|Venue:||Manchester Moho Live|
A queue stretching half the way down Tib Street is not a regular sight at Moho, but this is Irish black metal warriors Primordial's first Manchester date for 18 years. A group of tourists dragging suitcases along look on at the throng with curiosity. Four emo kids come up to me and a girl with bright henna'd hair asks “Wow...who's playing?” Rather cruelly, I reply with “Black Veil Brides and Chelsea Grin,” amplifying her already exaggerated giddy excitement.
Once I'm in, Winterfylleth take the very early start in their stride. People across England are still eating their tea, but they drag their boreal moods into this subterranean basement. I think Black Metal inspired by the history and landscapes of England is a great, romantic idea and the band's output is hugely impressive, though I wondered whether it could come off as wispy and unsubstantial in a live setting. It doesn't. The material from re-released debut album 'The Ghost of Heritage' nods to that vital, solid punk-as-fuck lineage to add extra spikiness. The sound is terrific, the riffs are evil the band are snare-tight and my Red Stripe tastes of dead leaves. Fair to say I was pretty blown away.
If Winterfylleth's vision of Albion is a Thomas Bewick woodcut, then Hell's is the accompanying illustrations to the Horrible Histories series. There's no doubt that musically and visually they test my own limits of taste and decency, but their theatrical old English metal is treated to a roaring reception tonight and it's a really enjoyable 45 minutes. David Bower is a frontman with all the possessed animation of Arthur Brown, whether bouncing along manically, unleashing falsetto brimstone or slowly emerging from dry ice in cape and bird skull mask to usher in 'Plague and Fyre'. At that moment, I may be pissing my sides, but my head is banging too. Sneap and Kev Bower deliver a consummate 'twin-axe attack' '82-style, in fretboard-slinging synchronicity with bassist Tony Speakman whom, in raggedly-applied corpsepaint, resembles a scone found on Benny Hill's bedside table. A rousing sermon, and I urge you to save your wretched soul with a visit to the Church of Hell.
“Are you with us?” Of course we are. Pausing to swig enthusiastically from a large bottle of something strong, Nemtheanga stalks the stage like a battle-hardened lion, then pours everything he has into that unparalleled heroic roar. The Manchester crowd occasionally need a gentle prod and poke from Primordial's talisman to go really, really mental, but it's not long before the place is a violent ocean of flailing hair, 'Bloodied Yet Unbowed' jerking tears and necks through the whole club. He recalls last year's troubled appearance at Bloodstock, and makes it very clear that “That's not gonna happen tonight.”
The 'Black Metal' tag doesn't do full justice to their defiant sound; the melodic Celtic touches add the affecting dimension which makes this band so substantial and heart-warming. Most of the time, you can raise your fist and actually SING along. The climactic spikes of drum blasts and unmuted guitar fog are executed sparingly, with sound judgment; when they arrive, I'm overpowered by the force. I've said before that such moments as these are when music really can 'transport' you, when that term ceases to be mere hyperbole and the immediate circumstantial environment dissolves. The set is peppered with these beautiful instants, and the doomed maelstrom of 'Empire Falls' is the crowning glory. They don't 'do' anally retentive or clever-clever. Devotion requires a strong heart and stomach. I take a look around and inhale the last embers of the evening; everywhere there are smiles. Music. You can trudge through weeks of indifference, months of worrying whether your mojo is on the slack. It's all worth it for a golden few hours.
Photos courtesy of the incomparable Iain Hawkins of cackblabbath.com
Posted: Tue 8 May 2012