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Monday, August 18, 2008

Gig Review: The Sword - Underworld, London, 03/04/08

Black Cobra

The need for a beer at The World’s End pub above the venue has delayed us albeit briefly, yet as we descend into the tight little grotto that is the Underworld we see that Invasion have set off proceedings with their stylish take on psych-thrash. This unique trio of floppy-haired guitarist, feisty skin-basher and vocal hellraiser are belting out the decibels but don’t seem at all happy with the sounds they’re producing. There’s continual input from the sound-desk as a guy races back and forth across stage changing microphones.

Through it all, Chan, the vocalist, lurks in the shadows, brooding beneath a full-length hooded cowl, blasting out a mighty range over which the guitar winds waves of compression with the odd spot of sludge thrown in for good measure. The drummer down to just her little black bra beats out punishing rhythms with crashing cymbals and hi-hat action. As the last note rings out, in a fit of pique the guitarist throws his guitar out onto the dancefloor, barely missing the punters. It’s not a happy band, but to be honest it wasn’t sounding as awful as he obviously thinks it did.

Black Cobra are on a mission to deafen. Two blokes, one awesome sound. The frontman’s sparkly gold guitar has been fed through the entire trio of guitar amps and he only has to twist it in the vague direction of his mic for feedback to froth from its innards. When the afro’d drummer sets events in motion, the guitar throbs into life with a sequence of big, dirty and, to be frank, abnoxiously loud chugging and the vocal immediately goes completely missing. Perhaps what is required is three mics to counter-act the three amps drowning it into submission. This is a style that’s clearly been honed at the ‘School Of Matt Pike’. Plenty of posturing, guitar-jabbing and facial grimacing garner him plenty of love from those in front. Heading to the back of the venue, you can just make out his razor-sharp cutting vocal and it really is damn impressive. Today is to be the day when we discover it’s not always clever to turn your amps up to eleven.

All hail the Saviours! We loved their recent mini-album and aren’t disappointed when they let loose with ‘Cavern Of Mind’, their best song to date. It gets a hell of a reception from the crowd and kick-starts a giant moshpit of pumping-fists and ricocheting punters. The band’s hairy bassist looms menacingly over me like a giant ogre, mincing my bones with his stoner grooves. At his side, rapid drills and tom-rolls are being beaten out by the awesome drummer, proudly sporting an AC/DC tee. Then there’s the band’s frontman staggering around spaced-out suggesting, perhaps, one too many pre-show spliffs. By the time they reach the end and ‘Raging Embers’ the crowd and the band are one and they are roared from the stage. They’re gonna be a tough act to follow.

The Sword are just the band to give it a crack. The opening bars of ‘The Sundering’ find their way from their ringleader, John D. Cronise, to our battered ears and, at once, all our defences drop for the final onslaught. They follow up with those two barnstormers of theirs, the colossal rock anthem ‘Maiden, Mother and Crone’ and ‘Barael’s Blade’ from their 2003 debut and it fires up the pit that just doesn’t cease moving for their entire set.

When I reviewed the new ‘Gods Of The Earth’ album I mentioned that it was like the sound of two forces battling. Well, tonight I am in that battle fighting off wave after wave of crushing bodies. Cronise directs the mosh from above, tearing at his guitar (which looks like it’s been hewn out of rock) with skeletal fingers, his giant bell-bottomed jeans swinging back and forth. “Does anyone like riffs?” he yelps before trading them with fellow guitarist, the contantly head-banging and heavily tattooed, Kyle Shutt. The chugging rhythm of ‘Freya’ draws our attention towards bassist Bryan Richie who is revelling in finger-walking his deep-throbbing, orange Fender Telebass. Alongside him the concentration of Trivett Wingo, all beard, sticks and skins, is impressive as he peppers the song with rat-a-tat cracks and rolling snare.

Once more the crowd take centre-stage, literally, as a crowd-surfer rises up and is fed backwards, then forwards, before being dumped unceremoniously on his arse in front of the drumkit. He stays sat there up on stage, quite happy, banging his head and pumping his fists in time with the deafening waves of sound. When the dust has finally settled we realise that this gig has probably broke records for volume levels as, despite wearing earplugs, we’re still hearing remnants of that big Southern sludge-fest ring out even now.

Also online @ TLOBF = http://www.thelineofbestfit.com/2008/04/the-sword-underworld-london-030408/

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