Review by Paul Castles
It’s safe to assume that when venturing out for a night of Doom, you can leave the needle and thread in the sewing kit. There’ll be no split sides in need of repair after a fit of the giggles, that’s for sure.
Inconspicuously, the sun was blazing for a trip to the musical darkside in Birmingham. Although the great fire god had failed to shine on Dopethrone who had been forced to withdraw from this tempting triple header at the Asylum 2.
The absence of the Canadians was scarcely felt however, with local stand-ins Alunah proving a revelation on the night. Diminutive singer Soph Day has a vocal range and presence that defies her physical stature and the Brummie band served up a starter of Doom that would have graced any table.
Although firmly encased in the Doom pigeon-hole, Alunah aren’t afraid to spread their wings and some of their material has some wonderfully creative and lighter touches that draw you in closer. The night proved to be something of a parting of the waves though with Soph wishing bassist Gary luck with his new musical venture. Alunah will hopefully go from strength to strength once his shoes are filled.
Such was the density of the smoke bellowing from the stage like an over excitable power station that within the intimate confines of the Asylum 2, Soph at times became almost lost in a thick green cloud more suited to some kind of Dickensian docklands murder mystery. Alunah signed off with a smothering Belial’s Fjord which they dedicated to the absent Dopethrone.
Huata were next on stage, frontman Ronan Grall making a grand entrance in a monk’s cassock complete with pointy hood pulled down tightly over his face looking like one of the dementors from the Harry Potter movies. Unfortunately for the French frontman, having recently seen the extraordinary Papa Emeritus II in full Papal regalia, a mere monk’s robes almost looks mundane in comparison to the Ghost singer.
Ronan stood behind his organ (no laughing at the back) and proceeded to churn out some astonishingly heavy drones that went close to sucking the air out of the room. Whatever Huata do, they don’t do it fast and a 10-minute song would be viewed as far too lightweight for these suffocating stoner soldiers. Swigging intermittently from what looked like a bottle of white vinegar Ronan managed to drag most of the numbers out to around 15 minutes and any passing funeral cars would certainly have left these Frenchmen for dead – so to speak.
Not at all dissimilar from Electric Wizard, what you get with Huata is an atmospheric glimpse of the dark side with a taut ritualistic rendering that toys with your mind and senses. The oppressive cloak of death weighs heavy in the air throughout Huata’s haunting set with Ronan’s, at times strained, vocals penetrating through the mist. The tension is unrelenting, the delivery disturbing but by the end Huata had won over a whole new band of disciples transfixed by their passion, power and propriety.
Having had two outstanding acts help create the necessary sense of ambience at the Asylum, there was a real sense of anticipation when headliners The Wounded Kings stepped onto the stage. The Dartmoor doomsters are now performing at the top of their game and in Sharie Neyland have an engaging vocalist with a distinctive dramatic delivery.
The Kings have gone through more than one coronation since guitarist Steve Mills started the band but the current line-up is the most authoritative with drummer Myke Heath’s sense of timing heightening the mood during each number. Bass player Jim Willumsen sustains a low blackened barrage encased in darkness while Mills and Alex Kearney create wave after wave of spiraling riffs. On numbers such as opener ‘The Cult of Souls’ and punishing finale ‘In the Chapel Of The Black Hand’ Sharie’s captivating tones are absolutely spellbinding.
There are many strands to the Kings’ sound and following the band’s recent switch to Candlelight, their next release – which is now in its closing stages of production – should help develop their fanbase both at home and overseas.
The Wounded Kings setlist:
The Cult of Souls
Gates of Oblivion
Return of the Sorcerer
In the Chapel of the Black Hand