The west coast of Denmark is primarily known for its dunes, long stretches of sandy beaches and cold winds. The coastline was traditionally inhabited by fishermen who toiled to make a living from the rough sea. Although fishing is still a trade here, tourism took over as the main source of income along with farming in the north western part of the country decades ago. For all its beauty, the sea is still treacherous, though, and it typically swallows a couple of careless German tourists a year. So it goes.
This weekend, the German tourists face an entirely different kind of danger if they come close to the village of Agger, located on the brink of the North Sea. This old fishing village with less than 400 all-year residents hosts a tiny festival, organised by a group of local metal heads. This group of adamant metallians became known nationwide when a TV journalist visited Agger in 1985 and documented how they’d made heavy metal their way of life in an area of the country where deep Christian faith and hard work formed the modus operandi. The documentary was called ‘Heavy Agger’, and it gained cult status. 14 years later, national television homed in on Agger again and found that the people they’d met back then for the most part were still around, and that was also the case 28 years later.
One of the things that had changed over the years was that Allan, Anne Marie, Michael, Therese and the others had started up a festival, named after the TV programme, i.e. Heavy Agger. The festival has been around for some years now, having gained the same kind of cult status as the TV programme, with around 300 paying visitors. Hardly Wacken Open Air, you’d say. No, certainly not, but still an experience in itself. One great difference is this, just 250 metres from the festival venue, De sorte huse (The Black Houses):
It’s tempting to simply go for a walk along the sea and the dunes and clear the mind of work, everyday, etc. on this first really nice day of the year, but, no, metal calls!
HEAVY AGGER – DAY I
Danish death/black/thrash metal outfit CROCELL open the festival in the old, black-painted boat workshop building. The current line-up is now well integrated and works like an well-oiled machine. With ‘The Prophet’s Breath’ in their back pockets, they also have a strong latest release to put on display.
The quintet, who by the way include Illdisposed bassist and schnapps connoisseur Kussen, do not only air material from the latest album, but draw upon all four albums. Given the fact that they never really put out a bad album, this makes a lot of sense!
Crocell master both the ultra-fast black metal inspired tunes as well as the slow to mid-tempo monsters. Faves for me are Tyrant of Iron, The Age of Iron and Rust and Winter is Coming from the first album. Rock solid performance!
“No, you can NOT have my microphone stand!” (Asbjorn, Crocell)
During the breaks, Allan Iversen, one of organisors of the festivals, and die-hard metal fans, of course, acts as VJ and DJ from his station next to the stage. Note the lifebelt on the wall!
Second on the bill are TURBOCHARGED. This is my first encounter with the Swedish trio, and I have to be the first to admit that their death thrash with a touch of punk isn’t really my cup of chai. The repetitive umpty-umpty rhythm is trying at length, and the guitar sound is so distortion ridden that it’s a bit of a pain. I leave the room to do a short interview with Batten from Illdisposed for approximately 15 or so minutes, and upon my return, I quickly realise that the situation hasn’t changed inside. I can see that others have made the same conclusion and decided to go outside and enjoy the lovely evening, leaving around 30 punters in front of the stage.
After the break, we move into an altogether different league. Celebrating their 25th anniversary this year with the eminent ‘Grey Sky over Black Town’ (see review elsewhere on this site), ILLDISPOSED secure a grand full stop to the first evening of Heavy Agger.
Bo Summer arrives in usual casual fashion approximately two minutes before show start, and then the death metal groove machine kicks off a true hit parade, taking Agger through 25 years of Danish top quality death metal.
Ignoring a minor technical drum cock-up, Illdisposed are professionalism personified and deliver a blistering set including classic material like Throw Your Bolts, I Believe In Me, Dark, Submit, A Child Is Missing, Now We Are History and the majestic Purity of Sadness, which so deeply impressed many Danish death metal fans when the debut album came out back in 1993.
Summer is as always one for a few provocative remarks, although tonight he softens up a bit and shares that he spent time in Agger as a youngster, and that he was very close to Allan and Anne Marie. Being Bo Summer, he naturally has to add that Allan knows that he always wanted to shag Anne Marie. Goes without saying.
“I always wanted to shag Anne Marie.” Bo Summer, Illdisposed, shares his wet teenage dreams.
And tonight’s master of the death metal riffs: Jakob Batten, Illdisposed
HEAVY AGGER – DAY II
Looking at the programme for the festival, I knew that day one was going to be the biggest for me, with Crocell and Illdisposed being bands who always deliver. Going into day two, my expectations aren’t too high, although Killing Gandhi is a band I’m certainly looking forward to finally see live. Anyhoo, let’s see where this takes us.
This is yet another day with clear sunshine and only a mild breeze. Kite surfers were active in the bay on the way here, and it looked really, really nice. It is therefore with some hesitation that I step into the black house to see and hear THE AMANDAS. According to the programme, The Amandas pay tribute to Rock Nalle, a rock’n’roll artist who was popular during the 60s and 70s in Denmark.
That they do. As you can see from the picture below, they are also dressed up. I’m guessing that for the few non-Danes present, this makes very little sense. Even I’m challenged when it comes to the sense-making. One of the highlights is a rendition of House of the Rising Sun, reworked and dedicated to a guy called Steen Larsen (who happens to be in audience). There are kazoo solos. There’s a guy from the audience with a plastic drum who’s invited to join on stage. The best I can come up with for comparison is a bad karaoke night. It sounds terrible. Plain and simple. It’s fun for five minutes or so, and then you kind of want the programme to move on.
Monty Python music? Not even that. (The Amandas)
Young hopefuls DEFECTO from Copenhagen replace the originally scheduled Vein who couldn’t make it to Agger afterall. The young quartet have received fine reviews for their debut album, and what I’ve listened to on Spotify isn’t half bad.
