North West Side Story: Cerebral Incubation, Ingested, Acranius, Dynamite Abortion, Nihilism Incarnate – Retro Bar, 25 September, Manchester

CI Flyer

For once, my biggest challenge in writing up a gig will not be trying to think of new ways to say “They were great! I liked them!” I have spent the past 24 hours trying to figure out exactly what the Hell happened at Retro Bar Thursday night and I’m still not 100% sure, but I think I’ve gotten to the point of being able to form an opinion on it.

The evening started normally enough, with my friends Wal, Stuart, Ben and me meeting up at Sinclair’s Oyster Bar for a couple of pints before heading over to the gig. I was adamant that we couldn’t be late because I didn’t want to miss Nihilism Incarnate‘s opening set. I’d loved them at Smash Fest in July, and I knew frontman Craig Forshaw was excited about being the support for this gig. When we arrived, Craig was in full Happy Hugging Everybody mode and he promised that he’d be sending me a free NI shirt in the post. Yes!

I listen to Nihilism Incarnate’s Eat, Shit And Die EP on my iPod quite a lot – I love Craig’s rasping growl and the way Graham Clayton’s lead guitar plays out over the heavy chugging rhythms. There’s a lot of melody in there for a non-melodic death metal band. Unfortunately, much of that was lost in their performance on Thursday, with the sound seeming to smother many of the nuances I love so much about their music. However, Craig is a natural frontman with a good patter between songs and I enjoyed them immensely.

Switzerland’s Dynamite Abortion were next and I was fully prepared to like them because I like their name. (No particular reason why – I just think it’s got pizzazz.) And they were excellent. I’m hard-pressed to say anything that was specifically great about them, other than they were tight and heavy. I really liked the pig squeal vocals, but the same could be said about pretty much every band that played that night. This was not an eclectic lineup. We were there to glut ourselves on slams and guttural vocals. I just know I liked them so much I bought a shirt. It has a picture of a woman being mutilated on it. Of course.

dynamite abort

After their set I went outside on the steps and talked to their guitarist. I said half of all the German I know: “I studied German for two semesters and I have forgotten everything.” (The other half is, “This morning on the bus a crack lady bit me.”) Having exhausted my Krautspeak I went back inside where I remarked to promoter Joe Mortimer that the room looked really full. I saw a lot of familiar faces, including many of the usual suspects from Leeds as well as Matty (Joe’s cohort in Crepitation and Neuroma) who came down from Liverpool.  Joe was very happy, saying that it was the best turnout he’d seen for this sort of gig in Manchester. It was great and the bar was doing a brisk business.

Third on were Acranius, from Germany. I didn’t think they were as good as Dynamite Abortion, having a somewhat sparse sound that was heavy on the drums. But to be honest, I didn’t pay close attention to the music for very long because that was when shit started to get weird. A couple of kids came running up from the back, windmilling their arms and doing spin kicks. There were people standing headbanging at the front and there wasn’t a lot of space, in general. So the karate kids were flailing and kicking right into everybody else. Scuffles were breaking out but were pretty quickly quelled by the crowd, as is the custom at metal gigs. I was like, “What the fuck, do they think this is a dojo?” I had seen videos of kids at hardcore shows doing this sort of thing, but never at a metal show before. I just didn’t know why, all of a sudden out of the blue, some kids started running around and hitting people. I went over to the door to find Joe watching the pit with a concerned look on his face. I said, “Those clowns are pissing me off! I was tempted to just punch that one guy in the nuts.” Well, I’m not actually going to punch anybody – I had been surprised at the level of my own outrage, but I knew that it’s not actually easy to hit such a small target on a windmilling teenager and, also, I don’t like being hit in the face. So I just stood back by the door for the rest of the set. “What the fuck is going on?” I asked, as the set ended and people started going upstairs for a smoke break. “It’s going to be a lot worse during Ingested,” said Joe.

This mystified me. What did Joe know that I didn’t? Up until that very moment, I had forgotten that I’d seen Ingested play at ‘Kin Hellfest back in June. At the time, I enjoyed their set I’d never really heard anything about them since, in spite of their being local, which is why I’d forgotten all about them. I did talk to them briefly in the bar upstairs when I first arrived and they had seemed like really nice guys but I don’t think I’d ever seen any of them around, before. It was like they aren’t really part of the same Manchester metal scene that I am familiar with, and I couldn’t tell you exactly why. I don’t flatter myself that I know every band in Greater Manchester, but it does seem odd to me that a local band that plays death metal doesn’t cross my path more often. What other bands and gigs am I not hearing about? What am I missing?!

I went outside and chatted with friends and was suddenly aware of there being a large knot of people on the opposite side of the street. At first I thought maybe they were people from some other venue or event, but then I realised that they were attending the same gig, and I didn’t recognise any of them. I want to avoid any classist comments or allusions to style of dress, because I think that sort of thing is obnoxious, but there was a distinct feeling that they were somehow “other.” And there was a faint vibe of hostility from them. I went back inside full of apprehension.

Sure enough, within seconds of Ingested starting their set, there was another altercation as the number of people kicking and punching increased. I would say there were maybe only six of them going at any one time, but Retro is a very small space. I think the attendance was just under 150 people, plus the bands, and that completely filled the room. Someone would come up from the back kicking and then other people would get angry and there would be shoving and yelling. Joe Mortimer stood on top of the desk at the door, watching intently, before going onto the stage and saying something to the vocalist. The vocalist then said that if there were any more problems, the club owners were going shut the show down. After that, things were much calmer. I hadn’t really been able to pay attention to the music, having to spend all my time looking over my shoulder in fear of another karate kid coming at me, but I was stood at the back wall and was able to enjoy what was some really excellent music. Ingested are very tight and bring a lot of intensity to their performance. There was another scuffle midway through the set, but the vocalist pleaded for peace again and everyone simmered down. On their last song, he called for a wall of death, which surprised me, but he said to do it “as respectfully as you can.” It went off without too much incident (and in a room that small, it didn’t really go off at all.) Then, before their final breakdown, he said, “If you’re going to do something, now is the time to do it.” Queue more kung fu. But, overall, it did seem as if the worst of it was over and there was the hope that the troublemakers would leave after Ingested finished playing.

