Review by Paul Castles
I’ve taken in a few Asylum shows in recent months where the collective number of assorted band members has been almost greater than the number of paying punters. This was not the case with this tremendous triple header. Hats off to all involved in the collaboration of promoters Sirius and Heretic in putting this together. Their reward came with a close to full house and a gig of astounding individuality and tormented talent.
With Birmingham’s godfathers of doom enjoying a welcome renaissance on the back of recently released album 13, it’s great to see that there’s no shortage of Midlands bands happy to tread the same cobweb encrusted cobbled path as Sabbath.
Up there with the best of the current bunch is Opium Lord who answered the late call to join the bill after Mercer had to pull out. The grapevine has clearly been spreading faster than the plague about these morose magicians of misery. To say it was standing room only in the cramped confines of the Asylum is perhaps stating the inevitable. But nevertheless enough people had ventured out from their lair earlier than usual on a Saturday evening to catch a whiff of Opium.
They would not have been disappointed with what was served up as the Asylum almost took on a hallucinogenic haze as Opium Lord got the night off to a mightily impressive start. This four man bunch of desperadoes have only been working as a unit for less than a year, with an EP to their name, and hopefully an album not too far away.
This is no naïve stab in the dark, so to speak. What Opium Lord offer is a grime filled bucket of despair that almost demands you bury your head in it. It’s wild, intense, stark and bubbling over with blackened vitriol. You won’t have to wait long to catch Opium Lord again, they are on the stunning Sunday bill for Fearfest back at the Asylum in October – the three-day jamboree being sponsored by Midlands Rocks – and they then play The Flapper in Birmingham a week later, supporting Acid Mothers Temple from Japan (October 13th).
On a night not designed for pleasantries with the girlfriend, the animosity, antagonism and angst kicked in big time when Bossk arrived. Few bands do edginess quite like these Ashford boys. Having seen them a few weeks ago completely destroy the Sophie Lancaster tent at Bloodstock the thought of being subjected to the same twisted treatment in a much smaller space was both frightening and fabulous at the same time.
Bossk have their trademarks, perhaps the most unorthodox of which is to simply perform the majority of the set with no vocals. They do have a singer but as usual it was only after a good 15-minutes of interlocking guitar mayhem that Sam Marsh stepped up to the mic to join the party, and that word is used very loosely indeed.
Bossk aren’t really a jelly and ice cream kind of band. What they are is a magnificent perfectly blended unit that create an immense swirling sound with more peaks and troughs than the Appalachian Mountains. With the stage somberly lit with a couple of thin neon blue light strips, and a few gently smouldering sticks of incense, Bossk generate a stifling atmosphere that almost sucks the breath from your lungs.
Opening with ‘Define’ Bossk rattled through their set as songs seamlessly followed on at times with the join almost invisible. While the tender twisting intricate guitar picks could stop the traffic at Piccadilly Circus in rush hour, once the power surge kicks in every neck in the Asylum clicks onto supercharge just to keep up with the thrusting rhythm. To think that the fellas could have evaporated a few years ago is painful to conceive. With the Bossk bond now sticking together as though they’ve been encased in superglue the future can only be positive.
And so to Dragged Into Sunlight. A suitably apt name for a band who play the entire set in as close to pitch black as any gig I’ve ever attended. While the band’s familiar stage adornment of a gothic candelabra complete with twisted horns hinted at the presence of some kind of satanic force, Dragged Into Sunlight proved to be even fiercer fire starters than Lucifer himself.
Vocalist T, barefoot and hooded, swayed from the mic stand, with back to the audience, as though absorbed in a dark deep world of his own. Musically, Dragged Into Sunlight are as hostile and hate-filled as they come crafting a black metal thunderstorm with a strobe light completing the battering of all of your senses by building a white wall through which the shadowy figures of the band could only just be made out.
Playing several numbers from their well named Hated for Mankind album, Dragged Into Sunlight delivered a stage performance of sheer venom and vitriol that would be difficult, if not impossible, to surpass. This was a performance that stays with you, on a night when highly accomplished unadulterated extreme music was executed at the Asylum with steely clinical precision.