Review by Paul Castles, Photos by Helen Moss, ABSTRACT photo
Moghul have been a constant presence on the city’s live circuit for the last couple of years but this appearance was probably their last for some time, if not forever. Playing a throbbing set, with vocals used only sparingly, Moghul create a heavy claustrophobic atmosphere ideally suited to the basement at Scruffys. If this does prove to be their final throw of the dice then they bowed out with a double six, casting a spell over the crowd with their final track ‘Dirty Wizard’.
It’s always a pleasure to catch melancholic Midlands’ doom quartet Alunah who announced themselves to a small but attentive crowd with some deep groaning bass lines that permeated menacingly around the room. Vocalist Soph has a presence and voice that is difficult to ignore and the crowd were drawn in by Alunah’s sweeping riffs and haunting melodies while live favourite ‘White Hoarhound’ never fails to permeate through the gloom like a dagger through the heart.
They have been working on some new material and while their first live performance of ‘Bricket Wood Coven’ from their forthcoming album was briefly knocked off course when Dave suffered a broken string, the hallucinogenic heaviness still shone through. Final song, the majestic ‘Belial’s Fjord,’ opened with pounding rolling drums and brought the blackened curtain down on another polished Alunah performance, throbbing with anguish and heartache, to a fitting close.
The morose Midlanders have a couple of engagements in the capital to look forward to before the rest of us get a chance to monitor their progress, when they support Grand Magus at the Slade Rooms next March.
The night’s headliners Jex Thoth have been causing quite a stir with their mystic madness and the Americans had drawn a salivating crowd of the size that would be hard to surpass at Scruffys. If their occult metal mysticism drew a curious gathering keen to see whether there was substance behind the hype, the answer proved to be a resounding affirmative from the moment Jex (Jessica) emerged through the middle of the packed crowd holding burning pieces of wood high above her head.
With the stage bathed in blood red mist, the feeling created by Jex Thoth is one of incendiary trepidation. The young singer is completely lost in a world of her own and it’s probably not one in which most people would choose to visit. First track ‘The Places You Walk’ is a masterpiece of melancholy, dripping with ethereal emotion as Jex completely immerses herself in the song.
With arms pointing up to the sky, and with a suitably spooky black cape draped around her shoulders, Jex almost performs in a trance like state twisting around the stage, stretching desperately into the audience, and at times even walking directly into the crowd, again holding flickering flames above her head.
At one point she lifted up a grand candelabra straight off the set of a Hammer horror movie and proceeded to holler down the mic whilst waving the fully lit object above her head like a desperate damsel trying to flag down a horse drawn carriage on a country lane during the dead of night.
Spooky or what!
For all the pageantry and pagan symbolism the greatest appeal of Jex Thoth lies within the sheer brilliance of their music. Waving a few candles about like won’t get you very far if the music does not deliver.
The band’s second album is an occult opus of genuine doomy depth and drive, bubbling like a witch’s cauldron on full boil at Halloween, with tricks and treats. The highlights from a set that never once dropped below excellent on the doom-mometer were tracks such as ‘The Divide’ but all the material played from the quite rightly acclaimed Blood Moon Rise album acquired greater depth and darkness when seen performed live rather than just listened to. All were delivered by Jex with painstaking sincerity that felt at times like you were intruding on private grief.
The band departed in the same macabre manner in which they had arrived, with Jex being swallowed up by a now jaw-dropped awestruck crowd, before finally disappearing into the night.
The memories of this extraordinary performance will linger long after the flames have been extinguished.