Ufomammut – Jex Thoth: Live at Islington Academy, London

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Despite much of the mass media largely ignoring such bands, or at least making little mention of them, the underground metal scene has proven to show an abundance of talent, amazing presence and pushing of boundaries. The survival and even the thriving of such bands is down purely to a greater weapon than print headlines and media has to offer: the word of mouth of the passionate music lover.

Formed in 1999, Italian psychedelic doom merchants Ufomammut may not be a household name to everyone, but they come with a reputation amongst those in the know as an unparalled live act, armed to the teeth with stunning screen visuals and bone-shattering riffs. Working on hard graft and underground buzz alone, it’s a triumphant sight to see that tonight’s gig is in the venue’s larger room opposed to the upstairs, cramped bar area as perhaps expected.

Sadly, the combination of your reviewer living away from London in the sticks and his general bumbling, country bumpkin behaviour means only the closing bars of opening act Sedulus are heard, going past the merch stands which includes, amongst the usual paraphernalia, a variety of stunning artwork pieces and a separate vinyl store (both tables are continuously too crowded to check out properly).

Candlelight marks the arrival of the mysterious Jex Thoth with a sense of anticipation amongst some that even rivals that of the headliners. Mostly static and minimalistic in the way of tricks and effects, the band’s presence ensures that all eyes are centered on Jex herself as she glides and stalks the stage with a menacing but graceful air. Mostly cloaked and at times with either candles or burning incense in hand, she gives the impression of being possessed, proving animated but almost entirely disengaged from the audience and more in a world of her own. Sadly towards the end of their set the influx of people more interested in trying to talk over the band than watching the set, which although doesn’t detract too much from their great performance, does leave a sour taste in the mouth.

Ufomammut take to the stage in a similarly low-key fashion: no intro tape or introduction, simply appearing on stage and kicking off with ‘Somnium’ off latest album Ecate (Neurot), its low, psychedelic rumbling builds up into heavier, crushing territory, accompanied by the sound of jaws hitting the floor. Once again stage interaction is kept to a minimum other than to receive rapturous applause in between sections and songs, a response the crowd never fails to give. Much more than just a doom band, aspects are interjected by Hawkwind like spacey effects and even aspects ardent prog fans will enjoy.

Accompanying this are on screen video footage of dark, at times harrowing and creepy imagery which proves a perfect match for their brand of colourful (comparative to many of their peers) doom metal, as the audience is enthralled and entranced throughout. Well that is for the most part, as once again the presence of groups choosing to natter away loudly instead of watching the band they paid to see proves a distraction at times. Fortunately even this doesn’t put a dampener on a monumental set which has both the visual and thought provoking side to it and the bulldozing force and sheer heaviness.

They may not be the darlings of the media, but Ufomammut are a spellbinding live act as the crowd is left completely mind-blown.

 

CHRIS TIPPELL