There used to be a misapprehension that “feel” and technique were mutually exclusive, particularly if your act was of the progressive nature. Musicians were either in a deep, trance state where odysseys were channelled through fingers and larynxes (it’d certainly explain some of the lyrical fascinations of the 70’s), or were producing unfeeling, but impeccable, noodling, or to be more contemporaneous, poly-rhythming. Both of tonight’s denizens of the stage well and truly disproved that; Haken bringing a light, uplifting elation and Between The Buried And Me a myriad of journeys.
Another misconception is that bands of a prog bent don’t have a sense of humour, a fallacy shattered within seconds of entering Camden’s Electric Ballroom and seeing Haken’s glorious Kevin Bacon T-shirt, leaving the unsure in no doubt as to how to pronounce the band name. With fellow Ghost Cultist Rafa Davies having acquired said garment and with beverages purchased, the mood was ripe for the London based sextet to enhance a reputation that took a steep climb up 2013’s The Mountain (InsideOut). Concentrating mainly on that breakthrough opus, they set about marrying the impressive quirky and progressive rock with an immaculate live performance, including a touch of ‘Hocus Pocus’ing, spotless yodel-ay-ee-oh’s and all.
Between The Buried And Me’s approach is an altogether more layered assault, from teasing and probing progressive movements, through floating crescendos diving into djented stabs and jazzed death metal acts of sensory violence. Despite being shorn of any elaborate production, nonetheless BTBAM don’t do basics, with each band member faultless and pristine, delivering each song with album quality precision in a consummate performance that still felt like there was meaning and intent in the delivery.
It’s no secret I struggle with BTBAM in general, but a quality live act is a quality live act, and the North Carolinians are able to transmit their passion for their music and their fans, ensuring multi-faceted beasts like ‘Ants Of The Sky’ connect not just aurally but emotionally with a charged audience who respond in turn. Here lies no serenade of po-faced disconnection, instead deep, ethereal moments are respected and inhaled, and the crushing metal segments are devoured.
And yet if prog-gasm had been achieved in a main set that included three very well received tracks from this years’ mind-melting Coma Ecliptic (Metal Blade), along with favourites ‘Selkies’ and ‘Lay Your Ghosts To Rest’ and more, that’s nothing to the rapture that beheld the throng during a remarkable cover of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, during which Tommy Rogers showed that Brian May et al missed a trick by not throwing hods of cash his way to front the band during their post-Freddie shows.
This was a performance to impress even the most sceptical with both bands bringing complex, technical and diverse songs to the live setting with exquisite tightness and proficiency, but above all exuding emotion and sincerity while holding that line of not taking things too seriously live. While Haken’s music spoke to me most, there’s no denying that damn near everyone left feeling they’d witnessed a great gig.