Monday, 11 February 2013


(cheers to Jim for letting me use his photos - check out his band Ishmael, real damn good)

I HATE UNSCHEDULED EARLY STARTS! I'd been especially looking forward to tonight's gig since I'd heard Monolithian had been added, but it turned out I'd been eating my microwave dinner while they were playing. Figures that cheap, crappy food is never the answer. Still came away with all the merch, so got my Monolithian fix anyway.

I would have gotten a CD of the Earls of Mars, but they'd done gone sold out. Stands to reason, as it seems they've won over many with their quirky performance. They keyboard and upright electric bass caught my attention immediately, the eccentric deep vocals immediately after. After a few minutes there was no doubt I was enjoying the cerebral mix of light and heavy sounds; inevitably made me think of Pink Floyd, with the pop inclinations replaced with a strong, if not heavy beat. After all the BANG CRASH WALLOP drumming I'd heard in preparation for this gig weekend (Vader were playing the following night with a horde of heavies) it was cool to hear something more subtle. The guitarist shifted the tone between light and dark, while the huge bass kept all the moods within our comfort zone of dark heavy music. My notes say the keyboard added an eccentric touch; I'm still stuck to find a different word that means the same thing, but I'll add Interesting and Enjoyable to describing the Earls of Mars.

Eccentric blatantly describes the name and appearance of Sir Admiral Cloudesley Shovell, but their sound will be familiar to all us altschule people who are probably following the Day After The Sabbath compilations. Last time I saw these guys I was blackout drunk, and no wonder I enjoyed myself – they frequently break into a pace that rewards drunkenness. A lot of the riffing was reminding me of American southern/stoner bands. Some other riffs, and the way they were all structured, nail the energy of early 70s bands who induce involuntary headbanging...feels like they've nailed the general vibe, rather than steering me towards namedropping any particular bands. I noticed afterwards that the live set was shorn of all the album's studio effects, so I tell you the live Cloudesley Shovell is a rawer creature and so far my favourite way of experiencing it. Glad I stayed merry enough to take in the songs this time – turns out they do pile on the riffs, making the songs my-kinda-length – so I can get blackout at the next gig. I hope this band is the briefly blissful start to a lifetime of miserable alcohol abuse.

Now things get uneven as I try and assess my first proper encounter with a well known band. Up til tonight Orange Goblin were that band who did that Calvin Klein parody in Kerrang! way back when. It's been awhile since I've been drawn to a headliner's gig by their support bands, but it's always worked out well. I'd crammed in as much youtube listening of the new album as I could so I wouldn't be completely oblivious, but obviously I can't say anything about the setlist or how this gig compared to anything else they've ever done.

I'm sure OG could still put on a great show to a handful of bored wastrels. That's happened before, surely? The mood throughout the night had been bouyant and positive, and OG did a great set to a packed (not rammed) venue. Listening to the new album (bought at the gig not played off youtube now) it seems they reproduced their studio sound perfectly. Throughout the set I got the feeling that their collective output must soak up a great range of the heavier retro music, that's sounding new and original to me. Huh, should've found this sound anytime over the last decade! As they played I got a growing buzz out of belatedly finding a quality no-nonsense Heavy Metal band like I hadn't had since the gig at the Black Heart (been a looooong time since I found a decent traditional Metal band before then). Ben Ward (thanks for the info, new CD booklet) is damn good at working a crowd, his exhortations backed with an unspoken agreement – 'We're giving you our all, give us yours back, or fuck off!'. Being physically huge always helps – see our local grinders Chemical Tomb for proof – looming over the first two or three rows. Down the front the energy was almost palpable, and I suppose more than palpable when the pit hit you. Said pit had grown by the time I got back to the bar after getting my merch, and it was quite glorious, so I had to get stuck in when they finished with Red Tide Rising – the youtube research paid off! Others will correctly think that the support bands where well chosen, but for me, Orange Goblin wrapped up the night nicely.

It feels ridiculous, trying to describe a longstanding band to potentially longstanding fans when all your listening experience amounts to a few hours, mostly after the gig. Can't help finding it funny how besides 'ohh this band's really good' the thing that strikes me most is 'wow the singer's really big' – if he was two feet tall up til the night before the gig, that would be remarkable! Point is, I had a fukkin good time. 

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