Archive for the ‘Live’ Category

Christopher Nosnibor

So I’ve been following – if that’s quite the word – Suburban Toys since the early 90s. Vicky McClelland is (I think) the fifth female front person I’ve seen them perform with, and I’ve missed some in between. She’s strong. She’s fiery, but also understated, and gets on with singing songs and sometimes playing guitar without fuss. She sounds good, and is good to watch.

DSC_2272[1]

The Suburban Toys

They showcase some new (to me) songs, still solid pop-tinged punk with dashes of reggae and cues from ‘The Passenger’. The throw in a ripping rendition of ‘Identity’ by X-Ray Spex mid-set. It suits Vicky’s vocal range and delivery. Older songs like ‘With You’ have been radically reworked (again), and this is probably the most attack I’ve seen them play with in all the years since the early 90s. They finish with ‘Sonic Reducer’ played at breakneck speed with bassist Vin on lead vocals. It’s good fun. And fun is important.

The kids – fans – are less than half my age and wearing threads that were all the rage when I was 10, 34 years ago. It’s alarming. The drummer’s facial hair is heinous and the guitar straps are so short they could strim the strings with their chins… But there’s an appeal to their raw, ragged choppy guitars and I get the impression that despite the cheap sunglasses and quirky fun elements, Perspex are a serious band with some neat post-punk and 90s alternative reference points – think Pavement, think Trumans Water. And they’re technically proficient, nailing some tidy grooves and taking the set to an accomplished climax with some uptempo space rock motorik riffology. 6th formers on the piss. One girl’s got plastic beads and a very 80s blouse, while one of the sportswear cunts is sporting a Factory T. What hell is this?

DSC_2283[1]DSC_2284[1]

Perspex

I’ve seen Percy even more times than the Toys, and over a comparable time-span. The West Yorkshire Superheroes (who hail from York) have been around forever, and subscribe to the tradition of hardworking northern bands like The Wedding Present and The Fall, and Half Man Half Biscuit who just keep on plugging away, solid and dependable. They always look like they’ve just knocked off work and stopped off for a pint: singer/guitarist Colin Howard always has about 4 days’ stubble and they seem genuinely comfortable being middle-aged workers doing the band thing on the side. There’s a lot to be said for that, but I won’t say it here because I’ve other reviews to write and a day-job of my own, and it’s too much of a digression.

There’s actually a guy here in a Percy T-shirt, which is a measure of something. But they’ve not got the college cocks’ backing, sadly, and the room has thinned a bit. The benefit is that I’m less worried about having my toes danced on by some 6ft teenager.

Bailing in with the Fall-like ‘Hep’, they’re bring a clanging attack of furiously thrashed jangling guitars that are nearly in tune and provide the backdrop to sneering, spitting monotone vocals. And, like The Fall, they may have only recently released their first album proper 20 years into their career, but half the set consists of unreleased material. And, also like The Fall, they kick out a fair rockabilly ruckus and reference The Beatles’ ‘A Day in the Life.’

DSC_2306[1]

Percy

‘Rubbernecking in the UK’, pushes the synths to the fore, and it’s exhilarating and also pure early 90s indie. Magnificently atonal guitar provides a skewed backdrop to sneered lyrics about the mundane everyday. Masters of four-chord chugs, ‘Unicorn’ is fierce and noisy by way of a climactic closer.

Having seen three decent bands for free and supped decent beer at £3.60 a pint I’ll say it again: pub gigs and small venues are where it’s at.

Advertisements

Christopher Nosnibor

Yeah, yeah, I know it’s not the done thing to review a show you’ve performed at, let alone one you’ve had a major hand in organising and promoting, but what’s not done sometimes just needs doing.

This was a lineup I’d been excited about – seeing it take shape around the initial basic concept of curating a show and giving …(something) ruined – a platform while showcasing other acts we like.

