Helhorse

support Black Book Lodge
author AP date 19/09/13 venue Loppen, Copenhagen, DEN

To me, Helhorse are one of the most interesting, not to mention consistent bands in Denmark. They do not propose to baffle or challenge the listener, but rather, enjoy writing music they know is going to incite a riot in the live setting. Their balls-to-the-wall Southern hardcore/sludge hybrid has produced many an enthralling show in the past, so naturally the expectations for tonight's proceedings are high as well - never mind the fact that Helhorse actually threw a release party of sorts already in June 2012 at this very venue; an opportunity to hear their sophomore album "Oh Death" in full over a year ahead of its release. Tonight, however, is the official release party, just four days in advance of the album's official release.

All photos by Philip B. Hansen

Black Book Lodge

Allegedly a rather traditional stoner rock band in the past, Black Book Lodge seem to have spent the past year or so of absence from the gig circuit on the creation of a new identity, emerging now as a stoner-doom act not too dissimilar to the magnificent Pallbearer and Procession (though it should be said that Black Book Lodge aren't quite as spectacular yet). As such, the pace is slow, but not funereal; and the performance rests heavily on guitarist/vocalist Ronny Jønsson, whose riffs, melodies and mournful singing style form the backbone of the band's music. The soundscape is, at all times, menacing, with not an uplifting note to be heard in any of the aired songs; and the performance itself is grave in terms of its mood and aesthetics. In short: the sort of performance one would expect from practitioners of doom. But although musically Black Book Lodge tempt no complaints from the undersigned, they certainly aren't doing themselves any favours by omitting all interaction with the audience - decent in size at first, but dwindling at a steady rate with each passing song as its members realise all Black Book Lodge have to offer tonight is a static, sullen presence and their songs. Don't get me wrong: as already mentioned, these songs are quality; but the experience of standing in front of the stage, listening to them and also watching the band is no different from sitting around a table, sipping a pint and listening to them in the background.

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Helhorse

From the opening grooves of "Fuck Art, Let's Kill", things take an instant turn for the more energetic, and as the title of the first track off "Oh Death" suggests, there will be no pretensions with regard to what sort of show we should expect. Helhorse floor the pedal to deliver two of the most explosive songs from the record right off the bat, with the banging "Hell Hath No Fury" completing the duo with probably the most headbangable, whiplash-inducing intro and chorus in metal this year. Vocalist Mikkel Wad Larsen looks, as usual, every bit like a raging pitbull, surging back and forth and side-to-side whilst producing a mixture of boozy roars and howling doom-inspired singing, riling up the crowd to a satisfactory degree in the process. It's quite clear this is no Friday night, however, as the audience looks more timid than tends to be the case when this band gets into gear.

With six members in the band, there's a lot of consume; especially as each one of them is so hellbent on looking as passionate and enthusiastic as possible. There's the usual cacophonous antics of Rhodes/Hammond organist and backup vocalist Aske Kristiansen; the wide grin and cool movies of bassist Søren Nybo Hansen; the profuse headbanging and riff industry of Stephan C. Krabsen and Jakob Møgelvang (or, as he fashions himself, Møgelcunt); and the furious pounding of the skins of Jesper Bergstedt. Combined with Larsen's authoritative presence, Helhorse, once again, muster up a genuine tour de force; a magisterial lesson in how to woo an audience and keep it in the palm of your hand.

It's not all full-speed ahead though, as "Oh Death" sees Helhorse grow up (as generic as such a statement can sound) and attempt more atmospheric, complex songs as well as their usual metal'n'roll bangers. "The Seams of Life" and especially "Death Comes to the Sleeping" grind the octane to slowly swirling dust as the music turns more doom-like and in fact in some ways balladic, exposing a more mature and personal side to Larsen's lyrical universe ("Oh Death", of course, is based around the loose concept of Death); while tracks like "Red Eye" and "And His Name is Death" aspire to capture a more stoner metal influenced angle not too distant from Orange Goblin. Hearing this kind of breadth in the live setting gives the show an excellent dynamic and, as one might expect, most people brave the late hour and work the next day to stick around well past midnight to hear covers of Raging Speedhorn's "Fuck the Voodooman" and Corrosion of Conformity's "Albatross", as well as older material in the form of "Black Weed", "House of Roosters" and "Get Drunk, Get Mad, Get Even". Sadly I miss these pieces of brilliance precisely due to work the following day, but even so I leave the show with a smile on my face, having confirmed once again that a) Helhorse never disappoint live, and b) "Oh Death" is a strong candidate for Danish album of the year in 2013.

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Setlist:

  • Fuck Art, Let's Kill
  • Hell Hath No Fury
  • The Seams of Life
  • The Carnal Rage
  • Red Eye
  • Climb Through Fire
  • Kill Your Self
  • Diggin' a Hole, Waiting to Die
  • Death Comes to the Sleeping
  • And His Name is Death
  • Scorch The Earth
  • Fuck the Voodooman (Raging Speedhorn cover)
  • Albatross (Corrosion of Conformity cover)
  • Black Weed

--Encore--

  • House of Roosters
  • Get Drunk, Get Mad, Get Even

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