Apoptygma Berzerk

Islington Academy, London - 22 May 2006

"When I love a synth sound on a song I wanna hear it live"

[Apoptygma Berzerk banner]I have to confess to owning just one Apop album, 2002's Harmonizer, by which time original fans had seen the Norwegian band's sound develop from Goth-tinged EBM to almost out and out trance. I do know some of their earlier material but it was only when they'd chosen to stretch the boundaries of the futurepop genre that I decided it was finally worth investing in their stock. If tonight's performance was anything to go by then their last album, 2005's You And Me Against The World, has apparently taken a distinctly rockier turn.

[Apop rock!]First up, I thought the new, uber-Motorhead logo was a terrific idea. I spent some time trying to explain to my wife (who I'd dragged along) why this was amusing. Making a big deal out of the fact that they were an electronic band and nothing like heavy metal. I was then surprised and my wife confused when they came on stage and spent the evening rocking like I'd never heard them before. Maybe the new logo wasn't meant to raise a smile after all.

The set drew on much of their career but it was the songs from Welcome To Earth and follow up Harmonizer that I knew best and therefore enjoyed the most. My main gripe though is an increasingly recurring one of late. The rockier approach to the entire set significantly altered the sound and even the style of some familiar and much loved songs. And not for the better in my view. Some keyboard parts had been dropped and replaced by (rather than simply transferred to) the lead guitar. On Until The End of The World Stephan Groth significantly changed the pitch of his voice so that it sat more readily into the slower, darker, heavier sound of the rockier version.

[Apop: Stephan Groth]Of the songs from the last album, Lost In Translation impressed the most, stood out from the remainder and is a great piece of APB songwriting. Biggest surprise not only of the evening but of the entire gig calendar so far this year was a totally out of the blue, and very good, cover of Shine On by House of Love. It sounded like The Cult as if infiltrated by Apop. Jesus, that took me back! I recalled seeing House of Love in a pub in London around 1990 and remember being somewhat disappointed by their live rendition of their only big hit. In fact, I'd probably say that the APB version heard here tonight was superior. Post gig research reveals that this cover was released as a single in January (although it doesn't appear on the last album).

This was no where near as impressive as when I last saw Apop. It was still good - just different. Problem I have with their current live sound is that I want to hear songs as electronic as the recorded versions. I don't expect them to slavishly copy these in a live environment but when I love the synth sound on a song I wanna hear it live - loud. Not a guitar instead.

Rob Dyer

See also:

Music Reviews for APB releases
Gig Reviews more APB live