…(something) ruined coalesced into a formal unit following a one-off experimental collaboration back in May following a shout-out on Facebook from racketmonger Foldhead for recommendations for someone to provide vocals to compliment / contrast his wall-of-noise power electronics. My name was put forward by a handful of sonic sadists, and so it came to pass we brought a new level of brutality to an unsuspecting audience at CHUNK in Leeds. The idea for a showcase came before we’d decided anything else. Orlando Ferguson were top of our wants list, and promptly agreed, before we’d even decided exactly what we were doing, both for the gig and as a band. We didn’t even have a name. Truth is, we were deafened and buzzed on adrenaline and beer and before we’d even dismantled the kit, had decided it was going to be a thing.

The rest of the lineup coalesced largely through Paul (Foldhead’s) immense network of far-out acts. This was always going to be niche, an event that was about putting on a gig we wanted to see, regardless of who else’s tastes it would likely appeal to. This is where venues like The Fulford Arms are vital to the arts, and are sadly few and far between. Midweek in York, as long as the cost of paying the sound guy is covered one way or another, anything goes. Selling some pints beats no pints. As a totally underground, completely DIY operation, it’s only this kind of opening that makes catering to more outré tastes and providing a space for artists with a minority appeal.

So we went up first. I was only our second show after all. We’d failed to get the Paul’s visuals projected behind us, so they played on the screens at either side of the stage. Not ideal, not the impact we’d been hoping for, but sonically, it came together, probably.

…(something) ruined

How did we do? Alright, for sure. We’d spent five minutes planning the shape of the set and how it would build over the first few minutes, and Paul’s awareness of my delivery led to a set given to more undulations in comparison to the blazing wall of noise that was the first outing. The broad consensus was that we were brutal, but loud enough? The majority seemed to think so, but no-one fled the venue crying or with their ears bleeding, and I could even hear my own vocals in the monitors for 70% of the set, albeit only when I shouted so hard I felt like my throat would erupt – so probably not. Then again, could we ever be loud enough? Again, probably not. But I did shift a hell of a lot of books.

Primitive Knot, over from Manchester, are showcasing material from the latest release, Puritan. I use the plural because Primitive Knot is a band, although on this outing, it’s just front man Jim doing the work and creating the sound of a full band. It’s impressive to witness him playing synths and churning out grinding guitars over sequenced bass and drums, while also performing vocals.

DSC_2199[1]

Primitive Knot

Said vocals are often single words, shouted, with heavy echo, reverberating into a churn of metallic overdrive, repetitive cyclical riffs, strongly reminiscent of the industrial grind of Godflesh, complete with thunderous mechanised drumming. It’s dense, oppressive, harsh, relentless. And as the only guitar of the night, PK’s set provides an essential contrast, standing out for all the right reasons.

Continuing to forge further contrasts, standing starkly against the regimented, heavily rhythmic attack of Primitive Knot, Territorial Gobbings’ freeform improvisational irreverence is different again, and then some. The new album, Sausage Chain, is a mess of random noises, but doesn’t really prepare the recipient for the crazed performance art that is the live show. Theo Gowans is nothing if not a showman, and one who doesn’t care about popularity or reception: tonight’s set begins with swinging mics and clanking beer bottles and concludes with cables and kit and the artist in a messy heap strewn across the stage. People watch perplexed, uncomfortable. Good. Art should challenge, be awkward and uncomfortable. And this is extremely awkward and uncomfortable – which is precisely why it’s ace.

DSC_2203[1]DSC_2212[1]

Territorial Gobbing

John Tuffen and Ash Sagar, of more bands than I’ve had pints on a big night, are Orlando Ferguson. They sit twiddling knobs and looking intently at their kit, and don’t actually look like they’re playing chess this time around. It’s the bigger table and side-by-side positioning.

DSC_2214[1]DSC_2220[1]

Orlando Ferguson

Tonight’s set is so much more than electronic drone, and the long, sweeping notes that provide the foundations create an expansive field in which they conjure an atmospheric soundscape. Sonically, they explore an array of textures and tones, and their improvisation is magnificently intuitive. It’s a pleasure to watch, and an even greater pleasure to hear, and following the raging tempests of weirdness and noise from the preceding acts, their altogether more tranquil approach provides some welcome calm and relief to round of a varied yet complimentary array of far-out music. And if you missed it – as most did- you missed out.

