This was always destined to be a bit of a squeeze but it’s a gig that we never even expected to happen especially after the untimely death of Lifelover’s B (Jonas Bergqvist) in 2011. Taking us by surprise though the group declared they had unfinished business and to celebrate their tenth anniversary and in memory of their departed band member they would be playing a couple of special shows. We were very surprised but also very lucky that one of these was going to be in London and not only that but members would intertwine over the evening and play sets by both Kall, the band who formed after Lifelover’s demise and Hypothermia another group fronted by Kim Karlsson who was going to be playing no less than three sets tonight. The 800 people attending on the Facebook event page translated to 340 advance tickets but what with those paying on the night and travelling from all over the place it was going to be incredibly busy.
1st up its Kall and band members perform some aerobic exercises on the stage (yep seriously) no doubt to get circulation flowing and prepare themselves for the performance. Karlsson unleashes a wretched scream and they are off forgoing angular and quirky rhythms with a pounding drumbeat driving it all along. There’s a bit of room at the front but that’s not going to last long as more people arrive, those in attendance already quickly found themselves nodding along hit by the stridency of the material and the infectious melodies within it. Vocals loudly penetrated the ears and it was certainly brash and full bodied. With two guitarists also in Lifelover, even if like me you had not heard material by Kall before there is a definite sense of familiarity about it. It’s also obvious straight away that this lot can really play rather expertly as the flow into a free-fall state but injecting it with added chaos and feedback all co-ordinating perfectly together. A saxophonist joins in for a couple of parts, we may not have got the full benefit of it in the mix but musically a sense of gloomy post urban alienation was exuded from the soundtrack etched vibe of the track, depressiveness and edgy angst with it having people nodding off like caught in the grip of filthy intravenous drugs. There’s patches of gorgeous guitar work and spiky charges with fist brawling intensity about them, hateful and contemptuous and at one point reminding a bit of The Fall. I guess that’s not 100% surprising when Lifelover at times are musically reminiscent of Half Man Half Biscuit to my head! It was like Lifelover without Lifelover songs in a way and the jagged riffs and barrelling clamour brought out the negativity perfectly with Kall proving an exceptional opening act.
Well I guess Eye Of Solitude are a slight round peg in a square hole, the London act not including any members of the other act’s but allowing them a breather. The rest of us were left to gasp for breath as they filled the venue with some particularly potent incense, lit candles on the stage and set about drowning us with their stifling brand of funeral doom. Playing in near darkness they brought a palpable atmosphere to things which was enhanced by many sampled (perhaps too many sampled) nuances to their sound such as strings and occasional symphonic embellishments. Huge gurgling roars and sluggish riffs had those that wanted to see them moving to the front and the others heading to the bar or out to smoke, pretty much dividing the crowd. Already drunken idiocy was setting in, in some quarters with one person stumbling over in front of the stage and then later seen launching a pint over people behind but more on that later. After a slow pounding build up the band suddenly burst into what resembles life for such an act and bring an undeniable sense of gravity and weight to proceedings. With a clash of snares and mighty roars the drums pick up the beat with sampled keyboards filling in the gaps between the spaces. Eye Of Solitude are undeniably good at what they do although they don’t exactly do anything that we have not heard before. There is power and depth behind the performance and some clean vocal parts have people swaying caught in their grasp. I kind of felt like I was marking time though and that they played a little too long for comfort and in fairness probably after the first few numbers didn’t pay them the attention they deserved. As a candle was snuffed out they continued to the scent of sulphur filling the air but I wandered off during the last couple of numbers and left them to it.
It’s sweaty inside but Hypothermia are obviously feeling the cold as Carlsson, Abrams and Cool (an apt name) take the stage pulling on what look like muslin body wraps. They take a while to warm up and I have to wonder if I will too having described last album Svartkonst which according to a scrap of paper they were playing the first three numbers off akin to watching paint dry. Once they got going the group’s jagged guitar Indie rifferama sound got people swaying heads but unfortunately rather than getting lighters out some goon decided grabbing an on stage candle would be an idea and seemingly pushed one of the photographers connected with the bands dangerously close to being set on fire. That was it for Carlsson who did a Henry Rollins, threw off his Cassock and stood looming over the crowd, shouting and swearing that the person had to leave the venue to the parting words “if you want to molest someone meet us outside and we will molest you.” Talk about drama but eventually by hook or crook said silly person was ejected and the band carried on, seemingly not thrown off stride and picking things up straight away. Back to the music and luckily I did find it much more upbeat live than on disc even if I did keep thinking of band’s around in the 80’s, I found things a lot more palatable here. Hypothermia seemed even more invigorated after the impromptu break and really hit a chunky groove which had us wriggling like fish caught on hooks. Perhaps a feeling of danger and anything could possibly happen had heightened things but nobody was likely to misbehave themselves that’s for sure. Apart from some throaty yells and screams the band are pretty much instrumental and at times took us into shoegazy 4AD land. I had to work my way back for some air and some people had the look of deer caught in headlights about them, completely mesmerised. Again it’s another mammoth set, the bands were not being rushed tonight but it was obviously too emo(tional) for some as I saw another dejected soul being led from the toilets and removed from the venue by security. The depressive strains of Melonkoli led into a final surge setting things up nicely for the main event.
So Lifelover for the first and probably last time. The droning intro has everyone on tenterhooks and Carlsson now wearing a bloody butchers coat looks like a demented cast member of Ichii The Killer as the band bounce their way into things in a driving and boisterous fashion. The sound is for want of a better word completely ‘thuggish,’ contorting subtler parts and with the vocals up high and loud making it all pretty damned brutal and getting fists pumped up straight away. There’s serious vocal reverb and it all adds to the overall quirky bounce of the songs such as ‘I Love To Hurt You’ A burst of accordion flies out of somewhere and samples invade the songs here and there, making it all the more sublime. Add to these piano parts by masked keyboard player R particularly effective on tracks from the legendary ‘Erotik’ album and wretched screams and howls from the vocalist and it’s all quite an overload of the senses. Having crammed in three albums on a listening session in the afternoon and arrived at the inebriated state necessary to really enjoy the music probably worked against me as far as getting anything resembling an idea of what they actually played into any sense of comprehension. Bits are recognised and the band keep up a beat that constantly shifts and mutates from one song quickly fired into the next. There are mellow down beat parts allowing us to nearly collapse before we are picked up by the next maddening flourish when everything piles back in. Convoluted riffs have everyone twitching away and we are rammed in like sardines watching Carlsson doing his odd on stage jigs. Somewhere amidst it all are Expandera, MS Salmonella, Nackskott and Androider. Everything’s a bit of a blur and it was rather annoying but rather than catch several night buses I had to cut things a bit short and missed the last quarter of an hour or so. Still the hangover and ringing ears the next morning along with some scrawled sodden notes reminded that it had been one of those shows that will linger and come back to me in spurts for quite some time to come. Thanks for the resurrection Lifelover now may you rest in peace!
(Review and photos © Pete Woods)