Tuesday 13 May 2014

HEAVY DAYS IN DOOMTOWN 3 – Copenhagen 01st – 04th May 2014 by Steph LeSaux

HEAVY DAYS IN DOOMTOWN 3 – Copenhagen 01st – 04th May 2014

After Aguirre in 2012 and Huata in 2013, there was no french band programmed at this 3rd edition of the HEAVY DAYS IN DOOMTOWN, still I came this year with one of the most eminent ambassador of our Doom scene in the person of Rodoplhe Beuchet –vocalist in Barabbas ! Although we didn’t fix any precise appointment, we arrive at our hostel, exactly at the same time as Ulla Roschat (the wicked lady) and her friendly husband Peter… Being given rooms 122 & 124 will make each night things easier to have a few more beers, wine and slices of cheese when getting back from the fest and share a few comments – thanx to Peter !!!

A couple of hours later, we enter the Christiania area where Loopen is located – for those who don’t know it, Christiania is the last urban hippie village of Europe and … logically the finest place to find good weed at fair prices for the week-end ! it’s good to take a sit, have a drink and roll a fat one to celebrate the imminent beginning of the hostilities  We quickly meet Clint and Sally, the Aussie doom ambassadors who make here their last step in Europe (for 2014…) after visiting Holland (Roadburn), Belgium, France (Doomed Gatherings) and Germany (DesertFest). Nice to meet the “hand of doom” himself !

A tall metalhead comes to us and says that we should hang out in a short time at Woodstock café where his band Koloss is going to play a little improvised set… HDDT’s warm-up show starts in about 1 hour, so let’s enjoy it ! Woodstock café is full of local people who are certainly used to less-heavy sounds but among us (about 10 metalheads standing up) the ambiance is I’d say “as usual” : stoned and drunk, and it’s amazing to see a single forties woman flying very high on crushing beats or a sixties couple dancing like they were at a marriage… the bass & drums duo slays some hard-hitting sludgy thrash’n roll and in this pretty surrealistic ambiance, make it a pretty memorable moment.

Loppen’s a nice venue for this warm-up show, pretty packed, there’s around 300 people and sees YURI GARGARIN opening with their up-tempo mixture of stoner and space rock. I’m not a big fan of this kind of music, especially when it’s only instrumental and above all that repetitive; a fair number of people seemed to enjoy though…

Things start to takeoff more seriously with another Swedish band called SWITCHBLADE, much more Doom related with droning wall of sounds, slow progressions towards blasting grooves… the addition of an organ to the initial guitar/Drums duo is not forceful, which is not the case of vocals presence on two songs (by a guy who just come on stage at those too brief moments) who really bring power and crushingness to the overall !

EAGLE TWIN were the headliners of the evening and they didn’t need more than a couple of minutes to justify it. Salt Lake’s City duo slayed everything with their incredible doomy sludge filled with tingy blues and a technical level that owes to multiple experiences in Jazz, Prog and Psychedelic departments ! Damn those vocals by Gentry Desley are terrific and definitely an essential instrument of the band’s unique bone shattering heaviness. Twisted, loud, epic, intimate, rebel, E.T. is a multifaceted machine with soul and guts, “snake hymn” is definitely a monster of a track, one of the heaviest of the week-end, this gig was a real highlight ! 

Friday at Ungdomshuset starts for us with the young Swedish band VIDUNDER and their bluesy 70’s style hard rock which takes pretty much influences in Witchcraft, as hundreds others of their fellow countrymen I guess but there’s no hazardous presence here, no bands is suddenly parachuted at HDDT just because their sound is sexy or their singer heavy, hahaha! There’s talent, time will probably help to make things a bit less standardized…

The infernal Irish trio DREAD SOVEREIGN formed by Primordial’s Nemtheanga (bass/voc) is maybe the most metallic band of the fest and amongst the bands I was really looking forward to. “All Hell’s Martyr” is in my Top 3 of the year so far and I doubt it’ll fall soon forgotten. I dig this band with attitude, this gloomy sound with authentic metal vibes from the 80’s, in some way they take here the place of Procession last year and will give a set as memorable ! Holy Mary, to start the set with “thirteen clergy (to the flames)”, “Cthulhu Opiate Haze” and “Pray to the Devil in Man” was undoubtedly the best thing fans could ever imagine ! “Scourging Iron” will be another striking moment, just as the amazing cover of VENOM’s “Live like an Angel, Die like a Devil” ! my only regret : not to have taken a single proper picture of this awesome band, was too busy headbanging for once, hahaha !

