Fatter Eskil Prisen 2014

support Akoma + Defecto + Keema + Phoebus Cartel
author LF date 30/04/14 venue Fatter Eskil, Aarhus, DEN

I arrive at Fatter Eskil a few minutes before the first band is supposed to start, and run into a couple of my friends who are casually having a beer in the covered area outside. This is the third of the four preliminary rounds in the metal & hard rock part of Fatter Eskil's own "Fatter Eskil Prisen 2014" competition. As the photographer for the evening comments, it's a peculiar thing to have metal bands playing where everybody's sitting down, but I suppose that's just how it is on a Wednesday evening, when the venue is indeed also a regular bar, even though there's some space cleared in front of the stage for people who would rather stand than sit during what turns out to be quite an energetic evening.

All pictures by Hasan Jensen

Akoma

While the sun is still shining outside, the first band of the evening enter the stage dressed completely in black, the lead singer in a long lace-dress complete with a corset and flaunting sleeves, a fitting cliché for their symphonic metal that soon fills the room. She dances characteristically with elfin movements of her hand, while the rest of the band stick to banging their heads casually. Her appearance is something like a sorceress confidently directing the dramatic and precise harmonies of their sound, the overall impression being that of a smaller version of a band like Leaves' Eyes or Nightwish. In this live-setting they are backed by a synth- and choir-filled backing track, which unfortunately often muddles in the mix, being clearest and most effective when it stands on its own in intros or middle-pieces of songs. The scene for this kind of music in Denmark might not be that big, and while their compositions and melodies are skillfully put together, it's also very cliché. Further, while the opera-like qualities of the singer are evident and quite beautiful to listen to when the music really makes space for her, in the heavier parts the vocals lack the burning strength that can really impress in this genre of music, fluttering at crucial moments in the melodies.

6

Defecto

As Defecto take over the stage, I can't help but laugh a little, as the posture of the guitar-playing vocalist, making something close to a right triangle with his incredibly spread legs, emanates a playful confidence that is soon to be grounded in their heavy and progressive style of metal. The impression of this being a well-integrated band where everybody has important roles to play in the deceivingly uncomplicated sound is quickly asserted as we've already by the end of the second song been presented with solos from both guitarists and the bassist on his six-string, while the drummer gets an intro to himself later in the set. The well-placed harmonies of their songs are spot on, and things take a turn for something really interesting about halfway through the set as the vocalist begins growling, and the symphonic backing gets more obvious, working better here than it did for the previous band. I can't help thinking that the slick appearance of these guys sort of betrays their majestic and complex music a little bit, as I am actually surprised when I realize how advanced the music they play really is. Especially "Endlessly Falling" and "Excluded" stand out as solid performances by Defecto tonight.

7

Keema

Before hearing Keema tonight, I'd only seen them compared to bands like Staind and Breaking Benjamin online, somewhat dulling my expectations for their music. Luckily, they quickly turn out to be capable of much more than what I expected. As the bandmembers begin playing, all in black and white colours but each in his own eclectic style of clothing, they pique my interest with the extremely high level of energy inherent in their music, especially the song "Rise Up" is near impossible to not be captivated by. I note that the vocalist has a very nasal voice and some incredibly powerful screams for this brand of catchy hard rock, both incredibly appealing. They joke around in between songs and succeed as the only band tonight in communicating properly with the audience, their bassist for instance asking for a circle pit by the middle of the set, obviously not expecting to get one going, but remarks like this seem helpful in keeping the audience in high spirits. It seems there's a sort of self-reinforcing energy-cycle happening on stage, as the musicians get high on their own music, urging them to give even more of themselves, resulting in even higher levels of energy output during the set. By their last song, a group of people even move forward and close the gap between the crowd and the band, no doubt a testament to this intense, intriguing energy.

Phoebus Cartel

The final band of the evening starts out in stark contrast to the previous band with the bandmembers quietly standing on stage while an electronic voice, identifiable to those in the know as the voice of the hacker-collective Anonymous, speaks of the bleak lives we live. As it ends with the trademark words of "We are legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget.", the first punch of progressive rock attacks us. The Anonymous-theme is perhaps a little too explicit for my taste, as the intro-speech is repeated midway in the set, the bandmembers all wear characteristic white shirts and black ties, a Guy Fawkes mask hangs on the microphone-stand and a video-screen set up on the side of the stage flashes politically conscious phrases like: "You are the problem... You are the solution" throughout the set. This however doesn't affect the quality of their music which sounds to me as eminently inspired by both Soundgarden and A Perfect Circle. There's an immense echo-effect on the lead singer's vocals and together with the gloomy expression of the music and the Anonymous-image it makes for a very eerie performance. The lead singer is the only person really moving around, but he does it like a crazy, tormented man, throwing himself around, sometimes even punching the floor as he sings, strains and screams his way through the set, complimented by one of the guitarists who contributes some amazing growls. The energy level in their music is perhaps as high as it was in the previous band's set, but in a very introverted way, as they don't take a single break for the duration of their set, but rather let the songs blend into one another to dramatic effect.

7

Congratulations to Keema and Phoebus Cartel who gathered the most votes tonight and are on to the semi-finals!

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