Christopher Nosnibor

Wading through gallons of sick on my way through the city centre, I’m reminded why I generally avoid town on a Friday night, especially when the races are on. But sometimes, it’ necessary to take risks and brake rules – right?

And so I arrive at a spookily quiet Spread Eagle. there isn’t even a band in sight ten minutes before the first act’s due on. But as is often the case, three minutes before time, people emerge as if from out of the woodwork.

Dullboy mine a deep seem of 90s alt rock / metal with grunge leanings, especially in the quiet/loud dynamics. A bit Alice in Chains with the harmonies, but also hints of Soundgarden… They’re accessible without being Nickelback, and anything but dull, but I notice the singer’s wearing a Fightstar T and realise I’m probably the oldest person here, including the mum of one of the adult band members.

My Wonderful Daze battle through some early technical difficulties which found them guitarless to power through a strong set. The guitarist – seven strings filling out the sound when the amp finally works – bassist and drummer are the lankiest buggers you’re likely to meet, but singer Flowers is the driving force and dominates the space. In their more melodic moments, they’re a bit Paramore, but when they really blast it, they’re more Pretty On the Inside era Hole: Flowers has a massive raw roar, and the unconventional song structures mark a distinction from other female-fronted alt-rock bands.

DSC_2163[1]

My Wonderful Daze

I’ve managed to miss PAK40 the last half dozen or so times they’ve played in my vicinity, and I suppose an element of atonement and making up is behind my presence tonight. But mostly, I just wanted to see them again, and I’m very quickly reminded why. The first song is a soft, cyclical Earth-like trudge that erupts at the mid-point into doomy riffage. The monastic vocal passages in the second track call to mind Sunn O))) and Bong before they lumber into psych / prog territory in a ow seep of sludge. And they’ve got range: it’s not all noise, and occasionally they do groove too, and do it nicely.

DSC_2167[1]

PAK40

The room’s almost cleared before Churis even start. Shame: the threesome make a massive jolting racket and are seriously fucking good. Swerving wildly between melodic harmonies and screeching angst, they meld math rock, grunge, hardcore, and (thankfully minimal amounts of) emo into a strong cocktail of guitar-driven goodness. Five-string bass action and sheer force fill out the sound, and they make for a worthy headline act. The few who witnessed it scored lucky, and those that didn’t, it’s their loss.

DSC_2177[1]

Churis

Once again, it’s the little bands playing backroom gigs that provide the real excitement and prove that the lifeblood of live music is way below the radar. This isn’t about hipster snobbery, about obscuritanism, about superiority. It’s a matter of experience, and there is no substitute for standing mere feet from a band pouring their all into a set in a space the size of your living room as if it’s everything. Because it’s real, it’s sincere. It’s urgent. Chances are none of these bands will break out of anything, and they likely know it. They’re not in it for that. They’re not in it for the money. They’re in it because they need to be, because they love what they do. And that’s art.

Christopher Nosnibor

Incredible. I arrived at a gig in Leeds with a dry shirt, thanks to it neither raining nor sweltering. And while it’s not exactly heaving in Wharf Chambers tonight, the eclectic (and international) lineup has drawn an interesting and curious crowd. I decide to take notes on my phone, and not to spend too much time on editing. This is a gig that’ about the moment, and it needs capturing.

DJ Perro, up first, isn’t a DJ, but a band from Mexico. The quintet perform the apex of busy math-rock and they’re buoyant with it. And kinda maybe how you’d imagine Mexican mathy post rock somehow. They clearly love doing what they do, and they’re astoundingly good at it. There’s a lot going on, to say the least. It makes my upper arms itch, and it makes my brain twitch. The songs are incredibly complex and incredibly tight and they’re a pleasure to watch. There’s something transportative and elating about watching five staggeringly good musicians, no egos, and some stellar compositions perfectly executed.

