Embarking on an intensive UK tour and playing some very intimate shows in odd places Christian Death have managed to drag me to no man’s land in hipster Hoxton tonight. Enveloped in a foul chocolate vape cloud from some beardy tosspot within seconds of getting out the station a search for an off licence was never more necessary. Avoiding bars with gorillas on the door and places selling crunchy kale leaf salad the venue is just around the corner from the old Terrorizer magazine office in a canteen pizza sort of place and I was not the only one turning up thinking how surreal it all was and balking at the £4.60 a pint price tag.
Time killed, it was a while later when support band Gnob took to the stage. Having had a chat with them earlier I was told they were a fairly new act with a member who was in Puffer who had last supported Christian Death when they played the Garage. The trio bring some swooshing space laden sounds with them and start to shake the place with big bass grooves reminding a bit of Supernaut at first impression. This had a stoner ballast with a bit of a fragrant psyche feel about it. Not the obvious match for what was to come but the audience seemed more than happy to give it a go and quickly got into things. Vocals are clean and harmonic and went well with the muscular grooves and powerful drum bombast. The spacey fluttering sounds took us to space rock territory and there was a definite Hawkwind vibe about it all. Wahing guitar and some classic flare shuffling riffs came next and the band were really getting into things now with the occasional vocal parts having plenty of heart and soul about them. They made me want to smoke something but I was not going to try and find any of that around these parts as no doubt the greens would be more likely of the super-food variety! Hitting the stratosphere with guitars seething like a swarm of locusts Gnob took things up a notch going interstellar before slowing to a doomy morass with some blues laden vocals. This had the spirit of the 70’s through and through and although more in line with the likes of bands such as Graveyard, Zodiac and Blues Pills than any gothic rockers they won over plenty of new fans by the sound of it tonight.
Last time they played I said that Christian Death were chaotic and a bit all over the shop but tonight was a completely different affair. The audience suddenly swelled as they came on and it was a completely controlled show we got musically, one that was note perfect from start to finish. I had not realised that new album ‘Root of All Evilution’ is not actually out on CD until Dec via The End Records and had wanted to buy it, alas the vinyl was all sold out too. Still tonight we were up close and personal and getting a big chunk of it played in front of us. It seemed that plenty of people here knew the tracks too and were not put off by so much new material being played in the slightest. Thankfully it seemed that it was genuine fans of the band comprising of the crowd here tonight. Valor swirls onto the stage in a cloak of pure Narnia on our stage right with Maitri in an eye popping outfit to our left as we are introduced into their Garden and more than a little tempted by what is to come. Solidly ponding away at the back Jason Frantz takes off with the rhythmic thrust as things begin to sprawl out. Valor’s spoken word parts sound like a doomsday prophet and send a shiver down the spine and imagery is relayed on a projector at the back to make things all the more heady. “Are you ready for the rapture” Valor roars and ‘This Cross’ is carried across the stage with Maitri’s harmonious and witchy vocals mesmerising, getting us swaying along to the beat. Completely caught up in the cult by now the vocal interplay had us in its grip and the sound is thick, sprawling serpent like out the speakers as the twist and turn of ‘Tar Black Liquid’ coats us like treacle. We are given a talk on the evil behind the new album and Valor seems in a really good mood, clearly enjoying being able to play some new material at last. As I said on reviewing the album it’s more about spreading atmosphere and beguiling than going for the throat, the one exception here is ‘Illuminazi’ which gallops away and sounds like it could well be a new anthem for the band. By complete contrast a bit later the doomy touch of ‘Forgiven’ sounds absolutely gorgeous with Maitri really bewitching like Eve in the Garden of Eden. All that was missing was an apple!
The second part of the set was older songs and a good mix of classic material which needless to say was welcomed eagerly by a crowd who had shown utmost patience and respect. The heavy chug of The Drowning is ripe with some gothic squealing guitars and an apocalyptic beat driving it away and as good as the new material is this took us back and sounded excellent. A ‘Narcissus Metamorphosis’ had the audience looking on the point of wanting to bop along and join in with the “love in” of the lyrics but they were not on the whole prepared to go for it which was a bit of a shame as the place could have turned into a full on party zone. There’s seduction but no destruction and Maitri asked us the question we had all wondered if this was a normal place for a show? Apparently Valor hadn’t had a drink for hours and was cranky she told us; still he seemed in great spirits as they battered into the seminal ‘Church Of No Return.’ More surprises were to come as not only did they play ‘This Is Heresy’ but they had the original guitarist come on and do it with them, there was no following that, not even Maitri coming on naked, something Valor had teased us with earlier. First out the door though was Valor himself to stand and chat and have photos taken with anyone who wanted to. You really don’t find that happening at the end of a show often and I’m sure it made plenty of people’s night all the more memorable.
(Review and photos © Pete Woods)