This, however, is not at all Defecto’s day. As if there’s a curse over the band today, nothing works out. First, lead guitarist Frederik’s amp goes crazy and insists on using tremolo effect. It goes without saying that this sounds less than perfect. The problem is eventually solved.
A cable then starts to act up, cutting his sound entirely.
This results in singer Nicklas finally giving up his amp to Frederik, and continuing without guitar, something which he’s clearly not used to. He even asks what to do with himself.
The whole situation is of course unusual and unfortunate and would be hard to handle for most bands. It’s hard to tell what this could have been, but there’s little possibility for the band to show what they actually can, even if we do get glimpses of excellence through the rather odd and slightly comical situation.
When someone tells me after the gig that Nicklas has an amazing voice, I can only say that this was also the impression I got, but I still need to hear a real concert by Defecto to say if they are as good as album reviewers want them to be.
Rating would not be fair…
Just not their day (Defecto)
Moving deep into the underground, RONNIE RIPPER’S PRIVATE WAR take us into a world where I have a hard time following suit. Ronnie, also fronter for Turbocharged, shares that he’s already heavily influenced by various beverages, and whatever people claim, I never thought that alcohol had a great effect on anyone’s performance. It turns out that Simon, one of the guitarists hasn’t slept for god knows how long, and, sure enough, he’s as pale as a ghost.
As I said, this is dirty underground rock’n’metal, slightly chaotic, and probably would have been rather entertaining if it hadn’t been for the fact that the music itself isn’t that interesting. Paint It Black by Rolling Stones gets the royal treatment somewhere in the chaos, and it’s honestly more like a massacre than anything else. Auch.
Cheers! Buuurp. (Ronnie Ripper)
A very different and much, much more focused performance is delivered by KILLING GANDHI. Funny thing is that very few here at Heavy Agger seem to care about an award winning melodeath band who’ve travelled all the way from Copenhagen. A shame, that.
As a total contrast to the previous band, everything is adeptly put together, composed, executed, conceptualised. In hindsight, this is the most convincing act of Heavy Agger day 2. Solid, technical riffing, catchy tunes, heavy in a modern way. Front man Thorbjørn ensures movement in front, constantly banging his head, growling, communicating with the (far too small) crowd. He is flanked by guitarist Martin and bassist Kasper who are solid pillars on stage, focused intently on their instruments.
Odd how the world works, and how perceptions can be different. I like this a lot.
Admirable performance (Thorbjørn, Killing Gandhi)
Focused & technically adept (Martin, Killing Gandhi)
To be perfectly honest, I never really liked the music of HELHORSE. I still don’t. That said, the kind of live experience these six individuals create is truly remarkable. They are so intense! I have no clue what their songs are called, which albums they are from, etc., but the way they are delivered is nothing short of amazing.
The six are all over the place. Jumping, stalking the stage, hanging on to the PA, standing on monitors, jumping off stage to be among the Agger crowd, swinging microphones, tipping microphone stands, complete chaos in a cool way. They insist on attention. They do not take no for an answer.
Respect to Helhorse for giving their all, even in front of a slightly hesitant West Jutland crowd.
Heavy metal indeed (Theis, Helhorse)
Oi, what did that organ do to you, mate? (Aske, Helhorse)
Songs of love and chaos (Stephan and Mikkel, Helhorse)
After Killing Gandhi, Witch Cross are the band I’ve been looking forward to seeing the most. Not because I know their music (I don’t) or because NWOBHM is huge for me (because it’s not – other than Iron Maiden, of course). No, simply because my gut feeling tells me that my old buddy Jørgen can’t be that wrong when he thinks this is a wonderful band and because any band who has the will to come back after having been away for so many years really must invest their heart and soul into this.
And I can’t help wondering what went wrong back in the day. Why did Witch Cross not become a big name? This is like…Saxon II or something. As I said, NWOBHM is not big for me in general, but this is as good as any of the bands that came out of the early to mid eighties – better than many of them, I’d say. Catchy refrains, solid melodies, it all works nicely. Singer Kevin is how old? Don’t know, but he can sing, the Biff Byford way, mind you (Kevin also manages to remark that Biff is a friend of his).
Looking at the band, you have to snigger a bit to yourself; Kevin in his mockup gypsy outfit, scarfs and all, with his mascara, perhaps a decade or two too old for that shit. Next to him the portly looking bassist, Jan (called Little John), long blond hair and a tongue that’s completely out of control when he plays. Totally fascinating and rather distracting! The two guitarists don’t look like the epitome of rock’n’roll either, but, hey, they ARE rock’n’roll because they are obviously enjoying what they do, right there, on stage. It’s life confirming and, combined with the fine tunes, you can’t help getting in a good mood from watching and listening.
Fine songs, great band, enjoyable gig!
“Yeah, I’ve got me mascara – but I know Biff, right!” (Kevin, Witch Cross)
Tongue twisting madness… (Jan, Witch Cross)
Think what you may about tribute bands, but BÖMBERS from Norway are certainly one of the better. Even for someone like me who never was a big Motörhead fan, I can appreciate this all-hits playlist played by the extremely enthusiastic trio. They’ve gone all the way in terms of looks and style, and although they’re not quite as loud as Lemmy and the boys were, they capture the essence of Motörhead very well. If not an original then at least an entertaining way to end the last day of Heavy Agger – especially because Bömbers play Orgasmatron, my absolute favourite Motörhead tune.
If you’re in for a different metal experience around this time next year, I suggest to keep an eye out for what’s happening on www.heavyagger.dk. Plan well in advance, getting there isn’t easy if you don’t have a car – but the location, the relaxed atmosphere, it’s just worth it. Good show, great people, could be addictive.