My Ruin – Sanctorium -Extreme O.D. -Nomad: Live at Sound Control, Manchester, UK

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Tonight Manchester welcomes one of rock’s most outspoken characters in Tairrie B., despite her reputation for being a firebrand who provokes controversy and debate in many circles, My Ruin’s front-woman clearly still inspires many, male and female, to rage against the societal ills of sexism and homophobia. Bringing with them three capable support acts there is the feeling of anticipation and celebration on this rainy Tuesday night.

Nomad keep it tight, groovy and full of soul. Vocalist Drian snarls through the likes of ‘Burn The Water’ with a confident assurance that is only gained from a steady work rate of playing every dive bar going while drummer Hayley McIntyre anchors the muscular rhythms with a powerful backbeat.

Steadily gaining a loyal following through determination and hard work Nomad is one of the more rich prospects in the fertile UK scene right now.

Quite the contrast to her vicious death growls, Extreme O.D.’s Katie Cairns is all smiles in between songs clearly loving every moment of tonight’s performance. Laying down a set of vicious double kick and neck breaking riffs. It’s a feeling mirrored by the audience who lap up everything Cairns and co have to offer.

Sanctorium’s tight exuberant groove metal recalls the work of Lamb Of God and Chimaria. The undercurrent of savagery recalls many of the early noughties Roadrunner bands but while they remain a tight outfit they offer precious little in the way of surprises.

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Tairrie B. and company enter to an enthusiastic response. Sure the venue is only half full but the assembled throng makes more than enough noise to supplement the lack of bodies.

Crashing into ‘Monolith Of Wrath’, My Ruin channel the spit and sawdust vitriol of Black Flag and Black Sabbath with husband Mick Murphy doling out slabs of discordant hostility.

 

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Ms B. is in a jovial mood,  snarling through a triumphant rendition of ‘Digging For Ghosts’.

 

MR4 by Briana Norton

 

The feeling of celebration is tangible not least as this is, at least for now, My Ruin’s final jaunt this side of the pond. Girls and guys alike flock towards the stage raising their fists and voices to the paint stripping intense cover of Mudhoney classic ‘Touch Me I’m Sick’ and a raucous ‘God Is A Girl With A Butcher Knife’. A My Ruin gig is a full contact sport where the intensity of the performance is only mirrored by the reaction of their devoted fanbase.

 

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‘Beauty Fiend’ ends a sermon of black clad blasphemy with Tairrie thanking the fans for their support before sweeping off stage. If this is truly My Ruin’s swansong appearance in the UK then they went out with all the guts, desire and raw power that they have always possessed.

My Ruin Set List:

Monolith of Wrath

Long Dark Night

Heretic Dreams

Diggin for Ghosts

Moriendo Renascor

The Devil Walks

Touch Me I’m Sick

(Mudhoney cover)

The Harsh Light of Day

Burn The Witch

Excommunicated

God Is a Girl With a Butcher Knife

Heartsick

Del Riche

Made to Measure

Blasphemous Girl

Beauty Fiend

 

My Ruin on Facebook

 

WORDS: ROSS BAKER

PHOTOS: BRIANA NORTON (with permission from My Ruin)

Opeth – Pale Communion

 

 

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Effortlessly blazing a trail encompassing brutal death metal, British folk and classic progressive rock, Mikael Åkerfeldt has led Opeth through many bold new directions and transcended genre boundaries for the band’s entire career. That 2011’s Heritage (Roadrunner Records) saw Opeth forgo the heavier end of the spectrum was for many a bitter pill to swallow. Whereas previous prog masterpiece Damnation was bookended with a heavier companion in Deliverance, Heritage saw Åkerfeldt indulging influences such as Comus and King Crimson in a fastidious and stubborn fashion claiming freedom from the restrictions of metal.

Fast forward three years and Pale Communion (also Roadrunner Records) is, in many ways a continuation of such a direction, but one that see’s Mikael’s uncompromising view drawing more clearly into focus.

Harking back again to the late 60s and early 70s this eleventh studio opus features fluid dexterous drum patterns, moody distorted organ work and another all clean and highly proficient performance in the vocal department. Where Heritage felt somewhat disjointed on occasion Pale Communion is richly woven into a tapestry of ornate and complex elements rather than flitting from one genre to the next.

‘River’ is perhaps the most surprising moment this time around drawing on the southern sounds of the likes of the Allman Brothers with the addition of a classic Rush middle section. It’s the bravest and most refreshing moment herein, unearthing yet another string to the Swedes’ substantial bow.

