Review by Paul Castles
The late withdrawal of Sodomized Cadaver meant that the three remaining outfits gathered at Mama Roux’s in Birmingham were gifted an extra 10 minutes or so to their allotted time. Good news then for fans of openers Burial who wasted no time in expelling a steady stream of bruising blows peppered with a few witty asides for the early arrivals. With blastbeats coming at you so fast it almost felt necessary to take evasive action, the Mancunian trio constructed a wall of barbed wire riffs that offered little means of escape, especially when upping the mayhem levels on songs such as ‘Cupboard of Death’ during which vocalist Derek gave a fairly good impersonation of what a rat may sound like when climbing up a drainpipe. Living up to their band name, ‘Devoured By Earth’ was another mighty wedge of blackened death granite while initial comments that ‘Nothing Away’ – a song about killing yourself – was a slower number lasted for about 15 seconds before more Manc mayhem kicked in. What Burial did manage to succeed in doing was creating a tightly structured platform of carnage the reins of which they had a sufficiently tight grip on to prevent it descending into complete chaos and their recently released second album Unholy Sedition has much to recommend it.
Rannoch were an entirely different proposition, technically breathtaking at times with frontman Ian Gillings performing such astonishing levels of dexterity on his 8-string weapon that even Gandolf would have struggled to match his riff wizardy. At times his fingers were crawling over the strings with the precision and artistry of a spider making its web. Although an interview with the headline act, meant my time with the Midland quartet was not as long as it would otherwise have been, what I witnessed made a highly favourable impression. At times Rannoch administered a mesmerising matrix of interlocking grooves through which it was difficult to see where one technical twist ended and the next began. While the heavy sections toppled you like a bag of spanners, this was balanced by some hypnotic softer passages in which melodies were given time and space to flourish to great effect.
Headliners Mithras have found this mini UK tour a challenge for a variety of reasons. Losing their singer during the summer was not ideal on the eve of releasing their fourth album, On Strange Loops. Then the first few nights of this tour saw them experience the theft of a load of gear from a car, and then one of their other cars suddenly decided to raise the white flag on the way home from the West Country. Still, the recently refigured quartet did make it to Mama’s and the hardy crowd who turned out on a Sunday to welcome them, for what was the nearest they had to a home town gig on this tour, were mighty pleased that they did. Mithras have always been a respected outfit on the UK underground scene although lumping them in, as they too frequently have been, with the death metal brigade has never really done them justice. It’s now down to band founder Leon Macey and long serving guitarist Tom to guide Mithras through the next phase of what promises to be an exciting period for the band, with Leon stepping up to the mic and not purely in a metaphorical sense. Opening at Mama’s with a track from the new album, ‘Odyssey’s End’ started with a sustained desolate groove that took time to find its voice but steadily grew in tempo and texture until it was a full-on astronomical attack.
Mithras proceeded to sweep through an hour’s worth of material, with Leon providing an engaging between-song commentary that helped provide chronological definition to the setlist. New album On Strange Loops probes some of the deepest questions that have continued to challenge the greatest scientific brains since time immemorial. Midway through ‘Wrath of God’ the energy levels being triggered clearly struck the wrong chord with the man upstairs as bass player Vic’s amp suddenly exploded like a well shaken can of pop causing a delay of a few minutes while the band scrambled to make good the damage. Getting the planets back in line did not take long as Mithras launched into‘Time Never Lasts’. Another new number in ‘When the Stars Align’ built to a stunning symphonic crescendo with an aching arc of a riff resounding across Mama’s like a comet in search of a home. The title track of their second album ‘Worlds Beyond The Veil’ was a better antidote for clearing your senses than anything prescribed over a chemists’ counter with Mithras eventually leaving an appreciative crowd with ‘Thrown Upon The Waves’ from the band’s 2007 release Behind the Shadows Lie Madness.
- If you’re travelling to the Damnation Festival in Leeds on Saturday you’ll catch Mithras there.
- Odyssey’s End
- Lords and Masters
- Under the Three Spheres
- Tomb of Kings
- Wrath of God
- Time Never Lasts
- To Where the Sun Never Leaves
- When the Stars Align
- Worlds Beyond the Veil
- Thrown Upon the Waves