I like to stand towards the front and that’s where I was when Cerebral Incubation played. I’m always happy to see Yanks come through Manchester, and these guys from Las Vegas seemed like really good people. Joe had been their tour manager for the past week as they played several European shows – I gather he and Matty had met them when they played Las Vegas Death Fest a couple of months ago. With an endorsement like that, I was all set to like them, and like them I did. As good as the previous bands had been, Cerebral Incubation were in a class of their own. I don’t remember many specifics about their music, other than Andrew LoMastro having the deepest, richest vocals I have ever heard. They’re beyond pig squeals. They’re, like, hog bellows or something. They just kept serving up plate after plate of rich, dishy slam until at some point I was sated, and then saturated. I was left just nodding my head numbly to the music. I thought the unpleasantness was behind us until some kid just came rushing up from the back, fists circling wildly, right into Wal and the other guys at the front. Wal and he started going at it, the kid furious that Wal had torn the sleeve of his t shirt. I’m afraid I have to admit that even I got involved, throwing my drink at him when he barged into me. People got between them and managed to quell a full-blown fight with some difficulty. I went back to the far wall, again, making sure there were plenty of people between me and whatever was going on. And then the lights came up, the music stopped, and there was a shouting match between Matty and some guy who was being escorted out of the gig. The set had been cut about four songs short and it was time to go home.

I had had a lot to drink, and so while I saw a lot of flare ups, I didn’t see much of it in great detail. I just left the gig thinking “What a weird night! What the Hell just happened?” At the time, my impression was that some clique of people I’d never seen before – kids from some other scene – had shown up at a metal gig and behaved inappropriately. I’ve always felt that extreme metal scene is a pretty open, accepting scene. I’ve talked to many security guards at clubs and festivals who all say that metal gigs are the easiest gigs because we’re really very polite and easy-going. I’ve seen misunderstandings turn sour in mosh pits, before, but they are invariably sorted out by fellow moshers before security is even aware there is a problem. This was just unprecedented and I was baffled.

It was on Facebook the next morning that most of the drama actually played out. Matty posted to the event page on Facebook:

What a boss turnout! thanks to all those fucking arseholes for giving all your pocket money to support ace bands, now please never ever come to an extreme metal gig ever again. You impressed no one. And to orange jacket dude, dont go saying “this is manchester” as an excuse for being violent, brought real shame to your city.

Paul Priest (No Fucks Given/’Kin Hellfest promoter) posted something as well:

That was awesome.
Some people did a wrong.
It wasn’t anybody I know.
I had my ear split open whilst half back during ingested, and some people wonder why I kicked off! How about fuck right off. That’s definitely not how it is whether you accept that or not.

These posts sparked a “debate” that was, aside from being highly entertaining, proved rather illuminating. Responses from various members of the faction of “beatdown” attendees ran along the lines of:

….You lot really need spines. Literally biggest bunch of pussies I’ve ever come across! Atleast at a hardcore show people deal with the problems there not run to Facebook crying like fags….

….An so what a kid got punched are you’s still crying because a few people got kicked n punched? Fuck sake how boring do u want a show to be?….

….Come malev [Malevolent] tonight then we’ll show u how it’s done bunch of fannnnnys….

….Cheers for the free entry and drinks! Shout out to all the mongs who got banged out, don’t cry because you got hit….

And so on, for over 500 comments in which some people attempted, using proper grammar and punctuation, to try to explain something as simple as, “We don’t like being kicked in the face at metal gigs” and were met with incoherent gibberish about fags and grebos and greasy hair. (I had to go Google “meaning of grebe.”)

It was funny, as drama often is, and I was glued to Facebook for much of the day, but somewhere along the line I realised that this wasn’t just a misunderstanding between two cultures. You see, my initial thought was that these kids had strayed over from the hardcore scene and were doing what they do, unaware that this was about as welcome as it would be to start a circle pit at the opera. But it soon became apparent that they knew exactly what they were doing. They went to Retro Bar with a chip on their collective shoulders and an agenda. I don’t know if they consider themselves a “crew” (someone said something about a Second City Beatdown Crew) or if they’re just a clique of friends who like this sort of music, but from their comments and demeanour, they definitely seem to see themselves as A) a collective entity, and B) distinct from everyone else at the gig.

To view a scene as “ours” and distinguish between “us” and “them” is stupid, but natural and is done by everyone on both sides. Speaking for myself, I had gone with friends, to a gig put on by another friend, to see what I understood to be “brutal slamming death metal.” I had certain expectations for the evening. I am genuinely thrilled to see new faces at a gig and would never say that someone wasn’t dressed right for the occasion or anything of the sort. If someone came straight from the office with their tie in their suit pocket, I would just assume they really liked metal and thought it was cool they carved out the time to support the scene. But I have always expected everyone to adhere to the general ethos of extreme metal.

Exactly what the “general ethos” of extreme metal is is a subject that occupies a surprisingly robust little corner of academia and I am no academic. But I have given it a fair amount of thought to some of the bizarre and seemingly contradictory quirks of our scene, and I have come to the conclusion that extreme metal deals with certain themes involving our deepest fears and vulnerabilities. Things like death, dismemberment, decay are explored, as well as violence and sexuality vis-a-vis violence (particularly what seems to be a horror of the female body.) These themes are mulled over and explored in vivid, gory depth both in the music lyrics and the visual art on the album covers and t-shirts. However, they are strictly contained within the art, by which means they are controlled, and so the listener is given the freedom to laugh about them. The music is brutal, the imagery is brutal, but the behaviour of people at the gigs is actual quite friendly and playful. Sometimes even the music is silly, such as the case with grindcore, or the ridiculous “wobble vox” vocals of Crepitation. Nobody is “hard.” I don’t know a metalhead over the age of 16 who actually thinks wearing a Dying Fetus shirt makes you look tough. Black metal contains a strong element of theatrical posturing, but death metal does not. The mood at death metal gigs is overwhelmingly jolly and lighthearted. When people shove one another in the pit, they are smiling and laughing. And, of course, nobody ever deliberately kicks or punches anyone else. It simply isn’t done.

So when a group of people showed up and did that sort of thing, we were aghast. I mean, yes, the metalheads reacted in anger and there were punches (and drinks) thrown in retaliation, but there was quite a bit of heavy-metal pearl clutching. “Who does that? What sort of people are you?”

I haven’t been to a hardcore show since the 80’s, but I remember a fair amount of hard man posturing as various factions of punks and skinheads glowered at one another across the room. And then Kevin Seconds would ask us why, if we could walk together, couldn’t we rock together? I was just a teenager and even then I thought it was all pretty silly – that talk of “walking together” and “unity” made me want to ask “Walk where? Unity against whom? What do you actually think you’re accomplishing?” I think they were united in being for or against drinking or for or against racism or something but I never saw them do so much as organise a canned food drive. About the only thing I could remember them doing was starting fights at shows.

It’s tempting to conclude that the hardcore scene hasn’t changed,but it wouldn’t be fair of me to do that because I have been away from it for so long that I honestly don’t know what they’re doing. Superficially, I see things like talk of “crews” and boasting of toughness that all looks very similar, but these kids weren’t even born yet back when I saw Agnostic Front and Sick of It All at Bogarts in Cincinnati. It’s several decades later and thousands of miles away. The only real constant I see is that they are all very young and they think that the aggression is not expressed and contained in the art, but is to be embodied personally, as well.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UaWPKbK5ss4?rel=0]

Quite a few of the people who attended seem to blame Ingested for the problem – either that they’d brought in a bad element of fans from other shows they play or even that they were encouraging the problems somehow. Both Matty and Paul Priest told me that they were certain that this was not the case. “They’re sound,” they said. They both said that they’d been to many Ingested gigs before and never seen this sort of problem, before. But I somehow got the feeling that they were getting a bit of a buzz from the drama, in spite of their admonishments, and I thought I would ask them for their thoughts on it. Vocalist Jay was kind enough to send me this message from the Geneva airport on the way to a gig on the Continent:

Hey Katy, sorry for late reply, we’re currently in Geneva airport haha. We really enjoyed the show on Thursday, obviously there seems to have been lots of drama in the aftermath. In all honesty I’ve seen far, far worse at shows, and it all seems like it’s been blown out of proportion by people arguing on Facebook. At the end of the day metal scenes merge and break apart, this is a cycle that just goes on and on. Yes, there are arseholes in the beatdown scene, but then there’s arseholes in every metal scene. We should be celebrating the joining of cultures, not ostracising each other. This is why our respective scenes will always struggle to get out of the underground. Too much bitching and moaning. If you’re worried about getting hurt or injured, stay away from the pit, that has ALWAYS been the “rule” well before any of this fucking crowdkilling bullshit or hardcore dancing or slam dancing or whatever the new thing is this month. We’re all there to have a good time and IF someone is attacking someone who does not want to be involved then that person should be removed from the venue by security. In the end though, we play death metal, we play violent music, and sometimes it does get pretty fucking rowdy. Everyone needs to start working together rather than pulling apart if we really want see our scenes grow and flourish. Cheers, Jason

I’m not particularly satisfied with “stay out of the pit” because Retro Bar is so small that to do so would have meant everyone who didn’t want to cage fight would have to go upstairs, and also because some people want to mosh without actually being punched and kicked, but it does appear that Jay doesn’t approve of crowd-killing and supports the removal of such aggressors from the venue. And I would agree that the drama on Facebook (in which I was a participant) probably only exacerbates the problem.

And do we have a problem? Was this a one-off? Or will we see more cross-pollination between death metal and “beatdown” via “slam” that brings about more clashes of this sort? Even writing these words, I think it’s all very silly. But I know people who say they won’t be going to see Dying Fetus at Sound Control in November because supporting band Malevolence draws a similar crossover crowd. I really don’t think it’s possible to expect metalheads who want to headbang and shove one another to move aside so that some other people can do roundhouse kicks at face height. Also, what I saw on Thursday was actual crowd-killing – people deliberately targeting bystanders with their fists and feet. At any rate, I know I’m not alone in being apprehensive about what might occur in the future.

wal chest

(Wal has a footprint on his chest!)

Album Review: Semi Deus, Fractal Catharsis

semi deus
Semi Deus – Fractal Catharsis (self released)
Review by Stephen Fallows
It’s always great to receive a bands first release and already be able to see that they have a big potential so early on in their life. Even better when that band is British and another vibrant addition to a growing scene. Semi Deus are another of the seemingly endless amount of bands emerging from the unbelievably prolific Yorkshire scene, one of the best in the UK at the moment, and their debut three track is available from their bandcamp page right now.
Opener ‘Sapphire’ is a decent enough track, has a lot of big riffs and definite feel of early nineties Swedish death metal, maybe without as much of the melody. It loses its way a little towards the end and could have done with a little more editing down. ‘No patience For Cowards’ is up next, a huge groove laden assault with more than a few references to the likes of Pantera and early Machine Head thrown in for good measure. A couple of big breakdowns split the track up nicely, a definite standout track. The closer ‘Sensory Serenity’ is similar to track one in that it maybe could have done with finishing a little earlier, as it seems to struggle to find an end.
Really good debut effort, loads of decent ideas and a lot of the work really well. The only real problems I had apart from the endings of a couple of tracks, was the production. Cameron Lawson’s vocals sound great, and the three tracks show off his fine range, similarly guitarists Jordan McNamara and Rob Hemingway’s riffs really bring the Semi Deus sound alive. Where they lose out a little bit is the rhythm section of bassist Daniel Blakeley and drummer Paris Goulding , as their efforts are lost a little bit. With these things tightened up a little, this is a really fine band, with a lot to offer.

Album Review: Sewer Trench EP

sewer trench
Sewer Trench – Self Titled (ep) (self released)
Review by Stephen Fallows
No messing about from London four piece mob Sewer Trench. Six songs in just under quarter of an hour of black / crust / grindcore that all adds up to a thoroughly unpleasant experience, and that is exactly what the band have gone for. “No sing a longs, no catchy riffs or hooks” is what their facebook page says and that description is absolutely spot on.
The band manage to mix things up a little during the course of the six tracks on this eponymous release.  Opener ‘Alphabet Soup’ is an all out two minute blast of grind fury, whereas the following tracks ‘Prisoners Of Religion’ and ‘War For Oil’ are slower paced with Marc’s vocals changing from the more abrasive shouting and growling to a more black metal style rasp. The ep stays at this slower pace until the closer ‘Winter of 41’ which for me was the best track on here and shows the potential that this band has. The paces lurches from doomy passages to blasts and back in this well written and put together track that is much longer and more involved than any other on here.
It’s always good to hear something a little bit different, and as much as I like crust and grindcore, it can often get a little one paced and tired if not done well. It often needs something a little different thrown in to freshen it up and make the band stand out from a busy scene. On ‘Winter of 41’ Sewer Trench show that they have that something a little bit special, They seem to have some cool ideas and not afraid to change things up. Production is minimal, but that perfectly suits the raw, primitive, brutal sound that they are aiming for. Definitely worth checking out, some tracks work better than others, but when it all clicks, they are very good indeed.

Winterfylleth – The Divinity of Antiquity

Winterfylleth – The Divinity of Antiquity – (Candlelight Records)

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(Review by Jack Traveller)

By now, Winterfylleth seem to have settled into their place as a fixture of the UK black metal scene with a string of critically acclaimed albums, a split with reclusive veterans Drudkh and a healthy gigging schedule. It’s at this point that many bands start to get comfortable and their albums start becoming routine and samey, but while this is a criticism the self styled ‘English Heritage’ black metallers have faced in the past, theres a little more going on under the hood of Divinity of Antiquity (their fourth full length offering) than you might expect.

The album opens with ‘Whisper of The Elements’, which is a strong, yet decidedly safe offering, giving us more of the folk tinged, chordal black metal that is Winterfylleth‘s bread and butter, however once the album moves on it becomes clear that while the band’s sound hasn’t evolved radically in the two years since Threnody of Triumph, their ability to pen melodies and general songwriting has undergone some significant refinement. Frontman Chris Naughton has gone on record saying that Winterfylleth pored over the material for Divinity… much more meticulously than they have in the past, and it shows. Everything here feels very honed and sharp and above all deliberate. No riff is wasted or over repeated, and where Winterfylleth‘s song structures had a tendency to meander in the past they have been tightened up considerably on this offering.

All this extra focus in the arrangements really strengthens and highlights the melodic streak that the band deftly weave around their tremmed chords and blasting. Bright, cold melodies evocative of crisp october mornings on dewy moors and lush keyboards which recall the wistful longing of summers end are the order of the day, and the band also make excellent use of the softer elements of their sound, from the autumnal clean picking of ‘The World Ahead’ to the grand, sweeping cleans of ‘Forsaken In Stone’. I think perhaps my favourite track however is the odd one out. On ‘Foundations of Ash’ Winterfylleth largely ditch the organic melodicism in favour of a much rawer, riffier classic black metal style than they usually go for, full of great stomping black metal grooves and some deliciously evil sounding arpeggiated sections.

The Divinity of Antiquity is perhaps Winterfylleth‘s most mature album to date, taking the elements that have garnered them such acclaim in the past and boiling them down to a very lean, focused and efficient form. The album’s production is brutally dry, sparse and utilitarian, yet is honed and balanced enough to allow the music to speak for itself. Great stuff.

Winterfylleth on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Winterfylleth?fref=ts

Candlelight Records: http://www.candlelightrecords.co.uk/

Gig Review: Snuff Fest, 13 September, The Black Heart, London

snuff poster

(No, there are no tickets available. I’m too lazy to crop the photo.)

I’d resolved to go further afield in order to see new faces and hear new bands, but I didn’t fancy going to a gig where I didn’t know a soul, so when I saw the lineup for Snuff Fest, I figured it was the perfect opportunity to go to London. First of all, I have decided that all-dayers are the perfect gig for me in terms of fun and endurance. For another thing, I know Foetal Juice and Cancerous Womb, so there would be somebody who would talk to me. Woo! Going to London! And, for the first time in my life, not as a tourist.

Later, while drinking with my neighbour Tasha, I got the idea to ask her to come along. As far as I was aware, she wasn’t a metalhead. She just expressed an interest in going to a gig with me and so I asked, “You wanna go see a bunch of grindcore and death metal bands in London?” She accepted with great enthusiasm.

Have you ever invited a friend from one part of your life into another part of your life? I’ve always found it sort of nerve wracking. Will my friends like one another? Will they be bored? Will they think the things or people I love are stupid? I was pretty anxious about it, to be honest, but she wasn’t. She somehow pulled together an outfit that looked almost metal and met me in the morning bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I was hung over, after having a Friday night that started with the intention of a quiet evening at a friend’s house chatting and knitting but ended with dancing with a lot of drag queens in the gay village. I honestly don’t have a drinking problem, but I do seem to have a problem showing up for day-long gigs without a hangover. Tasha was kind enough to let me sit on the train facing forward and I was only feeling pretty rough instead of utterly horrid when we got to the venue.

I like The Black Heart! The bar has a fantastic selection of bottled American beers served by friendly bartenders and there was food being served from the kitchen. It’s a big, open, almost chic (rather than hip) sort of space. Upstairs was the performance room, which was modest in size and very dark. We arrived as the first band, Obscene Entity, were playing. We were hungry and weren’t really ready to settle in to the music, so we went back downstairs to order some burgers. And damn tasty burgers they were, too. I kept scanning the crowd, looking for people I knew. I saw a surprising number of people from Leeds, none of whom were there to perform or anything – I think they just like to travel to gigs. Foetal Juice arrived and I had a long chat with Sam Read, trying to get him to tell me exactly which of the FOAD Fest promoters decided to they didn’t want to go ahead with it again next year. He wouldn’t tell me, but he indicated that he would have been willing. As disappointed as I am that there won’t be another FOAD, I have to respect their prudence, especially in light of all the fiascos the festival scene has witnessed in the past year.

My biggest regret of the day is that I was having such fun socialising that I missed the second band, as well. I had the idea that Black Skies Burn was a sort of iffy name for a band – like maybe they’d be doom or something. Not long after their set, Tasha and I met the friendliest man ever, and it turned out to be Steve Butler, the drummer. No, they’re not doom. They’re fucking grindcore. And now that I’ve heard their recorded stuff, I’ve tried to make up for my rudeness by buying some of their music on bandcamp.

We did finally make it upstairs for Necrosis, from Bristol. Early in the day, the crowd was a bit thin. I was told that there was something wrong with the Tube, so the trains weren’t running into Camden Town. But those who were in attendance were enthusiastic. My notes say, “I’m too hung over for these time signature changes.” I guess they had a lot of time signature changes. I do remember that I really liked their guitar sound. Some guy from Amsterdam, whom others seemed to recognise, joined them for vocals on one song. Why didn’t I find out who he was? Blame the hangover. I did enjoy their set, though. They sold merch on the pool table downstairs and I bought one because I liked that it had lots of colours on it.

necrosis_t-shirt_!!!!!!!!!

(I didn’t look at the back before I bought this. Oh, well.)

Next were Fractured Insanity, from Belgium. I thought they were pretty meh: not very tight, not very brutal, but not particularly melodic or anything, either.

Tasha has seen me wearing my Foetal Juice shirt a few times and she knew that they are my favourite local band. I was so happy to see her really enjoying their set. And why wouldn’t she be? They’re awesome.The audience were clearly overjoyed – after all, Foetal Juice doesn’t get down to London all that often. They played all the favourites, as well as their new tune, Albert Grindstein. Also, they were sober and so they sounded almost tight. Later, I teased drummer Rob Harris and guitarist Ryan Whittaker about this. “Why is it that on the fast riff of Big Trouble in Little Vagina you always sound like you’re spinning one another around on roller skates?” Rob said, “We play that much faster live than in recording, you know.” I finally broke down and bought their Twisted Fister shirt. While it’s disgusting, I like that it’s one of the few shirts I’ve seen out there that doesn’t show something horrible being done to a female body.

Twisted Fister Shirt

(Also, that pink should be pretty easy to accessorise.)

Trifixion played probably the best set of the day. They were absolutely awesome, and their drummer makes even funnier faces than Rob Harris does. I could watch him do that all day. They were searingly brutal and tight, and I was gutted to hear that this was their last gig. They are all moving on and spending more time on their other projects. I know the drummer was going to be playing with Basement Torture Killings later and I recognised the bassist from Unfathomable Ruination, whom I saw in Manchester a few months ago supporting Malignancy.  I didn’t care for Unfathomable Ruination all that much, and I was just drunk enough to tell him so, and I feel really bad about that. However, it may cheer him up somewhat to know that Tasha said, “Oh my god he is so cute I wanna sit on his face!”

Speaking of which, my friend was having a grand time. She’s not one of those delicate flowers that needs babysitting – she would just go off and strike up conversations with people and enjoy herself. I introduced her to Mike Robertson of Cancerous Womb at the merch stall and it was immediately apparent that sparks were flying when they went outside to smoke together. Later he came up to me and said, “Your friend is great! She’s really smart! She’s the smartest lap dancer I have ever met!” That just begs so many questions.

Cancerous Womb‘s set was also really good. They’re brutal, but still rocknroll. Vocalist Chris Lewis was battling the flu but that didn’t seem to impact his performance in any way. I thought that perhaps he was thirsty and so gave him a sip of my drink, and then realised what I’d done. (It’s OK. I didn’t catch anything.) They all put on a fine performance, especially Joe, who really gets into the rock god act – tossing his hair like a shampoo advert. No Fucks Given vocalist, Bernard, joined them for a song and my notes just say, “Mr. Powerviolence.”

mrpowerviolence

Basement Torture Killings have a new lineup. Only Tarquin/Paul, the guitarist, remains as the original member. The last two times I saw them (which would also be the first two times) they were a three piece of just two guitarists and a drummer. Now, they have a bassist, and a dedicated vocalist. While Tarquin still wailed some great solos on his “blood”-splattered guitar, it just wasn’t as interesting as it used to be. However, since this is a new lineup, they may need some time, yet, to settle in to things together. Or maybe I just need to get used to this.

Headliners Kranium came over from Norway and were pretty damn magnificent. They have a heavy, chunky rhythm and great vocals with deep pig squeals. I’m embarrassed by how much I love pig squeals. They’re like the Cadbury’s Quality Street of vocals – the purple ones – for me. I can’t get enough of them. The crowd was getting pretty boisterous by now, with an actual circle pit going.

Ultimately, the turnout had been pretty good, although Paul indicated that he wished it had been better. The downstairs bar was very lively by then, but I wanted to go out and see more of the town. Since the only thing I know how to find in London is the Elgin Marbles, I was grateful that Joe Mortimer offered to take me out. Considering he also had to lug his bass and a bunch of merch around with him, I thought that was pretty nice of him. (Tasha had gone off to meet a friend for dinner and then back to the hotel.) We walked to The Devonshire Arms, where there were quite a few of the people from Leeds. Naturally, as soon as we had settled in and started to enjoy ourselves, they started to close, so Joe told me that there was another place that was open really late called The Big Red. It was pretty far away and it took us forever to get there, but I guess it was a pretty alright rock bar. It was that time of night where I was starting to get a bit ropey and, anyway, Joe got us kicked out for making too much noise. He didn’t have a place to stay so we went back to my hotel (where the receptionist was really very relaxed about the fact that I was bringing some guy and his guitar case in at 4am.) Tasha seemed utterly unfazed by this and, after telling him that, no, there wasn’t room in the bed for him, too, he fell asleep on the floor as if he were used to that sort of thing.

It was a great day – exactly the sort of thing I like: a bit of sight seeing, meeting new people, seeing a lot of incredible bands, and hanging out with friends. I enjoyed it so much that as soon as I came home, I looked around for another London gig to go to. I’ll be going to Candlefest on 4 October at The Underworld. It’s been a while since I’ve stalked Ethereal and Winterfylleth completely won me over for good at Bloodstock, so I am really looking forward to it. Hope to see you there!

From the Editor: What I Did Over My Summer Vacation

I haven’t posted anything in a very long time! And the reason for that is that I went to lots of gigs, fell behind, and felt like I’d never catch up. Part of the problem is that I’ve been seeing a lot of the same bands over and over, and it is difficult to think of new and clever things to say about them. But I decided the thing to do was to just give an overview of the variety of gigs I’ve been to rather than try and write them up individually.

aff

In July, I went up to Barrow in Furness to catch Almost Fatal Festival. I’d heard so much about the gigs put on at The Wheatsheaf. What I kept hearing from various people who had played there was, “It’s tiny! Only half the size of this room!” No matter what room we were sitting in at the time, I’d be told it was half that size. And it is, indeed, pretty bijoux. The entire pub isn’t that small: there’s another, somewhat larger, room where bands were selling merchandise as well as a tiny snug off the stage where bands stowed their equipment. But the space for the stage and the audience was perhaps 12 feet wide and 20 feet long. This made for a great atmosphere, and everyone had a really good time. The overall feel was that of a party, with most people there knowing one another. I believe it was at maximum capacity, with nearly 100 tickets sold plus the various band members.

I had already seen most of the bands on the bill at least once before, and it seemed that somehow I missed the ones I hadn’t seen before because that was when I’d gone to my hotel to check in or to get something to eat. But I wanted to note some outstanding performances:

Austerymn were the stand-out band of the day, for me. I’d been impressed when I’d seen them at The Lomax in Liverpool a couple of months earlier, but now they have a new drummer and are really very tight. They play a pretty standard – but excellent – death metal of the not-overly-brootal variety with really well-written songs full of good guitar solos. Apparently, they were modestly popular in the early 90’s, but split up when the founding members went off to university. Now in their middle age, they’ve reformed and are planning to record a proper album very, very soon.

Pist played with Sam Read of Foetal Juice standing in for David Rowlands on vocals. With the aid of a lyrics sheet, he did a fine job and showed that he has the vocal versatility to sing in a different style.

Foetal Juice were the best I’d ever heard them up to that point. They can be a bit sloppy, with the guitarist sometimes seeming to keeping his own time in his head. I will also say that after they’d finished playing I finally got to see Sam Read drunk. I’d heard stories about how drunk he can get but I’d only ever seen him sober and therefor very courteous and fairly serious. But by the end of the night his eyes and legs were going in four different directions and this is what happened to his glasses:

sam glasses

I did make an effort to watch a couple bands I hadn’t seen before, and Leeds’  Sathamel impressed me with their death/black metal sound. In addition to their solid musical performance, they put on a bit of a visual show, as well. However, their corpse paint was melting in the heat and I found myself getting claustrophobic in the tiny room. I was standing there, watching them, and then I started thinking about how difficult it would be to get out of there with all the people blocking the exit and suddenly I had to get out immediately. It’s a pity, and I hope to see them again soon.

Desecration were just as awesome as ever, probably getting the biggest response of the day. The crowd had thinned considerably by the time Avenger went on. In fact, I left, as well. I felt bad about not staying for their set – especially as they’d struck me as very friendly guys when I’d spoken to them earlier in the day – but I was absolutely wiped out and needed to go to bed.

All in all, it was a good day and I think organiser Matt Davidson was very pleased with how it all went off.

inquisition_band

(Inquisition)

A few days later, I went to see Inquisition at Sound Control in Manchester. It was a good black metal night in the basement, which is dark and cold and smells of mildew. The turnout wasn’t too bad, and promoter Kamran James Haq seemed pleased. Opening were Ninkharsag, whom I always call Ninja Knickers because I think I’m funny. They’re really very good, and very loud. There was so much fog from the smoke machine that I couldn’t really see a thing (and my hair frizzed up something awful by the end of the night.) Burial followed, and while they didn’t have the power and volume of Ninkharsag, I found their sound improved as the set went on. Funeral Throne, from Dudly/Wolverhampton, were the band of the night for me. Streaked with “blood” and with Ash-Wendnesday-like smudges on their foreheads, they had a great guitar sound and were heavy, mostly riffy, almost thrashy and chuggy with the occasional shrill blur of black metal. Inquisition took a very long time to start, with a lengthy sound check for a two-piece. I thought their corpse paint was of the stupid panda bear variety and Dagon’s droning vocals annoyed the shit out of me. Once I got the idea that he sounded like a digeridoo I couldn’t stop hearing it and it completely ruined the entire performance for me, although I could sort of appreciate their sound during instrumental passages.

cma liverpool

In the last week of July, I saw Corrupt Moral Altar three times. First was at Maguire’s Pizza Bar in Liverpool. I got caught in some sort of train drama (there had been a death on the tracks in Huddersfield, which made me rethink my grumpiness over the delays, and then another train was cancelled “due to unruly passengers”) and was worried about making it in time to see Wort, but they went on an hour late so it was all good. I had a great time that night, hanging out with Joe Mortimer (Neuroma/Crepitation/Cancerous Womb/The Gribble Report) and my friends Drian and Lauren (who has the body of Jessica Rabbit and is a fashion inspiration to us all.) I was sort of giddy when I saw Jeff Walker of Carcass arrive, but I knew to leave him well alone. He was every bit as unsociable as I’d been told to expect, sitting by himself in the other room, speaking to no one, and leaving early. The star of the evening was the pizza served by the venue. It is so delicious I didn’t even notice it was all vegetarian. But that was one hot venue! At one point between bands I walked over to The Swan just to catch a breeze and get a cold drink with ice in it. Wort were Wort: I don’t really care for that sort of music very much, but I like the guys in the band and so reserve the tiny bit of patience I have for doomy stuff for them. Horsebastard were much the same as they’d been a few weeks earlier in Leeds. Sharing vocalist Chris Reese and guitarist John Cooke with Corrupt Moral Altar, they played some solid grindcore. I spoke a bit to the drummer about his teeny tiny drum kit, which he’d made himself and was apparently designed for the purpose of being carried on his back to go busking.  I’d never seen Dismal, before. They’re doom and so I wasn’t expecting to like them, but midway through their set they started to win me over. They make some gorgeous noises, with atonal chords. Corrupt Moral Altar were awesome. Either they were even better than when I’d seen them supporting Conan at The Kraak Gallery months earlier, or repeated listenings to Mechanical Tides, their new album, has made me appreciate them even more. I love Chris Reese’s vocals, but their gang-style shouts are the best. They play grindcore with depth and I almost forgot how hot I was in that stuffy room.

Chris CMA (Calm yourselves, Ladies…)

The very next night, irritated with a bad day at work, I went to Leeds to see them play again at The Packhorse. I didn’t take any notes and I don’t remember all that much about the evening, other than Chris wearing nothing but some very ill-fitting shorts and standing on the benches along the wall to scream at us while the band blasted away. Oh! I do remember one outstanding supporting band of the night: Wizard Beard. They were a sort of droning doom thing and they were very, very loud. So loud that I actually felt nauseous and had to leave the room a couple of times. Although they made me leave the room, they were actually very good and I think a lot of people who are into that sort of thing would love them, so I wanted to give them a special mention.