Largely a more cohesive work than its predecessor, there is a moment of overindulgence in instrumental centrepiece ‘Goblin’ could have been left on the cutting room floor. Though a tribute to the Italian horror soundtrack masters, it feels ill-fitting and out of place.

Far better is the albums longest moment the undulating ‘Moon Above, Sun Below’ a perplexing beast which keeps you guessing while again highlighting the morose beauty of Mikael’s vocals.

I don’t want to bare my scars for you” opines Åkerfeldt on the graceful ‘Elysian Woes’. It’s a sentiment which is echoed in the fiercely uncompromising approach he has taken to producing music that truly challenges the listener. Hell bent on reinvention, this is another collection of finely crafted salvos from this prestigious group.

 

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7/10

Opeth on Facebook

 

ROSS BAKER

 

 

Children of The Atom Bomb – Mat “Kvohst” McNerney of Beastmilk

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Seated in the somewhat rustic confines of Manchester’s Star And Garter Pub, the venue in which the gentlemen known to many as Kvohst; English front man of Finnish Post Punks Beastmilk is in fine fettle. After serenading us with an amusing version of Manowar’s ‘Battle Hyms’ during soundcheck we grab a corner by the bands rider to discuss ritual magic, travel and formation of this dynamic outfit which released one of last year’s most exciting albums in Climax (Napalm Records).

We were in the middle of a really bad winter and Goatspeed and I were drinking in a bar and taking about depression. We were either going to kill someone or kill ourselves!” exclaims McNerney with little hint of irony. “Out of that state we managed to create something cathartic where the music became a channel for that depression. Once you get that feeling and you stare into the void and the void stares back through you it really touches you. I think a lot of music from that era (early 80s post punk) was very political. It was that dark period in Britain when we had that really difficult era socially and economically. Globally there was a lot of apocalyptic themes like the threat of nuclear war. We sing about the apocalypse now in a similar way but the themes have changed. I think you can draw some parallels with some Joy Division stuff but we were just recreating our environment. People mention Joy Division but if they listen to our music it isn’t really like that. A lot of it is the reverb and the sad themes we use. It’s more relatable than say, Black Metal where you have to be in a very particular headspace to get it. I feel that Beastmilk has much more in kinship with Misfits and Dead Kennedys and the old punk scene. I think people get that when they see us live. It has the “Deathrock” vibe, but the indie version of what people have done with Joy Division is so far away from what we do. We are not afraid to use dark humour in the way The Smiths did too.”

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Certainly when it comes to attitude and philosophy Beastmilk are unafraid to gaze into the nether like the punks did while approaching it from a more contemporary angle. “Our songs are mainly looking at current themes but you can always see the touch points in history where things come from. Our parents’ generation had the cold war and the Cuban missile crisis, events which threatened our existence. That generation had a huge wake up call. When people ask me how the world is going to end I can tell you it won’t be because of any one thing. You should realise it has already ended. You realise if you read a lot that this has already happened. Hiroshima and Chernobyl, we will never clean that up.”

Charming and softly spoken but also extremely articulate, McNerney is certainly not one of one word answers punctuated by the odd swear word. Patiently explains the origin and significance of his Kvohst alias. “It is a spirit name which is my true name. The name you are given at birth isn’t your real name, you must find and discover your own name which is unique to you. It is also important for me to have this costume you can put on ceremonially when you do music to channel something greater than yourself. It is beyond you, were you grew up and the things Christian society has given to you. It came to me in a dream I had and when I looked it up it was closely related to the word “tail” in Russian which is very fitting for me as I am doing various different projects and I have always floated around never staying in the same scene doing lots of different things.”

As lynch-pin of mystical neo folk act Hexvessel and former mouthpiece of avant-garde black metallers Dødheimsgard and <Code>, McNerney has never been afraid to experiment and “float around”. “Creatively speaking I always want to be pushing boundaries. I am not sure if all my work shares the same ideology but I am always looking to break the reality tunnels that Robert Anton Wilson talks about. Your reality tunnel can trap you so you have to break it down and see things in a different way. If people have been following what I did in other bands I think what we did with <Code> and Dødheimsgard were fairly revolutionary and influenced a lot of Black Metal bands to use different vocal arrangements. I have always wanted to make sure what I do is true and real and from the heart. I talk about costumes and the ceremony of performance but that is more how I portray things to theaudience. Sometimes you have to usean artifice to make people dream and in that way they can come to an awakening. It goes back to the hippie culture of trying to expand your mind.”

