Review by Paul Castles, Photos by Mark Lloyd
Monster Magnet proved a bigger draw for many than a romantic candlelit supper for two on a blustery St Valentine’s night in the Black Country. The New Jersey rockers have been an energetic force to be reckoned with for more than two decades but before the main dish the good sized crowd were treated to some Eastern magic.
Church of Misery are a Japanese quartet who play a heavy methodic brand of doom. On their most recent album, the excellent Thy Kingdom Scum, each of the seven tracks is about a depraved serial killer – and we’re not talking about Tony the Tiger!
Such inglorious psychopaths as Gary Heidnik (tortured and raped six women in his Pennsylvania basement, executed 1999), Dennis Nilsson (murdered 15 young men in London 77-83) and Peter Kurten (German serial killer known as the Vampire of Dusseldorf, executed 1931) all find their sadistic savagery resurrected through an aural assault from the land of the rising sun. Songs such as BTK (this one a homily to US mass murderer Dennis Rader) are monumental maelstroms of mayhem.
Tatsu Mikami has his bass swung so low he could almost play it with his shoelaces and with guitarist Ikuma Kawabe wearing a vacant empty expression throughout, Church of Misery clearly hadn’t rolled up at the Wulfrun looking to spread any Valentine’s Day love. Singer Hideki Fukasawa is a twitchy tornado bouncing off the riffs and rhythmic drums in a Hendrix like hypnotic haze. By the end of a set packed with levels of conviction that your average Member of Parliament could only dream of the Misery was cascading through the Wulfrun in waves. The floor had been transformed into a congregation of born again worshippers and a whole new band of doom disciples were raising their arms aloft in praise of the Church.
With tastebuds well and truly alight it was time for the main course…
Dave Wyndorf looks every inch a rock god in his battered leather jacket, dark shades and craggy features. Unfortunately like so many of his generation Wyndorf’s dedication to the rock singer template has seen him not so much brush the rails but crash right through them and on more occasions than is good for him. The good news for us though is that his well documented health problems (drugs overdose in 2006) are for now in the past and he is back on form these days with his latest Monster Magnet line-up touring again on the back of one of their best albums in years in The Last Patrol. The melody of that album’s first track ‘I Live Behind The Clouds’ provided a haunting opener at the Wulfrun with Wyndorf signing over a gentle harmony.
Before the rest of the crew really kicked in halfway through you could almost hear a pin drop. That mesmeric start was followed by the new album’s title track, a much punchier number that really showcases the modern Monster Magnet sound, full of life with warm heavy riffs rampaging through. The opening beating drum of ‘Last Patrol’ instantly saw several hundred arms aloft clapping in support as it became clear this was going to be a special love-in at the Black Country venue.
Wyndorf oozes charisma and has a charm and sincerity that’s hard to resist facing the crowd singing honest ballsy rock. Although chalking up around a quarter of a century in the business it’s fair to say that the current album is a match for any that have gone before and it is testimony to its strength that Wyndorf felt confident enough to play it live in its entirety without feeling the urge to look over his shoulder for a ‘golden oldie’ to play. While Wyndorf’s songwriting skills are a match for most he’s uncovered a nugget in ‘Three Kingfishers’ originally recorded in the 60s by Donovan.
Spinetingling in places and with great climbing guitar peaks it’s a real showstopper live, and was quickly followed by another couple of treasures in ‘Paradise’ and ‘Hallelujah’ which would have them skipping gleefully in the aisles at any south London gospel church. When Monster Magnet did finally turn back the clock they did so during a four-song encore by which point the audience had been well and truly Magnetized.
Wyndorf grew up on a diet of Iggy, the Stooges and Hawkwind and he took us all on a trip back to something approaching those days with the hazy muddy ‘Twin Earth’ from the ’93 album Superjudge. This was followed by a couple of injections of hallucinogenic hippy heaviness from the band’s groundbreaking ‘96 release Dopes to Infinity that still resonate today against the blandness of what most people think passes for music these days.
Bringing the curtain down with ‘Space Lord’ and its crowd pleasing chant of ‘Space Lord motherfucker’, you had the feeling that you’d seen something pretty special, a rock celebration in the company of one of music’s more iconic figures.
1. I Live Behind the Clouds
2. Last Patrol
3. Three Kingfishers (Donovan cover)
6. Mindless Ones
7. The Duke of Supernature
8. End of Time
9. Stay Tuned
10. Twin Earth
11. Look to Your Orb for the Warning
12. Dopes to Infinity
13. Space Lord
See more of Mark’s photos here;