Shit it was impossible to miss any second of DS set, so I wasn’t that surprised not to be able to enter the smallest venue for LEECHFEAST s set which then was just listened from outside, just as a couple of others during the week-end like NOCTUM, DOPELORD, NIGHTSLUG… Experience has learnt me to prefer attend full sets from my fave bands in good conditions than trying to see each bands of the line-up partly, if I can then see a few other bands that are on my priorities - then it’s ok but no overdose of sounds, the audio-terror is still to come with that Saturday-SLUDGE (Graves at Sea, The Body, Sourvein..) and Sunday-fireworks (Goatess, Uzala, Windhand, Whitehorse…) !!!

Another name on the top of my short list was ABYSMAL GRIEF, the Italian masters of horror Doom - at their peak ! led by driving force Labes C. Necrothytus (on voc/keyb), the band delivered a magical show enhanced by red lights, candles, smokes and shadows. A great part of the songs are taken from “Feretri” even if this didn’t include my fave “sinister gleams”, with this one I think this would have been my absolute fave performance but it was brilliant, really. With bassist and drumming wearing cassocks, Labes with costume and hat, guitarist is the only one normally clothed but absolutely not in rest to pay homage to the influential masters of the early 80’s that were Death SS, Paul Chain and Black Hole. Ominous and dantesque are both words which come to mind for this unique moments of purple atmospheres…

We found hardly our way back to the fest on Saturday and missed the first bands, plus shit as I said, when we arrived, Dopelord was unreachable visually, then THE BODY gave a very strange show, it started pretty good during 2 long suffocating songs with harsh guitars and blasting drums, but things seemed to start get fucked-up with a short song (uncomplete ?) and another one with a scamped end which made it a bit disappointing for fans, finally getting a set almost half-reduced in time !

The predominance of scandinavian and american bands can explain it but WITCHSORROW was the only band representing UK this year, one can not say that it’s a default of quantity and quality and personally I’d have thought about many other bands before this one to raise high the flag… but their set was a pretty good surprise and my friend Rod who saw them in Paris a couple of years ago was quite impressed by the improvement they showed. Trad’ doom had definitely a fair purveyor with this bleak trio !

Time for the beginning of the infernal Sludge 3-hours program with GRAVES AT SEA starting on the main stage… Just as last years the guys are gonna leave ashes behind them… Incredibly intense with their hammering Grief-like Sludge, alternating between slow and burning as hell groovy parts with harsh blackened vocals and blasting chords, the set is still a pure moment of dread but for our greatest enjoyment is quite different from 2013, presenting new songs from “this planet is poison” EP and “betting on black” from upcoming split with Sourvein on Seventh Rule rds.

I’m not able again to see NIGHTSLUG in good conditions, so I decide to have a sit in the yard and just listen (doors are open and the sound is good – as always) some ripping tunes of “dismal fucker” by Germany’s finest Sludge band ! The sound is very raw and brutal, filthy and even punkish at times too… I imagine a very tensed and sweating atmosphere inside with those thick riffs and tortured vocals enriched by terrifying and/or destructive noises; hope I’ll have other occasions to see them in the future !

SOURVEIN tour Europe this month to celebrate their 20th anniversary… The band is among the most experimented in the Sludge scene and it’s great to see them in the actuality again three years after their last tour for “black fangs”.; T. Roy Medlin on vocals is a real frontman and the band’s music became more focused with time which make this performance fairly different from their colleagues still very intense, drenched in distortion and damage but with a special southern touch and damaging metallic soloing !

We’ll end this 3rd day with the Danish local band DOUBLESTONE who released “wingmakers” - a very good debut last year, probably my fave album of Retro 70’s Heavy Rock along with “Abrakadavar”… the small hall is densely packed and there’s a great number of dedicated fans at our sides who sing, shout, headbang and jump all over the set… Nothing outstanding in the compositions within a style that is so much overused these days but it’s undeniable that the young trio displays songs with a refreshing energy and an extremely tight technical level… chunky riffs and chugging bass-lines are contagious, making you forget it’s already pretty late in the evening but a perfect way to end this intense day a bit more softly.

It looked like there was a few dozen of doomsters that went back home on Sunday or maybe was it also most of the bands playing the 3 days before that left and took on the road again ?! too bad for them cause it was, in my opinion, the best day of the fest !

Starting with WHITEHORSE, the Australian funeral Sludge/Doom band who crossed oceans for extensive tours in Europe and now the USA until the end of the month.

Very special, very impressive to say the least are those guys and their sound approach. Not just the music is monolithic and punishing but the guys themselves, with weird postures (bassist is tentacular and disarticulated) and looks (singer’s really scary) also transmit awesomely some relentless vibes of hopelessness and agony.

