic field or headbanging in synchronized fashion, and the music seems to suffer from no notable mistakes because of it.

The great thing about watching a band like Psycroptic in the live setting is that they can be enjoyed on two separate planes. Personally for me, it is the interesting compositions and skill of musicianship characteristic of the band that keeps me intrigued, but judging from the crowd's reaction, which comprises all the traditional elements of a metal crowd, including moshing, headbanging and spilling pints of beer on each other, Psycroptic can also be digested from a more superficial angle. But however you choose to take it in, there is no question that Psycroptic is both an extremely nuanced musical experience as well as formidable live force. Sadly, because of the length of their material - at least in comparison to Leng Tch'e, who manage to prowl through 14 songs - the spectacle seems to end far sooner than anyone had anticipated or liked it to. I am probably not alone in my sentiment that more would have been better, but if anything, it has at the very least become an absolute certainty that when this band pays another visit to Denmark, it will take some serious force majeure to make me miss it.



Now, I have always been of the opinion that death metal bands, while often indisputably good on record, have a hard time delivering in the live setting. Whether or not that has to do with an unwritten law that dictates shows in the genre should be sullen and serious I don't know, but just as Origin are gearing up to their first song of the evening I hear myself thinking "yeah, like a death metal band could ever be energetic". This is seconds before Paul Ryan releases an almost inhumanly fast sweep/shred combo and brand new session vocalist Jason Keyser charges into the audience head first, rides on top of it, and plummets back on stage where Mike Flores is tapping his bass with both hands at terminal velocity like it's nothing, and drummer John Longsreth is hammering at his kit making it sound more like a salvo of machinegun fire. I just about manage to shudder and muster up a silent whoa before "Expulsion of Fury" ends just as abruptly as it began.

It sets the tone for what is not just indisputably the best concert yet this year, nor the best death metal show I have ever seen, ever, but also one of the best concerts ever to take place on Danish soil that I've borne witness to. Origin have energy, lots of it, and this manifests itself in a performance so intense it actually is difficult to find a breath. The windmilling and headbanging is constant on the axemen's part, and Keyser maintains the expression of a murderous loon from beginning to end; the intermittent stage banter is warm, genuine, and at times fun; and the passion and exuberance of the band is impossible to miss. All these attributes combine in one of those performances that you cannot stop talking about, and bragging about to all those who were unfortunate, or skeptical enough to miss it. It is the mark of a band considered to be one of the most important and awesome in the technical death metal movement, not to mention a band that has spent 15 years fine-tuning its trade.

So to continue with the hyperboles, Origin are absolutely phenomenal today, well and truly forcing me to forget my preconceptions about death metal and dig even further with an open mind. I would not be surprised if Origin themselves would remember February 17th, 2012 as one of most intense, intimate performances of their career, but neither would it surprise me if tonight is simply the tip of the iceberg, and the band actually delivers a performance of this quality just about every night. Be that as it may, I feel privileged to have witnessed death metal of such mindboggling velocity and technicality performed with such skill, passion and indifference to conventions.


Photos and videos courtesy of Rasmus Ejlersen

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