The crowds were thin at first at The Tivoli in Buckley, North Wales, for this evening’s entertainment – but that changed soon enough. Happily, the situation started to develop during the opening set, meaning that support band Red or Dead were able to play to fair sized crowd.
I say happily, ‘cos Red or Dead deserved to play to a decent size audience. Hailing from a bit further up the road in Conwy, the fourpiece are an accomplished group of musicians who are obviously inspired by classic 70’s punk, such as The Clash. Very impressive, with catchy tunes and a message, Red or Dead easily grabbed my attention and refused to hand it back. Definitely a band to keep an eye on, there’s a variety in sound and musicianship that hinted at an even wider repertoire – some research reveals they often play acoustic sets, which sounds very tempting.
Anti Nowhere League shouldn’t really require any introduction. I became aware of these deviants thanks to their association with The Damned many years ago, tales of debauchery spreading ahead of them like a bushfire. Now with just head lunatic Animal remaining in the band, he’s backed by a great, well tenured group of musicians who can really deliver on the band’s legacy, performing it with the respect – and ferocity – it deserves.
Hit singles aren’t really the order here, but of course ANL give us their wonderfully raucous treatment of “Streets of London” (yes, that one) in a set riddled with classics. That songs infamous B-side, the still unbelievably filthy “So What” makes an appearance too, earlier than I’d expected, complete with a concise history lesson from Animal, covering police raids and the later Metallica renaissance. The song still raises a smile and rocks like a nun on a washing machine.
The whole band play brilliantly, the result being a set that was even better than expected. For the uninitiated, Anti Nowhere League live in the corner of punk that’s largely UK Subs with a big, fat dollop of Motorhead. From “I Hate People”, “Let’s Break the Law”, a cover of Del Shannon’s “Runaway” (my Mother-in-Law wouldn’t dig it) and through to “We Are The League”, song after song is fast and furious with never a dud.
As anticipated, the audience loved it and the atmosphere in the Tiv was one not to be missed. Classic punk rock from Anti Nowhere League, who gave us quality tunes performed with the zeal and attitude it deserved. So glad I was there.
Battalions return with a pummelling new album, “King of a Dead World” from APF Records. THE APF label can be relied upon for quality releases, and there’s no doubting that here. Born of Hullfire – well, they come from Hull – and unleashed in streams of molten lava from the deepest catacombs, here Battalions are channelling all of their experience into a recording of sheer, elemental power.
It falls on the humbled shoulders of yours truly to attempt some journalistic summary of what we have here. But in short – if you’re already a fan of (or just familiar) with Battalions, just go ahead and buy this now. If you’re a new or curious listener, be prepared for a lesson in dense, thick Sludge. With a capital ‘S’.
The music Battalions let loose on the world combines the heaviosity of Sludge with a persistent groove, underlined with the unrelenting intensity of hardcore. First track ‘Green Boots’ demonstrates this perfectly, with a crushing riff that can make the listener nod their head and scream along.
Phil Wilkinson’s vocals are a harsh growl, well suited to the ferocity of tracks like ‘Parasite’. The guitars of Pete Cross are punishing but also full of variety, as shown on ‘Coughing Nails’ (great title). Meanwhile, Matthew Dennett on bass and Simon Harrison on drums manage to keep it all on track with precision.
‘Bones to Dust’ was another track that particularly impressed; a calmer start (by comparison) that erupts into a huge, bouncing riff which will sandpaper your face off.
“King of a Dead World” is chock full of great ideas and delivers on all of them. Though relatively short at 31 minutes, the album wastes nothing and doesn’t out stay it’s welcome – you’ll want to replay it again and again. It’s unforgiving, powerful and noisy – there’s no slumber on the Humber here. Instead, join Battalions on the Highway to Hull, it’s a full on, exciting ride and you won’t regret it.
A weekend of full on metal and hard rock, Pentre Fest is a highlight of my musical calendar. Held at McLean’s pub in Pentre, Deeside, North Wales over two days, the event always showcases some of the best bands from around a vast area of the UK.
This year I missed Friday’s gig as I was otherwise engaged. However, I was raring to go for Day 2, and a whole load of awesome music. Here’s my review for Ever Metal, covering everything I could of that day’s entertainment.