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McNerney’s fascination with free thinkers like infamous occultist Alastair Crowley and self-styled “Agnostic mystic” Robert Anton Wilson is well documented. Clearly better informed than most when it comes to literature it was interesting to hear his take on the so-called “occult rock” movement but make no mistake McNerney has no time for the fakers. “I think it’s great. Everyone knows who is genuine and who is mucking around with it. I don’t connect the writing (of Crowley) with a lot those bands but I think there are many bands who make me think of Alastair Crowley without using his image or anything to do with him. You don’t need to put a picture of him on your album to give credit and respect to him or William Blake. A lot of people have tried to cash in on those works. I think the way we did things with Hexvessel was more interesting than if we had just plastered his name all over our stuff. There are too many people who name drop him. I go to record stores and pick up an album with his picture on expecting something but often I find these guys are messing around.”

McNerney has a history of changing his environment having emigrated from England to The Netherlands then Norway and finally (at least for now) residing in Finland.

It seems very apparent that when you travel around you meet a lot of people that don’t get out of their own bubble. People seem to be stuck in a rut and reluctant to move out of their comfort zone but really it is just a mental prison. Anyone can go anywhere or do anything they want it does enrich you. I would have never been able to do what I am doing in London. It’s a shame that the opportunities for creative people are so small. I respect people who can do that and not have to move. I think if I was in London now I would be ok but at the time I needed to get out.”

Climax has seen Beastmilk touring far and wide picking up unexpected celebrity fans. “HIM took us out for a couple of dates playing big venues but it’s maybe not the right kind of crowd for us. Ville (Valo) was so supportive and great to us. He is known in Finland for supporting recording studios. He got a fund together to keep the recording studio that we did our demo at from going under. There comes a time however where we have to do things on our own and not be under the wings of a HIM or a Ghost. I really hate playing bigger venues where you lose the intimacy. I hope we can evolve and grow the way bands like Current 93 have, playing venues to their crowd on their terms.”

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ROSS BAKER

Godflesh – Decline and Fall

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Following 2012’s spread of shows opening for Neurosis and tearing it up Damnation Festival it had appeared Justin Broadrick was going to focus his efforts on his JK Flesh and the shoegazing soundscapes of Jesu. Fortunately that turned out only to be a diversion and while this new release, Decline and Fall (Avalanche), from the seminal industrial metal project may only be a four song EP it is a worthy release which stands up against the cannon of punishment to which Godflesh has given birth. This may be the first Godflesh release for 13 years but any preconceptions of rust or decay can be laid to rest immediately. All the hallmarks this Birmingham outfit are visible for all to see. Like ugly scars which have been left weeping and festering tracks like ‘Dogbite’ exude all the paranoia and intensity which brought Broadrick to the dance. Snarling vocals atop icy electronics and a maelstrom of ostinatos which pulverise your brain to mush.

It’s an unsettling and deeply harrowing experience but frankly the twenty minutes of music present on this release fly by such is the immersive nature of the material. Guttural bass ushers in the bruising ‘Playing With Fire’ which is as frosty and unwelcoming as anything on the band’s Streetcleaner (Earache) debut. Tim Parson’s contributions to the band’s latter work fit well enough with the band’s modus operandi but Broadrick has made an effort to separate his projects more effectively by going back to basics with the drum machine supplying all the percussion. On reflection it is a gamble which has paid off in spades, this EP is quintessentially Godflesh something which will surely delight the band’s existing fanbase although that is something which will be of scant regard to the man in question. Visceral, focussed and harrowing the eerie harmonies compliment the driving rhythms and wounded vocals. As bleak as anything the band has ever recorded with scant regard for any musical evolution other than their own, ‘Decline And Fall’ is a more than worthy taster for any upcoming full length for which expectations have now been raised even higher!

 

 

 

8/10

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ROSS BAKER

 

 

Clutch – Lionize: Live at Metropolitan University, Leeds

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The second set of tour dates supporting last year’s highly successful Earth Rocker (Weathermaker) opus see’s Clutch riding a high having one again reaffirmed their status as one of rock finest live acts currently treading the boards.

