More doom, I must be mad but the headliners have not played in some time and are one of the only bands that would have got me out tonight after Doom Over London. We are in the posher part of Islington and the Assembly Hall has started putting on a fair few bands recently and have everyone from Cult of Luna to Hawkwind coming up in the next few weeks. First impressions are it’s a decent size and fine when not too crammed (apparently holding 600 downstairs with 200 on the balcony), the old style toilets are very nice and there is very good access for the less mobile, something lacking in a lot of venues. Also the floor is very springy every time someone walks past.
First up are 40 Watt Sun who I missed at the weekend so had been saving for today. Although I have plenty of respect for Patrick Walker and his previous work in Warning and The River and know that this band are revered, I also am aware they are probably not really going to be my bag. I guess they are a bit too emotionally wrought and on the soporific side with their soft and largely acoustic take on things. As we take position it is obvious that they have many in the audience deeply moved by their rich atmospheres as the trio get genteelly underway. We are told that we are getting a song from their forthcoming album and I go and get a drink to have something to weep into. Having discovered the venue is charging a record breaking £5 a can there are plenty of tears shed, it’s going to be a very sober night. It’s a fairly good match allowing us to taste the misery of what is yet to come and a short set that doesn’t entirely drain us, it even gets upbeat a bit but just as it does that’s the end.
Recent album ‘Winter’ has just put Houston based band Oceans Of Slumber on my radar as it was released via Century Media. Oddly enough looking back I see their first self released album Aetherial got reviewed by us but must have passed me by. I think this is their first jaunt to the UK before they pop of around some select Euro dates supporting MDB and I was keen to attempt getting to grips with them as the album had proved quite eclectic. They are certainly far from Slumbersome but after 40WS pretty much anything would have been. They do have some slower parts to entice you into their cosmos and allow the vocals to seep over you but just as you get into this they blaze into things and deliver a hefty wallop that’s dynamic and packs a real punch. At full leash singer Cammie Gilbert has a belting voice but she also is fully able to soften it down and harmoniously delight too. Despite the album title it’s not all frosty as we are bathed in ‘Sunlight’ with the singer crooning away quite delightfully. It’s a slow burning ballad but they follow it up showing the other side of the coin with drums thwacking and the full sassy impact of the vocals powering away. Male vocals also join in and growl and there’s plenty going on in the dense song-craft. You can’t particularly pigeonhole this lot, the easy way is under the ‘progressive metal’ tag but they go and thrash it up and deliver a burst of what can only be described as pure death metal here too. From there it’s down an acoustic route with classical sounding piano work and I think it’s fair to say they do perplex a certain percentage of the audience. I wish I could say it was all good but no matter how great your voice is, covering Nights In Wight Satin is never going to go down well with me and I cringed as quickly as I hit the forward button hearing it on album. A ‘Moody’ but not good finale, to an otherwise interesting set.
I had been tipped off to expect an old school set before the show and that we certainly get along with a healthy dose off their newest album, tracks from which many were witnessing here for the first time live. Starting off with the unmistakable clamour of ‘Your River’ violinist Shaun Macgowan really making his mark, My Dying Bride instantly entrap us with raw emotion. Aaron comes on and spends time acting like a man really battling all manner of demons, wringing hands clutching rosary beads and at times curling into a ball on stage never missing a note. It’s like witnessing a man about to meet his maker but doing so with utter contempt as the bass and weeping violin mournfully welcomes us into ‘From Darker Skies.’ Andrew Craighan strums along to our stage left while Lena Abe hits the bottom end with hefty bass along with Calvin Robertshaw hidden in near darkness on our right. Hitting the steady beat at the back is Dan Mullins and the richness is enhanced here by the swirling keyboards wafting around the track. Tortured and emotional Aaron introduces us to the first new song ‘And My Father Left Forever’ the autobiographical nature of which must be really difficult for him to share in front of so many people. It’s impact is just as impassioned to the rest of us and no doubt everyone feels a certain degree of loss as this wrenches our very hearts especially as it leads towards ‘A Funeral’ with little chance of a happy wake in its passing. Slow passionate and brooding, the singer croons on top of the monitor in front of the stage, face lit in red as he is caught captive in the glare of a hundred mobile phones pointed in his direction. The new songs sound excellent and indeed we do really ‘Feel The Misery’ in them although this particular number allows the drums to bruise and the instrumental tumult gets the crowd bouncing away on the dance floor.
Seemingly snapping out of it Aaron addresses the audience with a fair amount of humour informing that for the second part of the set things were going to get rowdier both musically and vocally. Sure enough the rasps are in and the croons momentarily out as the poison kisses us with The Prize Of Beauty, the darkness going up tenfold and allowing some good head-banging action along with it. A track that I certainly had not anticipated is ‘Erotic Literature’ an aged thrashing tale of death with full on growls and hateful distemper, it sounds absolutely immense as its roars cut through the venue. Another guitar tone is struck later on, a song we are told needs no introduction and indeed that sound unravels through the whole ‘The Cry Of Mankind’ wrapping itself tightly around us as we are caught to sway about to this classic number. Set wise it’s excellent, although I have my fingers crossed for a personal favourite. Sure enough I am rewarded as we are heralded into the wailing fog of the choppy ‘She Is The Dark and I doubt I’m the only one losing myself in this one. It spreads fever and suffering and touches as few songs can, proving a mighty and rousing finale. The band don’t do encores but are not getting away without one, Aaron saying as it’s England they will make an exception to make us fuck off home although we may wish we had not stuck around. Indeed I found the downbeat ‘Like A Perpetual Funeral’ a bit too much of an endurance test after a solid week of doom and decided after a while to drag my wracked and ruined self off to the station and home. Needless to say after the event I discover they followed it up with ‘Symphonaire’ to which I can only say bugger! Apart from that, a fantastic set all round and if they are passing by in Europe you’d be a fool to miss the show.
(Review and photos © Pete Woods)