Day 2 at Pentre fest – you could say I was a bit excited to get going. The ever-reliable Edd Case was performing in the marquee outside as I arrived, so I missed a chunk of his set sadly, as I paid my hard earned coin to get in and neck my first ale. Luckily, Edd did another slot of his excellent acoustic performance later on, so I got to catch him then. I think he was filling in for some band called Trashatouille, who couldn’t be arsed to turn up and attempt to play their own acoustic effort.
First band on the indoor main stage was Scarfoot, and they made a hell of an impression. A three-piece band, they add an extra edge to their already formidable musicianship with the use of a 12 string guitar or a Dobro. This gives the band a huge, Zep-epic and individual sound. They all play with a convincing passion and were absolutely enthralling. I’d never seen them before, but had caught singer/guitarist Oliver Carins last year doing a solo acoustic set. Next time, these guys need to be higher up the bill! Scarfoot also blazed all over the acoustic stage later on, with a similarly massive sounding set, even without the drums.
Next on the second stage: a World Exclusive Live Debut! Frank Williams in his first official live gig, though sadly not billed asVictim of Damp. Frank is a Pentre Fest die hard, an unsung hero who has supported the event and pitched in with Fozzie and Beany from the beginning. This afternoon, Frank graced us with some acoustic covers (nice bit of Floyd) and banter, then introduced some comrades to help with humorous originals such as ‘Beany’s Car is Full of Shit’. Excellent crowd participation helped Frank’s set gallop home as a pedigree winner.
It really wouldn’t be Pentre Fest without these guys. With a line-up change – or should I say, addition – in the shape of new vocalist, Gaz (who used to be the drummer. Come on, keep up!). This latest incarnation of Lullaby for a Unicorn was a refreshed and fun stallion, rather than a lame pony. There’s a little work to do to settle the new line-up in, but it was the same boisterous energy as ever as the Unicorn boys turned Pentre into a beautiful, rainbow adorned meadow. Or blood-soaked battle field of metal mayhem, you choose.
Scarfoot was next on the second stage. I’ve already covered that, go back and read it again.
Despite a tech issue with the bass throwing a wangler with the first song, The Human Condition kept their shit together and provided another surprise. I had done no research whatsoever and didn’t know what to expect. By Odin’s beard, The Human Condition are a megalithic, doom metal colossus! Doom in the vein of Candlemass, or think Geoff Tate screaming for Trouble. Riffs are drip fed, leaving the audience begging for each new note. Add the most powerful live vocals I’ve heard in eons, and you have a force of biblical proportions. I bought a CD. You should check them out NOW.
Back to the Second stage for an acoustic Pelugion set – but we’ll get to them later.
A melodic deathcore band from Manchester way, Portrayal of Ruinn isn’t quite my thing on paper, but fucking awesome live. Possibly the most energetic band on stage at Pentre Fest all day, their combination of gutsy, nasty metal and bouncy, yet ferocious vocals proved a winner. They also know how to pace their set brilliantly – a few mellow sections lull the crowd into a comfy security blanket, only to have it ripped maliciously away. It’s the audio equivalent of a Video Nasty psycho killer – you’re never safe, Portrayal of Ruinn will never stop – and they will get you in the end!
Reading back my notes here, and I can’t make a thing out of them. All I can fathom is that I REALLY liked this band: “Syncolima = great!” is about all I’ve got. They were excellent. Some kind of biker/stoner super heavy rock, they have groove aplenty and massive fuzzed out riffs. This three-piece from Mansfield, Notts were unmissable. New album “Wavelengths” is out soon, you’d be wise to watch out for it.
Wait a minute – it’s that bloke from Bad Earth doing an acoustic set! Yes, it’s Steve from one of Pentre Fest’s favourite bands, backed with the other two ‘orrible ‘erberts, Karl and Ben (so semi acoustic, then?). The Bad Earth songs translate surprisingly well to the stripped-down sound, though they can’t compare to the full force fury of the full trio amped up and going for it. But then, what could? A great set that also included some cruel (ie hilarious) comedy signage behind Steve’s head, it also delivered a much needed bongo workout that was otherwise sadly lacking this year.