 

The met is still disconcertingly quiet when support act Lionize begin their set, but their funk infected grooves impress punters early on. Chris Brooks and Nate Bergman deliver some rich vocal harmonies. Clutch’s Jean Paul Gaster even joins the band briefly on percussion yet while its clear their label bosses have been a forbearer for Lionize sound they retain a feel all of their own. Hell they even manage to get away with dropping a bit of reggae without sounding laughable or trite.

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When father Neil Fallon begins the sermon the congregation has joined us in full swing. ‘The Mob Goes Wild’ lives up to its name, with frantic dancing breaking out en masse. Such is the energy that the Maryland quartet inspire that the crowd keeps singing even when Tim Sult’s guitar cuts out half way through ‘Crucial Velocity’.

 

The charm and charismatic presence of Fallon certainly means he is the wide eyed focal point yet the musicians around him lock into a groove that is irresistible. ‘The Elephant Riders’ makes a welcome appearance, making good on the reputation Clutch have of keeping their lives shows fresh and invigorating. The acoustic ‘Gone Cold’ provides a break from the raucousness allowing Fallon to show off his soulful side before a storming ‘Struck Down’ picks the pace back up.

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Considering Neil Fallon was recently a whisker away from being unable to perform following an operation on his spine which meant a delicate operation which meant his windpipe having to be moved temporarily in the process his performance is, if anything even more driven and passionate.

 

A four song encore concludes with the one, two punches of ‘Electric Worry’ and ‘One Eye Dollar’ which leave many drenched in sweat smiling in unison. Tonight may not have gone without a hitch, but when you’re a journeyman act with a discography few can match and perform with such vigour and zeal you can do very little wrong.

 

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Lionize on Facebook

 

WORDS BY ROSS BAKER

PHOTOS BY EMMA STONE

 

Kvelertak – Empress A.D. – Wounds: Live at Academy 3, Manchester, UK

 Kvelertak UK tour

 

Boisterous and full of life, Wounds youthful charm sees them gain some approving nods and yelps from the bank holiday crowd. These cheeky Irishmen have given us some catchy numbers that come across like a snotty Cancer Bats without getting the half full venue to liven up to much. ‘Dead, Dead, Fucking, Dead’ still packs a punch showing promise for the future but this clearly wasn’t their night.

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Main support Empress A.D. feel quite out of place on this bill. Playing a set of plodding mid-paced riffs and some vocals which are clearly out of tune, they also provide little stage presence in spite of singer/guitarist Ollie Loring‘s half-hearted attempts to get the sedated audience to participate in any manner. Bank holiday crowds can be notorious for ignoring support acts, but Empress phone in a performance that does little to impress. When a stream of punters are gravitating towards the bar that should say all you need to hear about this lacklustre performance.

Empress AD 5 (singer-guitarist)

Thankfully the venue is packed for the arrival of Norse wrecking machine Kvelertak. Possessing enough energy to power a generator, frontman Erlend Hjelvik appears in his owl helmet as the band launch into ‘Åpenbaring’ but it isn’t long before he hurls himself offstage into the waiting arms of the rabid fans at the front of the stage. Their potent cocktail of black metal, punk fury and rock ‘n’ roll hooks soon shakes the crowd out of their slump and ignites frantic slam dancing. The infectious ‘Bruane Brenn’ and ‘Ulvetid’ scarcely allow room to breathe with the temperature soaring.

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Admittedly while sophomore release Meir (Roadrunner) was a decent effort, it is cuts from the band’s incendiary self-titled debut that inspire the greatest amount of audience participation. ‘Fossegrim’ pours more fuel upon the burning pyre with its gang vocal refrains being picked up by overjoyed fans who Hjelvik passes the mic to let them sing-a-long. The triumphant encore of ‘Mjød’ and ‘Utrydd Dei Svake’ demonstrate that these Norwegians embody everything which makes hardcore, punk and metal so vital. Another memorable performance from an act who prove that Norway has more to offer than just spikes and corpsepaint. Kvelertak don’t appear to be surrendering their stranglehold on the title of best live band any time soon.

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Empress A.D. On Facebook

Wounds on Facebook

 

Words by Ross Baker

Photos by Stuart Alexander Rees

Beneath The Mask – An Interview with Ghost

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As we sat in the upstairs bar of Manchester’s Academy, the venue which plays host to Grunge legends Alice In Chains and all-star Seattle outfit Walking Papers, Ghost Cult is greeted by a member of rock’s most mysterious and clandestine coven, namely Ghost. Continue reading