Foto: Linnea Nordström

Sea, Rock and Sun

Bukta 2015 very much delivered the goods, the Utropia team finds.

Text: Lyonel Perabo // Photo: Linnea Nordström

Ungrateful Dead

Utropia’s Bukta 2015 experience was kick started by the youngsters of HEAVE BLOOD AND DIE (formerly DEFACED) who won the Rock Mot Rus competition earlier this year. As of late, the quintet has become the talk of the town and their gig at the Little Henrik stage was very much anticipated. So much, that over 250 were present in front of the tiny platform occupied by the teensters.

The last time Utropia had the chance to witness the band live, HEAVE BLOOD AND DIE impressed by the sheer depth of their murky sound. This was last year though and the band seems to have tweaked their sound somewhat since then. While the base of the band’s music remains thick, noisy Sludge/Core, some of the boys’ songs showed a more melodic and much-softer approach.

Some songs, while still relatively heavy, had a clear bluesy and 70’s edge, especially prominent in the lead guitar melodies and the overall groovier feel conveyed by the slightly faster-driven rhythm. Those songs, while being a worthy witness of the band’s desire to expand and develop their music, felt sadly much more average than the band’s earlier and grittier songs.

In some cases, the adjunction of Rockier elements worked perfectly well, but on others, it felt more worrisome than welcome. Please guys, if you ever read this, don’t become just another poseur band playing brain-dead Stoner for the masses. There’s largely enough of those so why not use your musical talent to foster the cause of truly somber music instead?

Monochromatic Crowd-Pleaser

The second band to grace Utropia’s ears with their music was ONKL P & DE FJERNE SLEKTNINGENE, The Super Rock/Rap group from the deep south has become one of the most talked-about mainstream bands of the year following the melodic rock anthem ´Styggen på Ryggen´ and they consequently drew quite a crowd to their 6-man show featuring artists from, among others, TURBONEGRO and OLSO ESS.

This crowd did not, unfortunately, include the Utropia team, at least not after the first 5-6 songs. The reason? The mind-shatteringly horrid music. Indeed, the band’s music could be best described as an acculturated mixture of Reggae, Rap, Ska (brrr!) led by occasionally heavy guitars. To sum up, ONKL P & DE FJERNE SLEKTNINGENE’s music felt like a tired old attempt at seducing rednecks and casual listeners of antiquated muzak.

The somewhat ´rock´ guitars were most often just twanging in the background, conveying no force whatsoever and when they got slightly heavier it felt like dumbed-down Nu-Metal at best. Still, the band proved decently popular and ´Styggen på Ryggen´ almost managed to make us forget the painfully awkward set it concluded.

Excessive R&R

Following a tip by a colleague that shall remain anonymous, Utropia then moved back to the Little Henrik stage to witness a dazzling performance by the Aussies of the GRAVELTONES: The band, which consists only of a Guitar/Vocals-Drums duo plays a form of completely over-the top Rock & Roll in a wholeheartedly Garage mindset. Imagine a duo consisting of one HIVES and one WHITE STRIPES but fronted by IGGY POP. Makes no sense? Well, the GRAVELTONES made none either but that’s okay because they simply slayed!

The band’s songs are mostly fast, high-octane Rock & Roll hits, oozing Blues and folly in equal amount. The rhythm section, not really consisting of a rhythm section, but rather of an amazing drum-pounding bear, lead each song with bravado and virtuosity, hitting more skins than what’s considered appropriate by just about every moral standard out there. It would all be just stale blustering if it wasn’t for the sheer primal energy bleeding from the drum-set, taking over the whole stage.

The guitar-playing wasn’t far behind too. While every song was ´just´ built on a pure Blues base, the never-ending twanging of the strings, and screeching in ways few artists would think possible, led to systematic oracular devastation, filling the body and souls of the attendees with ape-like frenzy. To sum up, a hidden nuclear device exploded on stage the exact moment the GRAVESTONES plugged in their instruments. Surprisingly, it felt good, real good. Too good to be true? Maybe…

The Last of the Stadium Rockers

The big happening of Bukta’s first day was without a shadow of a doubt the coming of Prog-Metal’s biggest band, namely DREAM THEATER. Currently on their thirtieth anniversary tour, the American band was convinced, probably through some cryptic and clandestine magic, to stop by Tromsø and grace their Arctic fans with their noble presence.

