Another month ticks over and we begin the run-in to the silly season (3, 4, 5 gigs a week? Yoink) with a top notch triple-header at the Garage. Featuring selection of stoner, progressive death/black and gothic metal, this was very much a night for black clothing and eyeliner.
For once I was at a venue early enough to catch all the acts, partly due to the assistance of the multiple tour managers in swiftly arranging all the interviews (online soon) and we had a nice spot at the front at seventies throwbacks Lucifer came on.
Alongside front-woman Johanna were regulars Andrew and Gaz on drums/guitars, and travelling bassist Alasdair Mitchell who the band have pinched from labelmates Hidden Masters and who was playing a hometown gig tonight. Dino, the usual bassist, unfortunately couldn’t join the tour due to work commitments at home.
Alasdair looked the part, though, in a purple top and medallion as Lucifer’s blend of trippy stoner/doom flowed out. Slow songs led by Johanna’s ethereal vocals took us back forty years to when Black Sabbath were still good. Each track a head-nodder and performed by a band who seemed as wrapped up in things as any fan could be. As well as being good musically, the band really performed each song. Johanna’s waving arms, Alasdair’s grooving, Andrew’s slow thumping and Gaz’s focussed strumming gave the group that bit more than just a sound – they had a personality.
I do prefer my music a little more upbeat, but Lucifer certainly entertained the rapidly growing crowd with their short set which – in my view – improved as it went on.”Purple Pyramid” and closer “Izrael” were my picks of their six-song set.
A brief set change followed, then Tribulation snuck onto stage, setting up a few burning joss sticks (the poor man’s smoke machine?) before launching into their own take on black metal. Having spoken to half of the band before the show, they couldn’t have appeared more different on stage. For the second time tonight, we were entertained by a band that does more than just play songs whilst on stage. Guitarist Jonathan Hultén, in particular, put his picking on automatic as he strutted around like a long-haired Jack Skellington.
The music wasn’t half bad either. Dark, moody and the perfect lead-in for the headliners, Tribulation’s attitude falsely gave the impression that the music was slow when in reality it was at a surprisingly fast tempo with an interesting experimental twist. Definitely band to check out if you’ve not heard of them before (I hadn’t). Great entertainment.
With ninety minutes to fill, Halifax’s own Paradise Lost wandered onto stage in a very relaxed fashion as the clock tolled nine. Opening with new song “No Hope in Sight” and “The Enemy”, they set the pattern for a set which was filled with tracks from recent release The Plague Within, while dipping nicely into the back-catalogue.
Indeed, song three was the title track from their second release Gothic – twenty-four years on and still going down a storm live. Funnily enough – or perhaps deliberately – quite a few title tracks were in tonight’s set. “Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us”, “Tragic Idol” and (In)”Requiem” also put in an appearance.
Nick’s usual sense of humour was on display throughout the set, as were smiles from the whole band. His plea for “Any requests?” resulted in the expected chorus of suggestions to which his response was “Done now? Can we get on with the set list we’re going to play anyway?”
Unfortunately, there was one request he really should have listened to – or relayed to the sound man. That was to “sing louder”, a cry from someone behind me that I couldn’t agree more with. From the beginning of the set to the end, Nick’s vocals just sounded… weedy. I don’t think it was the man himself, more that his voice was being lost somewhere in the mix. He was audible, but the sound came across almost as if he was singing without a microphone while the rest of the band were amped up as they should be.
This was really the only thing that detracted from an otherwise top set from a band who really have never stopped working hard since 1988. I admit I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for them, having seen them on their first ever tour and with them being – if memory serves – the very first band I ever interviews (during their Icon tour cycle), and they were regulars at Bradford Rio in its original incarnation before it was sold off to become a textiles shop, of all things.
Aaron and Greg’s guitars were faultless (Aaron not attempting the bald man’s windmilling he had threatened earlier in the day), Steve’s bass plunked along clearly and Waltteri Väyrynen’s drumming was as good as you could hope for. Official drummer Adrian Erlandsson isn’t a touring member, at least at the moment, so his perch is filled by the talented 21 year-old Finn who is also the live drummer for Greg’s side project Vallenfyre. [Apologies to Waltteri, who I’d not realised was drumming; thanks to Karine Smith for pointing out my error, And Aaron Aedy for confirming the stand-in – Mosh]
For me, the best was saved till the end of the set. “Our ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit'” announced Nick before the opening notes of “As I Die” were plucked with one more track (“Requiem”) rounding off the main set. The four-song encore was capped by the awesome “Say Just Words” which genuinely left me wanting more. “Embers Fire” would have been nice, but with such a huge back catalogue there was no way the lads could play every request.
A busy Garage emptied into the rapidly chilling evening with many happy faces being seen. I’m not surprised.
All photos courtesy of Gary Cooper.