I'LL BE DAMNED live at Copenhell. Photo: HEADBANGERphotography/Revolution-Music.dk
In Aarhus, there’s a street leading down to the water. That’s where the sailors used to go out, get hammered, and wreak general havoc. On that street is Escobar, where the heaviest part of the local scene hangs out. Apart from slinging beers, the bar helps generate the meanest sounds of the city. Metal musicians will welcome you with open arms, hand you a fireball, and share anecdotes of the last time they boiled a goat's head.
Denmark’s second largest city might be known for art by Olafur Eliasson and a massive boy crouching in a museum. But Aarhus is also home to a music scene that’s pretty lit, and amongst bands like LISS and Go Go Berlin, many local metal acts are now - more than ever - clawing their way out of the abyss to rear their beastly heads.
So for all of those of you who thought Scandinavian metal only came in the form of the progressive Swedish Gothenburg scene, or from the wine-chugging Satan worshippers in Bergen, Norway, we’ve decided to put together a devilish little care package. Metal is more than filling your drinking horn with mead or "doing that metal thing with your fingers" while listening to Dio. And don’t get me started on the whole discussion about what is and isn’t trve – we’ll save that for the next piece. That will most likely never see the light of day.
The city of Aarhus is more than just “Danish for Progress”, scenic views and what Danes might mistakenly refer to as mountains. Not convinced? Well, here are 6(66) reasons to forcefully change your mind:
Their choice of lettering in the band’s name is not some vague, stylistic shout-out to Motörhead. It’s the actual way “berserk” is spelled in Danish, and it’s native pronunciation translates well into their sludgy, Nordic brand of metal. Bersærk tell us that we've been bleeding beneath foreign flags for thousands of years, and that when we weren’t doing that, we were asleep below a bloody cross. All of this has been going on for too long, we’re told, so now Bersærk are here to kick us in the nuts with a vicious sound that we dare say would get a solemn nod of approval from Phil Anselmo himself.
They might be new on the Danish metal radar, but this is far from Blood Label’s first rodeo. Consisting of former members of the local metal bands Hatesphere, The Burning and Dawn of Demise, these dudes know what they’re doing. And what they’re doing is crossing traditional death metal with the grimy thrash that ruled the metal scene of the 80’s. The end result feels like the musical equivalent of being smacked across the face with a heavy shovel. And as it turns out, that can sometimes feel pretty damn good.
This is death in its purest form. These lads have barely made it into their twenties, and still, they’re making the music that was spreading its Luciferic wings before they were even born. These five dudes are all about embracing the cliché that is death metal, bringing goat skulls on stage and playing guitars that are fashioned into rocket ships. But they do it convincingly - and with nerve you wouldn’t believe. And if you, like me, sometimes find yourself scoffing at the contemporary music scene, Bæst is bringing back that tiny bit of optimism in metal that will get you through the day. Who are the grimmest, meanest bastards you can think of? Cannibal Corpse? Morbid Angel? Give Bæst a listen. Then think again. This shit is mean.
I’LL BE DAMNED
It sounds unreal, I know, but frontman Stig Gamborg of I’LL BE DAMNED actually teaches high school on the side. He teaches religion. And social studies. Yes, that’s right.
Basically IBD's music is all about thinking for yourself, which is essentially what the Church of Satan is all about. I wouldn’t go as far as calling these dudes worshippers of Satan, but there are certainly elements of it. That, and a shitload of irony. While their live performances send hard-hitting heavy metal plowing through your eardrums, what you’re seeing is something resembling a preacher from the American Deep South frantically ranting to all of us that we’ve all been fatally infected with the fever of religion.
It seems like there’s just something metal about the Danish alphabet. Well, apparently Nordic is cool (pun not intended), and if you want to be like the cool kids, møl are not to be missed. This band has created a sound not too far from the American blackgazers Deafheaven, although møl adds a bit of their own. They even claim to be the first-movers on that sound, but that’s pretty hard to say. Their dreamy soundscapes are topped with thrashy and edgy guitar riffs and rough screams. When you listen to it, you’ll understand why they’re not part of any particular scene. møl stands out in the crowd of metal bands, assembling those hipsters in Slowdive T-shirts with metalheads in patched up leather vests. Finally, someone gets it! Music is about the community it creates.
The metal-savvy will know that Wacken Open Air in Germany is where it all goes down. Once you’ve played live at Wacken, it’s pretty much downhill from there. Last year, Savage Machine attended a competition curated by the festival called Wacken Metal Battle – and won. The name of the competition pretty much says it all. You battle other metal bands for a chance to play the biggest metal festival in world. Amongst a fruit salad compote of metal delights, Savage Machine were the last men standing, having convinced their audience that 80’s power metal still goes down smooth.
When the curtain calls, they will make the metal scene of Copenhagen look like worn out hippies sipping green tea in their parents’ basement, while listening to Starland Vocal Band. Their sound will smash you in the head with a shot of Arnbitter, pull down your trousers and make you question your religious beliefs. Metal is alive and flourishing on the mainland and it’s coming with a force like nothing else in Denmark. Forget about Copenhagen, Aarhus is where it’s at.