Trollkraftt (3/5) are already a couple of numbers deep by the time I get into the catacombs of The Royal Park, and I’m met by the sight of a bass player fully decked out in SunnO)))-type robes and two feral looking, dreadlocked creatures on vocals and guitar. The noise that these eldritch beings emit is mid-paced stoner/doom along the lines of ‘Hole in the Sky’ speed Sabbath. They rely fairly heavily on effects (a theme which is to reoccur throughout this gig), with fuzz coming out of their ears (both literally and figuratively) and spacey phasers in abundance. This thickens up the guitar nicely, compensating for the lack of a second axeman. The effects culminate in a scratchy guitar solo which utilises a beer bottle to interesting effect. Peculiarly, their vocalist seems to have adopted a novel technique of producing lows which are akin to monastic chants or tribal throat singing, adding a further sinister air of otherworldliness to their performance. A very laudable and transporting opening act, despite a bit of a shit name!
After rather a longer interval than expected Place of the Hidden God (2/5) assume their positions. To my surprise Tom G. and Ryan L. (bass and guitar/vocals respectively) are old acquaintances from my school days, and as such I’ve seen them perform in a previous incarnation as Grail. Their output is quite wildly different these days, having transformed from labyrinthine instrumental epics to much less protracted, more traditionally structured songs with greater emphasis on polyrhythmic timing. The first few numbers strike me as pretty generic (sorry lads!) with vocals punctuated by a guitar fill, and clanky bass sound which recalls Unsane. Perhaps they have set the bar too high for themselves in terms of complexity given their previous progressive proclivities, but their song writing just seems a little too simplistic and unremarkable to make much of an impact, especially considering the suspense garnered by their delayed entrance. That said, they do improve steadily over the course of their set, introducing some nifty and unpredictable changes after the fashion of Meshuggah – but given the length of their slot this seems unfortunately like too little too late.
Fans of Clutch are bound to enjoy 10ft Wizard (2.5/5) (or, as their merch appears to say, ‘loft wizard’!). They play delta blues-tinged stoner rock with that same southern jaunt as Clutch, where the guitar melody directly mirrors the vocals (think ‘Electric Worry’’s intro). They are, however, capable of slowing things down to doom tempos on occasion, which means they fall short of being a wholesale ‘homage’. These variations in tempo reach their zenith as they build slowly to a stop before the words ‘fuck you’ ring out and a triumphant shitkicker of a riff kicks in. This can’t fail to bring a grin to your face, but unfortunately neither can the fact that their lead guitarist’s hair looks disturbingly similar to Rogue from The X Men! Enjoyable, but nothing particularly earth shattering. Incidentally, this whole show is available for streaming via their Facebook, so you can judge for yourselves!
Death mentalists Diascorium (4/5) are next on the bill, with regular front man Bernard absent due to commitments with Revokation. Help is on hand in the form of Horsebastard and former Reth vocalist Reese, however, who ably fills Bernard’s shoes, as well as the room as things begin to get distinctly claustro in this ‘intimate’ subterranean venue. I’m well aware at this point that I’ve reviewed this band a little too recently for comfort, and am conscious of repeating myself here. Thus I’ll limit myself to saying that this band are completely off the hook technically, and don’t fail to make us drool into our beers, such is the standard of musicianship. What’s more, tonight’s stand-in does a fantastic job, projecting more guttural lows and more abrasive highs than Bernard, adding an extra gut-punch to the slower slammy moments as well as some amusing banter; ‘These guys are Diascorium. I’m a geography teacher. Today’s lesson is pain!’
Instrumental prog mammoths Wiht (4/5) are next up, lulling the audience into a trance with hypnotically repetitive rhythms, and as I chance to turn my head I notice the room is absolutely packed out. What’s more, there’s not a head in the place that isn’t nodding along sedately like the initiates of some zoned out zombie cult. One particularly relaxed looking chap even looks as if he might nod off completely, but still takes the trouble to ask me who he’s listening to. This is all subterfuge on Wiht’s part however as these soporific strains suddenly explode into huge tsunamis of clean, reverb-drenched guitar, the drums crash into life, and the audience are roused from their reverie. Wiht excel at creating massive, rolling soundscapes which twist from minimalist prog into heavily distorted stoner riffs at a moment’s notice. 30 minutes and 2 songs later, our ears are ringing from their colossal volume. Unfortunately, if you want to witness this spectacle for yourselves you have precious little time in which to do it as this titanic outfit are set to disband after their finale at this year’s Desertfest. My recommendation is drop everything and go!
Undersmile (4.5/5) are something of a unique and gratifying act. The fascinating element is the contrast between their look and their sound. Imagine, if you will, two slips of girls who look like butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths, bedecked in something approaching Kinderwhore/Alice in Wonderland/Riot Grrl (thanks to my fashion advisors for this nugget) eschewing stark 0.5BPM doom which translates sonically to having a planet forced through your ear hole. At the risk of sounding painfully patronising and chauvinistic, it’s a little like seeing a fluffy little kitten with a bow on it driving a tank through an old folks’ home. They play drone as a four piece, with the odd spot of harmonised guitar work making an appearance, although if you’re thinking Murray and Smith, think again! The vocal contribution can best be described as the chanting of laments, and conjures images of consumptive children condemned to limbo. Once again the room is packed to the gunnels despite the unpalatable fare on display, such is the thrall of this spectacle.
Which, ladies and gentlemen, brings us at last to the main event; Wizard’s Beard (4/5). By some miracle I have heretofore missed this band in a live setting despite having reviewed both of their studio albums. If you check out said reviews [the Pure Filth review is here, and the Four Tired Undertakers review can be found here - helpful Ed], you’ll find that I always suspected them to be more suited to this arena given that their output is best experienced at volumes similar to the Hiroshima bomb. I take no small amount of pleasure in declaring my prediction 100% correct. Anyway, smug mode disengaged, what their albums lacked which the live performance delivers copiously is not only the added edge of playing through double stacks, but the ire of each and every members’ delivery. Dan Clarke (drums) may be described as the definition of a mild mannered man in normal circumstances, but he looks as if he means every beat, and as if he’d kill your mother as soon as look at you. Similarly Neil Travers (bass) barks along, face contorted like a man possessed, Craig Jackson (guitar) doing his best to stamp a hole in the floor. As for Chris Hardy(vocals), animated is not the word! He makes the stage his climbing frame, and the room is his to traverse as he pleases. This results in rather a comical ‘oh shit’ moment whilst I’m slyly reading a text and look up to find him centimetres away from my face!
Moreover, his voice sounds even more savage live, comparable the sound of a ripped shirt (a simile for which I have to credit my uncle Richard, although at the time he was describing Linda McCartney’s contribution to Wings). Despite the setting enhancing the Wizard’s Beard experience, it seems many in tonight’s audience have perpetrated the cardinal sin of showing up to see a band you know and then hot footing it afterwards, as the room has visibly emptied in comparison to the turnout of the previous two bands. What’s more due to delays earlier in the day they are unable to deliver the full album from start to finish as promised. However, what is delivered is bludgeoning as well as sincere.
Trollkraft’s Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Trollkraftt/186849927997924
Place of the Hidden God’s Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/placeofthehiddengod?ref=ts&sk=wall<a
Ten Foot Wizard’s Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/tenfootwizard
Diascorium’s Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/diascorium
Wiht’s Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/wihtleeds?sk=wall
Undersmile’s Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Undersmile
Wizard’s Beard’s Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/WizardsBeard