The Roadhouse is terribly small. And dark, much to our snapper’s consternation. Suitably subterranean then for the evil rumblings of London’s Ghold, an unassuming looking duo of bass and drums until part-time guitarist Oliver Martinez began to create stunning atmospheres halfway into their set. They surprised and seriously impressed by producing a captivating set of unholy sludge doom, the power of which would have given Conan a real run for their money.
The allure of doom’s new boundary breakers subsequently created a struggle for room. Brett Campbell‘s Godflesh shirt belied the soft edges Pallbearer portray on record, but their pulverising power was unmistakable from the opening strands of World’s Apart, the opening track from their recent and magnificent Foundations Of Burden (Profound Lore)album. Guitarist Devin Holt was the archetypal rhythm master, throwing shapes with grave abandon, whilst Campbell’s leads soared and punctured holes in the ceiling. A nod to drummer Mark Lierly induced the swell of noise that is first album highlight Devoid Of Redemption: a cymbal puncturing the purr of Zeus’ cat, that slow juggernaut of a riff catching a groove from Lierly’s brutal yet studious pounding. Campbell’s voice was a chiming bell, hitting notes full of melody and pathos, whilst bassist Joseph Rowland punched the air during the huge coda of Foreigner, showing both the relief and the euphoria of a defining moment. The crowd adored this brave, unfettered quartet who believe in every note they play and who were only slightly thrown by a venue protesting against the sheer weight of their sound. This was something special.
As was the performance from tonight’s headliners, the revered YOB: a pulsating, fulminating mass of energy, the enigma that is Mike Scheidt‘s voice soaring then slicing through a now-hammered venue. The full playing of latest album Clearing the Path to Ascend exploded forth with the maelstrom of clear sound and thundering bass that was In Our Blood, Scheidt bounding to his mic like a mugger, whilst he and bassist Aaron Rieseberg bucked with every twist of the crater-creating riffs. The sonic violence of Nothing to Win was greeted with joy, Rieseberg’s ferocious bass peddling belying his peaceful demeanour, Travis Foster’s drumming as phenomenal to witness as to hear on the album version. New classic Marrow concluded the evening, and was possibly the most subliminal and emotional twenty minutes of a gig I’ve ever experienced. In two-tone espadrilles and a purple leather waistcoat, the prince of doom led his bare-chested sticksman and spacey, body-shuddering bassist to a mellow yet wondrously heavy glory: at times a caressing savagery, others a cosmic beauty, the whole moving more than this old hack to tears.
The aftermath was a bewildered delight, people hugging the band or sitting on the stage fringes shaking their heads in awe-struck wonder. This most glorious of nights was a privilege, an epiphany, which a bigger venue would have enhanced but possibly robbed of its intensity and warmth, and will forever be fondly remembered by the fortunate souls who witnessed it.
WORDS: PAUL QUINN