Archive for February, 2012

Alcest/Les Discrets/Soror Dolorosa @ Stereo, Glasgow, UK – 20/02/12

Posted in Gigs with tags , , , , , on February 26, 2012 by Noise Road

Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?

 – Douglas Adams

There is a rise in spirituality on the fringes of underground music.  Music of substance seems to carry a burden of searching for something more than what one can see.  The elders of the underground, Neurosis, embrace elements of paganism, ritualism and mysticism interwoven in their work.

Dylan Carlson of Earth and Neige of Alcest have embraced the more obscure idea of other worldly beings – namely fairies.  Neige makes this clear that these are not fantastical themes.  This is some thing he believes in and something he has experienced as a child.

If you hear the word “fairy” in Glasgow, it is usually preceded by the adjective “southern” in a jab at the perceived softness of their English neighbours.

Fairies or not, Alcest’s music lulled my head out of a grim winter in a Leeds bar at the end of 2010.

Tonight, Alcest did not lull me out of the subterranean Glasgow venue, Stereo.  I did not think of other worlds or fairies or driving by the water’s edge by moonlight.  I was engaged by the music itself.  The garden is beautiful, even without fairies at the bottom of it.

All night, drums dominated the mix.  Initially I thought there was just too much drums for support act, Les Discrets, and then again for Alcest – but it added a strange forward propulsion to the Alcest set.  It gave it a far more rocking nature.

This rocking nature was complimented by a far more engaging performance by Neige and his band.  Unlike in Leeds, Neige interacted with the crowd.  All three bands for the night were completely overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of Glasgow.  It was a solid turn out for a Monday night, and as always the crowd were drinking boisterously.  It is always steamy in the basement venue, but with the unusually mild winter it seemed especially so.  Like the rest of the punters, I found the beers going down way too easy.

Both Les Discrets and Alcest have quite sections within their sets.  Glasgow failed to keep the volume down.  They started “Hey! Hey! Hey!” chants.  The Frenchmen embraced, smiled and were clearly enamoured by the enthusiasm.

I had not listened to the new record, Les Voyages de L’Ame, prior to the show.  Initially I thought that Alcest has completely removed the black metal framework.  Autre Temps sounds like fairy music – folky rock with clear soft vocal melodies higher in the mix rather than hidden in atmosphere.  With the warm guitar tones, there is no hint of metal.

Midway into La Ou Naissent Les Colleurs Nouvelles a short passage of harsh vocals and blastbeats, reminded us that metal is still a tool in the Alcest arsenal.  Overall the track is straight out rocking.  I am still trying to think what that closing guitar riff reminds me of.  Nineties alternative rock?  Post rock?  For a song previously unheard, that simple riff was a favourite of the night.

The terms of reference for Alcest have previously been black metal, increasingly shoegaze and a little cringeworthy the term, metalgaze.  The black metal framework is now used sparingly…  and I don’t know if it was the upfront drums, but the set seemed too rocky to be shoegaze.  The strength of the new material is distinct songs and memorable riffs.

Later in the set the older material surfaced.  Ecailles de Lune reminded me of that dream world that Alcest can create.  The set closed with hugely catchy Percees de Lumiere.

Alcest have improved as a live act and their material has escaped easy categorisation.  They engage the crowd.  This may mean that they seem to real to create this other world… But I don’t need another world.  The music is enough.  It is a better live experience – fairies or not.

Stereo

Another tired Monday night.  This one after over week ridden with a chicken pox like virus.  All I saw for a week was work and my bed.  Rashes and bumps covered my body, head and face.  There is only so much a beanie and short-notice beard can hide.  Looking like a leper and generally feeling like sh!t can get a man down.  Also not touching a drink for over a week is a harsh state of affairs for a man who has lived in Glasgow for nearly 11 months.

Even though Noise Road wasn’t feeling super energetic, we took the short post work shuffle from the flat on the western edge of the CBD to Stereo – a club in the Rennie Mackintosh building, hidden down a lane a block from central station.

That is Glasgow.  You have to keep your eyes open or you’ll miss the gems amongst the the wet, grey tenements.  And don’t ask a local, as they don’t know what they’ve got.  They won’t tell you about the amazing cobblestone alleys tucked away in the west end.  They won’t tell you about all the parks.  They won’t tell you about awesome pubs hidden behind the university…  and they won’t tell you about Glasgow’s best venue, located in a building by a world renowned architect in an alley a few metres from the central station.

