Archive for Scotland

Wickerman Festival – Burn

Posted in Gigs, Travel with tags , on August 10, 2013 by Noise Road

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A day previous to the festival, I had flown back in from Australia. After me and the whisky partied a little too hard to Primal Scream’s awesome set, a few hours kip in a tent wasn’t healing my hurts. As my mum would say “there is no sympathy for self inflicted wounds”…

My head hurt, my stomach wobbled and barely a stitch held the arse of my shorts together. That’s not a euphemism. My shorts were old and in danger of loss of structural integrity if I danced too hard or bent down too quickly…

However, amazingly summer did fall on the weekend of the Wickerman Festival. And so a few hours off the firewater, and a stroll to a rocky beach soothed my various sores.

The beach in Scotland? Sun in Scotland? There is no better place to be on a sunny day than Scotland. It just that a sunny day in Scotland only happens once in a decade. Back home in Oz, we are spoiled for sunshine… but here everyone is so happy to see the sun. The Scottish forget that they are miserable bastards, and drop everything to have fun in the sun. Its the happiest place on earth… and then the sun leaves… And the Scottish people return to playing their role in an Irvine Welsh novel. They know I love ‘em.

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But here we stand, beer in hand. The sun is shining over the rolling fields of Dumfries and Galloway. The campsite is a couple minutes stroll back up the hill to our right. The stage is right in front of us, and… over the hill behind us, a giant effigy lies in wait. It waits to burn.

Between the Buried and Me @ Garage, Glasgow – 3/10/12

Posted in Gigs with tags , , , , , on October 12, 2012 by Noise Road

How do you judge a man?…  By his accomplishments? By the way he treats others?  No.  These superficial means are no measuring stick.  The true measure of a man is by his record collection.

It follows then that Between the Buried and Me are the best humans on the planet.  Tonight’s set displayed a deep knowledge of every genre of music that you can think of…  and even some genres you’ve never heard of.  Their record collection sh!ts all over your IPod playlist.

BTBAM did not invent genre-hopping.  Mr Bungle bounced between funk metal, circus music, jazz, techno, avant-garde and pop.  Bungle, however, did not base their structure in 20-minute prog freak outs.

I’m not sure I have 20-minute freak outs in me anymore.  Consequently, even though I love The Great Misdirect album, I am no BTBAM expert.  When I got into BTBAM I was travelling the world for 6 months.  I had room in my life for intricate music.  BTBAM are the definition of busy music.  As I’ve moved into ever increasingly stressful and challenging work, my appetite for busy music has diminished…  My brain now craves Sunn 0))) holding one note for 70 minutes.

The only room I have for busy music is in 30 second doses of grind.  A blast of Pig Destroyer means that unlike John Dolan Vincent**, I don’t require 6 cups of coffee and a rail coke to haul myself out of the house in the morning.  Although having said that, I ain’t really kicking any goals before my 3rd coffee at around 10am.

Periphery

I haven’t paid any attention to Periphery previously.  I guess the kids would call them djent.  Between the Meshuggah riffs, there were techy melodic breaks and soaring vocals to give a bit of colour.  I don’t think that I would buy a record, but it was enjoyable enough to watch while I sank a couple of beers in Glasgow’s Garage venue.

Between the Buried and Me

With such intricate, genre-hopping music, there is always a danger that the virtuoso musicians could disappear up their own @rse.  With the vocalist often locked behind his keyboard and guitarists focused on their frets, I feared that I might find it necessary to visit the bar more and more frequently.  This was not the case.

A couple of minutes after BTBAM walked off the stage, Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody eased onto the speakers.  BTBAM relieved Freddy Mercury and the Queeners of their duties in almightily rocking performance.  The crowd had been filing out the door because they thought the show was over.  Smiles abounded the returning flock as we all sung along “Ohhhhhhh baby! Can’t do this to me baby! Just got to get out, just got to get right out of here!”

BTBAM followed Bohemian Rhapsody with the death stomping opening of Mordecai.  There was plenty of this triumphant fist-pumping, death metal throughout the night to keep the neanderthal in you headbanging.