There’s more and more bands using additional electronics/noise elements to their music, often accompanying more than enriching, WHITEHORSE use them to layer punishing proportions and enhance the delightful discomfort they awesomely deliver. Yankees, this band is highly recommended, so don’t miss them if they happen to play close by you within the next 3 weeks !!!

There’s been quite a lot of young trios playing this week-end, PURPLE HILL WITCH is another one, this time from Norway and has so far released an EP “Alchemy”, via the almighty Church Within rds. Their set was a very good moment of doomy Heavy Metal inspired by the darkest hours of the forefathers of doom –Pentagram and Saint Vitus- and Witchfinder General with an additional raw energy taken from other early 80’s NWOBHM acts… Touring last year with Lord Vicar gave them strength and confidence and their 1st full length - out by the end of june- should be an essential release of 2014.

Time for some GOATESS now, a much anticipated set for us little froggies ! The Swedish quatuor starts with “full moon at noon” and 1st thing that strikes is the incredibly DENSE sound, making them sound LOUDER and HEAVIER than any other Stoner band on earth, fucking awesome ! just add the magic voice of Doom from Lord Chritus and you get a “fuoriclasse “ as say Italians…
the band’s sound is thick with regular moments of impending doom while there’s always place for some low-end groove, sonic, ethereal excursions… was a new song (apparently different from the one played at Roadburn) necessary to have high expectations towards the successor of the 1st s/t album ? well, probably not but we smoked it up willingly and bowed down to the GOATESS !

The main venue was still pretty packed for SABBATH ASSEMBLY touring with the lady from Hammers of Misfortune for the vocal duties. Rather than the fact they were all dressed in white, the thing that disturbed me the most was the relative weakness of the vocals and the absence of real highlights in the set; but some riffs were great and I dug the tubular bells by the drummer.

THE GRAVIATORS were playing here the last date of a 2 weeks Euro-tour but didn’t seem tired at all, rather more galvanized by the event and the presence of their brothers in Goatess ! Punchy heavy-rock with bluesy riffs, burning up-tempos, wah-wah soloing and raspy screaming vocals… a very communicative energy for the sake of authentic rock n’ roll, great moments – It was a good surprise to see BABY WOODROSE in this year’s line-up, the most 60’s influenced from all bands. It shows that Lorenzo is the boss here, he has half of the big scene for just himself and the 3 other guys have the other part, hahaha ! too bad, I think the sound is fucking too loud for the style; but songs like “get what you give” or “what a burn” keep the show interesting…

That’s the magic of such a good festival , offer you a band like UZALA in the last evening, like ice on the cake  I know them for about 3 years now and have heard a lot of great reactions about their live performances, especially the excellent live transcription of Darcy Nutt’s vocals (something not that current…) and SHIT this will go beyond my expectations !

The lady is literally bewitching the whole venue and by far deserves the palm of BEST vocalist of the week-end !!! And the temperature doesn’t fall any second when Chad sings on an old song, drowning us in a rawer and nastier atmosphere. The couple from Boïse must gloat inwardly and us too, really -

Muscular riffs, heady melodies, mesmerizing vocals, UZALA finds the perfect balance between heaviness, immersive psychedelia and rising tides of feedback. “Seven Veils” and “Dark Days” are the absolute winners of theis memorable set. For their 1st European date ever, the couple from Boïse must gloat inwardly and us too, really. BRAVO !!!

No injure to WINDHAND the final headliner of this HDDT, I really like this band but after Boïse’s heroes, it’s been hard to fully enjoy their set as it deserved. I saw their whole set with Pilgrim last November in Paris and judging by the 4 songs I’ve seen here, I can just approve that their ascent is totally justified and will hopefully help Electric Wizzard (with the comeback of Mark Greening) to come back to more serious things with next album !!!

I can not forget to mention the nice exposition of arts that one was able to enjoy all week-end long, the positive atmosphere between everyone, the awesome quality of the sound in general… Well, all things considered and just as last year, I can’t definitely find any negative points about this edition of Copenhagen’s finest HEAVY DAYS IN DOOMTOWN (fuck the mermaid !). Thanx so much to Daniel and all this hard-working team for having brought us all those great bands, in good conditions and at much more affordable prices than many others… you guys deserve the lights but we’ll stay willingly with you in the real underground; hope I’ll make it again next year.

That’s it Sludgelord maniacs, sorry if it was too long and kinda boring in the end, if I didn’t speak about bands you wanted or whatever but that’s just reflections on MY festival … cheers (Steph)

Written by Steph LeSaux