DSC_2113[1] 

DJ Perro

Failyer have two synths players and play drony, grating synth noise with live drums from James Islip, gig booker, tonight’s doorman, and perhaps best known as one half of seminal noise duo That Fucking Tank, who I first stumbled upon supporting Whitehouse in Sheffield in maybe 2005. And the blew me away, while pissing on the headliners. It was the same night I discovered Kelham Island beers, so the fact he Duck& Drake where I stopped on the way was serving Easy Rider. Failyer’s sound is sort of Krauty Fall meets Suicide motorik noise. Sinewy, echoey, sparse, repetitive. The skinny singer sits for large segments of the set, leaping up to spit punky vitriol into a sea of rapid reverb while throwing shades of Pete Murphy. It’s an awkward but cool take on The Cramps meets The Fall meets DAF. Or something. They’re the best reminder I’ve seen in ages of why the Leeds underground is an awesome thing. And there is no success like Failyur.

DSC_2120[1]

Failyur

Grey Hairs are the reason I’m here and while I’d remembered they were good, I’d forgotten just how blindingly, blisteringly good. What’s cool about them is that they don’t give a shit about being cool. The press write-up says that ‘their third album Health & Social Care … [is] a scorching reflection on balancing your creative impulses against the commitments of impending middle age’. But the reality is more. Way more.

The riffs are all the grunge with hardcore punk moments high in the mix, and front man James transforms angst and anxiety into performance art: twisting his hands and arms around his face, twisting and pounding his palm against his forehead. covering his eyes and exuding a spectacular awkwardness: his presence is awkward, confrontational, and oddly appealing. It’s a performance you can get into – or otherwise be repelled by, depending on your position and life experience.

I could go home or even die happy already.

DSC_2133[1]DSC_2132[1]

Grey Hairs

But then I’d have missed the awesome spectacle that was Doble Capa, the Spanish duo of whom the event’s write-up describe as being like That Fucking Tank but better. The pair certainly have that Tank vibe, and some serious energy. Thumping drums and what even the fuck is that four-string effort rammed through a trainload of effects (mostly distortion) to crank out a massively messed-up racket is the essence of what they do. It’s punkabilly blues noise making optimal use of a minimal setup. A blur of hair. A blast of noise. It’s compelling. And it’s great fun.

DSC_2144[1]

Doble Capa

And I go home happy, and don’t die.

Christopher Nosnibor

Shirt status on arrival in Leeds: moist, and particularly damp on the stomach and lower back. It’s another humid hot day and half the trains re screwed and the other half are packed solid. It’s going to take a lot of £5 pints of Amstel (well, it’s that or Strongbow or Strongbow Forest Fruits) just to replenish.

Sandwiched in between Black Grape, Cast, and Dodgy on Friday night and Leeds Pride on Sunday, this new local talent showcase pitched some incongruous alternative acts alongside a bunch of names I’d never heard of. But I figured the ones I had heard of were more than enough to justify the trip over from York, with Dead Naked Hippies being incentive to make for an early start.

As a band I’ve seen play a venue smaller than my living room to fifteen people, as well as regular reasonable gig spaces, their outdoor performance at Long Division in May proved that they’ve got the chops to go big. And Millennium Square is big. And as expected, the trio fill the stage with noise and presence. The dense, gritty-as-fuck guitar that also fills the space in the of bass is immense even outdoors. ‘Dead Animals’ provides an early afternoon family friendly crowd pleaser. Lucy Jowett’s in fine form as always, and ends the set prowling the front rows, her wanderings only limited by the length of her mic lead.

DSC_1943[1]

Dead Naked Hippies

Tommy Monaghan is pleasant but mediocre, with a static bassist and some bad shirts proving more interesting than his accessible pub gig fare that would probably be able to work its way into the charts given a suitably R1 friendly production.

I know it’s poor form to judge a band on appearance, but with the white shirts and rainbow braces and a sax/harmonica player in their numerous ranks, Hobson would never have been my choice. But their gutsy brand of country / folk rock is infinitely better than their presentation. That the singer’s teeth are whiter than the shirts is quite something, and they kinda spoil the ‘all originals’ pitch with a well-executed but uninspired rendition of ‘All the things that I have done’ by The Killers as a set-closer. It goes down well, though.