BTBAM live take you on a vision quest.  The peyote kicks in and the prog metal path may lead you to death metal stomps on one trip.  On other trips it leads to clean jazzy breaks.

The start of Fossil Genera recalled the circus metal of Mr Bungle’s first album.  The soft melodic vocals of Disease, Injury, Madness crescendo into a noodling climax.

The show made me question my recent abandonment of Between the Buried and Me.  I’d write longer but I got to go check out their new album which has a title longer than this review.

**  The Contortionist’s Handbook, Craig Clevenger

Lazarus… OM @ Stereo, Glasgow – 28/09/12

Posted in Gigs with tags , , , on October 1, 2012 by Noise Road

Which is your favourite OM?  The two-man droning fuzz-out of yesteryear, lulling you in a meditative trance?  Or the middle-eastern-themed stoner metal of tonight, forcing your head to nod and your body to groove?  Or similar to your love of Michael Bolton’s work, do you celebrate the band’s entire catalogue?

Personally, I celebrate the man’s entire catalog. To me, it doesn’t get any better than when he sings ‘When a Man Loves a Woman.’

- Office Space

OM in the flesh has always been a different experience to the recordings.  Before seeing them live, I considered OM quiet music.  A chilled-out soundtrack to ease into the day, to lick my self-inflicted Sunday morning wounds, or to zone out the rest of the office.  However OM live, dude, is not quiet music.  I remember in a small Somerset town, the overdriven bass so loud that it vibrated my chest.  The repetitious volume was hypnotic.  Like a Sunn 0))) show, or an UFO abduction, time was lost.

Tonight, Al still sparsely chants a collage of widely sourced spiritual phrases over the droning riffs.  Late in the night, it brings a smile to my face when the word “Lazarus” is repeatedly plucked out of the wet air.  Thanks to Al, I’ll be in a tense conversation with my boss at work and all I can think of is “Damascus Road Traveller”.  UK passport control ask me where have I travelled from today and “Lebanon” pops into my head.

As ever main man Al Cisneros bops his head like a stoner Gamera.  His headstock near perpendicular to the sky as he plucks, strums, taps out repetitive fuzz-laden riffs that drive the night.

On the previous album, God is Good, additional instrumentation added colour to the bass and drum loops.  On Advaitic Songs, flute, cello and key sounds not only add colour but they frequently lead with strong melodies.  Tonight’s set is heavily dominated by those last two records, and as such OM third man, Robert A A Lowe, takes a central role.

Unusually, the band is not hidden in the usual lack of stage lighting.  For the first time, we do not just see Al bopping in the shadows.  We see the energy with which Emil Amos attacks the kit.  We see Al gazing into the aether as the riffs flow from his fingers…  and we see Lowe.  Al carries a laid-back stoner vibe.  On stage he is softly spoken anti-frontman.  Amos is the straight man behind the kit.  However Lowe is a charismatic showman who visually engages.

Al ducks his bass down, evading the structural pillar on downstage right to allow Lowe to take the musical and visual lead.  Lowe is never stationary.  When he is not switching between drums, tambourine, guitars, keys and a mic, he is throwing a drum to himself.  He is hugging that drum tight to his chest like a child’s favourite teddy bear.

Al’s bass is noticeably lower in the mix to allow the other instruments to feature.  I miss physically feeling the music – Al’s low end vibrating on your skin.  In its place you are engaged by the new dimension of melody.  At one point, Al insisted that the bass be turned down in the mix.  Down?  At an OM show?  The mixing desk seemed as confused as the rest of the crowd.  Al kept insisting to the supportive drunken Glaswegian bellow of “Get him, Big Al!”

The Scottish crowd are as enthusiastic and boisterous as ever.  A mystical local climate at Stereo creates an inverse relationship between the temperature outside on the Glasgow streets and inside the basement venue.  By the end of the set, everyone is feeling a little sweaty.  Most are a few lagers heavier when the Bhima’s Theme chant of “Lazarus” announces a familiar fuzzed-out climax.

