Sometimes it makes things more interesting knowing nothing about support bands and it allows you to go into watching them without any preconceived notions. Both the ones on the bill tonight were unheard of as far as I was concerned so I waited to see whether they were going to be hit or miss. Puffer are up first and they certainly puffed themselves up in the noise department giving us a thick wall of it full of jangly guitars, punishing bass and a bit of a Jesus And Mary Chain sounding shredding fury. Things settled down a bit after this and by the third number there was a bit of a depressive edge lingering and vocally some wails that were a bit reminiscent of The Cure at their most Gothic sounding. Just as I was getting used to this they abrasively battered away again taking everything up a notch and hitting us with reverb. Some Bauhausian guitar flurries echoed around and they were definitely ticking the right boxes getting a few dancing around, even though the venue was pretty empty still. It was almost like gothic garage rock, kicking out the jams and releasing the bats from the belfry in equal measures. Adding some sluggish and thuggish grunge into the mix they had plenty of ideas merged up in one fluid, seething miasma of sound and for me this was definitely a hit.
It was time to dose up for Manflu who having just found their homepage describe themselves as Russian Prostitute Rock! Ok, well focus was on a female singer dressed up in slutty Daryl Hannah Blade Runner mode and a bunch of eccentric looking cohorts. It was all a bit avant-cabaret with quirky thick bass, an eclectic vocal stance and plenty of on stage grooving. It was different, I’ll give them that! Vocally I guess everyone is going to hear something different, indeed discussing it with someone proved this. For me there were bits of Bjork, Hazel O Connor and Lena Lovitch all mashed up here along with some evident Gaga mentalism. Songs were kind of lost up their own collective arses in the process and I got a distinct impression that they were simply trying to be too clever for their own good. Prone to bouts of deranged wailing and skronky rhythmic thrusts I guess they were an acquired taste. There was no faulting the performance but it was like being laid up with the flu itself and a box of multi-coloured tissues pulling them out one at a time and never knowing quite what colour you were going to get next. A long guitar and drum passage was particularly obtuse and unnecessary and I had by this point had more than enough. Put them on at some trendy Shoreditch watering hole supporting Mr Bungle and the crowd will no doubt lap them up but for me, miss!
I would say expectations were running high for the first date of this Christian Death 30th anniversary of Catastrophe Ballet tour but the half empty venue kind of suggests otherwise. Historically original singer Rozz Williams hung himself back in 1988 and it is left for Valor who wrote most of the music on the album as well as performing on it to bring it back to life along with long-time collaborator Maitri and drummer Jason. It has always been a contentious issue among long-time fans of the band about rights to the name and no doubt a few were ruffled by the fact that this album was even going to be revisited live. I am not one of them and was looking forward to this. It’s a suitably near apocalyptic build before the precise drumming hones in The trio on stage are certainly a spectacle with Maitri in a bridal gown with full trail and the gents dressed up suitably dapper. Things really hone in particularly with ‘Sleepwalk’ and the drums thunder as that classic death rock groove is furrowed away, Maitri’s strident yells add to it and it’s a meaty bounce around point of proceedings. Valor tells us how much he loves London and the band go off for a costume change coming back less encumbered and to wrap us in further numbers from this sinuous and sultry album. It sounded pretty full on at times, more than I would have expected as it’s quite a dreamy, sleepy album in essence and they did a good job with the material as a trio. The audience what there was of it was definitely on the subdued side though. Valor came out of his shell more and it became somewhat obvious that he had been partaking in a few backstage beverages as he informed us the video projector was not working and we should take some drugs and imagine what it would have looked like. Taking another break one got the feeling that things were not going 100% to plan.
I thought the second part of the show was meant to be unveiling new tracks from forthcoming album The Root Of All Evil. Maybe not as we were off to American Inquisition with ‘Seduction Thy Destruction’ Maitri again nailing it vocally and commanding the performance. Chaos was definitely beginning to get its claws in, Valor apologised to us saying that they had only rehearsed the once before the tour and he even managed to miss his cue at one point and things were definitely taking a turn for the surreal. One song I did not recognise sounded particularly full on and metallic not sure if it was perhaps a new one? By comparison ‘Worship Along The Nile’ is slinky and sultry but leaves scars when its vocal claws are fully extended. Valor goes on the defensive admitting he’s been fucking up and shocks by mentioning his predecessor being a Nazi and fucking children! Did I really hear that right, obviously no love lost there? The old favourites are fired out, ‘This Is Heresy’ sounding deafening and the in between speeches seem to be getting odder and the other two band members kind of look like they want to get the hell off stage. Valor says he hopes to get some tonight and Maitri looks daggers at him. Thankfully they do manage to get through ‘The Church Of No Return’ and no doubt as the tour continues and paces are set things can only improve. You know what though? So many shows are clinical and by the numbers, rehearsed down to a point that it becomes sterile with every show the same and this gave things a spontaneity for once. The band never short changed their audience in the slightest, this was no 15 minute collapse into a pool of vomit show it was just one that was a bit chaotic and anarchic. Punk rock through and through!
(Review and photos © Pete Woods)