Review by Paul Castles, Photos by Rich Thompson
There are many worse ways to spend a Bank Holiday Monday than turning out for a five-band bill at The Rainbow, hosted by Sirius Promotions. Apologies first to Soden and Gevaudan whose sets I was unable to see due to backstage interview commitments.
I caught the briefest of glimpses of Wigan warriors Boss Keloid and liked what I saw. Hopefully next time the sun, moon and earth will align in such a way to enable me to catch their full set as their Herb Your Enthusiasm album is a mighty beast, for sure.
The Moth were last in these parts when supporting Conan, just around the corner at the now defunct Oobleck. They gave a favourable account of themselves that night so the return of the German sludge outfit was certainly a welcome one.
Since their last visit to Birmingham The Moth have released an excellent debut album And Then Rise (reviewed here), from which ‘Seek and Burn’ and ‘Travel Light’ stood out at The Rainbow. The previous night they had performed at Desertfest in London where sadly some amp issues had disrupted their set and unfortunately the gremlins had accompanied them on the journey to the West Midlands.
Again there was an issue with an amp, requiring much removing and then reinserting of assorted cables and plugs. To top the lot, the enthusiasm with which drummer Tiffy was attacking his kit saw him sheepishly hold up one of his foot pedals after one song having snapped it in half. Fortunately it takes more than a few annoying issues to strip much gloss off what remained a rousing set with Freden fixated on rushing through as many soaring riffs as he possibly could within the allotted time.
That leaves Cécile free to focus on the deep rumbling bass lines which provides the perfect cushion for her nearly as deep vocal tones. The teutonic trio are an accomplished act who when free from distractions ignite a fuzzed up fireball hotter than a plate of yellow chillies.
Anyone following the trials and tribulations of the US party leadership campaigns could be forgiven for thinking that the country is populated entirely by misfits. Fortunately that isn’t quite the case although if further evidence is required to show that the US is actually a creative force for the good then the doom scene is as good a reference point as any.
In the past year or so followers of the low slung darkened drawl from across the Atlantic have born witness to visitors such as the peerless Pallbearer and the bludgeoning Bell Witch.
Now we can add Samothrace to their ranks. Although with individual connections stretching across the map from Oklahoma to New Mexico and to Kansas, the spiritual and indeed physical home of these funereal doom-mongers thesedays is Seattle.
While the city has always had a distinguished musical heritage, think Cobain and further back to Hendrix, it’s unlikely that many of the city’s sons and daughters have created music quite like Samothrace.
Indeed, some individuals unfamiliar with their penchant for long hypnotic phases of repetitive riffs would even take some convincing that this primal sound is ‘music’ at all. Fortunately for those who can venture away from the bubble gum mainstream, listening to Samothrace live for the first (and hopefully not the last) time is akin to finding a pearl washed up on the beach – albeit one that you have to polish for some time before you see it sparkle.
The band’s last album Reverence To Stone consisted of just two tracks and even the frontman Spinks had his reservations about releasing it. Fortunately those at the helm at 20 Buck Spin records were prepared to chuck the dice and it was the first of those monolithic compositions, ‘A Horse of Our Own’ that provided the sweeping 20-minute opening song at the Rainbow.
There are comparisons to be made with early Conan as Samothrace pretty much escort you on a skull shattering ride from which it appears there’s no beginning and no end.
Samothrace drummer Joe Axler has his top cymbals so high that he has to reach way above his head to make contact with them, almost having to come off his stool in fact. And so the Samothrace set opens with Joe frozen on his stool, arms aloft before finally bringing his sticks crashing down to signal the start of one of the most monstrously outrageous displays of obliterating drone in ‘A Horse of Our Own’.
The Richter scale crushing riff that follows is the audio equivalent of having a blindfold wrapped around your head. You can’t see anything, you’re just rooted, transfixed, scared to move in case you bring the whole towering sound tumbling down on your head.
With Renata Castagna and Monte McCleery pushing the extremities of doomladen drone to the precipice, Spinks eventually steps up to the mic and proceeds to dig deep into his personal physical and emotional vortex before emerging with an animalistic aural assault that you almost feel should be ushered back into its cage. The emotions are anguished and deep and while the literal words are totally indecipherable that in no way diminishes their impact.
Samothrace managed to play three of their colossal compositions, the final one, ‘Awkward Hearts’, beginning with Renata slowly and softly developing a riff pattern before drummer Joe brings his sticks down from a great height once more to shatter the mood.
The kind of ambient wasteland Samothrace inhabit is never going to be overcrowded. Ethereal emptiness does not make for a welcoming place. But within the blurred shapes sonically produced lie moments of primal pleasure that move you to your very core.
A Horse of Our Own
- Sirius Promotions stage another quality night of extreme metal at Scruffy Murphys in Birmingham on July 2, featuring Trivax, Sathamel, Daemona and Edenfall. Full details here.