Whilst I love the OM of old, dropping me out of the world for a fuzzed-out hour, OM 2012 provides a more dynamic set.

Lazarus.

New Noise (Road): Stockholm Syndrome

Posted in Travel with tags , , , , , , , on September 10, 2012 by Noise Road

Britain is buzzing.  Due to Glasgow’s cultural (and physical) distance from the London Olympics, I did not feel it until I headed south of the Scottish border.

When I arrived into the UK nearly 3 years ago, Britain was down.  Jobs were hard to come by.  Like my new colleagues, I clung desperately to my sh!tty job.  The locals could not envision a brighter future…  but the Olympics has been a massive boost to the optimism of the nation.

As a side effect of the games, Heathrow Airport actually works!  A couple of weeks previous, I arrived back from a short trip to Australia.  Instead of the usual hour in the passport control line, I was actually processed in under 5 minutes.  I was processed too quickly.  The tube wasn’t even running yet.

Despite Heathrow functioning tonight, I still missed my connecting flight to Stockholm due to a heavily delayed flight out of Glasgow.  When I should have been aboard a mechanical bird aimed at the Stockholm sky, instead I nursed a guinness in an airport bar.  Locals sang God Save the Queen as a British cyclist once again defeated an Australian rival at the games.

After Noise Road eventually landed into Arlanda at 11:30pm, we took in a quick march of the city.  I was a little out of a place, still wearing the same shirt and jeans that I threw on 15 hours early.  Since then they had seen the office, the workshop, 3 airports and 2 planes.  In contrast the stylish Swedes were dressed up for a Friday night out, while I ruined their neighbourhood.  Lucky for the locals,  I was soon passed out  on a central Stockholm couch.

Noise Road had been invited to Stockholm by local and new Noise Road friend, Sara.  Sara acted as my excellent tour guide and gave me a couch to crash on for 3 nights.  Hopefully I didn’t snore out and stink out her beautifully presented Stockholm flat too much.

After an early breakfast, we busted down through the paved old town to a peak overlooking the city.  The sun shone over the clean blue waters that link the Stockholm islands on the edge of the Baltic.  Whether it be walking along its edge, or on the bridges, or even aboard a boat, the water is the way to see Stockholm.

On a touristy boat tour, we passed a controversial district.  Here very modern apartment buildings rose as part of the city’s Olympic bid.  The complaint is that they do not fit in with the older, traditional buildings of Stockholm.  I would live in those apartments.  They are modern, clean, spartan.  It sounds like my bag.

I have two dream accommodations.  One is an entirely stainless steel apartment.  When I lock the door behind me in the morning, any water vulnerable equipment retracts into the walls, while shower heads throughout the apartment automatically hose the place down.  The other dream is permanent residence in a hotel like in an old Jimmy Stewart movie.  An old door man will say “Hello Mr Road” every morning as I pass in the lobby…

Apparently Swedish people meticulously furnish their apartment.  The apartment is a reflection of their personality.  I have nothing in my apartment in Glasgow.  My personality must be a void.

The centre of the modern town is an older controversy.  Traditional housing was torn down in the fifties to make way for a blocky “modern” city with easier access for cars.  Development is always a controversy here… Even an ugly part of town’s proposed rejuvenation is a contested issue.  These are the intricacies below the touristy surface that you learn when you walk a new town with locals.  As we passed down one street, Sara and Johan pointed out where one politician had been shot and another stabbed.

We wandered back through the more tourist friendly basements and narrow paved streets of the old town.  There is a reason why old towns in Europe bring the tourists.  We just don’t have anything like these historical centres in Australia.  These building predate the nation of Australia by hundreds of years.  It is difficult to not be impressed by the history of these places.

A newer addition to the centuries old town was this afternoon’s annual gay pride parade.  I can’t say that I am an experienced gay pride spectator but I’m pretty sure the Stockholm version is more conservative than most.  There wasn’t an overwhelming amount of leather, spikes or d!ldos.   The pride parade was kind of sprung on me, so I hadn’t really mentally prepared myself for a d!ldo fest.