For one thing, DREAM THEATER are really good at what they do i.e. fairly nerdy and technical Metal. Just Heavy enough not to fall asleep while listening but melodic enough to please even a casual EUROPE fan. Still, the band has received lots of criticism over the years for being THE band your dorky friend won’t stop obsessing about. Ultimately though, the thought of witnessing a Metal band headlining Bukta convinced Utropia to be present on that occasion. That and the double-bass drums.

This proved to be a wise decision. DREAM THEATER simply gave a flawless performance. No more, no less. The band, who played one song from each and every album they ever released managed to avoid sounding stale by aptly mixing crowd-pleasers, hits and ballads throughout their long set; quite a feat when you realize that they played these songs in a chronological order!

The sound coming out of the main stage was almost crystal clear and perfectly fit the band’s highly technical music. Ethereal keys set the stage for some of the band’s most epic songs like ´Metropolis – Part I´ from the band’s second (and arguably best) album, ´Image and Words´. Meanwhile heavy shredding led the way for some of the band’s heaviest (and arguably best) songs like ´As I Am´ from the ´Train of Thought´ Album.

The audience reacted very well to the band’s musical antics. Aging rednecks and younger fans alike were swayed with ballads like the classic ´The Spirit Carries On´ or the more recent ´Wither´. James Labrie, the band’s lead vocalist, pulled off a great performance, totally owning Bukta’s massive crowd with his powerful vocal chords and well-thought stage-banter. All in all, DREAM THEATER did a great job and were fantastically received. A win-win situation that ended a very successful first day of Bukta.

Going out with a Bang

The performance of the Tromsø-based Metal core band DIENAMIC was the only one Utropia experienced on the second day of the festival. The reason? The quintet, which released their second album earlier this year, has recently announced their plan to leave town for good and migrate south in Western Sweden in order to spread their music to a wider audience. The show at Bukta was hailed, as a result, as the last one DIENAMIC would play on home turf for a while.

This rather daring move, coupled with the increasingly stronger material the band has been releasing since their debut made for quite an atmosphere at the Little Henrik stage. First of all the capacity of the stage was almost reached with well over 300 attendees battling for a place as close to the Metal band as possible.

Such a move proved rewarding as DIENAMIC cranked the amps to the max and delivered an immensely powerful show to a fully conquered audience. Songs from both albums, ´Surfing the Apocalypse’ and ´Afterlife´ were played with equal intensity and conviction. Empowered by a flawless sound, the boys delivered crushing mosh-parts and speedy blasts, all enhanced by craftily aggressive vocals without stopping for a single second.

Utropia has followed DIENAMIC since the very beginning when they still hadn’t really figured out their sound and through times when they reached technical, and ultimately full musical breakthrough. Of the numerous gigs Utropia has witnessed, this particular one stands out as the very best of all, bearing witness to the potency of the North-Norwegian outfit. We wish them good luck with their upcoming conquest of Sweden and hope that the Swedes won’t get too scarred by these mighty sons of the true North.

Danish Space Punks

Saturday was the big day for Tromsø, for one simple reason: REFUSED. Still, it would have been rather stupid to go to the festival grounds for just one single band, even one as great as the Swedish outfit. Ultimately Utropia decided to go see HJORTENE, a Danish trio our team met a few days prior on our way to the Backbeat record store.

This proved to be quite a wise choice as the Danes were revealed to be a great and fun live band. The best way to label the music of HJORTENE would maybe be ´Space Punk´ a.k.a., a mixture of long fuzzy jams and very heavy, almost primitive predacious sound. To make it simple, imagine if MONSTER MAGNET had been hanging around Seattle in the early 90s and you’d get what we mean.

The concert, which was held on the second stage at Paradisbukta started out with an insanely long instrumental song that slowly but surely drew a slew of filthy concert-goers to the stage. The trio, made up of the not-that evil Kim Of Death, Claus Doomhammer and Palle literally oozed raw, simian energy as they blasted their way from song to song. Their immature stage banter and overall positive attitude contributed to create a nifty, very R&R atmosphere which was only made neater when they switched to some of their faster songs, crushing countless spines in the process. Overall, HJORTENE were a fun bunch of truly dedicated Rockers that must absolutely be experienced live if possible.

