You could tell this was going to be a busy gig, just before the doors opened the queue snaked down the stairs, across the downstairs bar area and practically out the door. Luckily we all just about managed to fit in as Colchester mob Jøtnarr took their place on the small stage in the venue. I have seen the band before and tried to remember the experience as the power trio began to shake and quake the joint with some boisterous and rugged furrowing. Now certain places describe them as being of the blackened crust variety but seriously they seem a mixture of far much more, like a mongrel dog (and that’s not meant to be derogatory) with shades of just about all breeds running through it. One thing is for sure they are pretty energetic. I got more than a shade of sickly sludge about them and as they gave it hell for leather they jammed garage style and let it all hang out which the audience seemed to appreciate as they had heads banging in appreciation at the front. As things progressed there are elements of noise rock and even some bellowing near hardcore vocals and frenzied riffs to match. Songs are not overstated and are short sharp and abrasive. Apparently it is vocalist Chris Moore’s birthday and he urged us to get some merch as a present before they flew into another Unsane attack on their instruments. There are some acoustic parts, add a bit of ‘post’ to their genre armoury, which gave a bit of breathing space amidst the frenzy and plenty of groove before they finished leaving everyone a little dizzy.
Even after a short break that giddy feeling was not going to leave us in a hurry as although an entirely different beast Londoners Shrines are no easier to get your head around either but bands who don’t stick to tried and tested rules are surely all the more interesting? They musically march on with a heavy stomp, guitars go into a melody that is strangely reminiscent of The Who before they progressively bring up the tempo on opening number ‘Of The Wolf.’ A death grunt is belched out and things fly into a meandering technical flow that’s near impossible to pin down. With Sam Loynes at the front you might expect this lot are going to have some sort of crossover with the likes of Voices, Antichrist Imperium and even Akercocke but apart from an unwillingness to do things in any classifiable way and the odd bit of gurning that’s not the case at all. Shrines are very much their own entity and are not afraid to romp off into songs with a bit of a post-punk beat and take us off to strange places indeed. Add a touch of Indie naval gazing with a solid metallic backbone and copious amounts of shredding, some distinct noir-esque atmospheric parts and you have a band pretty much touching all bases. One second there’s a feeling of doom and gloom and the next you find yourself buoyed up with some jagged rifferama. With plenty of twitchy energy towards the conclusion we had got a bit of everything again here.
It’s slightly odd but over the road at the Underworld (and apparently nowhere near as busy as here) Of The Wand And The Moon are playing and one of their supports are Partisan listed as having ex members of Oathbreaker in their ranks. Well obviously with Wiegedood we have ties with all 3 players being in them too although apparently that particular arm of the Church Of Ra has been put on hold. There’s an air of anticipation in the now packed venue, I suspect many are seeing the band for the first time. Having encountered them live several times I know just how potent they are and look at the bank of effects pedals by guitarist Gilles foot and prepare myself for the material from their fantastic trilogy of albums De doden hebben het goed. Crunch, crack, clash wallop, everything explodes with a flattening weight behind it and the Dead are well and truly woken from nocturnal slumber. The driving pace is second to none, acoustic interludes bleak and compelling, oozing atmosphere and even in the heat making us shiver. The quieter moments are respected and you can hear a pin drop as everyone catches breath before the next massive assault. The venue can hardly contain the sound as the band shred and seethe virulently. Somehow I manage to squeeze stage right and get some shots of vocalist, guitarist Levy as he drips sweat and furrows away. If I had one complaint it is that the vocals could be louder but that could be due to my vantage point, I was rooted to the spot and not moving. New songs like Prowl are fantastic and every bit as good as on album, the trio are so on spot and precise they are like a well-oiled machine.
Levy simply mutters, almost to himself between numbers, perhaps it is some sort of ritual to prepare himself and there are now some catcalls from drunker members of the audience, “shut the fuck up” is his prompt reply, interaction is not part of the show it is all about delivering might and glory which they do in style. I had waited for that kick drum on the third album title track and was not disappointed as it felt like it kicked me in the ribs like a horse. Speaking of powerhouse drummer Wim, when he gets the chance to take a pause I notice he is twitching full of nervous energy and frankly looking sick as a dog, at one point dribbling a stream of spit. He doesn’t miss a beat though and is utterly rabid as he batters away. The allotted time for finishing approaches and we are all shattered but invigorated, the vocalist looks at the drummer, they nod and an agreement seems made, curfew forgotten they fly into a finale and give every last bit of energy that they have. This was the last of the UK dates and London got an absolute shit-kicking as I have heard did the other places on the tour that they made their mark on. Falling onto a train with stacks of Rolling Bones fans on I could only commiserate; most will probably never witness an intimate show like this but perhaps that is for the best.
Review and Photos Pete Woods