Not a single day of rest after the "Deafheaven" concert and yet another amazing show was about to take place. Don't think I'm complaining here, since the previously mentioned three month gig drought was pretty tough on yours truly. February is blessed with three, or maybe even four, great concerts, so be prepared for one more gig review after this one. Before I start with the actual review, I just want to apologize to all the bands which sent me their material and are already waiting to be featured here. Thanks for the patience and I promise that none of you will get neglected, just stay tuned a little longer.
The show took place last Saturday, more accurately on 18 February 2012, in a venue named "Doornroosje" in Nijmegen, a city in the eastern part of the Netherlands. "Sleeping Beauty", the translated name of the venue, is quite a peculiar place which grabbed my liking completely. The first important thing to mention is the very location of the place. As I was walking to reach the venue I found it hard to believe that a place for such a show could be somewhere nearby, since the overall surrounding seemed, to me, to be completely plain, boring and with copy/paste building designs, the neighborhood resembling a sort of business section of the city or something similar. But after an unexpected turn on the route, you end up facing a somewhat isolated building, completely covered with graffiti and with architecture which is totally out of place from what you witnessed before. The front side of the complex greets you with small stone stairs, first leading you to a little window where you buy the entry ticket and then to a door which is the actual way inside. As much as the exterior was colorful with graffiti, the interior is equally lively with colors and design. Once inside, there is a door on the left leading to a small cafe of sorts, while on the right there are stairs going toward the wardrobe on the upper floor. While I was upstairs and handing in my jacket, I noticed a map of the entire venue and I must say that it is bigger and more complex than it seems, actually having a bigger and a smaller stage each in separate locations, as well as numerous other rooms. Despite me seeing just a part of the venue, I was really impressed and was constantly gazing around. The gig space itself, the place with the bigger stage, is a slight contrast to the previous rooms I saw, really dark and dimly lit, quite spacey and with a plain design, having a bar and a connection to the bathrooms and, obviously, the backstage rooms. The big room and its simple architecture managed to provide superb sound during the show, as you will read in the rest of the review.
After some time hanging out and making hard decisions at the distro section, which had no band merch by the way, the first band in line was about to play. "KEN mode" crawled on stage and completely decimated the entire venue with their sound. To be completely honest, I was first introduced to this Canadian trio when I heard about this gig, which happened rather recently. The attraction toward their music was almost instant thanks to their releases "Mennonite" and "Venerable", so my excitement about hearing them live was overabundant and expectations were set high. Needless to say, they managed to stun me beyond words and it is no joke when I say that they are among the best live bands that I have seen. What they succeeded to deliver with their performance was completely unbelievable, mainly because I didn't expect the strength of the hit they threw. To explain this I really need to reflect my thoughts about the above mentioned releases. "Mennonite" was a very peculiar noise/mathrock record, while "Venerable" came in a much darker form and acquiring some new traits, leading to a release where mathrock and post metal were fused together. This grim and drastically aggressive manifestation of "KEN mode" was increased a tenfold while the band was playing that night, leaving me completely speechless for the entirety of their set. They came in kicking and screaming, unleashing total mayhem upon the senses of the audience, not stopping for a single second to take a breather. Their sound was so heavy, enormous, incredibly loud and purely chaotic, literally crashing down and swallowing the listener completely. There was constant rapid and convulsing movement on stage, reflecting the music perfectly and providing a sight to behold. A single moment was taken to slow things down a bit, coming in the form of the closing song, "Never Was" if I remember well. All in all, it was an amazing performance that I will definitely never forget and I think that other people who saw them live share my thoughts, since I heard/read a lot of them saying that "KEN mode is a new favorite band." If you still haven't heard about this band, definitely check them out on their bandcamp page, found here.