Refused are Fucking Alive

Towards the end of the Danish band’s set it was time for Utropia, and countless others, to move towards the Main Stage for what was probably going to be the concert of the year: Swedish Hardcore legends REFUSED. The Swedes took their time to prepare themselves as an increasingly large crowd gathered in front of the two-meter-high stage quickly had just started to become somewhat restless bombastic samples suddenly blasted in the speakers. Seconds later, five skinny men dressed like late-sixties French Maoists took over the stage. This was it. REFUSED, live in Tromsø!

The band started out with a track straight from their new album, ´Freedom´, the crushing ´Elektra´. In a matter of seconds the immense crowd was conquered by the towering band and especially by their singer, the graceful Denis Lyxzén: the dancing, hopping, and swinging singer could scarcely be contained within the limits of the otherwise huge stage. His ceaseless stage antics almost took a dimension of their own, giving REFUSED’s music another, very physical dimension.

The second song to come was, rather expectedly, one of the numerous masterpiece from their more-than-classic 1998 record, ´The Shape of Punk to Come´, namely the album’s self-titled song. The sound up towards the front of the stage was powerful and very much drum-driven. While guitars were sharp enough to give the band’s complex riffs enough place, the vocals were somewhat murkier, but it didn’t really matter because most of the attendees seemed to know each and every song by heart.

After yet another song from their new album ´Destroy the Man´ came the deadly ´Rather be Dead´ straight from the band’s uncompromising second album ´Songs to Fan the Flames of Discontent´. This brute of a song crashed on the audience like an unexpected uppercut, throwing a horde of fans (most of whom are members of tough local bands) into a frenzied mosh-pit. The intensity only went up when the majestic ´Summer Holidays VS Punk Routine´ was unleashed upon the unprepared crowd. The song’s catchy riffs did a hell of a job drilling through welcoming auricular cavities while bringing the rest of the bodies into a frenzied trance.

The slower, more melodic ´366´ created a most welcome breathing space before the mortal assault of ´The Deadly Rhythm´ which smartly incorporated an homage to SLAYER in the form of a few bars of the fierce ´Rain in Blood´. While this song brought about another pit, it became clear, that, despite the intense display of musical and physical violence at play, everyone was having a memorable time. Even trashed clothes, bloodied brows and trampled moshers could not spoil the atmosphere of overpowering joy spawned from the stage.

´Dawkins Christ´ and ´Refused are Fucking Dead´ came next and upheld the performance´s maddened pace: an inferno of riffs, yells and physical confrontation overpowering the senses was all that one could make from these deadly songs. Such a situation ultimately warranted a change of pace through what is maybe REFUSED ´softer’ song, the stadium rock ´War on the Palaces´ which preceded the band’s most iconic song, ´New Noise´.

Just hearing the opening riffs of this incredible hit was enough to turn the audience into an even bloodier frenzy than ever before. As the band rushed into the first chorus, the cloudy skies of Tromsø opened to let the golden Midnight Sun shine upon the stage. While this definitive hymn was blasted by the masterful Swedes, a massive mosh-pit erupted, turning dozens of crazed worshipers into a massive flesh conglomerate of fury, folly and passion. As the song’s last chords faded away in the bright glare of the Midnight Sun the band left the stage, evidently as content with themselves as the crowd was.

While it felt way too short, REFUSED performance at Bukta 2015 was as intense as you would expect coming from such a legendary and influential band. Rarely has such a exceedingly accomplished band played in our Arctic reaches and never has such a passion-filled and soul-wrenching concert been staged here. REFUSED did more than just play songs in front of an audience, they filled their hearts with meaning and radiance. That such a life-affirming achievement would come from a Hardcore band from the dainty town of Umeå playing in the even more diminutive Tromsø bears witness to the utter potency and transformative power music infused with spirit and passion does and will forever possess.

There is no destination

But with a goal in mind

We can all be realistic

Demand the impossible

Let’s bring this city to life – to light, tonight

Let’s bring this city to life – tonight