Mind. Blown. Thank the trident of Posiedon, King Kraken travelled up from South Wales (a right old trek) to play Pentre Fest, and I’m so glad they did. The Kraken are a huge, boisterous metal machine with crushing riffs and awash with an almost psychedelic lead guitar. My favourite band of the day, despite fierce competition – I made off with some booty from the merch desk and toasted their performance with a tankard of ale. Please check this band out, you will not regret it. Magnificent!
Last year, one man electronica fiend Leatherback was first on the Pentre Fest main stage. This year, it’s a second stage headlining slot, which worked well. Nine Inch Nails comparisons are obvious, but relevant when there’s a cover of a Reznor classic included. Leatherback ripped through a roaring set that went down extremely well with the lively crowd, even though it was freezing outside – receiving a well-deserved, enthusiastic reception.
Pelugion had performed an excellent acoustic set on the second stage earlier, which seems to have been a great way for them to warm up for their main stage appearance. I’ve seen these guys before at Pentre Fest and they never disappoint. Skull smashing mega riffs, born from Sabbath and with a dose of Alice in Chains and early Soundgarden – a stoner/alt metal monster – is what you can expect. These guys are super professional, but with grit and determination that keeps the performance compelling.
Headliners on the final day of Pentre Fest, The K*nts drove over five hours from down Essex way to entertain us. With hits such as that Christmas favourite ‘Boris Johnson is a F*cking C*nt’ and ‘F*ck the Tories’, we knew we were in for a treat. Hilariously, the Green Room reserved for the bands had been double booked with a meeting for a local Masonic Lodge. I wonder how The K*nts and this bunch of blazer-and-badge wearing eighty-year-olds got along back stage. Honestly, you can’t make this shit up. It’s like Phoenix Nights on crack.
A strange choice to headline a metal festival for some, never the less The K*nts put on a top show and had the audience on their side before the first song was even finished. Delightfully obscene, but with a political edge that helps retain a tiny bit of highbrow cred too, it’s like Sham 69 with Tourette’s. Most of the song titles are unrepeatable for a family website like Ever Metal, but let’s just say that The K*nts and their filthy brand of punk rock and humour were a mad but genius way to finish Pentre Fest off. And it probably will be finished off, if those old Masonic dudes have anything to say about it.
Oh, and yeah – Fuck the Tories.
It was my absolute pleasure to cover Pentre Fest for Ever Metal again this year. Huge thanks to the bands, the audience, and the staff at McLean’s for putting this on. And finally, thanks to Fozzy and Beany for daring to dream it up and make it happen.
I just wish Pentre Fest could be every weekend. Or once a month, at least.
The atmosphere in the Buckley Tivoli was lively and positive, as the crowd gathered in anticipation of the evening’s entertainment. One of the biggest and best audiences I’ve seen for a long while were waiting for an appearance by 80s ska legends: Bad Manners. There was definitely a feel-good factor in the air, and not just because it was Friday night.
I missed the first support, but arrive just as 50 Hertz took to the stage. A local band, they performed a set comprised of originals and covers, including well known songs by The Jam and Sex Pistols. They sounded note perfect, and knew how to warm the audience up and keep them interested, ready for the headliners. A rousing cover of Ten Pole Tudor’s “Swords of a Thousand Men” was a highlight and justifiably went down very well.
Bad Manners are an eight piece band, comprising three man brass section along with the standard guitar, bass, keyboards and drums. The band enter the stage and launch right into a fabulous rhythm, the audience begin moving along. The unmistakeable Buster Bloodvessel joins the musicians before long to rapturous applause, and the celebration begins.
Starting with a killer rendition of “This is Ska”, the band are tight and clearly enjoying every note. Seeing Buster on stage, I can’t help but be reminded of those classic Top of the Pops appearances from “when I were a lad”. He’s slightly less animated nowadays, of course – but the joyous two-tone tunes can do most of the work for him. And the band aren’t shy, merrily bopping along without any rest.
It’s so easy to move to the music – call it dancing if you will, I’m not sure in my case – as the irresistible pull of “Special Brew”, “Lip Up Fatty” and “Walking in the Sunshine” keep the crowd entranced. When the band hit a groove, they let it breathe and keep the audience captivated.