Stereo has oodles of character.  One might be initially wary of the kids upstairs with their fashionable hair cuts and scarves (never trust a man who wears a scarf when it is above 10 degrees celsius).  It kind of looks like the crowd at an Interpol concert circa Antics….  I often bring cats to Stereo because I have fond memories of gigs here – Earth, the Ocean… Fond memories of seeing dudes from the Ocean stealing the club wifi on the upstairs lounges while the headline played.  Stereo is central and always open late – which is handy with the weird Scottish liquour laws.  When you are entertaining a squadron of whisky-thirsty Swedish pilots for work on a Tuesday night where else do you go?

Like the best venues in the world, Stereo features entirely intrusive structural pillars.  Like many venues in Glasgow, expect to pay half the price of a beer at a London show.  Although that 10p increase to £2.10 for a can of Carlsberg, started to weigh down the pockets with shrapnel.

Les Discrets

Earlier in the mild evening, the rotating show of Frenchmen kicked off.  Noise Road strolled in towards the end of the Soror Dolorosa set, oozing a gothy post-punk type vibe.  I didn’t get the opportunity to study the band in detail, as I checked out the merch desk and handed over my first £2.10 of the evening.  I believe Soror Dolorosa’s singer switched to drums for the remainder of the bands for the evening.

Call me a savage but I had not even heard of Les Discrets before the start of the night.

Les Discrets main man, Fursy Teyssier, joined the rest of Alcest lineup onstage, including Neige on bass.  We had the most black metal moment of the night as the members of the rotating troupe performed a song from their former guise as black metal band Amesoeurs.

I don’t know if Les Discrets are rooted in the warm take on black metal that Amesoeurs were.  There is very little metal to the set.   There was the odd double-kick break accentuated by the loud drum mix.  Even more so than Alcest set, Les Discrets set rocks in an almost psychedelic way.  There are clear guitar leads and noodley passages.  It was another rocking set.

Teyssier continued a night of charming Frenchmen showing great enthusiasm.  In a second language, he awkwardly apologised for microphone failures and guitar string breaks.

I was suitably impressed by both Alcest and Les Discrets that I bought the latest CDs of both bands.  I am mostly sure it was because I enjoyed a night of French rock in Glasgow, and only a little to do with the enthusiasm generated by one too many £2.10 Carlsbergs.

Mastodon/Dillinger Escape Plan @ Barrowlands Ballroom, Glasgow, UK – 8th February 2012

Posted in Gigs with tags , , , , on February 19, 2012 by Noise Road


Barrowlands Market is where you buy your sh!t back on a Sunday, after your gaff has been broken into during the week.  Barrowlands Ballroom sits above the stolen goods hotspot.  Located in the east of the Glasgow city centre, the trendy bars and restaurants of Merchant City lay to the west, the extensive parklands of Glasgow Green to the south and to the east we have junkie-inhabited council estates.

Barrowlands Ballroom is a sight from the outside.  Neon signage indicates that you may be in for a night of roller disco rather than sweaty metal.  On the inside it looks like, well, a ballroom.

Noise Road tried to push through the big crowd towards the end of Red Fang’s opening set.  Unable to penetrate past the side bar, we invested in a couple cans of £2.50 Carlsbergs and enjoyed the last 3 fuzzy tracks.

At the crowd exodus for a drink, for a smoke, for a t-shirt, for a sh!t, for whatever…  NR pushed forward for Dillinger’s set.

Flick through the Noise Road previous posts and you’ll find nothing documented more than a Dillinger show.  I prefer Dillinger’s manic energy to be bouncing of the walls of a tiny venue – but in 2012, you are never going to catch a Mastodon/Dillinger bill in anything smaller than a theatre.  It’s great that Dillinger can play to a sympathetic crowd this size.  It’s amazing that previously underground behemoths, Mastodon, are now just behemoths.  There is still hope for the world.

Dillinger

I first caught Dillinger on the Miss Machine tour of Australia.  In Fowler’s, you were unable to escape the reach of Weinman and Puciato as they entered the floor and physically demanded that you engage.  They are never going to be able to physically threaten that casual listener chilling at the bar tonight.

Without a record to pimp, and with a shorter opening slot and potential new fans to win over, Dillinger delivered somewhat of a best-of set.  The classic heavy tracks bookended the night – with the traditional opener Panasonic Youth and traditional closers, Sunshine the Werewolf and 43% Burnt.  In between there was plenty of sing-along numbers with Black Bubblegum, Milk Lizard, Chinese Whispers and Gold Teeth on a Bum.

Standing on the outside of the violence, I grooved and I sang along.  Outside the mosh, I also noticed the nuances of the set.  A Room Full of Eyes demonstrates how Dillinger can convey energy and even catchiness from something quite odd in riff and structure.

