Review by Paul Castles, Photos by Tony Gaskin
Any sensible promoter just embarking into this mad and precarious business may have played safe with their first show by putting on a friends’ band down the local boozer. Well clearly new Midlands promoter Worth the Weight are thinking along much bigger lines than that. So to kick off they staged a seven-band bill at The Rainbow in Digbeth, the icing on the proverbial cake coming in the shape of headliners October File…. But more of them later.
Proceedings commenced in front of a scattering of fans just before the sun disappeared when newcomers Conjurer took to the stage for the very first time. Anyone expecting a laidback approach from the opening act quickly had any such whimsical illusions shattered when the Midlands quartet dived headfirst into a pool of nihilistic darkness and desolation. With a bass player flipping his instrument around as though in readiness for Shrove Tuesday, Conjurer displayed admirable confidence on their first official outing with frontman Ben coughing up impressive vocals that could scarcely have been blacker if he’d been munching on a piece of coal.
Musically bleak, Conjurer threw down the kind of grooves capable of derailing a freight train. Guitarist Brady was wearing two hats here – both performer and promoter – and he juggled the pair with peerless professionalism. Once Conjurer had completed their brief but blistering early assault on our ear canals, Brady was up and running ensuring the rest of the evening ran smoothly.
The aggression monitor did not so much as drop one iota when The Darkhorse galloped onto the stage. The hometown group almost needed a wheelbarrow to haul their riffs onto the stage, so heavy were they.
Their crushing southern fried delivery was so authentic you could almost taste it. The fuzzed up appearance of the heavily bearded bunch was matched by the distorted fuzz pumped through the amps.
Very much from the same classroom as Crowbar and Corrosion of Conformity, The Darkhorse are ferocious frontrunners well worth a gamble on next time they appear.
Shebrew opened impressively with a riff so filthy you could almost feel your boots sticking to the floor. More clean singing in style than most of the others on the bill, the rhythms worked well but my enjoyment of the set was heavily curtailed due to a prior interview engagement with Alunah.
I returned in time to catch Burden Of The Noose and I was glad I did. This two-pronged vitriolic vocal rampage ignited immediate comparisons with Raging Speedhorn, the two mic munchers Poon and Andy slugging it out like two middleweight boxers. Hardcore to the bone, one singer crunching and grinding away death metal style with the other‘s paralysing screeches reaching blood vessel bursting proportions. Although Burden of the Noose were wilder than a stampede of horses, with bruising blastbeats pushing things to the limit, the quality was there to rein it in where necessary.
After a succession of Midland-based acts Worth the Weight then served up a Lancashire hotpot in the shape of sludge sizzlers Pist. Fair play to the Bury boys who arrived as a late booking following the unfortunate late withdrawal of Grimpen Mire.
Pist were a revelation and certainly downed enough ale on stage to suggest their ingenious name is not without substance. Some of the riffs were so intertwined it would have been easier untangling a bowl of spaghetti. In Dave Rowlands, Pist also possessed one of the evening’s most entertaining frontmen, engaging in some friendly banter with the poor sound engineer when things were not quite to his liking.
Their sludge soundwaves are thicker than treacle and as Dave commented, after the legendary Bury market, Pist could well be the second biggest thing that his hometown becomes known for.
Both Pist and Conjurer will be sharing a stage at Scruffys with Bong Cauldron and the outstanding Gurt on 8th April. What a night that promises to be!
Anyone not by now familiar with the Midlands’ doom torchbearers Alunah must be living under a rock. Their progress continues ever upwards, having released their third album, on Napalm, four months ago to the day. That was marked with a special debut release show at Scruffys and while not headlining the Rainbow they were clearly the local heroes most people there had turned out to see.
Opening with two atmospheric gems from the album in ‘Bricket Wood Coven’ and ‘Heavy Bough’, Alunah brought proceedings down to a sedate pace but without the heaviness being compromised one dot. The extended intro of ‘Heavy Bough’ added a cold chill when it was unnecessary, on a bitterly cold evening. The riff built to a demonic climax before performing a sharp turn and grabbing you by the throat.
Singer Soph Day has an emotion-packed voice, but the softness of her delivery is enhanced by the crust of doom that her bandmates layer on top. The majestically mercurial closer ‘White Hoarhound’ is sadder than a roomful of depressives allowing Alunah to depart to a great ovation.
Unfortunately rather too many in the crowd took this as their cue to head to the doors too! So when October File entered the fray there was barely enough people present to form a rugby team. By the time they’d finished it was a football team, and almost a five-a-side one at that! Having been presented with such a disheartening spectacle October File could almost have been forgiven if they’d taken a sullen derisory glance at the empty floor and then hopped straight back in the van and head for home.
Not a bit of it! Crashing straight into ‘A Munitions Crusade’ they proceeded to deliver possibly the most intimate show of their metal lives with absolute precision and conviction. While happy to share a joke in between numbers with the assembled throng, which of course is something of an overstatement, once they flicked the switch it was unbridled power, purpose and pure aggression.
October File have more than touch of 80s icons Killing Joke about them, none more so than on ‘I Fuck The Day’ with frontman Ben Hollyer screeching down the mic, although without quite emulating the wide-eyed stare perfected by the ignominious Icelandic warrior Jaz Coleman. Show stealer was ‘The Water’ which had the power surge of a tidal wave and was so utterly compelling that you could almost feel your feet getting wet.
Sharing a brief word with bassist Steve Beatty at the end it was clear that despite ending the set in front of not that many more people than were actually standing on the stage, spirits in the October File camp remained high. Indeed it was, Steve said, a near perfect rehearsal for their forthcoming performance at Hammerfest in April.
For the diehard handful who stuck it out to the end, I salute you. True believers in the metal religion, keep the faith. This was a thoroughly entertaining day at The Rainbow and a successful start to the gig promoting career of Worth the Weight. The new team’s next venture looks every bit as promising with Downfall Of Gaia, Der Weg Einer Freiheit, and others performing at The Rainbow in Birmingham on 29th March.
1. Bricket Wood Coven
2. Heavy Bough
3. Scourge And The Kiss
4. Hermetic Order Of The Golden Dawn
5. Awakening The Forest
6. White Hoarhound
October File setlist:
1. A Munitions Crusade
2. Heroes Are Welcome
4. I Fuck The Day
6. All Rise All Fail
7. The Water