With a final encore of “Can Can”, it’s all over – and I don’t think there can be a single complaint from anyone in the Tiv tonight. The band could have played all night and we’d have asked for more. Bad Manners don’t rely on nostalgia and don’t rest on their laurels; they rely on creating a wonderful, fun night of music for all ages.
OK: so for once, I’m kinda stuck for words. How do I tackle this album, the new offering from Sergeant Thunderhoof? I mean, we can go through a song-by-song overview; try to describe the listening experience for the reader, make comparisons to other bands in a lame attempt to get the message across. But what I really need – or want – to do, is SELL it. Because I care about you, Ever Metal readers, and I don’t want you to miss out. “This Sceptred Veil” is a fantastic record.
Our opening song ‘You’ve Stolen the Words’ lays Sergeant Thunderhoof’s wares out on the table from the off. A mammoth, heavy riff erupts from the speakers and drags the listener along like a tin can in a hurricane. This is a big sound. Mark Sayers guitars are momentous, epic on a biblical scale. Comparisons to Soundgarden are obvious but apt, particularly considering the Olympian vocals of Daniel Flitcroft, soaring on every song.
If I was gonna make more lazy comparisons, there’s a hint of spacey Monster Magnet raunch on ‘King Beyond the Gates’ and maybe even some Maiden gallop on ‘Show Don’t Tell’. Both tracks testify that the rhythm section – Jim Camp on bass and Darren Ashman on drums – have the skills to rev the engine as well as groove along on the more cerebral tracks.
Speaking of the cerebral, it’s the lengthy prog work outs that differentiate Thunderhoof from other similar artists. As much as I love the rockin’ numbers (shout out too for ‘Devil’s Daughter’), these guys are extremely comfortable wandering into the realms where Mastodon rule. Witness ‘Avon and Avalon’ Parts I and II: two tracks that, whilst not exactly mellow, certainly take their time to explore and build a musical soundscape. It’s thrilling.
Running at around the 69-minute mark, there is a lot to discover here. You’re going to need to devote some time to this baby, but don’t fret – you’ll be massively rewarded if you do. So please forgive the hard sell. I only mention similar bands in an attempt to reach out to fans who I know will dig this, too. Sergeant Thunderhoof have created a superb album in “This Sceptred Veil” – one of the best of the year, so far. Don’t miss it.
February 2022 saw the long awaited return of Pentre Fest. After falling victim to the pandemic, this local metal festival was revived and came back harder than ever. Two days of metal/rock, hosted in McLean’s pub in Pentre, Deeside, North Wales – I was over joyed to revisit this fantastic event.
Friday evening was headlined by Raised by Owls, with appearances by In Depths and my old mates Ryuko, amongst others (see the reviews below).
Saturday saw the largest audience ever at Pentre Fest, not surprising considering the legendary Blaze Bayley was headlining. Add performances from Absolva, Cadence Noir, Reaper, plus many more and it all equalled a spectacular day’s entertainment.
Despite a few of the advertised artists having to drop off due to the plague, there was a legit feast of music of various hard rockin’ types, spread over two stages. It was so good to be back: a feeling everyone seemed to share, bands and gig goers alike.
You can read the full review on the Ever Metal website here. Just for the hell of it, here are the bands that I reviewed personally.
The first band I caught this year was Navnlos, so that was a pretty good start! These guys deliver some heavy groove metal, powerful and relentless. I also detected something of a nasty grunge element, like Tad jamming Pantera songs in Venom’s garage. Navnlos feature evil riffs, primal rhythms and ogre like vocals – it’s the sound of a rampaging army of berserkers storming your tea party. Bloody great way to kick things off!
Some may have wondered how a psychobilly band would go down at a metal festival. Well, turns out that Hellfire Devilles fitted in snugger than Tommy Lee’s underpants. A raucous, rock’n’roll three-piece trading in high energy, foot on the gas music – these guys wrought crazy voodoo all over the outside stage. Thumping drums, frantic guitar and slapping upright bass – along with monster movie lyrics – the set was an absolute joy. This was freaky tiki, cocktail chaos a go-go: Killerbilly has arrived! Do not miss Hellfire Devilles if you get chance to see them. Main stage next time, please.
