Three o’clock on a Friday afternoon is never the most fun time slot to be allocated during a festival. MORTAL DREAD face the, well, err, dread of this early slot in front of a diminutive crowd. All the more pompous seems the Hall of the Mountain King, which thunders from the PA (Grieg’s version, not the Savatage one). This exclusive crowd have greatness in store, that seems to be certain.
Mortal Dread are surely not quite like the average metal band. The creative epicentre in the band would seem to be singer and guitarist Robert Benjamin. They sound and act like a crossover band from the 80s, with all the political correctness intact. Robert shares how he met a Canadian accountant in a yoga ashram in the Bahamas some time ago and based on that wrote a song about religious daftness, basically.
All that’s very well, and a fine old-school gig, although the quartet by the look of it don’t hang out on stages too often. Then the atmosphere of the whole thing changes entirely and turns into an art performance of sorts. Spoken word, chants and very theatrical. Only to end the whole thing with a tribute to one of the songs Mortal Dread really enjoy listening to, namely Metallica’s ‘Whiplash’ – delivered in a way that D.R.I. could’ve done it, of course.
Slightly odd gig, but not without its moments.
At four, another Danish band are ready to fill the afternoon with heavy tunes. RISING from Copenhagen have gained a bit of a following with their doomy heavy metal. I can see why! The quintet throw in a lot of energy and passion. Their music is groovy, dynamic and heavy and kept at it by the extremely solid drummer, Martin Niemann. The singer, Morten Grønnegaard, is funnily enough the least energetic person on stage. He seems a bit stoned or even less interested in what’s going on. That attitude is even reflected in his vocal performance, which is the least dynamic aspect of Rising’s music. But, still, approved gig, although the house is still more half-empty than half-full.
WHOREDOM RIFE is next on the billing…black metal…right, we head for the local Chinese restaurant!
Back at Studenterhuset just in time for BLOOD EAGLE. I’ve yet to understand how seriously we’re suppose to take Blood Eagle. Are they are band or not? Are they actually going to release a proper album at some point? I mean, I certainly hope they will. The people behind the brutal moniker aren’t exactly complete nobodies. Mircea Effemie (guitars, ex-Mnemic), Mikael Ehlert (bass ex-HateSphere), Morten Toft Hansen (drums – ex-Raunchy), Franz Hellboss (guitars, formerly of Volbeat and Illdisposed) and last but not least Michael Olsson (vocals, Caro) make up this super group of sorts who play death metal in the vein of their old heroes. Old heroes meaning Bolt-Thrower, Slayer, Morbid Angel, Napalm Death and the like, naturally.
It’s a pleasure to watch someone with as capable hands and throats as these gentlemen to pay homage to a genre and clearly have a great time doing so. Michael Olsson is the youngest among these merry men, and I remember seeing his rather feeble beginnings as a front man at this very same festival when Caro played here years ago. He’s grown as an entertainer and comes across as a genuinely sympathetic guy with a great voice too.
The challenge, I reckon, is to focus all of these seasoned death metal musicians and actually get some material out there. As is revealed during the gig, some songs only go under working titles. One, amusingly, is simply titled ‘Cunted’ so far. As you can see from the band’s setlist, which I’ve transcribed below, there level of seriousness is low, but the passion for death metal runs high…
Great gig – but still missing those last 50-100 people in the audience to make it as hot and sweaty as we like it.
Blood Eagle set list (with translations where relevant)
04. Punk Grind
06. Nyt nyt punk [new new punk]
09. Tungnos [heavy testicle]
Moving on swiftly to the next Danish death metal feature tonight. ILLDISPOSED have been touring in Denmark recently, and they’ve received a couple of less than favourable reviews. It turns out that even the infamous Bo Summer reads (or at least hears about) what others have to say about the death metal veterans. From the first second, it becomes clear that Illdisposed have something to prove tonight. They immediatly launch into ‘I Believe In Me’, the opening track from the immense 1-800 Vindication album (2004), and my goodness, it sounds amazing! I’ve rarely seen Illdisposed so fired up, and it suits them.
Summer has a tendency to be, let’s say, not as focused as other front men often are, but tonight he seems more present, and when Illdisposed, Summer included, are focused, they are in truth a colossal death metal machine that crushes all resistance. Summer still finds some time to chatter and share platitudes (albeit slightly more focused platitudes tonight), but that is part of the show! Powerful performance by a band who just reinstalled themselves as Denmark’s kings of death metal tonight.
