Wrapping myself in light wool as protection against the autumn chill of Oslo, I had time for some private brain-storming on the 5 year anniversary of rock club Revolver. Having only been an Oslo resident for a little over two years, I was late to get in the mix. My loss. After my first visit (I think it was the Italian wonders Love Boat) I quickly realized: The basement of the beloved Revolver bar in Møllergata breeds closeness to the music. You get to be up front with the artists, no rock star fences to keep sheep in line, nowhere to hide from sonic experience.
So far, the celebration of the first five years has opened my eyes to French garage popsmith Yussuf Jerusalem and made me tear out my hair in frustration at having missed one of Norway’s best live bands, The Megaphonic Thrift. Throw in some death metal and noise rock and you can see how versatile the bookings have been.
In a town of way too many large stages, Revolver is perfect for discovering those special bands before they get huge. Fuck yes, I saw Screaming Females before everyone blog wanted a piece of them. Yes, I was there when the seriously underrated Hipbone Slim and The Knee-Tremblers made cold Norwegians do the swing. There is something different about the people who always show up at Revolver. Ignoring the inevitable drunken fools, most of the attending crowd are true lovers of underground music. You can see it in their eyes, these are the men and women who actually buy the vinyl, who know all the nerdy facts about the recording of the first demo. Rock geeks, always broadening their horizons. Don’t be like me, lost and late to arrive. Luckily for you, the Revolver year is far from over. Sabbat (Japan), In Gowan Ring, Ken Stringfellow, and the might Negative Approach (that one might get violent) are still to come. Stay tuned.
Katechon are a relatively new metal band from Trondheim, my city of birth. The members have musical CV’s longer than the hair of the drummer (down to his waist, if you not yet seen them live). To do a brief mention of exploits we can include Victimised, Jimbo Jones, Sexy Police and Kaos SS. A bit of punk, some thrash metal and a whole lot of grind. Naturally this new band is a mix of the members musical past. Old death metal (of the American kind) mixed with the punky grind of early Napalm Death. Speaking of hair, the Katechon players come in all varieties. An oddity if you are familiar to the metal scene. If you line them up from singer through bass player and guitarist you will get a slow progression of hair growth ending with the drummer who is the only one of proper metal length regulation. What has the the world come to?
The style bears witness to folks who know their death metal history. In picking the right equipment in the form of older distortion pedals and some off-brand guitars they manage to sound like the early 80’s. A good thing, considering the state of modern metal these days. After a proggy Sleep-like intro they just go straight into the grind. Fronted by Leif from thrash punkers Victimised, they are certain to display that very deep primal growl. The man has experience and it sounds good. Sadly, the rest of the band struggle a bit to keep up. The lefty guitarist has to keep a watchful eye on the drummer, who seems to be struggling through the song structure. With a cog in the machinery rusting, the technical aspect suffers and they end up sounding like they need a few more weeks at the practice space. More confidence and more practice, and this will be force to be reckoned with. Luckily for them, and all you metal fans, they sound really good on record. Check it out.
Confidence, my sons
I will just go ahead and say it: I get pretty fed up with metal. Having reviewed metal for about 9 or 10 years, I feel like I have heard it all and that most of it is dreadfully unoriginal. You have new bands copying old bands and old bands failing to deliver relevant albums, forever touring on ancient material without the voices and technical skills to do their songs justice. I saw Slayer a couple of years ago and the mantra of “retire, just please retire” could not be ignored inside my head. Most of the old guard are overweight, out of shape and out of the loop. Barely having the strength to croak out their lyrics. It is sad, and it is mean to the fans. They deserve better. Someone should claim the throne and make metal relevant again. Who you gonna call? Ghost…..wait. Aura Noir!
The perfect blend between old school thrash metal (mostly Sodom, Venom and Kreator) and a touch of black metal. Aura Noir is that special kind of band appealing to both elitists and those who like their riffs fast and catchy. Keeping it real since 1993 they have been dropping albums of surprisingly high quality every few years. They seem to be the hit machines of Norwegian metal, something this evening’s quickly proved. A quick update on the band’s all-star status before we get to the juicy show.
Aggressor, Apollyon and Blasphemer have had their hands in some many metal pies that it would be quicker to list bands they have NOT played in. They have tons of experience in all the outer regions of the metal universe. Prime engine Aggressor fell from a fourth floor window in 2005, causing severe injury to his legs, still he could not be stopped. He now plays gigs sitting on a stool, confident like a chieftain. That shows dedication. It makes me even forgive his practice of wearing sun-glasses inside. Which is usually a big no-no.
Two hundred audience members were so eager to get a piece of Aura Noir that I was squashed into the left side of the stage, almost close enough to smell Blasphemer’s hair. The band lined up as close to the crowd as possible and, with an amazing display of confidence, started picking hits from their catalogue. “Hades Rise” and “Black Thrash Attack” are great live numbers, but the best surprises are tracks that Aura claim that they have never played in front of an audience. Take “The Stalker”, the closing from from their 2008 effort Hades Rise. With it’s Motorhead-like chorus it gets three rows of metal fans chanting along to something they have never heard performed live before. The boys on stage start out with confident smiles, as the setlist progresses their grins start to widen. It has been a while since I have seen metal played with this much compassion and superiority.
Not only is Aura Noir tighter than a closed fist, they also know how to please the crowd. With their little jibs and between-songs banter they fire up the home crowd just by opening their mouths. Rarely have I seen an audience so hungry for metal, by the frequence of fists raised and lyrics shouted you would guess Aura Noir to be superstars.
Hardly anyone in the room stood still during the hour the band pumped out their thrash, yours truly included. I am used to seeing metal bands and only getting into 2 or 3 of the songs, finding the rest to be redundant. With Aura Noir is just hit after hit, the smooth switch between Aggressor and Apollyon’s vocals keep it fresh and their voices carry enough clarity to satisfy the Parent Criteria: You have to hear what they are actually singing.
Aura kept the fires burning for a little over an hour, kudos to the drummer for keeping up the speed. It could not have been easy. When they walk off stage they are even professional enough not to drag out the evening through half-assed encores. Their firm walk-off signals a finale that says: We came, we played, we conquered. Most of us were just left grinning and incoherently rambling to each other: “Wow, they actually played that one. Did you see that drummer? How about the hammer fists of the front row, crazily striking their own thighs?” I guess this is the feeling of coming back into the light/darkness after you have lost faith. Suddenly I felt an urge to praise metal again and be proud that Norway actually can produce something other than Shot at Dawn (google them and die inside). No sad faces, no disappointed faces.
The only downside to a wonderful night of black thrash was the lack of courtesy shown to our photographer. Being a drunk metal asshole up front is obviously more important than letting the camera man snap a few shots of the band. The mood got, in the words of Pantera, fucking hostile. If the front row has a chance to read this: Take it down a notch. You can headbang just as well if you take a step to the left.
All photos courtesy of Erik Moholdt. http://www.erikmoholdt.com
Happy Anniversary, Revolver! http://www.revolveroslo.no