Although happily installed as Pentre Fest regulars, Bad Earth have had anything but a comfortable couple of years. With the band reduced to just founder member Geordie at one point, the addition of new members Karl and Ben has reinvigorated this band beyond belief. Big, fast, dirty, non-stop biker rock that would make my old mate Lemmy very proud indeed, Bad Earth played brilliantly and performed a highlight set. The term “power trio” does not do justice here: more like “annihilation trio”. I wore my Bad Earth t-shirt ‘cos I’m a fanboy, you can fuck objective journalism sky high.
My first experience of these guys and they were intense, with a capital “fucking hell mate, who just punched my teeth out?”. Originally slated to appear earlier, Wrath of Man were delayed due to a horde of Visigoths on the A55 (Bad Earth moved their own set to accommodate). The Wrath encapsulate a steaming metal cauldron of brutal riff and thrashy ferocity, topped with growling vocals that suddenly bloom into melodically sung choruses. Uncompromising, surprising and you should check them out, like now.
RIFF OVERLOAD! Quick, pals – jump on Al’s Master Charger fun bus, we’re starting a club for MC fanboys and I’ve saved you all a seat! I’d listened to Master Charger before, but never seen them live – and oh, what beauty I did behold. Sludgier than a dirty bath, doomier than the Goat of Mendes, we sold our souls for Master Charger and they gave us a blinding set of fuzzy, scuzzy rock. Seriously supreme, this trio destroyed all before them – afterward, I destroyed their merch table because yes, I bought bloody everything! I’m not pissing about, Master Charger were AMAZING.
And that’s it. More soon, I hope. As always, major respect to Fozzy, Beany and crew for making this happen. Please check out the bands above and share the love.
Hello there! Remember me? It’s me, that bloke who occasionally reviews albums for Ever Metal and spins ropey old yarns about rock’n’roll. Yeah, him. Sorry I’ve been absent for a while, had a few things on my all-you-can-eat buffet plate recently. More about that another time (if the lawyers allow me). For now, recline in your favourite easy chair, and let’s review. With me? Good.
Right then, bit of a mammoth task, this one. “Live in the Mojave Desert” is actually a series of five albums, each recorded live (of course) amongst the sand and rocks of the Californian desert. It’s probably like Star Trek, when Kirk and crew are roaming around the cliffs and valleys – but in the dark, and with guitars and lights and stuff – and no one dies (hopefully).
Up first in my sequence of albums is the legendary Earthless, a band who should need no introduction. I listened to their offering whilst on a trip to North Wales; sadly the surf was flat, but the sonic musings of this three piece fitted perfectly the rolling roads between green valleys and big skies. In the land of druids and standing stones, witches and warriors, this was a perfect soundtrack. The songs are a journey in themselves, awash with psychedelic Hendrix style explorations. Only three songs, but they’re plenty lengthy and offer huge scope. It’s actually quite beautiful. (9/10)
Next on the list was Mountain Tamer, a band I’m not familiar with previously, but a cool name. And a cool name goes a long way with me. The Mountain Tamer sound is raw and in-your-face, with mighty, meaty riffs that clunk around in full-on doom style. There’s also a mind expanding, trippy element to their music, leaving me with the impression of Black Flag in a collision with Hawkwind. This unique approach is best exemplified by stand out tracks “Black Noise” and “Scorched Earth”, but it’s all damn fine. (8/10)
An offering in this series from my old buddies Nebula was very welcome, their brand of psych drenched sci-fi hard rock being something I’m somewhat partial to. This is the album with the most obviously “live” feel – not that it’s sloppy at all, the very occasional tiny imperfections and wall of fuzz give a genuine and celebratory vibe. Opening track “To the Centre” is a feedback drenched, blistering explosion. “Giant” is another standout track with a bouncing, crazy gonzo riff. (8/10)
Spirit Mother are another band I’ve not heard before, and they were a real surprise. Their first song, “Tonic (Exodus Inc)” is straight off the soundtrack of some forgotten Italian/Turkish 1970s horror movie. The band take the standard desert/doom rock and add violin, and everything veers off in a totally unexpected direction. From mournful 70s rock on “Ether” to creating their own genre of gothic Spaghetti Western (“Dead Cells”), it’s like Morricone on peyote orchestrating The Exorcist. Strangely beguiling. (8.5/10)
