Esoteric, Fen, Wodenstrone and Aphonic Threnody
@ The Garage, London UK
10th November, 2013
Review by Caitlin Smith
Photos by Graham Hilling
With the winter drawing in and the longest night of the year getting closer, the coming darkness was an appropriate setting for tonights show upstairs section of the Garage. With 3 of the biggest players on the UK scene taking to the stage tonight, alongside a new super-group of doom metal, it’s essential viewing for any local doom fan.
It’s not many bands that manage to climb as quickly as APHONIC THRENODY [3/5]. Forming just a year earlier, with the release of their first EP First Funeral only months earlier they are already hitting the stage with serious veterans of their genre.
This are no simple green band, it has some serious musical muscle behind it. With members of PANTHEIST, URNA, GALLOW GOD and ex-CRIPPLED BLACK PHOENIX, it’s safe to say that these guys have some serious connections.
Despite their high credentials, the band lacks some stage charisma together, probably due to the short time they have been playing together. The music more than makes up for this though, a slow methodical march through bleak and unforgiving territories. Roberto M’s vocals really make it; his deep growls punch through, dominating; rising up from the deep before falling out just as quickly as it came. Finishing on ‘Life calls Death,’ a powerful ending picking this band out as one of the finest emerging doom metal band to date.
It’s a brief break from the down tuned and dirty when atmospheric black metal band WODENSTHRONE [3.5/5] takes to the stage. This band may have only released 2 albums in 8 years, but they’re rapidly becoming a standard on the London scene. Hailing from Sunderland, just south of Newcastle upon Tyne, these guys have come to teach us a thing or two about grim climates.
Technical problems leave us questioning what is happening and by the time the band finally sort out the problems and begin their set the crowd is obviously restless. WODENSTHRONE immediately break into a furious set, crashing through like strong winds trough a restless forest, falling out to sudden mesmerizing breaks. The band couldn’t get passed their sound problems that night though, and the deluge of noise often dissolved into a mess of noise spilling out the amps, loosing the vocals somewhere underneath it all.
Their usual crafted songs because difficult to listen to through to the end, loosing the contrasting qualities that make these songs stand out. Despite the fact I was relishing seeing them in a longer set, it dragged on through the songs that night, with every song blending out many of their distinctive rhythms and riffs that define the songs. The set hits a real high when ESOTERIC’s Greg Chandler comes on as a guest, his rumbling vocals cutting through in ‘the Name of the Wind.’ Perhaps this wasn’t their best set, but the guys pushing through and finishing the set proves just how professional this lot really are.
FEN [4/5] is one of those bands that feel like they’ve been about forever but have always stayed at the forefront of underground talent. Despite only forming 7 years ago now they’ve already put out 3 sterling albums alongside a number of splits and EPs. Despite replacing their drummer and loosing their synth player only last year, Derwydd is a fitting replacement on the kit. The guys obviously work well together pulling out a tight performance.
From the start of their set, the music dripped out of the monitors, falling out in a distant and apathetic bout of melancholia. FEN’s mix of post-rock and doom really provide to the uplift to hit home when the dissonant, minor sections return you to the state of pure breathing agony. The sound that had worked so badly against the other bands was for once working in their favor.
The lighter sections sung out, with just enough grime to tie into the violent blasting assault. Choosing to play from across their work, including both newer numbers like ‘Consequence’ to ‘Exile’s Journey.’ A fitting tribute to fallen soldiers was a nice touch from the band on this Remembrance Sunday, dedicating ‘The Gates Scream of Sorrow’ to the lost souls. A real moment of reflection that topped off an incredible set by the Londeners.
As it reaches time for the headliner of the night, Birmingham based 6-piece ESOTERIC [4/5]. By far the longest running band there that night, these guys are the bastard children of every dark underground genre that has been floating round the UK. Taking influence from across the board including doom, dark ambient, industrial, progressive… the list really is endless. Their eclectic taste is also their biggest strength. ESOTERIC are one of the most exciting bands on the scene.
This band may have hemorrhaged members recently, but for all the people they have lost, they have also gained a talented lineup whose live playing reflects perfectly the mood of their album. The small details come alive when you see ESOTERIC live, the sounds lost to CD compression and cheap speaker systems fill the room, bubbling up from under the surface, creating layers and layers of intricate moving musical passages.
Opening on ‘Disconsolate,’ a track from the newest album is a slow start easing us into the music slowly, settling us into their musical world before Greg Chandler’s massive vocals kick in, filling out the sound. We’re treated to a health dose of some funeral style doom with the following number, ‘Beneath the Face’ before moving onto ‘Circle.’ Unfolding over 20 minutes, ‘Circle’ is a beast of a track, swirling and capturing the audience, trapping us in its powerful and moving riffs. Backed by a display of swirling psychedelic visuals taken from their albums, this is not just any ordinary band performance; it’s a sensory barrage that has to be experienced to be understood.
Leaving before the end of the show to catch the last train home, I barely manage to drag myself away from the stage despite the risk of becoming stranded. Unfortunately for me, the Sunday train service is not gig friendly. With every band pulling out such a fantastic set, it’s been well worth navigating the trials of reduced public transport. Tonight showcased the best of underground UK extreme metal at it’s very finest, and any of those bands could really have held their own as a headline.
2. Beneath this Face
4. Non Being