Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Heathen chemistry


I love intimate gigs like this - trying to spot who will emerge from the crowd at some point and take to the stage when nearly everyone looks like they could be in a band.

Zumbar are four unassuming enough chaps, and their set is equally unassuming, displaying a predictable penchant for Black Sabbath and doom rock and a rather less predictable interest in Spanish guitar licks. Unfortunately, then, that they labour under a truly dreadful name (yes, Zumbar really does exist, in Manchester) and that there are difficulties with the monitors, meaning the discipline, tightness and perfect timing demanded by the changes of pace are often conspicuous by their absence.

Speaking of absence, Thread have had to pull out, and in their place we get Caerphilly foursome Circa Regna Tonat. As their name ("Around The Throne Thunder Roars") and their friendship with Swansea bruisers Taint suggests, Circa Regna Tonat make one hell of a racket. Propelled by some awesome drumming, their schizophrenic aural assault is at times overpowering, especially the song featuring two basses and the repeated scream of "You're gonna die!". The only disappointment is the new slower song, which just goes to prove they're best when on the attack.

Truckers Of Husk are an excellent example of why it's so dangerous to judge a book by its cover. We watch them set up, anticipating a jarring set of emo froth, only to be astounded by a series of compellingly odd and incredibly complicated instrumentals (think the weirder and more experimental end of the Dischord roster, perhaps - Q And Not U?). Bassist Hywel Evans has played with local heroes Jarcrew and former Mclusky man Andy Falkous in Future Of The Left, but it's not entirely clear whether he's actually on stage. For tonight's gig they're a threepiece, you see, and this means audacious mid-song instrument swapping to make use of the additional drumkit, but even more impressive is the fretwork of the salmon pink-jumpered guitarist - virtuoso, but without the arrogant ignorance of all else around it.

How will headliners Noxagt (it's pronounced "Nox-att", apparently) follow that? Quite simple: by blowing them - and us - away with sheer force.

The Norwegians may just be the heaviest band I've ever seen live - a band who don't bat an eyelid when, barely halfway through the first song, a huge shard of drumstick shears off and narrowly avoids spearing the diminutive guitarist. Listening to them isn't like being hit by a 10 tonne truck. Neither is it like being run over by a steamroller. No, it's more like being hit and run over by a 10 tonne truck carrying a load of steamrollers. And behind the wheel of the truck is Rik Waller, with Meat Loaf and Bella Emberg (oh, look her up...) as co-drivers. And all three have just eaten a four course meal, each course consisting of an anvil.

All the more remarkable, then, that the third (self-titled) album they're currently touring is their first with a guitarist - before a viola was integral to their unholy din.

The unearthly rumble is virtually continuous, only the odd infrequent gap allowing pause for breath. It's not hard to see why they call it "sludge". If you boil metal down (assuming it's in a liquid state to start with - Science Ed), then this is what you're left with - primal, pummelling, dissonant, brutal. There's a motorik groove to the songs - admittedly the sort of motorik groove that makes you feel like you're Rik Waller, stuffed on a four-course anvil meal and driving a 10 tonne truck loaded with steamrollers and an equally stuffed Meat Loaf and Bella Emberg squeezed into the passenger seats, but a motorik groove nonetheless.

It's to Noxagt's credit that they know the value of keeping the onslaught brief - it's all about maximum impact rather than vicious mercilessness (take note Winnebago Deal). I left the house with the words "Don't go burning any churches" ringing in my ears - but, by the end, I'm thinking that if they go on much longer, I'll have ringing ears and an unquenchable desire to buy some petrol and a box of matches on the way home. It doesn't come to that, quite.

So, a marvellous joint venture from Forecast and Lesson No. 1 - and all for a measly £6, too. With this headfuck psychosludge you are really spoiling us...

2006: fast becoming the year I rediscovered metal.


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