The album I listened to last in the collection was the debut release of STÖNER, the very aptly named stoner rock “supergroup” which features Brant Bjork (Kyuss, Fu Manchu, solo etc) and Nick Oliveri (Kyuss, QOTSA, Mondo Generator etc etc). With Brant’s drummer, Ryan Güt whacking the tubs. As a fan of these rogues’ other bands, I was definitely curious about this release. No fear here: this is exactly what I hoped it would be: desert rock royalty. “Rad is Rad” features a relentless, rolling bassline that drags the listener along on a head-nodding journey whilst Brant croons in his laid-back manner. The big, groovy bass continues in “The Older Kids”, and the tracks develop a trancelike vibe as it progresses. And strap yourself in for the final song, “Tribe/Fly Girl” – over 13 minutes that will melt your eyeballs. Definitive. (9/10)
That’s it: five albums, five bands, and a mind-blowing excursion into the remote desert valleys. Whether showcasing how it should be done, or abducting the listener in a smoke-filled UFO to be probed in new realms, these live collections are a trip.
Here’s a ton of links! Click away for more info on this awesome music…
For this review of “Salvation, If You Need…”, the second album from UK stoner rock titans 1968, I promise that there will be no messing about, no silly stories, no nonsense whatsoever. I’m not even drinking. Rather, I will endeavour to write a serious review that treats this album with the respect it deserves. Not enough respect to get the article written on schedule, mind; but hey – I never said I was perfect.
Anyone familiar with 1968 from their previous efforts will not be disappointed to learn that the band’s strengths are in full flow here. Thankfully, they’ve also pushed boundaries and explored their psychedelic tendencies further than ever before. Witness opening track “Railroad Boogie”, which teases a funky Blaxploitation groove before unleashing the glorious big riff sound that we expect.
Comparing 1968 to Kyuss is far too obvious and lazy. Jimi Ray’s voice has some of that gruff John Garcia sound (with a little later-period TSOL vocalist Joe Wood), though his vocals have matured to a sincere, soulful timbre. See also, guitarist Sam Orr: schooled in Sabbath riffology and Lizzy attitude, here his Hendrix aspirations are allowed to fly unrestrained. Magnificent washes of sound cascade and add colour everywhere, without being obtrusive.
“Blackwing” is the highlight for me: a refrain that’ll slip into your ears and lodge there. It’s pointless trying to remove it. Whether happy accident or hard slog, this is an epic riff. “Eastern Wind” follows a similar path, but offers enough of its own controlled chaos to stand on its own two feet.
Tom Richards’ bass warms up “Here It Lies” and expertly keeps the vibe dialled on a grungy, early Soundgarden pace. The raw, unrefined blues of “Small Victories” and “God Bless” also allow drummer Dan Amati to show he can play refined and delicate, as well as thundering and determined.
Yes, 1968 are undoubtedly still inspired by the classic rock of the late 60s/early 70’s, but we’re also drinking beers in Satan’s Dive Bar, somewhere in Seattle, with a jukebox that’s stuck on Badmotorfinger. And some Budgie, too, based on the solid cover of that band’s “Guts” that shows up here.
Look, I’ve tried to be serious for once, and I hope you appreciate it, reader. “Salvation, If You Need…” is a truly magnificent piece of work. I’ve been playing it for ages and it hasn’t aged. I’m still discovering little delights everywhere. It has scale and pace that other bands don’t dare trifle with. A contender for Album of the Year, so long as I can get hold of the imminent vinyl release.
Now, who wants to hear about the time Ozzy, Belinda Carlisle and me gate-crashed Venom’s Satanic picnic?
A slow build of distortion, punctuated by air raid sirens, heralds the onslaught of “Bellweather”, the first track on the latest Spelljammer opus. These guys are in no rush. Instead, the listener sinks slowly into the mire, as first guitars and bass, then drums, stealthily enter. Over the course of six plus minutes, the track builds beautifully, setting the style for the album to follow.