I found the general acceptance of the pride parade reassuring.  I did not have enough time to bother the locals with political questions – but even though there is a significant Christian party, the Swedes seem quite accepting and tolerant.

After the pride parade, I spent my first decent bout of sun this summer strolling along the beautiful waterfront.  The esplanade brought thoughts of Venice.

Both being shipbuilders by trade, Sara took Noise Road to the VASA museum.  A ship that was too tall to ever live sank shortly after its maiden launch three hundred years ago.  In the latter half of the 20th century it was retrieved from the seabed and restored magnificently. Archive footage of the recovery shows a salty old sea dog within arm resting on his knee while he puffs away at his pipe.  Now that is a real captain.

Continuing the tourist mode, we needed to see some lynx and wolverines and bears…  Oh my!  The wolverines were hiding at Skansen open air zoo, but we did catch lynx, bears (five of them dude), moose, reindeer and otters.

A traditional meal of meatballs in a beer hall closed the day.  Very tasty.  Meatballs are a far better traditional fayre than the Swedish Christmas dinner I dealt with last year in Motala.  Undefined fish stood in various states of pickling and mayonaising and other unattractive processes, all housed in jars.  Jarfish.  The jarfish caused one of our team explosive diaoreha for the remainder of our work meetings on the frozen compound.

The morning of my exit we braved the woods of Sweden.  From the woods of Vancouver to the woods of Sweden, its been a busy few months of travelling out of the Glaswegian base to Vancouver, Australia, Belfast, Oxford, London, Venice, Stuttgart.  A quiet coffee in a small town overlooking the bay and we were soon aboard a plane out of Sweden.

But Sweden Week lives on…  It lives on in the form of the Refused gig in London!  Next weekend!

Alcest/Les Discrets/Soror Dolorosa @ Stereo, Glasgow, UK – 20/02/12

Posted in Gigs with tags , , , , , on February 26, 2012 by Noise Road

Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?

 – Douglas Adams

There is a rise in spirituality on the fringes of underground music.  Music of substance seems to carry a burden of searching for something more than what one can see.  The elders of the underground, Neurosis, embrace elements of paganism, ritualism and mysticism interwoven in their work.

Dylan Carlson of Earth and Neige of Alcest have embraced the more obscure idea of other worldly beings – namely fairies.  Neige makes this clear that these are not fantastical themes.  This is some thing he believes in and something he has experienced as a child.

If you hear the word “fairy” in Glasgow, it is usually preceded by the adjective “southern” in a jab at the perceived softness of their English neighbours.

Fairies or not, Alcest’s music lulled my head out of a grim winter in a Leeds bar at the end of 2010.

Tonight, Alcest did not lull me out of the subterranean Glasgow venue, Stereo.  I did not think of other worlds or fairies or driving by the water’s edge by moonlight.  I was engaged by the music itself.  The garden is beautiful, even without fairies at the bottom of it.

All night, drums dominated the mix.  Initially I thought there was just too much drums for support act, Les Discrets, and then again for Alcest – but it added a strange forward propulsion to the Alcest set.  It gave it a far more rocking nature.

This rocking nature was complimented by a far more engaging performance by Neige and his band.  Unlike in Leeds, Neige interacted with the crowd.  All three bands for the night were completely overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of Glasgow.  It was a solid turn out for a Monday night, and as always the crowd were drinking boisterously.  It is always steamy in the basement venue, but with the unusually mild winter it seemed especially so.  Like the rest of the punters, I found the beers going down way too easy.

Both Les Discrets and Alcest have quite sections within their sets.  Glasgow failed to keep the volume down.  They started “Hey! Hey! Hey!” chants.  The Frenchmen embraced, smiled and were clearly enamoured by the enthusiasm.

I had not listened to the new record, Les Voyages de L’Ame, prior to the show.  Initially I thought that Alcest has completely removed the black metal framework.  Autre Temps sounds like fairy music – folky rock with clear soft vocal melodies higher in the mix rather than hidden in atmosphere.  With the warm guitar tones, there is no hint of metal.

