Heavy Psych Sounds Festival, London UK

Another trip to London for four bands from a label very quickly becoming a favourite of mine, Heavy Psych Sounds, with Dead Witches launching their new album, The Final Exorcism, with more than adequate support from Deadsmoke, Giobia and Black Rainbows. Will a 500 mile trip down and home for an evening of crushing riffs be worth the almost inevitable whiplash and exhaustion? There’s only one way to find out!

Deadsmoke are first on, and it’s good to see that despite the early start time, a good few people have come down to support them. They’re another band I’m eager to catch live and make it to the venue just as the first riffs crash out. Having listened to their release Mountain Legacy last year, I still wasn’t quite ready for just how good these guys are live, giving myself a bit of self-induced whiplash during the first half of their set, before catching the Dead Witches for a great chat outside. What I saw and could still hear outside during the interview was proof enough of how well the Italian Sludge act are doing. As ferocious in a live setting as they come across on their recorded material.

Giobia are next on and while not on the same scale of heaviness, they are just as hypnotic. There is definitely a heavy dose of Hawkwind about their sound, done more in a sympathetic manner rather than sounding like an iconoclast of the veteran Space Rockers. They’re a tight act and the room seem entranced by their bass-driven sound as the crowd thickens, clearly enjoying the grooves being served up to them. Even the guys on the sound and lighting desks behind me can be heard discussing them in a positive light between songs, showing that they’re impressing audience and staff equally, no mean feat in a time when there are so many acts around. A great set, showcasing the more melodic arm of the Heavy Psych label.

Our main support Black Rainbows are the band of Heavy Psych owner Gabriel, so I take them in with particular interest, given the kinds of band he takes into his label, seeing quite what he is able to deliver himself in a live setting. One of the first impressions I get is that Black Rainbow’s sound is not just one aspect of what Gabriel ensures for Heavy Psych, but seems to encompass much of what he looks for in those bands. We have elements of Psych, Space Rock, and some Stoner on top, mixing them together in a pretty decent fashion. A fair whack of fuzz rings out around the room as they play and it’s clearly being lapped up by the crowd, as heads bang and bodies move to the music. They go down well and set things up perfectly for our headliners.

A headline slot and an album launch at the same time – not much seems to be stopping Dead Witches at the moment. There is a heavy Black Sabbath reference in a decent bit of their work, which is an absolute positive, while new frontwoman Soozi is an affable force of nature on the microphone, going between an almost crazy-eyed look and charming between songs, with a flair I would normally attribute to the likes of Stevie Nicks in her movement. Mark on the drums has to strip his top halfway through as the heat builds up even more, no doubt more than partially influenced by the sheer quality and almost relentless beats he lays down with aplomb, driving the band onward as much as Carl on a heavily fuzzed out bass, who provides a serious groove with his playing. Guitarist Oli seems to have struck a good balance between minimalism and heavy fuzz as the different song parts require, riffing out some licks that Tony Iommi himself would be pretty proud of.

Despite it being the launch part for new album The Final Exorcism, we do get ‘Mind Funeral’, from debut opus Ouija, around halfway through the set, whilst new tracks such as ‘The Church By The Sea’, ‘Lay, Demon’ and album titled The Final Exorcism are all well and truly rung out from on high, with myself as much as the rest of the crowd engaging in some heavy-duty headbanging, with a small pit breaking out on a couple of occasions, showing even more quite how well the new, previously unplayed live material is going down. We get ‘Fear The Priest’ for our closing track, the lead single from the new album, as chosen by HPS owner Gabriel himself before the early finish due to a club night post gig. Each band have been more than worthy of their place on the bill, with Dead Witches being the absolute icing and cherry on the cake – big things are sure to come for the talented south coast quartet.