Headbangers Ball Tour

support By The Patient + Solbrud + Helhorse
author MST date 30/11/13 venue Studenterhuset, Århus, DEN

The Headbangers Ball tour is an annual weekend-based tour for the best of Danish medium-sized metal bands. The first HBB tour took place in 2007, and this year, as has been the case before, the Danish metal fans were asked which bands they wanted booked for this year's tour. Three bands from Copenhagen were booked to form a solid line-up of up-and-coming bands forming a quite diverse package in terms of genres. The last show of the tour was to take place at Studenterhuset in Århus, a decently sized venue which is part of the university in the city. According to my intel, the three bands rotated their time slots on the tour, and I wasn't even aware of the running order as I arrived with beer in hand on a cold Saturday evening.

All photos by Lena Winther
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Helhorse

As it turned out the first band to take the stage was Helhorse. The band's take on the Southern hardcore genre with bits of stoner rock and doom metal here and there is a great basis for a fun live performance, and Helhorse had decided to get the crowd started in style. The groovy and energetic music was hard to resist even for a crowd full of stubborn people with their arms crossed, and frontman Mikkel Wad Larsen quickly lured most of the audience scattered around the large room toward the stage. I had seen Helhorse live once before previously, and there was clear progress to be spotted in the band this time. The whole band were equally energetic, even when there wasn't much of a reaction from the people on the floor. Personally, I loved the energy and joy flowing from the stage during the faster bits, but when Helhorse slowed down into doomy territory once in a while I enjoyed their music considerably more. The duo of vocalists alternating between clean vocals and hardcore screams worked wonderfully in all aspects of the show, and I was generally positively surprised by the band for whom I had the lowest expectations out of the three bands on the bill.

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Solbrud

The fact that an atmospheric black metal band like Solbrud receives enough attention in Denmark currently to warrant them a spot on the Headbangers Ball tour is absolutely huge for that particular subgenre in our tiny country. Since the release of the band's self-titled debut album in 2012 they have played numerous live shows and received plenty of attention in the Danish metal media. And not without reason; both on record and on stage, Solbrud have much to offer. I had previously experienced the band on stage once before, but this time a few vital things were different. First of all, as I write this Solbrud are putting the finishing touches to their sophomore album which should be out in 2014. As a result of this, I only knew a single song (15 minutes long though) with the rest of the material aired being from the coming album. The new songs definitely sound promising though. The second difference was the sound quality. The vocals were way too low in the mix, and the sound was generally slightly too unclear, even for this type of music. In a genre that relies almost entirely on how both the audience and the musicians experience the music and the atmosphere, the sound was an unfortunate obstacle that proved difficult to overcome. Additionally, the band's members spent too much time facing each other when a significant shift in the pace or flow of the music was coming, making the group look poorly rehearsed at times. However, if there had been no issues with the sound this would not have been an important problem because of the introverted nature of Solbrud's music. To sum it all up: the Solbrud live experience is a music first, performance second kind of thing, and the issues with the sound ruined a bit too much of it this time.

By The Patient

The final band to play the Headbangers Ball tour this year was By The Patient. The Copenhageners released their second full-length album, "Premonitions" in 2012 followed by an EP earlier this year. Before these releases, By The Patient were often compared to modern death metal bands such as Job For A Cowboy, but these days the band's sound is closer to genuine death metal with some blackened hints. Regardless of which era you focus on however, By The Patient play quality music and have previously proven to me that they're also formidable on stage. This time however, the band seemed to be struggling to get started, no doubt due in part to the reluctant audience. The vocalist tried his best to get the crowd involved as he moved around most of the stage while the rest of the band mostly remained focused on playing their music to perfection, often in a slightly introverted manner. For a while it seemed as if the tour would finish on a low note, but as the set moved on the band managed to get the audience involved properly. Most of By The Patient's music is fast paced, but a few slower songs such as the brilliantly melancholic "Veil Of Depression" helped bring a sense of variation to the setlist. In the end, By The Patient ended their set in a decent manner, but as it turned out, the three bands had prepared something special for the end of the tour..

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Immediately after By The Patient had left the stage, all three bands came back on stage to celebrate the end of a succesful tour. Most of the musicians picked up their instruments while the remaining band members improvised with chairs as basses and what have you. The grand finale was a cover of Iron Maiden's "The Trooper" performed from a completely packed stage with way too many musicians. It was great fun and a perfect way to end this year's Headbangers Ball tour.

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