Midway into La Ou Naissent Les Colleurs Nouvelles a short passage of harsh vocals and blastbeats, reminded us that metal is still a tool in the Alcest arsenal.  Overall the track is straight out rocking.  I am still trying to think what that closing guitar riff reminds me of.  Nineties alternative rock?  Post rock?  For a song previously unheard, that simple riff was a favourite of the night.

The terms of reference for Alcest have previously been black metal, increasingly shoegaze and a little cringeworthy the term, metalgaze.  The black metal framework is now used sparingly…  and I don’t know if it was the upfront drums, but the set seemed too rocky to be shoegaze.  The strength of the new material is distinct songs and memorable riffs.

Later in the set the older material surfaced.  Ecailles de Lune reminded me of that dream world that Alcest can create.  The set closed with hugely catchy Percees de Lumiere.

Alcest have improved as a live act and their material has escaped easy categorisation.  They engage the crowd.  This may mean that they seem to real to create this other world… But I don’t need another world.  The music is enough.  It is a better live experience – fairies or not.

Stereo

Another tired Monday night.  This one after over week ridden with a chicken pox like virus.  All I saw for a week was work and my bed.  Rashes and bumps covered my body, head and face.  There is only so much a beanie and short-notice beard can hide.  Looking like a leper and generally feeling like sh!t can get a man down.  Also not touching a drink for over a week is a harsh state of affairs for a man who has lived in Glasgow for nearly 11 months.

Even though Noise Road wasn’t feeling super energetic, we took the short post work shuffle from the flat on the western edge of the CBD to Stereo – a club in the Rennie Mackintosh building, hidden down a lane a block from central station.

That is Glasgow.  You have to keep your eyes open or you’ll miss the gems amongst the the wet, grey tenements.  And don’t ask a local, as they don’t know what they’ve got.  They won’t tell you about the amazing cobblestone alleys tucked away in the west end.  They won’t tell you about all the parks.  They won’t tell you about awesome pubs hidden behind the university…  and they won’t tell you about Glasgow’s best venue, located in a building by a world renowned architect in an alley a few metres from the central station.

Stereo has oodles of character.  One might be initially wary of the kids upstairs with their fashionable hair cuts and scarves (never trust a man who wears a scarf when it is above 10 degrees celsius).  It kind of looks like the crowd at an Interpol concert circa Antics….  I often bring cats to Stereo because I have fond memories of gigs here – Earth, the Ocean… Fond memories of seeing dudes from the Ocean stealing the club wifi on the upstairs lounges while the headline played.  Stereo is central and always open late – which is handy with the weird Scottish liquour laws.  When you are entertaining a squadron of whisky-thirsty Swedish pilots for work on a Tuesday night where else do you go?

Like the best venues in the world, Stereo features entirely intrusive structural pillars.  Like many venues in Glasgow, expect to pay half the price of a beer at a London show.  Although that 10p increase to £2.10 for a can of Carlsberg, started to weigh down the pockets with shrapnel.

Les Discrets

Earlier in the mild evening, the rotating show of Frenchmen kicked off.  Noise Road strolled in towards the end of the Soror Dolorosa set, oozing a gothy post-punk type vibe.  I didn’t get the opportunity to study the band in detail, as I checked out the merch desk and handed over my first £2.10 of the evening.  I believe Soror Dolorosa’s singer switched to drums for the remainder of the bands for the evening.

Call me a savage but I had not even heard of Les Discrets before the start of the night.

Les Discrets main man, Fursy Teyssier, joined the rest of Alcest lineup onstage, including Neige on bass.  We had the most black metal moment of the night as the members of the rotating troupe performed a song from their former guise as black metal band Amesoeurs.

I don’t know if Les Discrets are rooted in the warm take on black metal that Amesoeurs were.  There is very little metal to the set.   There was the odd double-kick break accentuated by the loud drum mix.  Even more so than Alcest set, Les Discrets set rocks in an almost psychedelic way.  There are clear guitar leads and noodley passages.  It was another rocking set.

