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Album Review: TBA

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Gig Review: Shrinebuilder + Wolves In The Throne Room - Scala, London 2/12/10

Ducking into the Scala to escape the capital freeze is a pointless exercise tonight as, be it deliberate or not, the band room is chilled to the point where their cloakroom becomes wholly redundant. It’s the perfect temperature for Wolves In The Throne Room though, who proceed to ramp up the emotion with a combination of gloom, jettisoned fog, etched banners and a protracted candle-lighting ceremony. With the stage fully anointed, their crushing gloop of malevolent black metal, crust and doom rings out, regularly dipping into a burbling, Neanderthal-paced melancholy before bursting out into a session of grating barks and power chords. Like creeping death, they wash over us sparking neither disgust, nor true passion. A few nodding heads and the odd round of gentle applause are all they can muster from those attending, although their fastidious lack of eye contact, rather than their music, is most likely the reason for this.

Nothing less than a volcanic eruption (remember those newsreaders trying to pronounce Eyjafjallajoekull?) could stop Shrinebuilder visiting these shores last Spring, so to finally hear the crowd roar as Dale Crover (Melvins’ drummer/vocalist), Al Cisneros (Om’s bassist/vocalist), Scott Kelly (Neurosis’ guitarist/vocalist) and Scott ‘Wino’ Weinrich (The Obsessed vocalist/guitarist), legends all, mount the stage is enough to cause several grown men’s lips to momentarily quiver. The lank-haired Crover and Cisneros, resplendent as the class clown in his woolly hat, immediately fire up the rhythm section; Dale beats the snare into submission with the minimum of effort whilst Al uses his grotty basslines to overwhelm as much of the room as possible. Kelly and Wino try hard to make headway into the deluge with dissonant guitar and a mixture of vocal howl and croon, but they seem to make little impression. Only a trip up to the Glass Room, where a vast pane dissolves the sound, can cure the problem and single their individual efforts out.

They mix the songs up nicely, firing up the mighty ‘Pyramid Of The Moon’ and ‘The Architect’ as an opening salvo and saving ‘Solar Benediction’ for a raging finish. The middle of the set wanders away from the punchier material to slip into a spot of almost mystical noodling – it marks a period where the now fervently headbanging crowd find space for mild introspection. The band also happily fit in a couple of less well-known tracks; ‘We Let The Hell Come’ shining out like a beacon. Kelly, looking like he’s been dragged through a hedge backwards and sporting a perma-stoned expression, is constantly impressive, digging out arse-clenching riffs and scowling vocal which Wino latches onto, plugging any gaps in sound with wah, extravagant slide and morphing melody. In fact it’s also Wino who adopts the role of ringmaster, legs spread, urging the audience to greater heights with a combination of vein-popping head jerks and fierce eyeballing.

There is really only one real spoiler to this brutal showing and it comes in the form of this evening’s stringent ‘no flash’ policy. One fan dares to forget to switch his off and suffers the indignity of having a roadie repeatedly pelt him with flying cups until he ceases. When you’ve got four of the world’s finest musicians before you, performing at the top of their game, turning your brain into mush, it seems the perfect excuse for a little lack of self-control.

All photographs by Rich Etteridge

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