With a bill impressively shoehorning four bands in between the end of the working day and the regular Friday club night, openers Barque have been and gone before most, myself included, have made it in to the venue.
Grave Lines [2.5/5]
Indeed, it’s still a thin crowd that greets London/Brighton four-piece Grave Lines, but if the quartet is aware, they don’t show it, so locked in are they to their dense blend of doom and sludge.
Before long, more than a few heads are earnestly nodding along in unison, and it’s a solid if relatively unmemorable sound. The faster, groovier ‘Extinction Pill’ ups the energy levels, and while a sudden tempo change mid-song rather gets away from them, they leave to appreciative cheers, and plenty of grins.
Grave Lines’ Facebook page: https://en-gb.facebook.com/gravelinesband/
Bristol’s Svalbard are one of the most exciting prospects emerging on the British scene, a miasma of hardcore, post-rock and raw, naked emotion that is as challenging as it is rewarding. The flipside is that such a complex sonic palette requires a really good sound to do it justice, and tonight’s washed out, lumpy mix robs the band of much of their power. This is tragic, because from the opening notes of ‘Perspective’ they play with heart and you can tell that something sublime lies under the surface, struggling to break out.
While things improve a little, the delicate melodic touches that should ignite the likes of ‘Unnatural Light’ and ‘Disparity’ fail to spark, and when they close with the normally devastating ‘Greyscale’, it’s an underwhelming affair, with co-vocalist Serena Cherry’s vocals barely audible. Not a bad show, but in better settings, they could have stolen the day.
Svalbard’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/svalbarduk/
Anticipation builds gradually, as the crowd for this sold-out show fills out. Oathbreaker take to the stage a little later than planned, presumably while someone tries switching the electrics off and on again, as it’s a much fuller sound that greets the faithful. As the delicate opening strains of ‘10:56’ give way to a surging ‘Second Son of R’ from last year’s breathtaking Rheia opus, it’s with an awe-inspiring sound. Vocalist Caro Tanghe – a mercurial presence of massive hair and focused intensity reminiscent of Cousin It channelling Jim Morrison – drapes over the mic stand like a weeping willow, her nuanced fluctuations between shimmering clean vocals and piercing shrieks sending shivers down the spine.
A few hums, crackles and buzzes suggest the gremlins in the sound system are threatening to reappear, but the Belgians are not to be denied. Drummer Wim Coppers puts in an astonishing performance, driving proceedings from the back of the cramped stage, and all four enjoy a palpable chemistry. By the time the band bows out with a brace of older, more hardcore influenced tracks, despite a brief show time, the audience emerges into the cold night air with eyes wide and minds blown.
Oathbreaker’s Facebook page: https://en-gb.facebook.com/theoathbreakerreigns/