For a band that throws themselves around and often forsakes notes or words for crowd interaction, Dillinger are tight.  When one or two members are ad-libbing the remainder of the band lock-in.  Drummer Rymer and bassist Wilson hold tight all night.  Tuttle locks in the riff while Weinman misses the odd note on top of the crowd.  Tuttle and Weinman sing the melodic hook while the Puciato rasp is lost is somewhere on the floor.

At one point, Puciato took a running leap into the crowd, hitting the punters feet first in a still upright position.  The energy that Dillinger deliver in is undeniable.  I doubt anyone leaves without a strong opinion either way on them.

The Hunter

A cheeky couple of pints between sets and we shuffled back into the ballroom just before Mastodon stepped on stage.

You can get a distorted view of the world reading blogs.  On the internet it seems to be a case of when you got off the Mastodon train.  There are many scathing sell-out reviews for Mastodon’s latest, The Hunter.  Others left Mastodon on Crack the Skye, accusing the band of pretentiousness.  Some even left on Blood Mountain.  Blood Mountain!

The internet is not the real world.  The internet would lead you to believe that these kids are only here for the more melodic or less heavy works from The Hunter and Crack the Skye – but at the close of the set, the crowd roared along the old crusher, Blood and Thunder, louder than any other track of the night.  Split your lungs with blood and thunder, When you see the white whale!

To be honest, I was pretty unsure about Mastodon’s latest, The Hunter, when I first picked it up.  Curl of the Burl is instantly catchy stoner rock that opens with the line “I killed a man cos he killed my goat”  What’s not to like?  But the rest of the album initially left me flat.  If this was a sell out album, it was not a good sell out album.

It took 3 or 4 listens to catch the hooks and the intricacies of the simpler structured songs.  The thing that came to mind was a Metal Injection interview with Converge’s Kurt Ballou.  When asked about Converge’s new album, Ballou stated that he no longer wanted to make a best-of style album.  He cited the the Melvins‘ career.  Melvins did not try to re-make their major label classic, Houdini, over and over.  Through the Melvins’ 30 year career, they have maintained their integrity, creativity and still managed to make a living off music.

Melvins release a noise record and might follow that 3 months later with an almost radio friendly stoner rock record.  6 months later they might release a drone record.

What did we expect Mastodon to release?  Did we want them to bang out sludgy Remission clones for the remainder of their careers?  How limiting is that?  Do we really want them to release Crack the Skye epics every two years?  Isn’t that likely to get boring?   Mastodon felt a bunch of hooky riffs and they banged them out.  Its not their best album, but it is a good album.  A necessary album

Mastodon

I caught Mastodon in Manchester on their last UK cycle.  They played the epic Crack the Skye album in its entirety.  Perhaps fatigued by a year of playing 10-minute prog freak-outs, tonight featured only two tracks off that album.  In fact Mastodon played twice as many tracks tonight. A significant chunk of The Hunter was played but it did not dominate amongst large slabs of both the albums Leviathan and Blood Mountain.

A sense of fun replaced the weight of the previous tour.  The big rock of The Hunter tracks contrasted with the heavier noodle-fests of the older material.  The Hunter shows the growth in Mastodon’s vocals.  The band were brave enough to switch from straight out growling to melodic singing over the course of the last two albums.  In some circles they were criticised.  However tonight the vocals are strong from all members, and the simpler song structures rely on this new element.

Its fun to sing a long and rock out to the new material.  Its fun to bang your head to old riff fests of Colony of Birchmen and Aqua Dementia… and nothing brings a greater smile to my face than the robot mic of Circle of Cysquatch.

This is my second big theatre/stadium show in a couple of months and I’ve enjoyed the shared experience both times.

After roaring Blood and Thunder, Mastodon momentarily left the stage.  They returned with Red Fang and Dillinger in tow for a group sing of the sad tale of the swamp monster, the melancholic melody of the Creature Lives.

Big rock.  Big fun.

Ulcerate @ Edinburgh, Scotland, UK – 6 February 2012

Posted in Gigs with tags , , , , , , on February 13, 2012 by Noise Road

Week in and week out, my old man, the Beej, weathered 20-goal defeats of his beloved West Torrens Eagles.  I learnt at those local footy grounds that you never, NEVER, leave early.  You never desert your team… So with one of the most exciting metal bands on an Edinburgh stage, I left the gig early…

To be fair the show was running an hour late and I left it as long as possible before I had to run to catch the last train back to Glasgow.

Don’t they run night buses?… Give me a break, man… I don’t even know where Edinburgh bus station is…  and I’ve got to get up at 6am for work tomorrow…. and its still only Monday night…  I know, I know.  I’ve let Ulcerate down. I’ve let myself down. And I’ve let the Beej down.

