Review by Emily Castles
It’s a Saturday night in the middle of a heatwave. But there are no denim cut-offs or Hawaiian shirts here, my friend. At the O2 Forum in North London, it’s still a familiar sea of black T-shirts and lace-up boots. Metal stops for no-one (or no weather).
It’s a near sell-out this evening in this glorious Kentish Town venue, which is more classical opera than fist-pumping mosher.
It’s an early kick-off with Yob taking to the stage at 6:30. I caught the enigmatic American doom trio last year, alongside the gut-wrenching Belgium blasphemers that are Wiegedood, at The Garage, just down the road.
Despite the early start, the audience this evening is considerably larger in comparison. Yob open up with ‘Quantum Mystic’, taken from their fourth studio album The Unreal Never Lived. For anyone particularly drawn to slowed-down, tuned-down, emotionally-devastating riffs, layered with catchy, delicate guitar work and mischievously melodic growls then Yob are the ones for you.
In their 40 minute set, they perform just three songs – and I need a neckbrace. They end with the title song of their latest album, ‘Our Raw Heart’, written following frontman Mike Scheidt’s life-threatening health scare. It’s stripped back, gentle, and calamitous. There is no party here, just thought-inducing, emotionally-testing musical brilliance.
The pace ramps up as Birmingham’s veterans Godflesh burst on to the stage with their intoxicating concoction of intense industrial intrigue. At times, their songs sound like the backing track to a piece of experimental theatre. An immersive play I recently went to see about the Ukrainian revolution springs to mind. As they begin ‘Parasite’, I feel like I have partially fallen down the rabbit hole into a world of intense, off-your-face Electronic Dance Music. But metal-fied EDM (obviously).
This is crushing sludge with a Punkish attitude. Thematically their songs are confusing and unsettling, focusing on the loss of self and a lack of understanding of self. This, combined with a violent white-light show, offers something akin to a transcendental experience. Godflesh end in style with ‘Defeated’ from the 2001 album Hymns.
The headliners this evening are no other than sludge demons, Neurosis. The legendary Californians open with the almighty ‘A Sun That Never Sets’ – an outrageous, single-riff song which takes us on a disorientating journey in which we are caught between the past and the present. Neurosis are rhythmically testing – you are never quite sure what direction they are going to go. This is a band which has always questioned and tested the expected. There are no rules, only experimentation.
Scott Kelly provides powerful vocals, supported by Steve Von Till. Like Yob and Godflesh before them, Neurosis have no dialogue with the crowd this evening – tonight is all about music evoking thought and creating energy – these bands don’t want to distract us from the musical voyage we have all so willingly embarked upon. With a 30-year back catalogue coming up with a setlist to please everyone is in itself an uphill task. Tonight though Neurosis come pretty close, stepping back in time to the crushing ‘End of the Harvest’ while also accommodating a couple from 2016 album Fires Within Fires.
Neurosis’ sound is often desolate such as on ‘Reach’, at other moments bordering on apocalyptic, combining lonely string-picking with explosions of agonised distortion. This is epitomised as the band closes the evening with ‘Stones from the Sky’ – from 2001 album A Sun That Never Sets – the world is over and all we have left is the haunting sound of a nightmarish Neurosis.