Today’s world would be so much better if we all took a little time to smell the flowers. Never rush, and avoid the inevitable stress induced coronary episode. I shudder to think of the savings the NHS would make if we were all to adopt Joe Hall of Tree of Sores’ (2/5) laid back attitude, nonchalantly sashaying down the stairs whilst his fellow band members are champing at the bit to start their set.
As Matt Faragher’s guitar emits the opening crystalline overtures it seems the sound man isn’t on drummer Ben Grim’s side, as his beats are somewhat stifled. As the distortion kicks in and Matt’s vocals tear through the delicate intro, it seems the sound man has gone a little overboard on volume here too. Luckily, however there are only about two verses worth of vocals, with the instrumentation being the main focus. Tree of Sores specialise in the calm, quiet, clean guitar-led build up, climaxing into cacophonies of distorted doom. These more indolent passages afford Joe plenty of opportunity to ensure that his drink doesn’t begin to gather dust, content to allow Matt and Ben centre stage. By the end of their set the sound has more or less been levelled out, with the exception of Ben’s cymbals which are very loud indeed, provoking some to comment that he should audition for the Rank Organisation. Moreover, a two song sample isn’t really adequate, and they don’t really supply any TOS virgins with a representative cross section of their material, despite a 20 minute slot. Last time I saw TOS and reviewed them here, they headlined and put on a blinding show (3 songs!). Speaking of blinding, there are more than a few of us who are glad they decided to leave the strobe light at home tonight, but their set serves as little more than a morsel, a hint at their full capabilities.
Following TOS’s intricate, contemplative fare, Asomvel (4.5/5) ramp things up to ramming speed and inject a hearty dose of bluster which seems as subtle as a dick on a plate in comparison. Luckily enough, this suits the baying crowd down to the ground. Sandwiched between two doom bands, it would be easy for Asomvelto seem incongruous, as they don’t convolute their approach by affiliating themselves with any kind of sub-genre. They play heavy metal, pure and simple, with relentless double kick underpinning fast and dirty riffing. This works to their advantage, however and serves to highlight their uncompromising velocity and defiant edge. Augmenting this upwards mobility even further is the fact that this show is something of a homecoming for Rob ‘Conan’ Threapleton (bass/vocals) who joined the band some six months ago following the tragic death of former front man Jay Jay Winter. Buoyed up on their recent performance at Hammerfest, and playing his first gig in front of a hometown crowd, his banter in addition to his playing is on top form, eschewing some grin worthy moments as he highlights Solstice guitarist Rich Walker’s questionable choice of attire; ‘It’s good to see a proper heavy metal crowd. No stupid bomber jackets or – oh wait,’ and reprimanding Ian Wright’s (drums) ill advised choice of field dressing; ‘Ian’s got a little booboo on his hand, so he thought what better protection than some gaffer tape from the Royal Park stage. All completely sterilised, brilliant defence against infection.’
Now, our more pedantic readers will note that Mr Threapleton has graced OneMetal’s music pages previously with his former outfit Deathwing. This is worth noting, as Asomvel perform a version of their track ‘Shoot Ya Down’, which features adjustments to the main riff, some added fills and benefits from Wright’s Mikkey Dee approach to drumming. In comparison with the Deathwing version, Asomvel win hands down, qualifying this as more of an upgrade than a straightforward transplant. As with TOS (and subsequently Solstice), the beginning of Asomvel ’s set suffers as Lenny Robinson’s guitar struggles to be heard, and some of his solos are lost under the roar to a degree. Fortunately by the end of their set, these creases are ironed out, and this storming performance garners well earned, rapturous applause.
Lady Luck, it seems is not on headliners Solstice’s (2.5/5) side tonight, and as vocalist Paul Kearns introduces opener ‘The Hunter’ it quickly becomes apparent that something is pretty badly wrong. Much to Andy Whitikker (guitar)’s consternation an amp has bitten the dust, and proves to be so problematic that this number is played a second time at the end of their set, with all instruments operational. What’s more, the mike keeps cutting out periodically throughout the set, probably the result of a faulty wire, forcing Paul to have to twiddle with the connection, rather than concentrating 100% of his energy on his performance. Further annoyance is caused as the monitors are only channelling Lenny’s bass, leaving Solstice to stab in the dark somewhat. The ensuing extended pauses between numbers lose the attention of some as punters begin to trickle off to the bar and TOS’s Joe Hall comes to their aid. This cavalcade of mishaps prompts guitarist Rich to comment, upon introducing one number: ‘this is for some of our ex-members. After tonight I bet they’re glad to be ex-members.’ You really have to feel for them at this point, especially Paul who has flown from Norway to be here tonight.
When everything is in working order however Solstice deliver a stellar performance, churning out epic doom infused with Celtic folk elements. It’s easy to see how acts such as Grand Magus have been influenced by the likes of Solstice, and it’s a real privilege to see a band playing such a small venue, for next to nothing whose sphere of influence is so broad that they’re often mentioned in the same breath as genre heavyweights such as Candlemass or Solitude Aeturnus. By the end of their set, the technical issues have been addressed, and the epic ‘Sleeping Tyrant‘ is played with gusto and is generally well received. Solstice are victims of cruel misfortune tonight however, and the successful numbers are overshadowed by electrical cluster fuckery.