Katatonia

support Alcest + Junius
author MST date 15/11/12 venue Voxhall, Århus, DEN

On this Thursday night, Voxhall turned into a Mecca for soothing atmospheres, melancholic tunes and closed eyes. Three bands playing some of the most relaxing songs in rock and metal had joined together for a tour, and Århus had been given the privilege of hosting one of these events. And with the incredibly cheap ticket prices of 140 kr., the venue reached about two thirds of its capacity during the headliners. Personally, this night was all about seeing Alcest again, as their performance at a festival in Germany had me completely spellbound in 2011. But as I discovered, this Thursday night had much more in store for me.

All photos by Marika Hyldmar

Junius

Junius

Normally, there are obvious differences between rock and metal. Recently, however, bands in both musical camps have begun to expand our understanding of what the boundaries of both genres really are. Take Alcest, for example: their tremolo riffs and occasional screamed vocals are obviously taken from black metal, but most of the band's general soundscape is closer to shoegaze and post-rock. The Boston-based art-rockers in Junius paint a similar image: their music is primarily based on post-rock, but with larger-than-life choruses on top of heavy instrumentation, and even occasional tremolo picking, Junius could easily be compared to the aforementioned French shoegazers. The soundscapes are indeed very similar, and thus the atmospheric and emotional music has the same type of impact on both audience and performers. Frontman Joseph E. Martinez wore a hooded sweater, and uttered his lyrics passionaly with closed eyes while playing the guitar, and when the time came for epic moments without vocals, he would step back from the microphone stand to play heavy riffs or tremolos in a crouched, introverted manner. The rest of the band showed an equal level of empathy as they played the emotional songs with passion and moved to the music. It was a wonder to behold, especially because I didn't know the band beforehand, and thus I was immensely surprised and completely overwhelmed. If ever there was a band perfectly suited as support for Alcest and Katatonia, it was definitely Junius.

8

Alcest

Alcest

Since the year 2000, the man behind Alcest, Neige, has released three full-length records that all prove that metal (and music in general) can be anything you want it to be. Ignoring the usual aggression of most metal genres, Neige has built upon a foundation of black metal and shoegaze a musical dimension of transcendental beauty. It is music intended to bring forth emotions, as it grabs listeners by their very souls and brings them on a journey through ancient forest glades bathed in shimmering moonlight. When played in a live setting, Alcest is about letting oneself be absorbed completely by the music. That was the mindset I had when Neige walked on stage with the band's drummer, Winterhalter, and the two touring musicians, Indria Saray (known from Peste Noire) on bass and Zero as the band's second guitarist. Opening with the beautiful "Autre Temps" from this year's "Les Voyages De L'Âme", Neige and co. immediately let themselves be taken away by their music, and the emotionally charged atmosphere affected everyone standing in front of the stage. Saray mostly hid behind a veil of dark hair, while Zero acted as backing vocalist whenever a song called for high pitched chanting vocals. Naturally though, focus was directed as Neige, whose shy appearance on stage made the performance seem so personal to him. His shyness was reflected in his between-song interactions with the crowd as well, as he would say the usual thanks to bands and audience and hurry on to the next song. Continuing with songs from "Les Voyages.." before playing a song from each of the other two albums, it became clear to me that something was hindering my experience massively: the vocals were way too low for me to be able to hear Neige's soothing voice properly. It was as if the sound check had been done in regards to his black metal shrieks that only made up approximately 10 % of Neige's vocals. The vocals were completely audible during Junius and Katatonia, but the low volume on the vocals had an impairing effect on my experience of Alcest's otherwise very pleasing set.

Katatonia

Katatonia

The venue was getting closer to its maximum capacity as Katatonia entered the stage to play their depressing tunes to an abundance of fans. The small drumset used by Junius and Alcest had been removed from the stage to better make room for the Swedes. Katatonia's music is hard to pigeonhole, but it could be described as a mixture of atmospheric rock and gothic doom metal (the classic kind of doom). Behind a veil of dark hair, Jonas Renkse's lamenting clean vocals curated the exhibit of the very soul of melancholy that is Katatonia. Slow-to-mid tempo drums and heavy riffing laid the foundation for a 20-song show with very little communication with the audience, and focus firmly placed on the music. The little communication that did take place was in Swedish, and I wonder if Swedish bands are ever going to understand that most Danes don't understand Swedish, at least outside of Copenhagen. Like Neige did before him, Renkse seems extremely shy on stage, and I got the impression that part of the reason for him always having his hair hanging in front of him is to hide himself and let his introverted performance speak for itself. But if Katatonia's heavy music and Renkse's gentle but painful vocals wasn't enough, the rest of the band put on a performance that only further intensified what was coming out of the speakers. Both guitarists would change place constantly, and take turns in providing backing vocals for both the clean vocals and harsher vocals, and headbang in the heavier parts of the music while still clearly being moved by their own tunes. Had it not been for a couple of idiots who chose to jump around and mosh in the midst of an audience completely spellbound by the music, my attention would have never strayed from the band so passionately exhibiting their art on stage. I may not personally be a fan of the records, but any band able to intensify their music to such an extent as was showcased on this Thursday night deserves all the praise in the world.

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