While south of the Scottish border was locked in a cold snap of snowstorms, Glasgow was unusually warmer than its southern neighbours.  The previous week had been cold but bright, dry and crisp – almost a Scandinavian winter.  Licking my wounds from a 13-hour session out at the Scottish Premier League, on Monday morning I slinked out the flat to a deep fog sitting over the city.

The temperature lifted but the fog refused to budge all day.  I assumed that the bus from work was heading through the fog to Queen Street Station.  Trains run every 15 minutes between Glasgow and Edinburgh.  With tonight’s venue, Bannermans, within spitting distance of Edinburgh’s Waverley station, Noise Road was inside the venue within an hour of buying a black coffee at Queen Street.

Edinburgh

I work in Renfrew, 7 miles from the Glasgow’s city centre.  Confusingly Renfrew is not a suburb of Glasgow.  It is part of another city called Paisley.  If you call someone in a Paisley pub a Glaswegian, you best be quick with an apology or a turn of speed.  7 miles from the city centre in Australia sounds like an inner suburb.  Here its a fiercely independent town.

Australian cities have short histories in comparison to these 1,000 year old rivals.  In a town were Irish sectarian violence has been imported to football games, differences are not always celebrated.  7 miles probably was a distance all those centuries ago.

With Edinburgh over 50 miles from Glasgow, you can imagine the fiercely protected differences.

Edinburgh is the city in Scotland that tourists visit…  and not without good reason.  Whilst Glasgow has plenty of character, Edinburgh is a beautiful old city.  An old town of cobblestone streets leads up to Edinburgh Castle looming over the city.

Bannermans

Somewhere along the train tracks we shrugged the fog.  After overshooting the venue, we shuffled down an alley to Bannermans.

The low, curved brick ceiling and the lack of light makes Bannermans feel like a tomb.  Its a perfect venue for death metal.

Parasitized

The lighting was so low that you could not see the merch.  Between tracks, one of the guitarists from Hull death metallers, Parasitized, joked that he couldn’t see his guitar.

Parasitized are part of the trend of bass-less extreme metal bands.  Why is there no love for the bass in death metal today?  You don’t want Alex Webster in your band?…  I guess Pig Destroyer go bass-less.  PxDx’s awesomeness is beyond question.  So we wont judge the Hull boys for it either way.

There was enough variation between guitar tech-ery and groove based riffs to keep me happy.  I enjoyed the excellently indecipherable vocals and equally indecipherable song introductions.  “This next one is called ORRRRR-oorr-ORRRR-oorr”.  Death metal, you are a good friend that never fails to bring a smile to my face.

Svart Crown

Svart Crown’s laid back sound check gave little warning of the French fury to be unleashed.  The vocalist’s soft “c’est bon?” into the mic was swiftly followed by mad-man energy from the band.  The vocalist looked into your eyes as he demanded you move.  I was scared to not headbang.

Having never heard of Svart Crown before, I was pleasantly surprised.  They used atmosphere and blistering death passages like their Kiwi colleagues.  However they delivered a different groove to their Hull colleagues.  It was at times almost groove metal.

C’est bon.

Ulcerate

The truth is that during the day I was weighing up whether or not to head to the show…  With a big weekend at the football, tickets to Mastodon/Dillinger the following night in Glasgow and a long week of work ahead, a Monday night mission to Edinburgh seemed tough.

Tough?  Ulcerate had flown for 24 hours to get to this tour.  One of the most exciting bands in death metal has a cool French band in tow and you’re a bit tired?  Man they’re only charging you £8 too!  £8 ain’t gonna cover return trips from New Zealand to Europe!

During the week someone asked if it was ironic for me, as an Australian, to see a New Zealand band for the first time in Edinburgh.  Dude,  New Zealand is a 5 hour flight from my hometown.  It’s like crossing Europe for a show.  Tonight all I had to do was catch a train.

Cosmo Lee described Ulcerate as a death metal version of Neurosis.  There is much to this description…  and not just in a post metal riffing to double kick drum kind of way.

Neurosis are heavy, not in the brutal death metal sense of the word, but in a ritualistic weight way.  Whilst Ulcerate does not carry that ritual feel of the Neurosis elders, they do bring an atmosphere of weight.

I think people are buzzing about Ulcerate because they’ve found a different way to be heavy.  Sure there are quieter breaks, but there is a churn throughout the set. Ulcerate build a low, swarming atmosphere.

Exciting stuff…  but I have to run to the train and back to the fog in Glasgow that had failed to lift.