Review by Jason Guest and photos by Tony Gaskin
Funeral Throne suffered that most common of inaugural band blues: a bad sound. And so with cardboard drums and raspy guitars spluttering through the PA, the lo-fi production that black metal is notorious for entered the live arena. Far from being the fault of the band, they furiously smashed the shit out of their instruments and the three vocalists continually tore their throats out in as convincing a performance as they could muster. But the black metal outpourings of these Black Country blasphemers needs to be blasted through a very loud and very sharp PA and so three tracks in and Funeral Throne’s blackened wrath has so far failed to convincingly make it past the barrier. When the sound does eventually take shape, Funeral Throne sound like they should – i.e., vicious – and their mutilated malevolence gets the power and the response it demands. But following a puzzlingly abrupt end (and a middle finger salute toward the sound desk) they leave the stage to a much deserved applause from a slowly growing crowd.
Primitai played here in 2010 as support to Los Angeles NWOBHM-worshippers White Wizzard and delivered a blinder of a set with songs that were as huge as the energy that they channelled into their performance. But following tonight’s performance, Primitai should be ceremoniously stripped of their leather jackets, their sleeveless T’s burnt, their tight jeans turned into bellbottoms, and their white high top trainers painted black. For some inexplicable reason, gone was the zeal, gone was the gusto, and gone was that band witnessed on that very stage. While guitarist Saxby carried the band, his counterpart Bilic looked desperate to fit in and, despite being unwillingly thrust atop a pint-sized people pyramid for a moment of glory, failed to look like anything but a nervous kid on his first day on work experience. Bassist Jamie almost played a riff here and there; drummer Chris did little but keep the pace; and Guy Miller’s nut-spreading stance probably goes some way to explaining the absence of power in his vocals and the band’s performance. Though there were those in the crowd that appreciated what Primitai were doing – particularly those hugging the barrier – the applause was scattered, suffice it to say that the highlight of Primitai’s set was the two-part harmonies shared by Saxby and Bilic. All else, well…
And so with faith in metal at its lowest ebb, it fell upon the shoulders of the mighty Grand Magus to save the day. Almost a year ago, Grand Magus played the Wulfrun Hall as support to Amon Amarth and promptly pissed all over them. And much like that gig – or at any other show that they’ve played, ever – there’s not one head in this crowd that isn’t nodding its metal approval from start to finish. When it comes to metal, Grand Magus is the real deal, on record and on stage. With ‘Anvil Of Crom’ (from the Conan The Barbarian score) setting the scene, every nutsack in the suddenly-very-large crowd (just where did they all come from?) swells in unison as the uber-macho and hyper-heroic theme surges towards its climax. This is metal. True metal. Man metal! Grrrr! From start to end, Grand Magus seize control and the audience is well and truly owned.
Opener ‘Kingslayer’, well, slays, as does ‘Sword Of The Ocean’ and so does ‘I, The Jury’. Before ‘Ravens Guide Our Way’, JB lays down a challenge by mentioning that the Cardiff crowd of the previous eve had great singing voices and so Wolves tears their valley-hollering cousins apart in a rousing chorus. Either that or JB’s faking his appreciation, but given the number of times his and Fox’s fists are raised for the crowd, is it any wonder that the collective inflated-with-Nordic-pride scrotal satchel of this Wolves crowd is fit to burst? And when JB says how proud he is to play the home of metal and comments that there must be something in the walls, one guy is quick to clear up any confusion: “That’s the damp!”
There’s only one thing can put an end to the merriment: a drum solo from new guy Ludde Wittn tagged onto the end of ‘Like The Oar Strikes The Water’. Thankfully brief enough to evade tedium and long enough for Ludde to strut his stuff and get his shirt off while double-bashing the double-bass drums, it goes down a storm. With ‘The Hunt’, ‘Valhalla Rising’ and the classic ‘Iron Will’ to round out the set, Grand Magus are rightfully lauded with the kind of praise that every metal band craves. Watching the heads bang to the steady metal groove of encore ‘Hammer Of The North’ is like witnessing a crowd get whiplash in slow motion.
With so many horns held aloft, had some stranger from a strange land entered the Slade Rooms this eve, they may very well have thought that the inhabitants of Wolverhampton were malformed beasties bearing but an index and a pinkie on each hand and necks of rubber, such was this crowd’s display of devotion to the might of metal. Every other metal band intent on playing this room – or any other room for that matter – would do well to watch Grand Magus and take extensive notes. This is how it’s done.
Set List: Kingslayer; Sword Of The Ocean; I, The Jury; Ravens Guide Our Way; Silver Into Steel; Starlight Slaughter; Wolf’s Return; Like The Oar Strikes The Water; Drum Solo; The Hunt; Valhalla Rising; Iron Will
Encore: Hammer Of The North
And you can see more shots from the show by clicking here or pressing play below: