NECROLUST: TWO COUNTRIES, ONE WEEK, FOUR SHOWS
I go to a lot of shows. Like, a LOT — hundreds a year, thanks to my propensity for touring for months on end, traveling to festivals, and just going to gigs at home or elsewhere. I get burnt out sometimes, but invariably I find myself down front (or at least by the bar) several times a week. These past few days were a bit more ridiculous than usual, given that I was bouncing from the Netherlands to the UK to Ireland within the space of a week. I still managed to catch some amazing performances, though, several of whom that once again reaffirmed my firmly-held conviction that live music is the lifesblood of the metal scene.
April 21st – PAT WALKER @ Betsey Trotwood (London, UK)
Pat Walker is the vocalist for 40 Watt Sun, and also manned the mic for UK doom cult Warning before their untimely demise. His voice is an acquired taste, to say the least, but once his spell is cast upon an unwitting listener, it cannot be broken. Walker’s power lies in his fragility – his high, mournful voice, quivering with loss and emotion, matches the deeply, almost uncomfortably personal nature of his lyrics. If you’ve ever loved and lost, or left someone behind, Pat Walker has written the theme song to your lonesome hours. London promoters Glowing in the Dark convinced him to do a rare acoustic solo performance at the Betsey Trotwood pub, a charming Central London watering hole with friendly bartenders and a well-dressed clientele. It’s obvious enough that said bar patrons seemed a bit nonplussed at the parade of leather-jacketed metallers that could be seen scurrying downstairs, pint in hand, to catch the first plaintive notes of Walker’s set. The event sold out days in advance but the promoters graciously allowed me to wriggle my way in, and I can’t thank ‘em enough for it because that show now counts among the best I’ve ever seen.
The room was tiny, and packed to the gills with about thirty people, a lot of low lights, and one man with a guitar. He had me at the first note. Walker first gracefully wended his way through a handful of songs from Warning’s modern classic Watching From A Distance. His voice rang out – strong, clear, at times breaking with emotion. The guitar wept along with him. The crowd stayed silent, listening hard, overcome. He then added acoustic versions of several songs off 40 Watt Sun’s debut (his acoustic rendition of “Carry Me Home” almost brought me to tears). My only faint gripe was that he ended with a song I didn’t recognize, but really, hearing so many favorites done in such a stripped-down, personal, spellbinding manner was far more than I could have ever thought to ask for. I’m gushing, but you would be too if you’d have been there. It was one of those.
I spoke to him after he’d finished playing and he revealed that 40 Watt Sun are planning a short US tour in mid-September. YES!
April 23rd – INFERNAL DAMNATION FEST @ the Underworld (London, UK)
The Underworld is once of my favorite London venues, purely for its location and absolute indifference to the scores of punters that hang around in front of the venue drinking cans of cheap booze between every band. A few friends’ bands played before I got in (like Crom Dubh – amazing black chaos with members of Scythian and Craven Idol) and I was too broke post-Roadburn to swing the 20 pound entry fee. I’d really wanted to catch Wodensthrone though (check out their excellent 2009 full-length, Loss) so I managed to finagle my way in right before they played thanks to a friend with a spare ticket. They only played for twenty-five minutes, and left us wanting much more. Aggressive and compelling, Wodensthrone live is a more forceful being than the elegant heathen odes on their recorded output may suggest (fans of Negura Bunget and Drudkh, look no further for your next obsession). I’d have stayed on to catch Dornenreich and Alcest again, but, the doomed path beckoned…
April 23rd – COUGH/MOLOCH @ The Unicorn (London, UK)
After Wodensthrone, I hopped the 29 bus with a couple like-minded mates and got to the venue well before Cough did. Turned out that their van had broken down in Colchester, a couple hours outside London, and that they’d resorted to taking a taxi into the city in hopes of arriving sometime before they were due to hit the stage. While the promoter Matt pulled his formidable beard out waiting for the Richmond dudes to roll up, I took a listen to the openers, Gurt. It’s always a bit awkward when non-Southern (let alone non-American) bands try to emulate that trademark down-low Dixie groove, but Gurt did a good job of trying, and stayed nice’n’heavy throughout. I was really stoked to catch Moloch – I’d been digging them since I got their wicked split LP with Thou awhile back, and they definitely delivered live. Crushingly heavy with a genuinely furious singer and one hell of a way with a sludge riff, these UK brutes fucking brought it. Dirty, ugly, and LOUD, with lots of dopesick nods to EyeHateGod and Buzzoven; Mike Williams and Kirk Lloyd woulda been proud.
Cough had appeared right before Moloch’s set, so it was a quick job of loading in their stuff, setting up, and bringing the hammer of doom straight the fuck down. I’d caught their sweaty, red-eyed set at Roadburn, but it was killer to see the boys in a packed London pub with a bunch of maniacs down the front. Their live show has gotten tighter than a gnat’s asshole, and the new material off of Ritual Abuse went down a storm. They pulled the plug after a thunderous rendition of the aforementioned’s title track, but were called back on for an encore, which left us all deaf, dumb, and smiling. Buy their records and smoke them out – these dudes are fucking quality.
April 25th – KEELHAUL/KNUT/DRAINLAND @ the Button Factory (Dublin, Ireland)
I’m back on the Emerald Isle now, and managed to stumble onto a gig the day after landing, hungover and in a state of general disarray (I’m still amazed people let me through border control, I usually look like such a scumbag). Could’ve done with about a million hours more sleep, but my dude was deadest on seeing murderously rad local bros Drainland play through a decent PA for once and I was willing to give Knut and Keelhaul a shot, so off we went. Drainland play noisy, furious hardcore with a twisted doomy edge – it makes sense that Southern Lord are gearing up to put out a limited CD version of their nasty …And So Our Troubles Began LP). A DIY band at heart, they seemed a bit stiff up there under the lights, but all things considered, still ruled. Listen to them.
I HATED Knut so much. So much. They sound like the exact opposite of the kind of music I like. I’m sorry if you dig them, but I haven’t had such a violently negative reaction to a band since the first time I heard Oceano. Jesus fuck.
I’d sort of seen Keelhaul before – they played the Cleveland date of the Saint Vitus/Crowbar tour – but gave them a shot, partly because I’d inadvertently told their drummer how little I was interested in seeing them. I know, I’m a dick. Up we went to the front and listened for a half hour or so. The drummer is savage, and the band is clearly incredibly good at what they do, but I don’t like what they do, so there you have it. So much for me giving new bands a chance. HAH!
Until next time…tune low, play slow, and keep inverting those crosses.
Kim Kelly (or Grim Kim, if we’re being formal) scribbles for a number of sweet metal publications (Terrorizer, Brooklyn Vegan, Invisible Oranges, Hails & Horns, and tons more), promotes wicked records with Catharsis PR, and road dogs for your favorite bands. Keep up with her exploits & numerous band recommendations on Twitter, or peep her blog Ravishing Grimness.