Then, on the Sunday, I went to Preston for Smashfest. What a great day! What a great lineup! Although there were several bands on the bill I’d already seen before (including headliners Corrupt Moral Altar)  there were many I hadn’t, and they were all excellent. There was no doom or sludge or even any black metal. The bands were all brootal slamming death or grind or power violence, and each was better than the last. The Adelphi Inn is a really good venue for this sort of thing. Downstairs is a pretty nice pub that serves food, but upstairs is just a huge open function space with a small elevated stage. With the windows open it didn’t get too hot and there was also a nice beer garden out back. Standout bands were:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crrJ4BdWDXs?rel=0&w=560&h=315]

Nihilism Incarnate (Vocalist Craig Foreshaw was the event organiser): I’ve been listening to their EP, Deconstruct the Aeons, a lot these past few months and was really excited to see them for the first time. It was also the first time I got to meet Craig in person, after having chatted with him on Facebook quite a bit. He’s just a lovely guy and he spent most of the day going around barefoot and drunkenly hugging everyone. They were as good live as they are recorded. What I remember most about their performance was the guitarist: tall, thin, bearded, bald, and bespectacled, he looked like Rasputin and his guitar is this massive chunk of wood that looks like he found it on Mount Ararat. He added lots of quirky solos to the overall slamming brutal sound of the band. And Craig was a fun front man, his silliness contrasting with the intensity of the sound. It was ace.

Craig NI

All Consumed were really good death metal – a bit slammy, a bit thrashy. They said they were going to play Bloodstock but they clashed with Carcass so I didn’t get to see them. But, since they’re from Preston, I’m hoping to catch them again, soon.

It was the third time I’d seen No Fucks Given and I like them more and more each time. Their vocalist sure does jump around a lot.

I think it was the fourth time I’d seen Famine, and I didn’t mind because they just keep getting better and better. That is one helluva drummer. George Wright, who is the bassist for The Afternoon Gentlemen, is also confident on guitar and vocals. Famine can play every gig, as far as I’m concerned.

Feotal Smash

When Foetal Juice arrived, Sam Read looked straight through me and I thought it was a snub until I realised that he was just blind without his glasses. Also, he now looks so much like his brother/bassist Benjamin that the only way I can tell them apart is that Benjamin recognises me and says “hello” because he can see me. I have lost count of how many times I have seen them play and I don’t care because if I were to win the Euro Millions I would hire them to play in my house every day, like that orchestra that wakes up Eddie Murphy in Coming to America. Sam wasn’t exactly drunk, but he did manage to throw up into his pint of beer and then Paul Priest splashed it on him and that is just disgusting oh god boys are gross. One of my favourite things about watching Foetal Juice is drummer Rob Harris’s face. He makes the strangest faces, looking like he’s alternately delighted and alarmed, kind of like he’s watching a baby being born.

It was Corrupt Moral Altar‘s final date of the tour and it was the best of the three performances I saw that week. For one thing, I think they went on on time and so got to play a full set before curfew. They’ve been getting a lot of attention for their new album and it is very much deserved.

As you might have noticed, there’s a bit of a pattern, here: I’m seeing the same bands over and over again. Now, I don’t mind, personally, but I’m going to have to make an effort to branch out – either by going to gigs outside my comfort zone in terms of genre, or going further afield. However, I have discovered that I do like an all-dayer. 10 or so bands, one stage, then go home to bed. That’s perfect for me. And so I’ve decided to go to other cities for all-dayers whenever I can. In fact, I just went to Snuff Fest at the Black Heart in London and it was damn near perfect. It was so awesome that it restored my enthusiasm for this blog and so I am now going to hit “publish” on this and get back to writing about gigs like I used to.

Review: Divine Chaos – A New Dawn in the Age of War

By Georgi Bomb

Twitter: @miss_bomb

Divine ChaosDivine Chaos are a name that have been loitering around on the underground for a number of years. Their debut, Every Empire Will Fall, was a powerful release and there’s always a worry if this level of musicianship can continue or whether they will fall into the gutter with all the other lost bands and one-trick metal heads.

Thankfully, this hasn’t happened as the sophomore release, A New Dawn in the Age of War, is just as commendable as the first. Although they seem to be a band that want to evolve and excite audiences, their music hasn’t developed away from their original sound.

Overall, the album has a strong, heavy metal edge with a beefy injection of energetic thrash. Last Confession has a real intensity that begins to feel repetitive rather than catchy but then switches up or down and you realize that actually, there’s plenty to get into here.

The guitars are pretty zealous but they allow a bit of space for the fierce drum tracks to power through in between the Trivium-sounding solos, which morph into this dgent hybrid to give some serious punch before the highly technical stuff pours through. Over the top of this insanity lies a different style of vocal; it’s not the usual, stereotypical, melodic power roar but a raspy scream that is more black metal than Anselmo; it’s a decent mix.

Divine-Chaos-Press-Promo-Web-31-720x463

The drums are not forgotten about and demand attention throughout each track and only due to being mightily impressive. What can be quite common amongst underground bands is the competitiveness between members to be heard. The strong production prevents this happening and just like the debut, it’s sounding highly professional. It pleases me to say there is a lot of talent kicking about on this album and I’ve been into this band for a while.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eCNJsZSrJXk&w=550&h=309]

Each track follows a similar pattern so don’t expect any surprises. It’s slick, professional and got a lot of bite though. Combining older styles of metal with modern and although in an un-unique way, it still works well.

To break the album down a bit, Shadow of God kicks off with a belting riff, slamming thrash moves and bags of energy. The vocals don’t seem to stop for breath and match the riff pattern perfectly. Ignorance Everlasting is the dance number, by that I mean it would go down great in a rock club and those places need something new and fresh, don’t you agree? The drummer remains sweaty and rolls continuously. The track doesn’t lie down for long before tearing it up but definitely another highlight as there’s a different vibe compared to the songs before it.

Sinain Sands is the slow, instrumental number that is too far into the album and should be higher up the track listing. It leads into a seven minute finale, Perpetual War Policy, which has no slow introduction as guitar solos lick up against your face like an over excited dog.

All in all, this is a very interesting piece of music. Since hearing them many years ago, it’s a shame to have not yet seen them live however, if they play live as strongly as they do on record, it will be an impressive event.