Spelljammer are from Stockholm, Sweden – and comprise Niklas Olsson (bass and vocals); Robert Sörling (guitar) and Jonatan Rimsbo (drums). It’s been five long years since their last album, but now they’re back with a huge, ponderous collection of sludgy, doom laden music.
Second track, “Lake”, follows the hypnotic incline of the opener with a brutal riff and throaty vocals, before descending into a medium paced headbanger. This track nicely encapsulates the contrasts between heavy, thunderous ferociousness and trancelike wonderment.
The band composed these songs in the seclusion of a remote house in the country. The various shifting sections of the songs obviously reflect that concentrated effort, with a perfect ebb and flow. Sections wind intricately between the monstrous and the calm.
“Among the Holy” starts with a creeping pace before erupting into the album’s biggest rocker. The title track opens with a sample from some obscure horror movie, and I need to know which! After that, it’s crawling doom which picks up speed a little in a Sabbathy manner – complete with distorted vocals.
Talking of Sabbath, “Peregrin” feels like one of those Tony Iommi instrumentals on “Master of Reality”. It’s actually quite wonderful. Finally, “Silent Rift” is over ten minutes of all that’s gone before, ramped up even higher. The pace is slow, there’s no haste, Spelljammer take their time and let the music grow and breathe.
The listener will also need to take their time and truly absorb this album. Stick on your ear goggles, turn the lights down low and bask in the inventiveness. “Abyssal Trip” is a record that’s been carefully composed and nurtured. The enjoyment here is in the journey and all its interwoven elements.
As we’re talking of jam, I’m reminded of an episode with my old Black Sabbath mates. We were at legendary Rockfield studios in Wales, and following a late night in the studio and an even later nights boozing, the band were relaxing on the lawns on a gorgeous summer day. Bill fell asleep on the grass, and Ozzy decided to take the remains of the strawberry jam from breakfast and smear it all over Bill’s beard. Sure enough, ten minutes later, Bill woke with a scream – brushing wasps from his face. He jumped up and ran to a nearby pond, jumping in face first. When he emerged, Bill looked like a Sasquatch. He spent days rubbing ointment on his face and was finding dead insects in his beard for ages.
It had been a good 18 months since I last attended a gig, and leaving the house to join a throng of fans enjoying live music seemed like a very strange proposition. I’d actually forgotten all about the concert, as tickets had been booked long before lockdown. Heading up to the Tiv was both exciting and, if I’m honest, a little unnerving.
On entering the venue, it was just like old times: a great vibe as the crowd drank and awaited the bands. As life was getting back to normal, the Goths had crept from the shadows near and far, ready to witness Fields of the Nephilim.
The support band, The Faces of Sarah, were already attempting to breathe life into the evening. Unfortunately, and unusually for the Tiv, they could hardly be heard. I wasn’t too far away, but could barely make out the sound of the instruments. The guitarist looked to be going for it, throwing shapes like a crazed gibbon, but to no avail. The dual lead vocals were extremely impressive, however the poor sound made them come across like an AOR outfit.
Had my old copy of the Usborne Book of Goths been on my person, I could’ve ticked off several obvious dark rock tropes from the moment Fields of the Nephilim took the stage. There was so much dry ice the band could barely be seen, just a group of grey silhouettes in dusty cowboy hats. They begin in true over the top, cinematic style with “The Harmonica Man”. Atmosphere is poured on with no restraint.
And that’s exactly what I paid my money for: I wanted the full experience without any subtlety, and by God, that’s what the audience got.
FOTN erupted into “Preacher Man” and we all loved it. There’s no onstage frontman/audience banter (till the very end) and that, again, is just how I expected it. The songs bounce along like little Goth demons knowing Halloween isn’t far away.
“Moonchild” was an obvious highlight, with its slow, moody intro leading into the searing guitar and rumbling bass. The whole set is all treat, no tricks – I got the feeling that this is exactly how FOTN would’ve performed 30 years ago. The whole set is absolutely note perfect and full of every excess that the audience could devour.
I’d also forgotten how much I enjoy live music. This evening was a fantastic reminder of what we’ve been missing – can’t wait for more.