Northern Discomfort

Dates: April 28, 2017– April 30, 2017

On day two, we are facing an even better line-up. The party has already started when we enter the grounds. Behind the cocktail bar the crew is already having a party, dancing to disco music. People are on the terrain chatting or having a laugh. One woman is annoyed by the disco music and asks the organizer to make them turn it off.

It’s been a rainy day in Copenhagen, but luckily indoor it’s warmer. The first bands seem to have been moved to the Dödsmaskinen. That’s quite convenient, since there’s less crowd early on the day and this way the band can perform for a tightly packed audience. So in we go for the first act we’re going to see today. Unfortunately we just missed out on Sunken.

On the stage is Lewd Flesh, a band playing something more akin to the psych genre than anything else. Their sound is a hazy, heavy psyched out bit of blues, where most sounds melt together. For a bit you might actually hear some kraut influences in their sound that seems to create a static stream of tones. There’s a lot going on soundwise, but the stage act is a bit stiff. Thanks to the load of effects the sound just streams out at you. The Danish band works hard to get it all out and manages to deliver a great start of the day.

The second act on the same stage will be Macedonian masters of the weird Goli Deca and it does become a show to remember. The experimentalists play no songs, but more something akin to passages or movements. The crowd does not seem to know what to do with it and some people depart soon. The band uses chimes, a gong and in general a lot of interesting work with the instruments to create eerie, strange passages. The trio is inspired by early Swans in going against all rock´n´roll tradition. This they do very well with music that is urgent and bewildering. I´m still sort of speechless in how to describe seeing them live and that is the best thing.

Goli Deca

French brutes Barabbas sing in French and perform like the brave Napoleonite armies marching into these lands. With a certain disdain and haughty attitude they beckon the crowd to come closer. It´s all an act, because the group plays a devoted and passionate show of thundering stoner/doom. Think of The Obsessed, but with a bit more brawn and swagger. In particular singer Rodolphe Beuchet is all over the place, involving the crowd, pushing his band members and delivering songs with a fitting conviction. Though the comparison makes sense, Barabbas has a bit more of a punky edge to them thanks to that. Musically the group plays tight and with a lot of vitality. Exception is Stéphane Bourcier, who seems to be in a world of his own on guitar. Completely focussed and delivering exactly what the band needs. On the smaller stage another heavy hitting band is getting ready. Wuppertalers Grim van Doom definitely have the name, but do they have the grit for a feisty, burly set of grimy doom? Sure they do! The delivery of vocalist Lansky is one where he gives everything against the backdrop of tuned down guitars, heavy bass and rattling drums. The hardcore vibes in their sound are tangible, mostly thanks to their vocalist. The band doesn’t do anything wildly complex, but sticks to the heavy, sticky sound. No moshing, but it would feel like a fitting part of this show.

Barabbas

I suppose that Alaric is one of the headliners for the festival. For me they are definitely the band to see with their intriguing doom and gloom post-punk sound. The band released an excellent record with End of Mirrors last year and the idea of hearing them live already sends chills down my spine. It’s remarkable how much sound the band produces, without doing too much. The way the energy is so focussed in Alaric’s performance is one of the remarkable things for me, both the guitar player and bass player seem to be very much focussed in their own dimension in the songs. The drummer is the real backbone of the sound, offering slow foreboding pummelling as well as rapid tribal drumming on the sorrowful ‘Adore’. The driven force behind End of Mirrors is the same, with wild guitar work. That’s the more punky, aggressive work. It’s tracks like ‘Mirror’ though, where the baritone voice of singer Shane Baker really works its magic. I don’t know what it is with the vocalist, who waddles around the stage as if he is truly lost now and then. His expression, his passionate howls lend a magic to Alaric that lets me fall in love again with that band. A pretty full room seems to agree with that assessment.

Alaric

In the Dödsmaskinen the odd band on the bill is ready to play. MDME SPKR is from the United Kingdom, but it feels like they’ve been adrift so long that they have no roots. The sound is grungy/punky and mostly fun. Never complex, but all the time meaningful. Singer Lau tells brief stories to introduce the songs, she does this in a playful, cheeky manner that makes you smile when the first notes hit you. She plays the bass and sings, the two other members do drums and visuals. Drumming is not a walk in the park in this band for sure. From basic proto-punk to spacey trance, the band really keeps you intrigued from the start to the end, but most of all makes you feel alive and happy. Not something band amidst the heavy and dark music most of the line-up offers.

MDME SPKR

Raised middle fingers and grim looking faces is what awaits you on the main stage where hateful Cult of Occult is playing some of the most ferocious, dirty doom with a special level of hatred to it. The band always delivers with their self-destructive outlook, their particular brand of disinterested fury and delivery of pure noise. Now and then a band member slings a beer can into the crowd, that clearly seems to have sunken completely away in this pit of heavy misery. The sound is so incredibly loud, that you can literally feel it in your gut when the singer barks and spits venom at you. One guitar player at some point just stands there, next to his guitar, smoking a cigarette while noise squeaks and howls from his instrument. His look of defiant disregard is the face of this utterly bewildering performance. Wow….

Cult of Occult

Pinkish Black from Texas is another weird act in the line-up, but the duo is touring with Alaric and is a welcome bit of respite from the heavy and hard with their dreamy, krautrockish sound. Jon Teague hits the drums in a phenomenal fashion, while Daron Back (known also from Dead to a Dying World and Sabbath Assembly) works the keys and synths. He does that keywork, while smoking pretty much a cigarette per song, wearing pink glasses, which makes him look a bit like a runaway from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The rhythmic strength of the band is constantly there, but having cut down to a duo (previously the band was known as The Great Tyrant with three members), the tight guitar work is completely gone. This gives a lot of space for Back to work his magic and create a droning series of sounds and soundarches. Wavery here, a bit more druggy and droney there, it’s the duo really completes each other’s sounds. A well earned respite from the constant barrage of sound and very well delivered by a peculiarly fun act to experience live.

Pinkish Black

So sadly things come to an end and this goes as well for Northern Discomfort. The big room fills up one more time for Dutch weed-stoners Toner Low, who really turn up the volume a notch even compared to Cult of Occult. The trio has their famous weed leaf projections on the background and launches into a battering, wobbling set of pure heavy groove and shouted vocals that are barely audible. As the fumes rise from the crowd enter the last trip of the festival.

Toner Low

It’s been a great time here in Copenhagen and though it is hard to find a festival that makes it worth the trip, we for sure hope that more people chose this event next year. The environment, the pricing, the acts and everything is perfectly fine about this festival. A great choice and hopefully the organisation can pull it off again to put it up. Don’t forget that this is DIY, so what a great line-up for 2017 and how well combined. Formidable!

All photos by Justina Lukošiūtė.

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