Thus far, the show was running timely on schedule, which was pretty awesome and yet another interesting trait about the venue. A small break ensued which I used for grabbing one more record at the distro and then the time has come to see a band that I was yearning to see live ever since I first heard their songs way back in 2002. My amazement with their music and art has been omnipresent all these years, so my expectations were really high for the upcoming performance. Needless to say, the band managed to deliver and even surpass the set boundaries. "Circle Takes The Square", a band deeply carved in the flesh of the screamo genre, held the stage in a strong and savage manner, detonating an emotional and purely artistic bomb in the process. The eerie and droning intro of the "Enter By The Narrow Gates" slowly led the crowd into a trance, the sluggish buildup creating more and more tension with each passing tone. "Spirit Narrative" exploded soon after, followed by "Way Of Ever-Branching Paths". Their sound was absolutely flawless, surpassing the quality present on the recordings. It was amazing to be able to witness the brilliant song compositions and complex riffs, for which the band is probably most famous for, with superb sound and nothing holding them back. Sadly they didn't play my favorite song from the new "release", "The Ancestral Other Side", but after that third song came numerous excellent surprises. Whistling started ringing across the venue, slowly morphing into "Same Shade As Concrete", marking the time for old songs to be played. "Crowquill", "In The Nervous Light Of Sunday", my absolutely favorite song "Non-Objective Portrait Of Karma" and, a song which Drew dedicated to a virus floating through their van, "A Crater To Cough In". My one and only "complaint" was that "Karma" sounded a bit...different than on the recording. The thing that made the song so astounding is the ever-increasing tempo and the song's ability to create a feeling of being chased by predators, which while performed wasn't really present. The speed was somewhat stuck at a certain point and it made the song far less adrenaline rushing. Maybe it is due to the fact that "Circle Takes The Square" appeared that night as a three piece instead of a quartet. I haven't been following them in the past few months, so not knowing what happened to the lineup really raised an eyebrow. Needless to say, the song was still really good and it saw lyrical screaming from yours truly. When they finally got off the stage, I couldn't help but smile and feel utterly happy for seeing them live at last. The long wait surely paid off.
Not long after "Circle Takes The Square" finished their set, yet another band from Savannah, Georgia climbed up on stage. "Kylesa", the famous nonstop genre changing quintet, started an earthquake in the venue with a song from their album "Static Tensions", "Said And Done" and then continued with "Only One". The sound was unbelievably strong and crashing, exceptionally fast at grabbing the full attention of the audience. Their set kept bouncing between songs from "Static Tensions" and "Spiral Shadow", my two favorite releases, with a few exceptions from other albums like "Hollow Severer", "Where The Horizon Unfolds" and "Bottom Line". I was extremely happy to hear some of my favorite songs being played, "Unknown Awareness" and "Scapegoat", the choice of tracks for that evening being quite well picked in general, a really turbulent setlist with almost no time to pause and take a breath. Movement was omnipresent on stage and the crowd responded in a similar manner, making the entire scene completely chaotic and wild, in both the visual and audio aspects. Much like with the previous band, every song performed by "Kylesa" was just like on their recordings, clean and perfect, yet many times more powerful and impacting. I do, however, have to say that the vocal performance from Laura was not really on par with the recordings and at times it managed to really break from the mold. I know that I may be bashing the dream girl of many of my male readers and those who have attended the concert, but don't take these words to heart dudes, it is just a personal opinion. It wasn't bad or anything, just not exactly like record material. In any case, when "Scapegoat" was finished the band went off stage, but was soon pulled back by the screaming and clapping of the audience, so two more songs were performed to satisfy the thirst.
After the show I realized that the band merch was located outside of the gig room, which meant that I simply had to create more void in my wallet. Thus, my better half and myself bought some shirts and more records from the biggest surprise that night, "KEN mode". This show ended up being a serious competitor to the previous "Deafheaven" gig, neck to neck in every aspect. Absolutely stunning evening, each band leaving a wish in my head to see them live sometime again in the future. Hope you all enjoyed the review.