Teyssier continued a night of charming Frenchmen showing great enthusiasm.  In a second language, he awkwardly apologised for microphone failures and guitar string breaks.

I was suitably impressed by both Alcest and Les Discrets that I bought the latest CDs of both bands.  I am mostly sure it was because I enjoyed a night of French rock in Glasgow, and only a little to do with the enthusiasm generated by one too many £2.10 Carlsbergs.

Mastodon/Dillinger Escape Plan @ Barrowlands Ballroom, Glasgow, UK – 8th February 2012

Posted in Gigs with tags , , , , on February 19, 2012 by Noise Road


Barrowlands Market is where you buy your sh!t back on a Sunday, after your gaff has been broken into during the week.  Barrowlands Ballroom sits above the stolen goods hotspot.  Located in the east of the Glasgow city centre, the trendy bars and restaurants of Merchant City lay to the west, the extensive parklands of Glasgow Green to the south and to the east we have junkie-inhabited council estates.

Barrowlands Ballroom is a sight from the outside.  Neon signage indicates that you may be in for a night of roller disco rather than sweaty metal.  On the inside it looks like, well, a ballroom.

Noise Road tried to push through the big crowd towards the end of Red Fang’s opening set.  Unable to penetrate past the side bar, we invested in a couple cans of £2.50 Carlsbergs and enjoyed the last 3 fuzzy tracks.

At the crowd exodus for a drink, for a smoke, for a t-shirt, for a sh!t, for whatever…  NR pushed forward for Dillinger’s set.

Flick through the Noise Road previous posts and you’ll find nothing documented more than a Dillinger show.  I prefer Dillinger’s manic energy to be bouncing of the walls of a tiny venue – but in 2012, you are never going to catch a Mastodon/Dillinger bill in anything smaller than a theatre.  It’s great that Dillinger can play to a sympathetic crowd this size.  It’s amazing that previously underground behemoths, Mastodon, are now just behemoths.  There is still hope for the world.

Dillinger

I first caught Dillinger on the Miss Machine tour of Australia.  In Fowler’s, you were unable to escape the reach of Weinman and Puciato as they entered the floor and physically demanded that you engage.  They are never going to be able to physically threaten that casual listener chilling at the bar tonight.

Without a record to pimp, and with a shorter opening slot and potential new fans to win over, Dillinger delivered somewhat of a best-of set.  The classic heavy tracks bookended the night – with the traditional opener Panasonic Youth and traditional closers, Sunshine the Werewolf and 43% Burnt.  In between there was plenty of sing-along numbers with Black Bubblegum, Milk Lizard, Chinese Whispers and Gold Teeth on a Bum.

Standing on the outside of the violence, I grooved and I sang along.  Outside the mosh, I also noticed the nuances of the set.  A Room Full of Eyes demonstrates how Dillinger can convey energy and even catchiness from something quite odd in riff and structure.

For a band that throws themselves around and often forsakes notes or words for crowd interaction, Dillinger are tight.  When one or two members are ad-libbing the remainder of the band lock-in.  Drummer Rymer and bassist Wilson hold tight all night.  Tuttle locks in the riff while Weinman misses the odd note on top of the crowd.  Tuttle and Weinman sing the melodic hook while the Puciato rasp is lost is somewhere on the floor.

At one point, Puciato took a running leap into the crowd, hitting the punters feet first in a still upright position.  The energy that Dillinger deliver in is undeniable.  I doubt anyone leaves without a strong opinion either way on them.

The Hunter

A cheeky couple of pints between sets and we shuffled back into the ballroom just before Mastodon stepped on stage.

You can get a distorted view of the world reading blogs.  On the internet it seems to be a case of when you got off the Mastodon train.  There are many scathing sell-out reviews for Mastodon’s latest, The Hunter.  Others left Mastodon on Crack the Skye, accusing the band of pretentiousness.  Some even left on Blood Mountain.  Blood Mountain!

