Esbjerg, a collection of approximately 71.500 souls in the south western part of Denmark, is really nothing special. Apart from the fact that my mom lives there, which, of course, is very convenient when you're going to attend a gig on a Tuesday night. Other than that, Esbjerg was probably the closest our wee country came to having a heavy metal capital during the early nineties. Why? Well, a guy called Jacob Hansen lived around Esbjerg in those days, and I believe that he and the other guys from the most famous Danish thrash band after Artillery, Invocator, managed to arrange a gig or two. Hansen still lives in the area, and he also shows up tonight to see Sepultura and the rest of the entourage.
The last time, well, only time in fact, I went to a concert in Esbjerg was in 1993. Back then Psychotic Waltz and Donor from the Netherlands had been lured to town - and Invocator, of course! I can't even remember if the place I went to back then was Tobakken, but if it was, it certainly looks different now. The venue has a 1300 people capacity and is just a plain weird place, however in a nice kind of way. The stage is huge, that's for sure. It's as if the space in front of the stage is broader than it's deep, and there's a constant traffic from the entrance to the bar - right in front of the stage. Odd.
Around 300 metal fans have found their way to Tobakken tonight, which I suppose is a decent amount for Esbjerg on a Tuesday evening. Although there are lots of young folk, there are also old-timers like myself and perhaps some who are a bit older even. Before the concert begins, I overhear three fellows who discuss music, and I can deduct that they've been away from the scene for some time: '...and then you have those guys who do that Kerry King growl kind of thing...' Hmmm, right...
Anyway, MORTILLERY from Canada kick off the gig. The female fronted old-school thrash metal band certainly have the spirit of the 80s both in terms of style and looks (one of the guitarists looks like Kirk Hammett anno 1984-ish!), but still have a long way to go in terms of making memorable songs and making a real impression. Singer Cara looks down-right amazing, however, I'm not at all a fan of her vocal style, which reminds me of Hades or something in that vein.
Mortillery - more old-school than the old-school
Cara McCutchen - looks wonderful, but her vocal style doesn't impress
You have to understand that seeing FLOTSAM AND JETSAM for the first time is a near-religious experience for me. When I first listened to 'No Place for Disgrace' back in the day, I was completely sold. The Flotz have certainly had their ups and downs over the years, but it's one of those bands who come back again and again and always bring something good with them.
As this is the first time I (finally!) see the band live, I'm not sure what to expect, but I of course hope that they deliver the quality and power I'm convinced they can deliver. And they do.
This gig is delivered with concentration and focus on serving those songs I've enjoyed listening to over the past two and a half decade, and there's a detectable portion of humbleness (something which is confirmed in the way the band behave when they chat to people, have pictures taken and sign autographs in the foyer after the concert). The songs represent a wide selection of old and new material, starting with two tunes from 'Drift', Empty Air and Me.
Then into Dreams of Death from the recently re-recorded and absolutely amazing 'No Place...' album. Next up are the classic Hammerhead and Iron Tears tracks from 'Doomsday for the Deceiver', then two songs from the latest 'real' studio album, 'Ugly Noise', namely Motherfuckery and Gitty Up. 'Ugly Noise' I wasn't too impressed by when I reviewed it upon its release, but I have since then grown to appreciate it greatly.
I Live You Die (what's with the gladiator helmet, A.K? Jeans and a Roman helmet - glad the fashion police isn't here tonight!) and the title track of 'No Place...' finish off the ball which leaves me regretting once more that I haven't managed to see this formidable band before. Tight and solid effort with one of the best metal voices in front and an equally solid pick of songs - what more can you ask for?! I'm one happy ol' geezer, that's for sure.
Erik A.K - one of the best metal voices ever
Solid rhytm section and by the way with a fabulous bass sound: Kelly David-Smith and Michael Spencer
As humble and experienced as F&J come across, as self-confident and bent on looking just right are death-thrashers LEGION OF THE DAMNED from the Netherlands. I remember reviewing the band's debut album in, oh, 2006-ish? I wasn't too impressed with their Destruction/Kreator/Slayer inspired thrash which for me mostly focused on speed and not much else, and I wasn't too keen on the vocal either. This was confirmed during a Wacken festival at some point, where the experience was exactly the same.
The Dutchmen, I'm afraid, don't move my opinion the slightest bit tonight. They look good, they play it well, but, dammit, their music is just uninteresting in a furiosly fast way. The songs fail to capture, and it all tends to sound the same. They do a few pretty impressive breaks into half-time, but those are the only times I wake up during a gig which seems so utterly long. It also appears to be the perception by a large part of the rest of the audience who little by little seep away from the area in front of stage.
Fast and uninteresting - Legion of the Damned
A relation to Schmier? Maurice from LOTD.
Who would have thought that Esbjerg could conjure up a party like this on a Tuesday evening? Say what you like about Sao Paolo's proud sons, but you can't deny their experience and their back catalogue of rhythm monsters.
You could say, and I reckon most fans of the band would agree to this, that the majority of the best song material SEPULTURA has come up with was produced during the Max era, but to be honest, Derrick has grown into being the better live front man than Max ever was a long, long time ago. The big, black fellow, now shaved bald, just to make him even more mean looking, makes an impressive and intense figure on stage. His delivery of the material, old and new, is flawless.
On the left flank, Paulo Jr. is his usual steady and concentrated self, aging and greying with dignity, like an Ian Hill of thrash metal, and on the right flank, Andreas Kisser is as enthusiastically and vehemently pounding his riffs into the audience as ever, grimassing, smiling, grinning, throwing his hair around and constantly communicating with the audience and drawing just as much attention as Green.
A small calculation tells me that this is the eighth time I see Sepultura live (three with Max, four with Derrick), and this is easily the most vibrant version of Sepultura I've seen since the first time I saw them in 1991 in Berlin on the Arise tour. And even if the crowd only counts 300 people, the response leaves no doubt that Sepultura does everything right.
The set consists of a fair amount of songs from the latest outing, 'The Mediator Between the Head and the Hand Must Be the Heart', and they turn out to work really well - especially The Vatican and The Age of the Atheist.
There's one small glitch in the set, though; the New Model Army cover The Hunt is cool and performed excellently ten songs into the set, but it sort of takes the energy out of the audience. The air doesn't come back with the following tunes Spectrum and Ao Lama da Caos, and only returns to the former energy level when the divine Inner Self thunders out of the PA. And after that it's just one long victory march with Territory, Refuse/Resist, Arise and the two encores Ratamahatta and Roots.
What a way to end a Tuesday evening in Esbjerg!
Derrick Green - better than Max
Andreas Kisser - a dynamo