Tyrone Webster is probably Leeds’ answer to Craig David or something. Only his laid-back soulful pop packs some woozy sub-bass and trip-hop beatage. Final song and current single ‘Crippled’ is pretty meaty and emotionally wrought, though.

SCUM are barely old enough to have been born, but kick out fiery, politicised 3-chord shouty punk. The nagging repetitions hint at The Fall played with The fury of Black Flag. The songs all clock in at around a minute and a half and are played at 100mph, and despite the massive stage, they’re utterly fearless and totally ferocious. It’s a rush, and maybe there’s hope yet. These kids are certainly alright.

DSC_1958[1]

SCUM

Isaac Saierre’s slick brand of r’n’b was never going to do it for me, but people stuck out the onset of rain for his set brimming with covers. This, right here, reminds me why shit like The Voice is popular.

Afterwards, Girl Gang DJ Emily injected some alternative cred back into proceedings with a selection of indie, post-punk and riot grrrl that was most welcome.

Inching into the evening stretch, Victors arrive with an array of sportswear, beards, and man buns, looking like some kind of hipster math-rock E17 to roll out some smooth sonic wallpaper.

Thank fuck for Magic Mountain. The local supergroup, consisting of Tom Hudson (Pulled Apart by Horses) Nestor Matthews (Sky Larkin / Menace Beach) and Lins Wilson (who seems to have involvement in infinite projects, including Music:Leeds), kick out heavyweight psychedelic grunge bursts with energy and riffs galore without sacrificing melody or hooks. They’re tight on schedule and promise to power through the set – and that’s exactly what they do.

DSC_1969[1]DSC_1971[1]

Magic Mountain

Treeboy & Arc’s spacey motorik post-punk has power and energy, and the scrawny guitarist (who’s sporting a Zozo T-shirt) races around the stage like he’s possessed and they thrash away maniacally. On paper, they offer nothing musically that hasn’t been done before, but to deliver it with such vigour is petty radical and entirely engaging. How have they bypassed me for so long?

DSC_1982[1]

Treeboy & Arc

The first (and last) time I caught Cowtown was supporting Oozing Wound at the Brudenell. I’d enjoyed their set enough, but they seemed an ill fit for a dirty US thrash band. In context of tonight’s lineup, they sit a lot more comfortably with their high-energy, jerky rockabilly indie. ‘Tweak’ mashes together The Ramones with the Bangles, and is fairly representative of what they’re about – which mostly is uptempo fun.

DSC_1983[1]DSC_1984[1]

Cowtown

There’s something amusing about someone with a cut-glass accent on stage at a show celebrating Leeds music announcing headliners Bilge Pump. They slay, of course. But let’s unpack this a bit. Bilge Pump. Playing in Millennium Square. It’s crazy. But cool. So cool. Primarily active in the first decade of the new millennium, their angular noise rock found them a cult following and favour with John Peel, scoring a handful of Peel sessions, bowing out in 2010 with the EP The Fucking Cunts Still Treat Us Like Pricks.

DSC_1995[1]DSC_1994[1]

Bilge Pump

No two ways about it, comeback album We Love You is a blinder, and recent shows have been pretty special. But, not to denigrate their achievements, they’re very much a smaller venues band. And yet here they are, on this immense stage with the biggest crowd of the day – and it’s really quite substantial, especially considering they’re up against Flipper at the Brudnell – and they absolutely kill it. Joe O’Sullivan’s guitar is blistering as the throws squalls of noise – and himself – in all directions. It’s a blast – somewhat surreal, but a blast. And ultimately, Bilge Pump headlining in Millennium Square on a Saturday night in August encapsulates everything that’s ace about the Leeds scene.

Christopher Nosnibor

Arriving at gigs in Leeds drenched is becoming not so much a habit as the norm for me by the looks of things. But unlike recent jaunts across the border to West Yorkshire, where I was caught in torrential precipitation, we’re in the middle of a heatwave. The humidity is off the scale, it’s rammed like a cattle freighter, and I’m not convinced the air conditioning is functioning in the vestibule I find myself standing. Consequently, I disembark with my shirt completely saturated ahead of what I know will be a warm gig in Leeds’ best venue for all things metal. And hot on the heels of Thou and Moloch on the same bill, tonight’s is another absolutely killer lineup.