Divine Chaos – A New Dawn in the Age of War is out now via Evil Eye Records.

Ommadon – V

Ommadon – V – (Dry Cough Records, Burning World Records, Domestic Genocide Records)

Ommadon-V-Artwork

(Review by Jack Traveller)

Band named after the villain of an obscure ’80s fantasy movie? So far, so doom! But this record is not the soothing, incense tinged langour of Jex Thoth‘s brand of doom. It doesn’t have the cheeky bounce of classic Cathedral‘s doom, or the creeping waves of melancholia that are such a hallmark of funeral doom bands like Ahab and it doesn’t sound like a ritual in a forest like Blood Ceremony‘s work. Ommadon‘s V has more in common with the harsh, acidic fuzz of Conan, and Earth‘s early work, but much, much more abrasive.

Evoking less the peaceful, stoned introspection and more a nightmarish bad trip, the Scottish duo’s new record is definitely not for everyone, but if you can get into the right frame of mind, if you can zone out and daydream your way into the music, worming your way between the frequencies, there is something very primal to latch on to here.

It’s a long one too. Clocking in at just under an hour and a half, V is not pleasant, and it will not be over quickly, but that’s part of the charm of this kind of doom. You have to lose yourself in the soundscape. The riffs, if they can even be called such are so monolithic that they cant be followed, and there are no hooks to speak of, no real structures on offer, just a roiling sea of feedback and speaker ripping fuzz.

Masters of that heartless magic the world calls Doom, Ommadon apparently recorded this in the middle of winter in a Scottish forest, and the bleakness of that comes through in the music. This record won’t be for everyone, or even every doom fan, but if you like drone, noise and the more esoteric side of sludge V is worth tracking down. All hail the Red Crown of Ommadon.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UEgkYWnF-tw?rel=0]

 

Ommadon on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ommadon/122816124443493

Burning World: http://burningworldrecords.com/

Dry Cough: http://drycoughrecords.bigcartel.com/

Domestic Genocide: http://www.domesticgenociderecords.com/

Bolzer – Soma

bolzer-soma

Bolzer – Soma – (Invictus Productions)

(Review by Jack Traveller)

Soma is the new mini EP from critically acclaimed Zurich natives Bolzer. A hot, dense and claustrophobic affair, Soma is a record of cthonian grooves bathed in an earthy, naturalistic production. Despite only having two tracks, it clocks in at almost 20 minutes, and finds a nice middle ground between providing a satisfying amount of music and leaving you wanting more.

Opener ‘Steppes’ hits its stride at about the 1.40 mark, after breaking out of a somewhat pedestrian intro with evocative trem-led builds and a combination of frantic blasting and insistent backbeat grooves. At over 12 minutes long, ‘Labyrinthian Graves’, the record’s forbidding other half is over twice the length of ‘Steppes’ and it’s here that Bolzer really have a chance to show what they’re capable of. A death metal band they may be, but Bolzer have a keen ear for atmospherics and lean heavily on musical ideas more commonly seen in black metal, as seen in ‘Labyrinthian Graves’ relatively high, chordal riffs and fast tremmed melodies. In spite of the blackened references, the rich, analogue production and Bolzer‘s choice of eastern sounding harmonic minor tonalities make Soma a ‘warm’ sounding record, and with its chaotic chanting the second track especially sounds like something you might hear a Thuggee cultist listening to on his lunch break in the Temple of Doom. All this aggression segues into a reverb drenched ambient section, again evocative of subterranean misdeeds, which goes on for the last few minutes of the song and eases you gently out of Soma.

As a stand alone work, this mini EP gives a good indication of what Bolzer are capable of, and they manage to fill the two songs with enough ideas to keep things interesting without stopping them feeling cohesive. Old school death fans will find the most to like here I suspect, and I’d especially recommend it if you like Necros Christos & other OSDM acts with more than a hint of black metal’s penchant for the theatrical.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXkP4WS8Y_Y

Bolzer on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/B%C3%96LZER/108657105834227

Invictus Productions: http://invictusproductions.net/

Reign of Perdition – Fractured Reflections

Reign of Perdition – Fractured Reflections

Reign of Perdition – Fractured Reflections – (Self-Released)

(Review by Michael Dodd)

Cornish trio Reign of Perdition are musically ambitious to say the least. With a style blending the extremes of black and death metal with the scope and scale of progressive, their sound is an intriguing journey through the dark corners of the mindscape. When I saw them support Eye of Solitude back in January I was impressed by the complexity and flexibility of a performance which blended harmony and discord at will. Listening to their new EP Fractured Reflections is akin to embarking on a quest. A lengthy release even though it only has four songs, it is a rather intoxicating albeit slightly over-long adventure.

‘Reclusion’ is the preamble, a brisk poke onwards towards the EP’s three longer and more experimental tracks. Rainfall fills your ears before a sweet riff begins a brief musical interlude in which both the band and the listener gear up for what lies ahead. ‘Perpetual Winter’ at just over nine minutes is the real odyssey of this release. The production is excellent, embellishing the sound and enhancing the experience as the three-piece work through a multitude of time signatures and atmospheric sections. The opening portion of this one is chugging and forceful, before melting away into a more ambient melody and finally working right back to thunderous cacophony. Blackmore-esque guitar work by Mike Sprague is particularly brilliant here. An intricate and ultra-enjoyable epic, one of the most well worked pieces I’ve heard all year.

‘An Apparition in Entropy’ is similarly layered, starting out heavy before delivering another well executed melody. Everything aspect of the song contains a number of levels and this is especially true of the vocals. Contrasting screams from bassist Bruce Powell and growls from drummer Tom Warren with cleanly sung lyrics is a recurring juxtaposition that really plays up the epic scale of this one. The closing title track takes things in a different direction by opening with ambience before diving into a pounding rhythm. This one feels more direct, more metal than progressive and even still there is much going on here. The impassioned cries of the song’s title feel like a battle cry and a proclamation that this is a band that have just shown you something truly special.

The length of these songs is an issue only because this is a work of real weight, because this is something that you really have to be in a certain mood to fully experience. This is not an EP to just stick on and have the music wash over you, here is a work of enormity and maturity that is captivating in its execution.

 

http://reignofperdition.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/ReignOfPerdition/