At the start of the night, Nordic Giant’s Rôka tells me that the real Nordic Giants are on first, and as the impressively tall members of Norway’s Årabrot welcome us into their church (complete with a giant light-emitting cross), I nod to myself in agreement. Årabrot’s special brand of noise-rock wins a lot of approval from the room, haunted riffs with an almost My Bloody Valentine-esque quality to them groove nicely over pulsing synthesizers, a little fuzz and crunch that’s also present in Kjetil Nernes’ voice helping to direct a wall of sound that entices heads to sway. Kinks of the Heart from the recently released Norwegian Gothic is a perfect example of all of the aforementioned, whilst a dynamic and mildly unhinged rendition of Nina Simone’s Sinnerman is reimagined so well that it takes a minute for me to even notice. Count me as a convert.
As the stage is rearranged for the headliners, Van Halen’s Jump acts as a preventative antidote to between-band zombification for a crowd for whom there is no escape. When the time comes to descend into darkness, however, the symptoms that come with microdosing 80’s hair metal (namely air synthesizers and nervous looks towards the exits) are put firmly behind us.
It’s not often you find yourself stood at a gig pondering what your plan would be if the world were to suddenly run out of oxygen, or how it might look if those elements of existential angst that periodically creep into bustling city life were illuminated by animated rats. Working in conjunction with a host of talented filmmakers, Nordic Giants excel in the art of immersion, taking you through world after imagined world via screens and projections that flank the audience as well as providing a centrepiece for the stage. Two feathered, hunched creatures sitting in shadow face each other across the expanse, Loki’s keys and Rôka’s drums marrying together in perfect time with each change of scene, occasionally building into thundering crescendos that shake each willing participant in the experiment to the core. Imagine being trapped in a series of Netflix’s Love, Death and Robots, and you might begin to scratch the surface.
2022’s Symbiosis forms half of tonight’s offering; the ascending progression of Convergence provides a powerful match for Steve Cutts’ rodent-inspired consumerist nightmare Happiness, whilst the pattering beats and tumbling keys of Spheres serve to accentuate the transformation of the subjects in Andrew Thomas Huange’s Solipsist. There are some long-time favourites too, David Jackson’s The Last Breath (the film which illustrates why coming up with a plan to navigate an oxygen-deficient world is far from simple and likely to end terribly for many) is accompanied by 2010’s mind-wrenching epic Through A Lens Darkly, Martin Luther King’s Riverside Church speech, which overlays Together, imparting a perhaps all too salient reminder of the perils of war.
The experience of seeing Nordic Giants can be emotionally exhausting, but it’s also unendingly rewarding. The band only head to the front of the stage to face the room for the first time as they bow before making their exit, an appreciative audience then begins to disperse, ears, eyes and minds full.