It’s the day before bonfire night and as you would expect, it’s dark out, there are bangs going off everywhere and some bellend throws a firecracker out the car window at the bus stop we were waiting at before we got to the show, so just a typical night in the North West really. By the time we reach the venue, it’s already packed (there was a conference talk on the state of the metal scene in Liverpool which I was unable to get along to but all reports from it proved enlightening for many involved) so the usual steps of acquiring a beer and a good vantage point are a rushed priority, especially since an hour into the night, I have to nip out and talk to Sal from APHND which means leaving my trusted partner in crime to pick up the slack!

Mairu are the hometown act this evening and there is a decent sized gathering at the front of the venue for the 4 piece who are hyped and ready to crack on with it. From the atmospheric sounding effects in their soundcheck, it is easy to tell that there will be more to the sound of the band than what is presented and when they finally get started that indicator is correct. The atmospheric work with the heavy delivery of the music works well. Elements of Progressive metal, Death Metal and atmospheric Doom all combine and give off a solid sound. The bassline and drum work is tight as hell and the wall of noise from the guitars gives it that hard hitting edge. Whilst it is a little drawn out at times, it does work well. One song ups the speed compared to the others and it gives a real heavy groove element and gets plenty of heads moving in approval and the final track has a real immersive, atmospheric impact which sees more emphasis on the feel rather than the delivery – it might be just as heavy on CD but live it felt like the ‘weight’ was eased off a touch to make for the more immersive listening experience. They are a band who I will follow up on as I feel that to me, they might be a better listening experience through a set of headphones as opposed to live.

(At this point I had to disappear for a while so I handed over the duties to my trusty sidekick.)

After a slightly longer than expected set up, Leeds based Petrichor took to the stage with a very pagan/Norse inspired get up: incense fumes, ram horn blasts and corpse-fashioned war paint. The melodic doom/death metal hybrid certainly seemed to fit the bill for an intense atmospheric themed night given the bands billed but the actuality didn’t quite live up to the expectations. Musically it was on board; a moody vocal sound and a booming musical delivery which packed a punch, but it just didn’t seem to fit together right in a live setting. The music was great, it really hit home with the doom elements, but the vocals just felt like they didn’t belong. The strong bellows and roars just seemed a little flat compared to the rest of it and by the time it came to the last two tracks of their set I had already mentally checked out and was hoping Fraggle would come back so he could weigh in. By the time the last track rolled round, my holding down the fort was done, Fraggle was back and after reading what I had noted down and hearing it for himself, he agreed with me. The final track of the set showed a little bit more promise in comparison to the rest of the material offered up but it was a big miss on our front! [Sara]

(OHHMS) were up next and these guys up until this evening were a band who I had heard plenty of, but not heard them directly. Myself and Sara were debating whether we had actually seen them live at some point but neither of us could agree if we had or when we had. With interest piqued, we moved a little closer, not realising at first that the band were setting up to take over half the floor space, leaving only the drummer on the stage. Seeing this, I had a feeling that this was going to be an expressive and explosive performance; I wasn’t wrong at all. The sludge inspired hardcore and post metal assault was relentless from the start. Harsh vocal screams, catchy melodic hooks and angular and awkward stabs of chords, pounding drums and a bassist who seemed to be possessed laid siege to the venue. Between actually playing his instrument and adding some back up screams, Chainy (bassist) was all over the venue – on the stage, prowling the front of the crowd, getting right in the faces of the crowd and at one point, climbing up on the sound desk, hanging off the roof of it by one hand and playing his bass with the other! It was one hell of a show and whilst it might not have fit the ‘oppressive’ theme of the line-up, it certainly had an atmospheric impact – everyone was pumped up after the set for the headliner.

With the final beer run and smoke completed and the obligatory ‘blind yourself with the flash whilst getting a picture with a band member’ spot out the way, it was time for the lords of doom themselves, Brooklyn, New York’s’ very own Pale Horse Named Death!

Having caught the band live earlier this year I had a suspicion as to what was going to be on the setlist but that didn’t matter. Everyone in attendance had a feeling that tonight was going to be special, after all it was the biggest profile metal gig we have had all year in my opinion! When speaking to Sal earlier in the evening, he seemed ready for it and was eager to deliver that crushing despair to us all, so it was a match made in misery- we wanted the misery and Sal was bringing it!

With a wail of feedback, the crushing wall of doom washed over the crowd and the haunting tones began. The combination of honest and expressive lyrics and vocal delivery with the ‘School of Type O Negative Single String Riffing’ musical delivery provided both melody and ridiculously heavy. From the slow burner tracks like “In The Sleeping Death” were haunting in their delivery whilst the 80’s goth inspired “Love The Ones You Hate” provided a brief bright spot with its infectious melodies and dance driven groove which got bodies moving and plenty of singing along.

The usual banter between tracks led to the usual spot of some bellend in the crowd shouting out for covers but thankfully it wasn’t anything idiotic like “play Black No.1”! Instead our eager shouter was after some Black Sabbath (Sal & co. obliged with some ‘Into The Void’ and ‘N.I.B’), The Beatles (“She’s So Heavy” and “Daytripper”) and a request for Frank Zappa (A lot of disbelief on the faces of the band, one of the guys noodling on the guitar and me yelling at the guy to stop requesting Zappa at every gig!). “I could do this all night!” exclaimed Sal and for a moment the crowd did toy with the idea, but then we got right back into it. Old favourites like “Shallow Grave” and “Growing Old” were joined by recent material in the form of “Vultures”, “Splinters” and the hauntingly beautiful and heartfelt “Fell Into My Hole” which struck a chord with everyone in attendance.

It was a real special set which hit its climax with the crushing and melancholic “Die Alone”, a moment which draws everyone together with plenty of shared glances which prompt a simple nod of understanding. This slow end trails out before it suddenly explodes to life with the hard hitting, groove laden and attitude packed “Killer By Night” which seems to re-energize everyone. Upbeat yet still crushing in nature, the melodic singing and hard hitting shouts are backed up with some slick sounding crisp guitar tones and real thundering drums before it finally ends, drawing the evening to a close.

In all, it was a special night and a fine way to draw a close to my live experiences in 2019. With some positivity from the discussion forum hosted before the gig which pointed to some steps to take to help revitalize the Liverpool Metal Community and from my conversation with Sal which shed light on future plans for APHND, 2020 looks to be promising on a musical front!

Reviewer(s): Fraggle, Sara. Photo: Fraggle

Interview to follow.