The internet is not the real world.  The internet would lead you to believe that these kids are only here for the more melodic or less heavy works from The Hunter and Crack the Skye – but at the close of the set, the crowd roared along the old crusher, Blood and Thunder, louder than any other track of the night.  Split your lungs with blood and thunder, When you see the white whale!

To be honest, I was pretty unsure about Mastodon’s latest, The Hunter, when I first picked it up.  Curl of the Burl is instantly catchy stoner rock that opens with the line “I killed a man cos he killed my goat”  What’s not to like?  But the rest of the album initially left me flat.  If this was a sell out album, it was not a good sell out album.

It took 3 or 4 listens to catch the hooks and the intricacies of the simpler structured songs.  The thing that came to mind was a Metal Injection interview with Converge’s Kurt Ballou.  When asked about Converge’s new album, Ballou stated that he no longer wanted to make a best-of style album.  He cited the the Melvins‘ career.  Melvins did not try to re-make their major label classic, Houdini, over and over.  Through the Melvins’ 30 year career, they have maintained their integrity, creativity and still managed to make a living off music.

Melvins release a noise record and might follow that 3 months later with an almost radio friendly stoner rock record.  6 months later they might release a drone record.

What did we expect Mastodon to release?  Did we want them to bang out sludgy Remission clones for the remainder of their careers?  How limiting is that?  Do we really want them to release Crack the Skye epics every two years?  Isn’t that likely to get boring?   Mastodon felt a bunch of hooky riffs and they banged them out.  Its not their best album, but it is a good album.  A necessary album

Mastodon

I caught Mastodon in Manchester on their last UK cycle.  They played the epic Crack the Skye album in its entirety.  Perhaps fatigued by a year of playing 10-minute prog freak-outs, tonight featured only two tracks off that album.  In fact Mastodon played twice as many tracks tonight. A significant chunk of The Hunter was played but it did not dominate amongst large slabs of both the albums Leviathan and Blood Mountain.

A sense of fun replaced the weight of the previous tour.  The big rock of The Hunter tracks contrasted with the heavier noodle-fests of the older material.  The Hunter shows the growth in Mastodon’s vocals.  The band were brave enough to switch from straight out growling to melodic singing over the course of the last two albums.  In some circles they were criticised.  However tonight the vocals are strong from all members, and the simpler song structures rely on this new element.

Its fun to sing a long and rock out to the new material.  Its fun to bang your head to old riff fests of Colony of Birchmen and Aqua Dementia… and nothing brings a greater smile to my face than the robot mic of Circle of Cysquatch.

This is my second big theatre/stadium show in a couple of months and I’ve enjoyed the shared experience both times.

After roaring Blood and Thunder, Mastodon momentarily left the stage.  They returned with Red Fang and Dillinger in tow for a group sing of the sad tale of the swamp monster, the melancholic melody of the Creature Lives.

Big rock.  Big fun.

Ulcerate @ Edinburgh, Scotland, UK – 6 February 2012

Posted in Gigs with tags , , , , , , on February 13, 2012 by Noise Road

Week in and week out, my old man, the Beej, weathered 20-goal defeats of his beloved West Torrens Eagles.  I learnt at those local footy grounds that you never, NEVER, leave early.  You never desert your team… So with one of the most exciting metal bands on an Edinburgh stage, I left the gig early…

To be fair the show was running an hour late and I left it as long as possible before I had to run to catch the last train back to Glasgow.

Don’t they run night buses?… Give me a break, man… I don’t even know where Edinburgh bus station is…  and I’ve got to get up at 6am for work tomorrow…. and its still only Monday night…  I know, I know.  I’ve let Ulcerate down. I’ve let myself down. And I’ve let the Beej down.

While south of the Scottish border was locked in a cold snap of snowstorms, Glasgow was unusually warmer than its southern neighbours.  The previous week had been cold but bright, dry and crisp – almost a Scandinavian winter.  Licking my wounds from a 13-hour session out at the Scottish Premier League, on Monday morning I slinked out the flat to a deep fog sitting over the city.

