Helhorse

support The Day We Left Earth
author AP date 20/06/12 venue Loppen, Copenhagen, DEN

It is becoming increasingly popular for bands to do shows that see them pick some album from their back catalogue to perform in its entirety, and in all honesty, I'm personally not a huge fan of the trend, since there is rarely an album, on which every song has the potential to function well in a live setting. But even though tonight marks such an occasion - Helhorse performing their upcoming new album front to back - I find myself completely without skepticism. With no release date in sight as of yet, this would be a unique opportunity to hear it an judge its live worthiness before most other people.

The Day We Left Earth

It is somewhat surprising that Helhorse should have chosen an instrumental post-rock band for warming-up purposes, but given the good shows this band has put on in the past, I, at least, had no qualms about it. Taking the stage with their usual reserved confidence and quiet charisma, The Day We Left Earth are not an explosive live act. But what they lack in terms of visual stimulation, they more than compensate with post-rock of a truly cinematic quality. What is most awesome about this band is their ability to combine relatively simple individual parts into an absolutely monolithic whole. The music ebbs and flows between whispering quiet passages, escalation and fantastic crescendos, with the effect that much of the crowd looks to descend into a trance, swaying gently with eyes closed and just absorbing the intricacies of the band's music. With such songwriting prowess to work with, the absence of a vocalist never becomes an issue, as The Day We Left Earth have a unique ability to express opinions and emotions through notes, clefs and tones. One can relate to their music without knowing explicitly what it is about - that's the real beauty of it.

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Helhorse

As mentioned already in the preamble to this article, Helhorse intend to use this opportunity to tease us with the entirety of their new album, played front to back, and as such, it would be criminal of me to spare you my impressions of it. Those fearing or expecting a departure from the sound of last year's "For Wolves and Vultures" need not worry: Helhorse continue very much in its vein, with dirty, groovy, bluesy, Southern sounding excellence. But there is a slight shift of focus, as the hardcore and punk elements have been toned down somewhat in favour of a more rock'n'roll oriented sound with a clear emphasis on melody. As such, the keyboard and organ have a more pronounced presence in many of the new songs, just as two- and three-way vocal harmonies play a bigger role this time. There are still absolute bangers in the mix to provide a pretext for moshing, and there are still doom-laden ballads to slow things down here and there. But the overall impression that I get is that Helhorse have put much effort into giving their songs more immediacy and focus - something that works particularly well in the live setting.

The performance itself is yet more reason to crown Helhorse as one of the most tantalizing live bands in the country. They simply have a knack for putting on a show that stems from their collective passion for music, and their ability to draw energy from not just the audience, but also from each other. The result is bordering on breathtaking; the kind of show that at times exceeds even those of Cancer Bats and Every Time I Die in intensity. On stage, vocalist Mikkel Wad Larsen transforms into a fuming mechanical bull (something like this), charging across the stage to confront the audience at point blank range with his imposing gesticulation, while to his left, vocalist/keyboardist Aske Kristiansen looks like a man possessed. And all around them the remaining musicians, guitarists Jakob Møgelcunt and Stephan C. Krabsen, bassist Søren Nybo Hansen, and drummer Jesper Bergstedt ensure that even when the two retire from such behavior to focus on the more intricate singing parts and piano and organ melodies, there isn't a moment of calm in the band's performance.

Indeed, what starts out with a somewhat reserved crowd, half of it seated, quickly turns out to be one of the most exhilirating performances Helhorse have ever put on. So intense is the show, and so enamored is the audience by it, that even the two old songs "The Death Ride" and "The Last Temptation" do not satisfy our hunger for more, forcing the sextet to carry out an unplanned encore with the Dødning-era "Tonight We Ride". It is the cream on cake of an absolutely fantastic performance. The only downside is that we will have to wait until early spring next year to hear the new stuff recorded!

Photos copyright of Rasmus Ejlersen

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