There are very rare occassions where a co-headline tour, or any tour for that matter, features bands that you’re a big fan of or like. Late in April, this rare occassion just so happened for me – and remains one of the heaviest and meanest headfucks I’ve ever had.
The first band up was Brighton’s War Wolf, who have literally only been together since September 2012, out of the ashes of the mighty Dopefight. However, instead of stoner sludge, War Wolf is mainly a hardcore punk beast with some sludge and powerviolence attributes: just think of Harvey Milk playing ferocious hardcore after a heavy Dystopia binge and you’re halfway there. It does seem questionable at first, with more ties to hardcore and powerviolence to sludge, why a band like War Wolf would be on this line-up, but the questions are crushed by their incredibly precise yet filthy riffs and the dual vocals that switch between the hardcore yells and the sludgey growls. The band managed to get the crowd to step forward to the stage (simply by asking them, but anyone who goes to these gigs knows how often that doesn’t work) and at one point, their bassist almost falls over a crouching photographer yet never missing a note – he apologises for “kicking” the photographer too, when it would have been completely understandable had he reacted the opposite.
It’s actually the bassist who really stood out – although the drummer was intense and the other vocalist/guitarist looked wild – he always seemed on the verge of jumping off the stage and into the crowd, almost too big for the stage. If Trash Talk ever needed a fill-in for Spencer Pollard, War Wolf’s own bassist would be a suitable replacement.
Following what was an incredibly aggressive set, there’s a change of pace when Humanfly begin to play – a more relaxed atmosphere, by far. Treating the room to two or three tracks from their new album Awesome Science, a set void of their earlier sludge/post-metal sound, and so again, this could be a decision to frown upon, but their latest prog material stands nicely for the night. Having seen Humanfly before, it didn’t stop me from being amazed all over again by their mastery of effects live – just looking at their pedals is enough to make anyone nauseous. The only problem they had during the set was a cable problem with one of the amps, which took about two minutes for them to fix, but they otherwise delivered. Vocalist and guitarist John Sutcliffe did look a little apprehensive at times – there was a mutter or two in the crowd of something going wrong – but Humanfly basically delivered a solid set, the three songs never feeling too short or too long in a live setting.
Next up, Conan. It’s fair to say that if you’re a fan of doom metal, Conan has probably been a band whose name has been unavoidable in recent times… and quite rightly too. If you’ve listened to their albums and splits, you can guess that seeing them live will be a very heavy experience; but you never realise just how heavy they’re going to be until you witness a performance yourself.
The trio stand onstage and just deliver one of the most crushing and almost cruelly heavy sets I’ve ever witnessed. It’s almost like, in comparison with the sets prior to Conan, the equivelent of watching a rabbit going through an aching amount of effort to create a safe burrow for its family, only for a tank to collapse the whole thing and crushing the rabbits inside. Conan is that tank. The guitar and bass are almost equal in sound as both are (hazarding a safe bet here) down-tuned to almost stupid levels that probably should require a guitar with some titanium reinforcement, and Jon’s vocals are just so bare and hallowing, it’s hypnotising.
Plus, you can really feel it in your bones as well that these guys are just natural, that EVERYTHING is natural with them, nothing ever seems forced or fake. The set was just outright brutal, and I was left cradling my bludgeoned head in my ruined claws.
Due to unfortunate circumstances, I had to miss Bongripper, which was nothing short of devestating and is something I never want to go through again. However, my good friend Sophie Jenkins was wiser and managed to witness the riff-osaurus that is Bongripper, and here is her story of the experience:
Bongripper; the absolute experts on how to cook a doom riff. Stewing a section here, mulling over a groove there, fermenting and infusing with elements of sludge and drone, until the most tender chunk of heavy and utterly stinking noise is created. No vocals required. I had my eyes shut for the majority of the set, totally absorbed in a place I like to think of as some sort of transcendental riff elysium. My head and arms moving involuntarily but altogether wholly intrinsically. Whenever I opened my eyes I suddenly remembered that I was actually at a gig.
Here’s hoping that these boys come back and tour the UK again very soon. One of the most intense and exciting metal acts I have had the pleasure of seeing in recent years. All hail Bongripper!
More of the bands:
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