Things are off to an abrasive start with harsh electronic duo Soft Issues. Gnarly electronic noise fizzes from the PA before hammering beats kick in. Samples fire off all over between the distorted, pain-filled screaming vocals and they’re switching patch-leads with mechanical precision as the mess of treble and pulsating lower-range synth oscillations grind forth. It’s relentless, repetitive, and brutally industrial, and there may be hints of NIN but this is way, way harsher, the obliterative wall of anguish-filled noise closer to Prurient than anything. It hurts.

DSCF8854

Soft Issues

Whipping Post’s goatee-sporting bassist may be wearing an REM T-Shirt, but there’s no Shinny Happy People vibe here. He churns out some strong, strolling basslines that provide the solid foundations for some gritty hardcore racket reminiscent of Touch and Go’s early 90s roster. Theirs is a sound that’s nicely angular, dirty, and dense, with lurching rhythms and no shortage of attack.

DSCF8859

Whipping Post

If things are already warm (and I’m so grateful cans of Scrumpy Jack are only £2.50 as I’m sweating it out faster than I can drink it), then co-headliners Bad Breeding really turn up the heat, blasting in at 150 miles per hour with their brand of raging grindy hardcore. A band whose album liner notes and essays posted on their website reference Mark Fisher and American Psycho while dissecting the politics of Brexit while substantiating points with figures on GDP and a host of verifiable statistics, there’s some qualifiable intellect beyond the blizzards of rage they spew out on stage. And the force with which they do it is monstrously intense and gives rise to some energetic – but extremely well-natured – moshing. And yet again, I’m reminded that the nicest audiences are to be found at the most extreme shows.

DSCF8906

Bad Breeding

For a number, Bad Breeding are the headliners, and fair play. They were storming, and moreover, Uniform are a whole other kind of intense nasty. Their debut, Wake in Fright was a non-stop shoutfest with a pounding drum machine and raw, ragged guitar assault fused into a nightmarish sensory overload. The Long Walk added live drums to the mix, but in retaining that raw, unproduced approach, the sound didn’t change radically, but instead stepped things up a notch. So this was a band I’d been absolutely busting to see live.

And fucking hell, they know how to deliver. Perhaps it’s because the studio work has a live, immediate feel that on stage they replicate it so well – only with the added bonus of being able to see the sweat and the whites of their eyes from the front rows of a venue like this. The set explodes with ‘The Walk’, and it’s nothing short of devastating. Bloody, brutal, raw, it excavates the depths of nihilism and paranoia. They burn straight into ‘Human Condition’, the album’s second track, and it’s pulverising: everything’s overloading, and Michael Berdan’s wide-eyed, rage-spewing delivery is as menacing as hell. Everything blurs and melts with the heat and the blistering intensity of Uniform’s wall of noise. To complain it’s a bit one-key is to miss the point completely: Uniform savagely drive at that seem of gnarly, shouty rage that takes the template of snotty punk and distils it into something that’s so potent it could make you want to puke.

DSCF8930

Uniform

They piledrive home the end of a scorching and frankly punishing set with – I think – a brutal rendition of ‘Alone in the Dark’. I’m already lost. There’s no encore and we filter out. I’m drained, a husk, and so, so happy.

Christopher Nosnibor

And yet again, after a soaking on my way to see Interpol in Leeds a fortnight ago, the heavens open to deliver a truly tropical downpour, a torrent of fair biblical proportions in stepping out of the station. It’s way to wet to have my phone out to sat-nav to the pub I’ve arranged to meet a mate in, so I take hasty refuge in The Scarboro Hotel.

It’s not hyperbole or dramatic scaremongering to say that this is climate change in effect. It’s been stiflingly hot, we’ve experienced high winds – which is why I left my umbrella at home: Poundland brollies and strong gusts don’t go together – and light showers and some flash downpours. But this precipitation isn’t so much a cloudfall as a monsoon, and as frustrating and mood-despoiling the soaking is, the bigger picture is that this is a sign of things to come. JG Ballard’s 1962 post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel The Drowned World is rapidly looking like future reportage rather than speculation.