01. I Believe In Me
02. In Light of the Moon
04. Throw Your Bolts
05. A Child Is Missing
06. Weak Is Your God
07. Life: An Evaluation
09. Purity of Sadness
A change of metal genre and style. GAAHLS WYRD is one of those bands I feel could be one of the Easter eggs I mentioned yesterday. Playing an array of Gorgoroth and Good Seed songs, you could call this a best-of concept like we’ve seen with for example Dave Vincent and I Am Morbid. I am not at all a fan of neither Gorgoroth nor Good Seed, but I must confess that I was completely enthralled at the spectacle of Gorgoroth’s Wacken gig in 2008. It was so intense and bizar that I’d just stand and stare. Madness.
The madness is also here tonight, though there are no naked gals and boys on crosses on the stage tonight, sadly. Gaahl is painted, yes, but other than that, he’s wearing jeans and a leather jacket. And it’s not as if he’s doing any kind of Axl Rose sprinting back and forth on stage, so he won’t boil… I have to be frank as usual and say that I really don’t like the music. But it is as intense as Gaahl himself seems introvert and slightly uncomfortable being on stage. When he addresses the audience (if that’s what he does?), he mumbles into the microphone, and he hides his face behind his hands from time to time.
The thing with music in general is that it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s pretence for the sake of image. It strikes me that – if we assume for one moment that Gaahl’s genuinely absorbed in the music and uses the silence between songs just as much as the music itself – it’s bloody embarrassing that people here at Studenterhuset, just like so many other venues, are not able to shut the fuck up during gigs and focus on the music instead of constantly chattering away. Although I’m not a fan of Gaahl’s music, the whole thing becomes toe-cringing for a brief while, not because of Gaahl’s Wyrd, but because of people’s lack of respect for the performers on stage. If you want to chat, use the café, please.
Gaahls Wyrd setlist:
01. Sign of an Open Eye
02. Carving a Giant
03. Aldrande Tre
04. Høyt opp i dypet
05. Maaneskyggens Slave
06. Sannhet, Smerte og Død
07. Exit – Through Carved Stones
08. Alt Liv
09. Prosperity and Beauty
Napalm Death have visited Aalborg a number of time by now, but this time it’s another near-legendary band from Birmingham, England, who pay visit: ANAAL NATHRAKH. I must say, this isn’t black metal as such, but it is no less intense. I’m not even sure if I can come to terms with Anaal Nathrakh’s partly industrial barrage of sound, but the show is formidable and front man Dave Hunt is super sympathic and straight-forward. It’s priceless when he asks the light guy to turn off some of the white lights because they remind him of his livingroom.
No matter what, this is my first encounter with these extreme Brits, and I am convince that I need to get to know them more closely at some point very soon – just to make sure I haven’t missed something. Brutal stuff.
Enslaved are up next, but this one I’ll leave up to Phil to write, because he’s a fan!
Anaal Nathrakh setlist:
01. Intro/Obscene As Cancer
02. Monstrum in Animo
03. Depravity Favours the Bold
04. Hold Your Children Close and Pray for Oblivion
06. New Bethlehem
07. In the Constellation of the Black Widow
08. Bellum Omnium Contra Omnes
09. Forging Towards the Sunset
10. More of Fire Than Blood
11. Do Not Speak
ENSLAVED is an old friendship between Ivar Bjørnson and Grutle Kjellson and has seen fourteen albums released within a quarter of a century. The black metal of the origins has more and more united with progressive rock and many styles and influences.
We can say that Enslaved plays extreme progressive metal, which means everything and nothing, granted. They have their roots and no border as well. I like the variety of their ways and really appreciated their last record E.
Their show here in Aalborg tonight is the expression of this richness, grabbing us first by the throat with ‘Loke’ and ‘Vetrarnótt’, oldies but goldies from 1994. They open up then new horizons with Ruun, from the 2006 eponymously entitled album, and with their new masterpiece ‘Storm Son’ which opens E. Norse metal is not forgotten with Havenless: ‘Dei for ifra nord…’.
Arve Isdal shares guitar harmonies with Ivar since autumn 2002. Håkon Vinje had the heavy task last year of replacing Herbrand Larsen for the keyboards and clean vocals. The experienced drummer Iver Sandøy has joined the band for this tour. Their performance deserves also to be hailed in this varied but well-balanced show, an excellent momentum which helps me to dry my tears as I could not be there yesterday to enjoy Beyond Creation.
That’s it for tonight – beds await us with warm comfort. We’ll see what tomorrow brings with a very mixed programme.
01. Intro: Frost
05. Storm Son
06. Isøders Dronning
09. Sacred Horse
10. Allfadr Odinn