The temperature lifted but the fog refused to budge all day.  I assumed that the bus from work was heading through the fog to Queen Street Station.  Trains run every 15 minutes between Glasgow and Edinburgh.  With tonight’s venue, Bannermans, within spitting distance of Edinburgh’s Waverley station, Noise Road was inside the venue within an hour of buying a black coffee at Queen Street.

Edinburgh

I work in Renfrew, 7 miles from the Glasgow’s city centre.  Confusingly Renfrew is not a suburb of Glasgow.  It is part of another city called Paisley.  If you call someone in a Paisley pub a Glaswegian, you best be quick with an apology or a turn of speed.  7 miles from the city centre in Australia sounds like an inner suburb.  Here its a fiercely independent town.

Australian cities have short histories in comparison to these 1,000 year old rivals.  In a town were Irish sectarian violence has been imported to football games, differences are not always celebrated.  7 miles probably was a distance all those centuries ago.

With Edinburgh over 50 miles from Glasgow, you can imagine the fiercely protected differences.

Edinburgh is the city in Scotland that tourists visit…  and not without good reason.  Whilst Glasgow has plenty of character, Edinburgh is a beautiful old city.  An old town of cobblestone streets leads up to Edinburgh Castle looming over the city.

Bannermans

Somewhere along the train tracks we shrugged the fog.  After overshooting the venue, we shuffled down an alley to Bannermans.

The low, curved brick ceiling and the lack of light makes Bannermans feel like a tomb.  Its a perfect venue for death metal.

Parasitized

The lighting was so low that you could not see the merch.  Between tracks, one of the guitarists from Hull death metallers, Parasitized, joked that he couldn’t see his guitar.

Parasitized are part of the trend of bass-less extreme metal bands.  Why is there no love for the bass in death metal today?  You don’t want Alex Webster in your band?…  I guess Pig Destroyer go bass-less.  PxDx’s awesomeness is beyond question.  So we wont judge the Hull boys for it either way.

There was enough variation between guitar tech-ery and groove based riffs to keep me happy.  I enjoyed the excellently indecipherable vocals and equally indecipherable song introductions.  “This next one is called ORRRRR-oorr-ORRRR-oorr”.  Death metal, you are a good friend that never fails to bring a smile to my face.

Svart Crown

Svart Crown’s laid back sound check gave little warning of the French fury to be unleashed.  The vocalist’s soft “c’est bon?” into the mic was swiftly followed by mad-man energy from the band.  The vocalist looked into your eyes as he demanded you move.  I was scared to not headbang.

Having never heard of Svart Crown before, I was pleasantly surprised.  They used atmosphere and blistering death passages like their Kiwi colleagues.  However they delivered a different groove to their Hull colleagues.  It was at times almost groove metal.

C’est bon.

Ulcerate

The truth is that during the day I was weighing up whether or not to head to the show…  With a big weekend at the football, tickets to Mastodon/Dillinger the following night in Glasgow and a long week of work ahead, a Monday night mission to Edinburgh seemed tough.

Tough?  Ulcerate had flown for 24 hours to get to this tour.  One of the most exciting bands in death metal has a cool French band in tow and you’re a bit tired?  Man they’re only charging you £8 too!  £8 ain’t gonna cover return trips from New Zealand to Europe!

During the week someone asked if it was ironic for me, as an Australian, to see a New Zealand band for the first time in Edinburgh.  Dude,  New Zealand is a 5 hour flight from my hometown.  It’s like crossing Europe for a show.  Tonight all I had to do was catch a train.

Cosmo Lee described Ulcerate as a death metal version of Neurosis.  There is much to this description…  and not just in a post metal riffing to double kick drum kind of way.

Neurosis are heavy, not in the brutal death metal sense of the word, but in a ritualistic weight way.  Whilst Ulcerate does not carry that ritual feel of the Neurosis elders, they do bring an atmosphere of weight.

I think people are buzzing about Ulcerate because they’ve found a different way to be heavy.  Sure there are quieter breaks, but there is a churn throughout the set. Ulcerate build a low, swarming atmosphere.

Exciting stuff…  but I have to run to the train and back to the fog in Glasgow that had failed to lift.

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