It’s not that often you find yourself at a show with just the one support band and no local acts cluttering up the bill. In a way it makes a refreshing change and by 8PM when things start everyone has managed to relax a little bit. But one doesn’t want to relax too much or tiredness can set in and I really wasn’t too sure about tonight’s match and whether it was going to be what we really wanted here.
Hangman’s Chair from France have a good reputation and indeed have garnered a couple of very positive album reviews on this very site. I can remember attempting to work my way through their last album Banlieue triste but giving up half way through not being enamoured by its genre mash up of ideas or the music which was just way too drawn out for my tastes. As they have said in the past with another album title ‘This Is Not Supposed to Be Positive’ but here it was our job to try and make the experience just that. Well the first thing that strikes from the quartet is that sound wise things are great and lighting is colourful in combination with the ballast and sense of motion in the music. By the second number there is some absolutely gorgeous shimmering and near gothic guitar textures but I also found that lethargy was beginning to set in a bit. Vocals are a bit on the nasal side taking out of comfort zone and the mix of doomy post-rock just began to grate and get a little too much on the wishy-washy side. There is too much naval-gazing about it and not enough bouts of turbulence although when the latter came they did provide a bit of a welcome electrifying jolt. Hangman’s Chair have a big sound and one that is designed for big arenas supporting the detritus of yesteryears grunge scene. There’s some LOA and Type O styled riffs that occasionally rise but hooks and songs just simply aren’t memorable and are oft left to meander and stew in their own blandness. On a festival line-up such as Amplified or Arctangent no doubt they would go down well but to be honest, supporting the might of Samael was not a particularly good move for anyone concerned.
Now that’s just what you need before the Swiss overlords arrive some Laibach pumped out the PA and this certainly put a smile on a few faces. It’s been a while since Samael have visited here, Incineration Festival 2017 in fact and there they got a short set and one that was abbreviated by a bit more due to technical gremlins. Although the rest of the UK had been left out this time around the band were making up for things in London with a 90 minute set and came out all guns blazing, not stopping to barrage us from beginning to end. To put it simply it was quick to see from the blazing start of Hegemony that the band are absolutely on fire tonight. Vorph commands at the front and not wanting to be clichéd but it is evident that the now packed in tight are very much here to worship him. Songs old and new are fired out and nobody should feel short changed or missing their favourites. We get the mid era industrial darkness of Rain and the giddy tumult of Slavocracy. One thing that is noticeable is energy from behind the electronics kit at the back. Occasionally Xy goes a little bit mental, jumping up and down and hitting things that cause big sudden increases in the sound levels, rising up and bruising everyone in the venue hard no matter where they are standing. Drop and newest recruit Pierre Carroz stand either side of the singer powerfully handling songs new and old with aplomb and rattling off the likes of Angel Of Wrath and the churning Ones Who Came Before.
There’s little time for chat and little time to even grab a pint and rest back on your laurels. Attention spans did not seem to diminish at all audience wise. Let’s face it 90 minutes is a long time to watch any band unless you absolutely love them and it’s pretty clear that there is plenty of love here tonight. As we steam across the universe sparking a Solar Soul, through Infra Galaxy and plummeting to Year Zero we knew what was coming encore wise and were not disappointed in the slightest. Back to the early years we go for Ceremony Of The Opposites and to straddle Baphomet’s Throne. Raw engagingly energetic, harsh and beautifully brutal this is a band who have weathered the storm, fought through the years and come out on top with integrity and honour. My Saviour seems like a fitting finale to go out on, Samael thy art our lord. Well that was definitely the case tonight.
Review and Photos Pete Woods