I wouldn’t necessary label Colossal Weekend as ‘colossal’ for huge or grand. It’s a respectable two-dayer taking place in the centre of Copenhagen with no line-up clashes. Three separate concert halls hosted at Vega entertainment centre offer a mix of genres over the weekend - from mainstream blackers Deafheaven, experimental rockers Oxbow, a metal superband Sumac to nu-jazzists Mouse on The Keys and a handful of local as well as dance music artists.
Friday welcomes us with instrumental post-rock/nu-jazz band Mouse on The Keys from Kyoto, Japan. To me it’s a slightly bizarre choice to have these avant-gardists playing just before Deafheaven, yet the crowd doesn’t mind and is dancing frantically. Their set is made all the more interesting by rampant experimentalism, a trumpet and visuals projected onto the ceiling.
Deafheaven’s contrasting mixture of metal and post rock and melodramatic performance is something that one must see, whether you like it or not. Pairing extremes together, the band melancholically merges shoegaze atmospheres with black metal guitars and pop-leaning elements. The frontman George Clarke orchestrates the crowd with his mesmerizing theatrical dances and assertive shrieks. While the rest of the band does not manifest such energy or emotion, the audience eats of George’s palm as he is dancing ecstatically during ‘Dream House’. Deafheaven is one of those bands that you love or hate.
I discover locals Tvivler, a band blending metal hardcore with punk. Reminding me of Children of Fall and Complete, Tvivler plays an intense, passionate set. Youthful energy and almost quirky quality permeates their show which sadly lacks good sound engineering. Nonetheless, when Tvivler are on, they pack an emotional punch!
An absolute heroine and headliner of the night was Anna von Hausswolff, in the room that previously hasn’t sounded right, Anna somehow achieves sonic perfection (who is her sound engineer?)... Yet half of people leave. Surprised by such a cold reception, I move closer to the stage and fully immerse myself in atmospheric, Swans-reminiscent soundscapes. New songs sound heavier, doomier and shamanic. Anna is extracting the very best elements from post-rock and post-metal while creating her own unique abyss. Alas, my Hausswolffian ecstasy is disturbed by local geezers. They are shouting and whistling at Anna, interrupting quiet parts... When a macho wraps around my shoulders, my patience is gone. For many women, music is our home – yet frequently we are not allowed to enjoy gigs. Instead of simply experiencing beauty and catharsis through tunes, we have to fight off sexual aggressors. Having said that, Anna’s strong hypnotic voice makes everyone shut up. Von Hausswolff delivers one of the best shows of the weekend and nothing could change it.
Saturday starts with San Francisco’s Oxbow. It is the last gig of their European tour with Sumac and the band looks deservedly tired. Tiredness, however, doesn’t stop Eugene Robinson from putting his signature show on. Eugene with his ears covered in duct tape is howling and stripping. His dancing involves aggression and pelvic thrusts and… the crowd loves it!
They say never meet your heroes. Meet your heroines instead! Known also for Marriages and Red Sparowes, Emma Ruth Rundle has fully realised herself in a solo singer-songwriter territory. Atmospheric ballads by Emma conquer hearts and ears of Danish extreme music fans. Thematically focussing on grief, self-destruction, death, Rundle provides her comfort with shoe-gazey melodies. Supported by a band that includes Jaye Jayle, she sounds mature and heavy. Red Sparowes’-like soundscapes are stripped down only for ‘Shadows of my name’ - a triumphant finale that leaves everyone with their jaws on the floor.
I am biased towards everything Aaron Turner does. Such a huge influence Isis had on me back in the days. Sumac sound marvellously (as they always do). The superband has truly grown in their skin and the fact Joe Preston is filling in for Brian Cook on bass doesn’t change a thing. Unleashing sudden me(n)tal assaults, Americans manage to sound conceptual. Sudden shifts in speed and stylistic intent do not distract. On the contrary, Sumac’s abrupt strumming of notes feels well thought-out. I am already looking forward to their new record!
I should be ashamed, but Colossal was my first time to see Alcest. French post-black-metallers (or perhaps blackgazers?! Alcest are hard to pigeonhole) sound vibrant and sincere. Smiling genuinely and nodding with reverent humbleness, Alcest transmit pure gratitude and forge an electrifying connection with their audience. Back vocals of the guitarist adds some weight to fragile melodies and Neige’s ethereal clean singing. I am not surprised the band toured with Mono in 2016. Like Japanese post-rockers, Alcest are showcasing a collision of beauty and hopelessness… Guitars kick in and their cinematic soundscapes take you to a utopian fairyland. Gorgeous melodic lines and the uplifting spirit of the musicians and audience cannot be damped even by poor sound engineering. My earplugs do the job, luckily! Riff by riff I chase perfection with Alcest.
Overall, Colossal Weekend is a success and a place for discovery. The weekend provides an astonishingly diverse high standard programme and there is a tank truck load of more bands on the bill to check out, so don’t take my word for it! I feel grateful to promoters for nicely crafted line-up and looking forward for 2018.