Kvelertak

support By The Patient
author AP date 09/06/14 venue Lille Vega, Copenhagen, DEN

What better way to warm up to my highlight music event of the year, Copenhell, than to the tune of one of my favourite contemporary metal bands, Kvelertak. With the venue verging on sold out, there are plenty of people that agree with my sentiment that there's no finer way to initiate a week celebrating metal than Viking beer metal (my own pigeon hole for the music the Norwegian six piece play), so this lone club show on the band's European summer festival tour promises to be a festive occasion.

All photos by Stefan Frank thor Straten

By The Patient

Copenhagen based blackened death metal crew By the Patient have been hard at work writing and recording the follow-up to 2012's Premonitions of late, so expectedly their support set tonight begins with a trifecta of new songs (scribbled down as "Nat", "Web" and "Snakes" on the setlist), all of which suggest a slight adjustment in the band's musical direction yet again - a trait for which I've always loved them. Markedly rawer than past material, there is a clear infusion of thrash and grind onto the stylistic palette in these three tracks whilst still expertly balancing extremity and engaging groove; a contrast which grows more pronounced with the arrival of "Oceans of Emptiness" and "Where Time Collapsed" off the previous LP immediately in their wake.

Although vocalist Tan Møhl-Hansen's growling should have more presence in the mix, the occasional drowning of his delivery in the punishing, Gojira-esque rhythmic syncopation and dark, atmospheric melodies is only a minor fleck in an otherwise convincing performance. By the Patient have never been the most energetic of bands in the live setting, but given the technical nature of their music and the precision with which guitarists Simon Sonne Andersen & Theis Wilmer Poulsen, bassist Troels Cort Nielsen and drummer Adam Schønemann play it; it's easy to forgive and instead focus on factors like the tightness that has, to me, become the hallmark of this band, or the sheer quality of song writing underlying tracks like "Eyes" and "Bellum", during which Tan climbs one of the amp stacks. The intense and overpowering nature of By the Patient's music works well in the live setting, and by the looks of it, has a sizable portion of the audience spellbound.

Kvelertak

Having just observed the raucous response to the previous concert, it strikes me as a shock, as Kvelertak rather nonchalantly emerge from behind parting curtains, vocalist Erlend Hjelvik wearing his customary stuffed owl as a hat, the mood building lead from purpose built intro track "Åpenbaring" spilling from the speakers; that people are now much more subdued. Kvelertak are greeted with applause, whistles and horns of course, but once the song kicks into gear and is swiftly followed by the festive "Spring fra livet", the audience remains eerily still. The band themselves look a little battle worn, having traveled up to Copenhagen from Rock am Ring in western Germany earlier in the day, so the relative lack of enthusiasm crowd side is doing nothing to increase their energy reserves, I'm sure.

Fortunately, the truth of the matter seems to be that people simply aren't as into these two tracks as the remainder of Kvelertak's material. Cue fan favourite "Sultans of Satan" and "Bruane Brenn", and Lille Vega implodes, inspiring Hjelvik to leave his station and dive into the welcoming arms of the audience. "Ulvetid" follows, and the frenzy shows no signs of dampening, a large moshpit erupting in the centre and all of us, in unison, roaring "Nu er det ulvetid!" with our fists in the air. Hjelvik and his compatriots, guitarists Vidar Landa, Bjarte Lund Rolland & Maciek Ofstad, bassist Marvin Nygaard and Kjetil Gjermundrød are in ferocious form now; and Hjelvik's exemplary performance as a frontman, leading by example as he charges back and forth, side to side, and into the raging audience looking like a Viking on an acid trip; is the stuff of legend.

I cannot recall a better Kvelertak show than this from my five previous experiences with them - and I'm feeling this way already based on the first third of the set, which takes a slight breather as black metal bastardisations "Undertro" and "Nekrokosmos" are aired. Front to back, it's smiles all around, and not one member of the audience seems to be here with a casual or curious mindset; this is the club show Kvelertak needed on an otherwise festival centric tour: a family re-union with what appears to be the most diehard Kvelertak fans in Denmark. And once the Norwegian mad geniuses have taken the piss out of black metal with their stark, yet seamless transitions from dark black metal tremolo to bright Sabbath riffs in this near 15-minute intermezzo of slower songs, we all go bananas yet again for the rowdy trio of "Offernatt", "Månelyst" and one of my personal favourites, "Ordsmedar av rang", the entire venue transformed into a cauldron of fists, horns and relentless movement.

"We love coming to Copenhagen," admits Hjelvik once we've witnessed the audience chanting the lead melody to "Blodtørst" along with all of its lyrics, and his statement rings truer than ever tonight. Having done it in virtually every song until now, Hjelvik concludes his fearsome performance tonight with another crowd surfing trip in "Kvelertak", before an encore of "Sjøhyenar (havets herrer)", "Mjød" and "Utrydd dei Svake", one of the guitars bizarrely hanging off the rafters following Rolland's climb to the top of his amp stack, put the definitive nail on the head on the fact that Kvelertak remain one of the best live bands in the world right now. A magnificent way to begin this metal fuelled week.

9

Setlist:

  • Åpenbaring
  • Spring fra livet
  • Sultans of Satan
  • Bruane Brenn
  • Ulvetid
  • Undertro
  • Nekrokosmos
  • Offernatt
  • Månelyst
  • Ordsmedar av rang
  • Fossegrim
  • Evig vandrar
  • Blodørst
  • Kvelertak

--Encore--

  • Sjøhyenar (Havets herrer)
  • Mjød
  • Utrydd dei Svake

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