Sulpher / Beyond All Reason / Pretty Addicted -The Fulford Arms, York, 12th October 2018

Posted: 14 October 2018 in Live
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

It’s pretty busy and pretty warm early doors, and there’s a definite buzz about the place which is filling up with black-clad beings who’ve seemingly crawled out of the woodwork (some possibly having lain dormant since Sulpher’s first album back in 2003).

The stage is set with myriad props and adornments, including a lectern, black helium balloons on strings, and a pigurine (that would be a figurine of a pig… wonder if the term might catch on?) for the arrival of Pretty Addicted – on this occasion, a solo performance by Vicious Precious, who enters dressed in white habit and cassock. These are both discarded within a couple of songs as she woks herself into an evermore frenzied state. During her set, a Marilyn Manson-aping effort which draws on every cliché blasphemy in the book as she bumps, grinds, writhes and spits endless profanities, she exudes a brutally aggressive sexuality. Musically, it’s pretty much by-numbers cybergoth: hard-edged techno beats pump relentlessly, and there’s little to distinguish between them. Still, as performance art, it’s striking and not one anyone will forget any time soon.

Pretty Addicted

Pretty Addicted

York’s Beyond All Reason have a big, big sound – as big, in fact, as singer Venno’s hair. Combining live and sequenced drums, they exploit dynamics and texture, and deliver it with an impressive slickness. And there’s no doubt they can play – although at times, the displays of technical proficiency overshadow the substance of songwriting, and the melodic epics are tinged with self-indulgence Venno belts out long high notes with gusto, and I half expect a cover of the Oxo ‘Shepherd’s Pie’ advert.

BAR1BAR2

Beyond All Reason

Dude, it’s a bass, not a bazooka: just because it’s got five strings… In terms of presentation, they’ve done their research with textbook legs akimbo rock god postures and axe-wielding guitar poses. It’s all a shade calculated and contrived to have resonance or lasting impact.

Sulpher, on the other hand, throw shapes (on the occasions they’re visible though the smog), but do so with swagger and a raw energy that positively crackles. It seems that bands who tour with The Sisters of Mercy acquire a taste for smoke – I recall I Like Trains playing in a pea-souper at the Cockpit following their jaunt round Europe with them – but Sulpher take it to the next level. Not only can I barely make out the band, I can barely see whoever’s standing next to me, and I sure as hell can’t see my way to the bar. In fact, by the end of the set, I can barely see my feet.

The dense atmosphere makes the room even hotter, and it’s the perfect setting for the trio’s intense brand of abrasive, industrial-edged rock, which they piledrive hard at it for a full hour.

Sulpher1

Sulpher

There’s a good reason they’ve been keeping a low profile for so long: Rob Holliday’s been pretty busy the last fifteen years, what with playing as a member of Marilyn Manson’s touring band, first on bass and later on guitar, as well as working extensively in the studio and live Gary Numan and The Prodigy, not to mention a three-year stint with The Mission. To say he’s been in demand would be an understatement, but inevitably, the day-jobs have left little time for the real work.

Given his experience of playing immense venues, I was interested to see how Holliday would handle a 120-or so capacity venue with a stage just 10” high. A lot of artists accustomed to larger venues struggle with more intimate crowds – Andrew Eldritch never looked more tense than at the Brudenell performing to 450 people, while at a distance of 20 feet, elevated and hidden by smoke in 2,000 capacity venues, he’s comparatively at ease. Holliday is more than fine with the small space, and the band as a whole seem to relish the experience, giving every ounce to deliver a real show, and succeeding.

At one point, Rob asks how many people own the first album: maybe three people raise a hand or call out. They ride it out: the grass-roots approach and strategy to land a major support slot next year is likely to achieve major reach, and besides, the music industry has changed beyond recognition in the last fifteen years.

Sulpher2

Sulpher

The set’s more or less a split between Spray and No One Will Know and it’s solid: a molten mass of seething rage that climaxes in a brace of old songs of a minute and a half apiece. The old material blends seamlessly with the new: they’ve still got that turn-of-the-millennium industrial vibe about them, with Ministry and Killing Joke providing the most obvious touchstones, but with blistering, memorable and melodic choruses in the mix, NIN offshoot Filter make for the most obvious comparison.

Wrapping up with ‘Scarred’ and ‘Spray’, blasted home in less than a couple of minutes apiece, it’s a ferocious finale to a meaty set. Sulphur are very much back.

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