It’s a good thing I’m heading to Temple of Boom in my drenched state. Live music invariably proves itself to be a mod-lifter, or at least the best conduit to a window of escapism, and never more than a night of full-throttle metal. It’s a genre I’ve come to appreciate almost exponentially over the last decade after spending years completely disinterested and dismissive. The irony that I considered metal somehow juvenile and primitive isn’t lost as I realise I’ve grown to grasp the sheer diversity of the – infinitely fragmented – genre, as well as the benefits of untrammelled catharsis as a form of therapy.

The tip I’d had ahead of the show suggested Vonnis were pedlars of fairly standard grindy thrash, and musically, this is fundamentally true. It’s all in the delivery, and I’m wondering a day on if their front-man’s antics were the result of drunkenness, insanity, or a combination of the two. Their Facebook bio records a history of ‘dislocated shoulders or open leg fractures’ and a ‘disregard for any kind of personal safety’, and they deliver on that. Tonight’s set found this guy piling up (and falling off) monitors, stumbling wildly, stripping from his boiler suit to socks and boxers and ending the set on the flor in front of the stage with his head in a bin. The whole thing was demented, and was a real horrorshow car-crash of a performance – but it was utterly compelling.

DSC_0057[1]

Vonnis

Bismuth are compelling for all the right reasons, bashing out some monumental noise with drums and bass. By which I mean BASS. Arsequaking bass. Head-shredding bass. Immense bass drones that sound like Sunn O))) and Earth circa Earth 2. Simultaneously. Bass channelled through a pedal board the size of a cruise liner to the point it no longer sounds like bass. An age separates the trike of every chord, every explosive, punishing beat. Bismuth grind it out, low, slow and heavy, but with the full frequency spectrum: bass that sounds like a full band lineup with everything up to eleven, or even twelve.

DSC_0061[1]

Bismuth

Tanya Byrne’s vocals range from a delicate and emotionally-charged melodic to full-blooded howl of pain: it’s all integral to Bismuth’s sound and intensity, and the set concludes with Tanya out in the audience, on her knees, shrieking and howling into a wall of feedback. It feels like the purest catharsis, and the entire room is on edge and close to breaking to bring down a devastating finish.

Whereas Bismuth’s sound is textured, detailed, and atmospheric, Moloch go all out for blunt force trauma. Lumbering riffage provides the backdrop to rasping guttural anguish. There’s something about the vocals, which register in the higher regions, and the way they contrast with the shuddering downtuned sludgefest. There’s also the complete lack of pretence or even any real kind of show involved.

“Hiya, we’re Moloch,” says Chris Braddock as he takes the mic. Cue a wail of feedback before everything crashes in and continues to grind away at a gut-churning crawl for the next forty punishing minutes.

DSC_0067[1]

Moloch

With three guitars dominating the six-piece’s instrumentation, Thou have texture and density completely covered. And despite the fact they’ve been going some fourteen years with only two changes to the lineup, they still appear remarkably youthful. The ever-informative Encyclopaedia Metallum locates them in the bracket of ‘Sludge/Drone/Doom Metal’ and lists their lyrical themes as ‘Despair, Revolution, Societal collapse, Death.’ This does nothing to convey the intensity of their albums or the kind of performance they deliver – or, moreover, the nonchalance with which Bryan Funck – wild-eyed and grey-bearded – delivers his velociraptor vocal scream.

DSC_0070[1]DSC_0078[1]

Thou

It should be harrowing, hellish, but is precisely the opposite. To witness a band so finely-honed, channelling everything into a powerful and relentless piledriving assault is a beautiful and uplifting thing: elating, life-affirming. As they thunder through an immaculate set, I find I’m no longer in the room and everyone else has melted away. There is nothing but this moment, in which I find my mind is empty and I am floating, detached, wired into the music alone. Time stops and the sound becomes everything.