THE SKULL / NIGHT VIPER (Copenhagen) / HELL (Gothenburg)
On occasion I get the question if it really is necessary to see a band twice or more, on the same tour. Until now, I've never regretted seeing the show more than once. On the contrary, I've been appreciating the second opportunity more as I know just what to expect, and if it happens that the band changes the setlist a bit, that is just a bonus.
NIGHT VIPER opened for THE SKULL in Copenhagen. I've only seen them once before, at ‘Muskelrock’, and for sure, it sounded good at that time. The difference now is that I've listened to their self-titled debut album which also sounds good. But apparently not enough to remember which songs were played. If I'm not totally off, the signature song “Night Viper” came rather early in the set. It's catchy and sure is a good live track. Tiny vocalist Sofie-Lee Johansson has a big voice and it’s hard to see where she finds all the power but she sounds good and performed really well that night.
Somewhere around the second or third song, guitarist Emil Ridderstolpe broke a string and it became a bit of a SPINAL TAP moment. No back-up guitar was rigged onstage and with the very small Stengade venue, the crowd saw and heard exactly what was going on. It became hysterically funny when he didn't get into the case and had to ask for the code for the lock. When that was sorted out, everything was back to normal again. But this shows that basically anything can happen when you're on stage.
What I really enjoyed with NIGHT VIPER was the energy and drive they have in their songs. Despite that, they have a female drummer... I know it can sound condescending saying this but I've seen so many bands doing ok for girls but that's not really the case. Jonna Karlsson is good for real delivering heavy and powerful drumming. So even if I was expecting NIGHT VIPER to be good, they exceeded my expectations and for next time I need to listen to their music even more.
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In Gothenburg, US Doom / Drone band HELL opened instead. I'm not really into this style of music with the slow and endlessly grinding riffs but I have to say HELL didn't leave much to complain about. They had a nice nerve to it all and even if it was slow with very long passages, it never got boring. It was very tasteful with the addition of the violin and impressive that they managed to keep an acoustic instrument in tune throughout the show. The stage-lights normally messes that up and with acoustics it's even worse. But it all worked out well and made a very good contrast towards both the acoustic and distorted guitars.
When the music is as slow as HELL's is, it's crucial to play clean, and based on this, their musical performance was flawless; double guitars, harmonies and clean picking without anything else covering up flaws. It was really amazing that it was in perfect sync all the way. The show left more to wish for. I can understand it belongs to the genre that it should just go on and on but when all on stage look completely vacuous it doesn't become so much fun to watch either. Perhaps I don't understand the genre at all; this is maybe just how it should be. But then I prefer more of a Rock 'n' Roll attitude, definitely. From a musical perspective, it was nothing to complain on though.
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I actually feel nervous when watching a band for the first time, especially when it's a band that means so much. I’m talking about TROUBLE and not THE SKULL of course. “Manic Frustration” is easily one of the records I've been listening to the most of all time. And not just most of the TROUBLE albums; the self-titled “Trouble” is not far behind either. Both Eric Wagner and Ron Holzner are part of that history, so of course my expectations were set high for these two shows. And to get to see them play at a place like Stengade is almost like having the band home, inside your living room... Almost... And what a start of the show that was with “R.I.P” and “Assassin” with a massive feeling of well-being washing over me. But as much as I love these songs, I was worried it would be a TROUBLE set and not enough THE SKULL songs. I got “For Those Which Are Asleep” a little too late for it to make it to my top 10 list of 2014 but with some more time I would have kicked one out of the list.
Fantastic “The Touch Of Reality” worked perfect live as “Till The Sun Turns Black” did; the chorus, “All I ever wanted was to love you back” is super as are the groove and the melody. That one is a favorite of the record and I was really excited to have it in the set. The brand new “The Longing” from the lately released self titled EP worked really well live also.
What I really enjoyed with these shows was how intimate they felt. Eric walked around onstage talking to people, and in Copenhagen there was no problem hearing what he was saying even if he spoke without the microphone - just casual conversation asking how people were doing. Most just got stunned and smiled silly back at him. After “A New Generation”, Eric asked if we wanted to hear any songs in particular... Where to start? There's so many... So I missed my opportunity to request but I'm really happy with how things turned out anyway. “Come Touch The Sky” is awesome and the lyrics are etched forever in my head. I didn't expect to get anything from “Plastic Green Head” so the title track from that album was a very nice surprise.
If any one song should signify Groovy Doom and equally much of Heavy Metal, I can't think of a better track than “At The End Of My Daze”; the familiar guitar-part starting of the song and the short pause before it kicks off in that really Heavy chewy riff is absolutely fantastic.
One thing that is my favorite part of TROUBLE is the amazing twin-guitar setup with Bruce Franklin and Rick Wartell and how well they play together and how damn good matched their sound that can no one really beat. And this makes the performance by Lothar Keller and Rob Wrong really impressive; they really amazed me and in this song particularly. They really pulled off the twin lead flawlessly and that with a much more unforgiving sound (much cleaner) than Bruce and Rick. It took until this moment to realize how damn good both of them are, which felt a little stupid. But better late than never, right? And I had one more show to enjoy their playing to the max also.
The ending to the main set was done with two THE SKULL songs; another favorite from the record, “Send Judas Down”, followed by “For Those Which Are Asleep”. I've never really recognized the last of the two's greatness. Perhaps it really came to life live or I just missed out completely. It surely sounded fantastic live, and again, an amazing performance by Lothar and Rob.
In Copenhagen, the set ended with “The Tempter” as encore, while in Gothenburg a few more songs were served. These few extras really made it worth the trip. Of course it would have been worth it without them too but it's always cool when there's some difference between the sets. And talking to Ron Holzner afterwards, when he said they had plans to play the rest of “Psalm 9” as well... Was it really enough with only two shows? I doubt it. But luckily, THE SKULL will be coming back to Europe in the fall, so that's definitely something to look forward to.
THE SKULL setlist (Gothenburg):
03. “The Touch Of Reality”
04. “Trapped Inside My Mind”
05. “Till The Sun Turns Black”
06. “The Longing”
07. “A New Generation”
08. “Come Touch The Sky”
09. “Plastic Green Head”
10. “At The End Of My Daze”
11. “Send Judas Down”
12. “For Those Which Are Asleep”
13. “The Tempter”
14. “Revelation (Life Or Death)”
15. “The Skull”
THE SKULL (Copenhagen)
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THE SKULL (Gothenburg)
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