Wait, what – another day, when my body and mind could hardly stomach the first one? Oh the things we do for music…
In fact, after the fact I can’t really imagine what I was thinking beforehand – watching 19 bands over 2 days, with a maximum of 15 minutes between bands, more or less. And bands of this emotional fortitude?! Insane
While I only managed to get about 5 hours of sleep between day 1 and 2, I actually felt relatively fresh when we got to Ungdomshuset for round 2. That freshness would not last though. 10 bands in as many hours would see to that.
Danish neo-blacksters Sunken opened the onslaught with a very interesting set, keeping a good variation between the slow, almost quiet, atmospheric, emotional parts and the all-out black metal pummeling. Only around 40 people had shown up for this early set, those that did not missed an excellent performance that promises well for Sunken with their debut being released in a few weeks time. Impactful.
Having Sunken on the line-up also underlines a couple of things about this festival and the general state of heavy, emotional music.- first of all, the wide scope of the line-up. It seems great care has been taken to include as many different ways of expression grounded it what loosely can be called modern doom. Second – on the modern metal scene, genre definitions are absolutely not set in concrete. Everything bleeds through on everything else, and a band like Sunken uses repetitive riffing to great effect, differently than say a post or a sludge band, but these inspirations and boundary-crossings leads to a hugely interesting music scene that bodes well for the future. And the way Northern Discomfort‘s lineup underscores this, can only help to enhance this effect.
Second band of the day were Lewd Flesh, and I’m sorry to say, this was the only set at the entire festival, that was seriously marred by bad sound. I had trouble telling the instruments apart, the mix seemed like just some grey goo, and the vocals were mostly drowned out. Which was a pity, as the band seemed intent on putting on a good show, and vocalist Malene Pedersen had a great stage presence with a lot of energy.
Things now took a complete change of pace, both with regards to speed and texture. Macedonian band Goli Deca took the stage and delivered a performance where even the soundcheck seemed devastating. Their experimental compositions constantly challenging listeners, and I completely loved the way they at times would set the drums free, using them as a way to create melody and compositional texture instead of merely time-setting, utilizing the other instruments as the rhythmic component of the music. Goli Deca seemed tight as hell, their music playful as well as imposing, and it was really a refreshing and unique experience. Definitely a band I’ll keep a close eye on in the future. And, oh that trumpet part!!
I hadn’t head of Barabbas before checking them a few days ago, but judging from their performance here, they should find a lot of friends quite easily. The first words in my notes about their set are simply “damned efficient”, and I mean that in a truly positive way. With a singer that had one of the most dynamic stage presences of this festival, they more or less immediately had the audience captured. Their more traditional variant of doom had the crowd banging their heads – and the singer’s ventures out among the audience were a welcome and dynamic approach. For the last couple of songs they interestingly sped things up a bit, and actually sounded quite different, almost punk in a way.
Refreshed in this way by the previous performances, and by another of those delicious pita-seitans, it was about time to prepare for a descent into the nether regions… Grim Van Doom went on and transformed everything into a hard-hitting, venom-spitting black vision. With equal parts hardcore and sludge they made quite an impact, laying waste to ears, muscles, everything. Unfortunately, my back, that old friend and enemy had started acting up a bit, probably due to the 13 previous sets of the festival, and I would love to see Grim Van Doom some time in the future, where my body will allow me to fully experience their performance with some prime-time headbanging and moshing. They deserve that.
Changing pace and style again, Alaric took the stage, being one of the bands I’d definitely been eager to catch after their excellent 2016 album End Of Mirrors. And happy to say that their delightfully glum take on post-crust-punk transferred eminently to the stage here at Ungdomshuset. The sound a little muddy at the beginning, but soon turned excellent. You were able to hear the fine nuances in those crispy basslines, while the hardhitting drummer took center-stage with some inspired drumming, all the while Shane Baker standing so tall he actually hit the lower end of the “never forgiven, never forgotten” banner (referencing the “old” Ungdomshuset) with his head at a few occasions. Which didn’t keep him from delivering an inspired vocal-performance, putting his everything into this. This dystopia sounds so, so inviting!
After a short intermission, enjoying some of those delectable vegan cupcakes (creating a small reprieve from all those darkened emotions), it was time for MDME SPKR. And hit they damned well did. Consisting of just bass, drums and electronics (both aural and visual), they sounded like a post-punk band who had let go of the reigns and decided to go for an all out blast. Delivering a set of blistering dark punk accompanied by a great video-backdrop, MDME SPKRs revolution is eminently dancable – and as such, it’s definitely my revolution!
Nearing the end (both of the night, and my mental faculties), I once again was saved by the planning of the festival arrangers. Cult Of Occult, was exactly what was needed to blow the cobwebs away from my mind. A blistering set of in your face, downright rotten black sludge. Everything about this performance reeked of confrontation, while their huge sound washed over the audience, in a way both mesmerizing, terrorizing and antagonizing. Even ending on a high note, as the band bar one left their instruments on feedback and the remaining member went around creating his very own devastating feedback-composition. Grand!
This late into the festival, my memory is becoming sketchy, my notes take on a more… surreal, probably… character. But nonetheless, there really was something surreal about the performance of Pinkish Black on this night. Here we were, at a sludge/doom festival, yet these two guys and their drums-and-electronics setup was able to completely captivate us for the entirety of their set. This was the moment of the festival to close your eyes and let yourself drift away on the Texans’ truly engrossing compositions. There was really nothing fancy about these two guys – except for the music they created together. Like an old Cronenberg movie, the architecture was breathtaking, but the content was oh so dark. A hypnotic performance.
Thus, we were able to stumble across the yard to catch the grand finale, when Toner Low unleashed a veritable earthquake that definitely shook everyone and everything right down to the bedrock. Now, there are no fault-lines near Denmark, but damn they played so loud (and so low) that it felt like there were. I’m lost for words to aptly describe what I was feeling while those bone-and-teeth-jarring notes tumbled over me. Great, great performance, and the perfect ending of the festival.
And two truly exhausted metalheads and music fanatics could stumble towards the bus-stop to catch a bus, that was (of course) delayed just enough that we missed the train and had to wait 30 minutes for the next one.
Fast forward to monday, while finishing up this final roundup of one of the best festivals I have ever attended. Everything, the place, the people, the bands, the food, the variations of beer, the performances, the planning, the whatever seemed to fit nicely together to create a warm atmosphere of belonging. Sound quality was generally from good to great (apart from that minor grievance described above), and to me, all the bands gave everything they had.
Let it be know, that the people who did not attend missed out big time. And Ungdomshuset? Well, it’s of course another location than the one I remember. And it’s of course a new generation of people running things. But, to me, the visions surrounding the place seemed to be equally as positive, the will to carve out a new kind of society as strong as I remember. Which gives at least this old misanthropic cynic warm, cozy feelings amidst all the crap happening elsewhere.
And Northern Discomfort has definitely found a warm place in my heart. I quite simply cannot wait to see/hear what they have in store for us next year.
And well, customarily, we the condemned are granted a final wish – well, I’m not really in any position to pose wishes, but… at least I can plant a seed, and see if that translates into anything. So, here comes:
A band that I feel would fit in nicely at this festival, is the Russian one-man project Offret. Creating haunting, post-doomish sounds using acoustic guitars and amplified trombones.
Бесы by Offret, released 25 April 2016 Ад пуст, все бесы здесь. “Demons” The hell is empty and all the demons are here.
And now, to let the weary mind get some rest… See you next year :-)