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Album Review: TBA

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Gig Review: Baroness – Water Rats, London 02/02/08

As a venue, the Water Rats is incredibly cramped, stiflingly hot and utterly lacking in rules or regulations. It would give any Health & Safety or DEFRA committee member a heart attack were they to discover there is no barrier, glass is allowed in the gig room, there is no security to control the crowd and there is seemingly no limit on levels of volume. Yes, it is utterly fantastic.

The gig has completely sold out and, even better, Taint has been added to the bill. They are quick to blow us away with their high-tempo rock n’ sludge groove. A large chunk of their set is naturally off the well-received 2007 ‘Secrets and Lies’ album.

The bassist, Chris West is spending a lot of time at the bottom end of his fretboard giving the three-piece a punchy, vibrant quality. Lead singer Jimbob urges the crowd on with little pep talks. “Step forward – the more you give the more we give”, he yells and we all surge in on him. They invite a mouse-like flautist to take the stage before launching into the fantastically epic ‘What the Crow Saw’ with its blinding momentum and Led Zep flair. The lads from South Wales are definitely one to watch out for.

We quickly realise how loud psych-metal outfit Kylesa are going to be when they begin setting up a second drumkit. When they finally kick things off it’s like the police have invaded a ‘Stomp’ live show! Wailing siren guitars scream bloody murder as the two beaters thrash out a syncopated series of thunderclaps creating their own mini-wind chamber of soundwaves. The hefty overdrive on the guitars blanket everything in a dizzying wash of volume. Singing duties are split between the good, the bad and the ugly triumvirate out front – the hirsute Philip Cope, blonde scream-queen Laura Pleasants and the scary-as-fuck, headbanging Catweazle look-a-like Corey Barhorst. It’s a fearsome combination and they are truly worthy of our adoration.

Baroness emerge from the gloom like battle-hardened heroes. All heads turn to the ringmaster, John Baizely, with his mighty beard, flip-down jaw and bulging eyeballs.

A man of many talents, Baizley’s artwork is selling like hot cakes at the merch stand, particularly the special poster he’s drawn just for this gig. But it’s here, with his white Gibson in hand, where he most excels. Though a combination of step and sustain effect vocals he plays the haunting opening bars of ‘Rays of Pinion’, gradually bringing in the lead riff which after an age the drummer grabs hold of and we kick off into the wonderful prog-rock and stoner metal world that Baroness have created for us. Their set is heavy on new ‘Red Album’ material and that’s exactly why we’re here cheering as ‘Birthing’, ‘Wanderlust’ and ‘Isak’ are whipped out.

The long-lost music combined with the stage’s flashing fairy lights and big gothic columns are enough to send the sanest man a bit nuts. Lo and behold, here comes our nutter. Emerging on top of the heaving crowd he is surfed right to the back of the room before being turned and fed all the way back forward. Eventually he is puked up onto the stage nearly taking out the bleary-eyed bassist Summer Welch. He clearly hasn’t finished and begins crashing his skull into the cymbal in time with the beat. After a couple of minutes of this one fan finally has had enough and plays security getting up to push him off stage before taking back his position at the front.

Throughout the band are unmoved in their determination to play seamlessly, without pause, from start to finish. The wonderfully upbeat ‘Wailing Wintry Wind’ invites us to dance with reindeers and jingle our sleigh bells. On the busier numbers the melee of whining guitars actually start drowning each other out turning the clever guitar interplay to a thick sludge. No matter though as there are plenty of songs that pound with simplicity and ‘O’Appalachia’ has that in spades. “Raise…your… voices…” belts out Baizley and we all join in with pumping fists and strained vocal chords. They end on ‘Grad’ and deafened, but delighted, we cheer them from the stage.

Photo courtesy of Rich E

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