DOWN @ The Roundhouse, London

Spread the metal:

Down, Orange Goblin and Warbeast

@ The Roundhouse, London

21st October 2012

Review by Rhiannon Marley

Photography by Michelle Murphy

If the power of the riff compels thee, tonight should be the metal equivalent of a pilgrimage to Mecca. New Orleans, London and Dallas are pulling Southern cream out in abundance for the ‘In the Year of XII’ tour. Down, Orange Goblin and Warbeast are set to storm the Roundhouse, in a sold-out fiesta that sees beards, leathers and one confused fellow in a Black Veil Brides t-shirt struggling through the door. Poor chap has clearly lost his way…

I’m yet to witness the supergroup headliners in the flesh, but the last time I saw Goblin was at Bloodstock Open Air 2012. After several bottles of rum, I might add, and in complete abandonment to the awesomeness of the festival vibe. They were terrific then, and on hearing that they were main support to Down this time around, I terrorized the world wide web to gain access.

The Roundhouse is illuminated in trademark crimson from the inside; from a distance, and given the Chalk Farm stragglers, you’d be forgiven for thinking a Seasick Steve doppelgänger contest is being holed up in the Red Light District. But on closer inspection through NW1’s acid rain, I see the enormous posters, security and proverbial “merch guy” come into view, and head down the steps to join the queue.

The first to emerge from the Entente Cordiale of groove-kings is Texan thrashers WARBEAST.

They rock a mostly male crowd of noggins, and unleash filthy, uncompromising heaviness.

With eminent musical CVs, and having cut their first album in the studio of none other than Mr Phil Anselmo, as well as being signed to his label, the rugged quintet have already laid down a solid hand.

Warbeast attack with a fatal cocktail of furious riffs, pounding double-bass rhythms and pinch-harmonics to scalp you. Neither old-school nor retro thrash, but a pummelling mix of their own, they’re seasoned in sound, confidence and appearance.

With its amphitheatre layout drowned in scarlet hues for the set, the Roundhouse morphs into the depths of Hell for these beasts to embody their moniker. Let’s face it: not only is the place built for a circle pit; it subconsciously encourages it.

Though many stand back, San Miguels in hand, surveying the situation in warm-up mode, a dwarf-pit of young ‘uns swirls in the middle. Horns raise and chins tilt to acknowledge the muscle-bound presence of balls-out, macho metal, and five American pioneers who are more than capable of laying their stamp on it.

After a 30-minute set and 20-minute break, an epidemic of females with fluorescent barnets breaks through the facial hair. I’d say it was due to good music appreciation, if they weren’t wearing more tattoos than clothes and seemingly more interested in flirting with the better-looking males in the audience than watching the mighty ORANGE GOBLIN.

The London quartet are enthralling, blasting into form with the splendid Red Tide Rising. The room grows more packed by the second, and though it takes a while for onlookers to get going, the vibe confirms an understanding that Goblin are something special.

In fact, I sense that many are itching to rip their skin off and mosh like motherfuckers, but fear of being the only one doing so stops them. Amazonian frontman Ben Ward hurtles around the stage, unchaining his gravelly falsetto and flinging his arms above his head like the Greek god Atlas, holding up the sky.

Orange Goblin throw their basket of irresistibly bluesy hooks to the noddy-dogs; a career-spanning set sees recent snippet ‘Acid Trial’ blend with older cut ‘The Ballad of Solomon Eagle’, as Ward zombie-attacks the guitarist during ‘They Come Back’.

The aroma of whiskey, sweat and grease, combined with raucous roars by the end, testifies the English Goblin’s ability to deify the riff next to two genuine Southern artefacts.

Seeing these guys again tonight reminds me just why I loved them so much at BOA 2012.

It’s 9.30…the place is rammed and late bar-goers agonize between pints or pit?!

As DOWN get ready to take to the stage.

The saying ‘couldn’t fit a mouse in’ doesn’t cover it; hell, you’d be lucky to squeeze a mouse’s toenail in. As the lights dim, Jimmy Bowyer takes the kit, brandishing an inverted crucifix with his sticks, you can smell just how serious shit is about to get. Nola classic ‘Eyes of the South’ bleeds into 2012’s ‘Witchtripper’, as the downstairs pit turns into the battle for Middle Earth and bodies fly overhead.

The spectacle is overseen by Kirk Windstein’s beard and Lord of the Groove Anselmo, who chucks liquid over the crowd, plays to the cameras and pulls every last thread of signature arrogance in tow.

Undeniably compelling, but as he thunders around like an angry bull and headbutts his mic, there’s an unsettling twinge of insanity that would cut dead your urge to personally ask him just how many times he’s informed the audience that “Tonight is a motherfuckin’ special night” on the tour thus far.

The crowd are quieter for new EP slice ‘Open Coffins’, and the place mutates into old-school Amsterdam as the stench of weed cancels out the BO. Yet from the surge as Anselmo dedicates ‘Lifer’ to Dimebag, and lets loose his teradactyl screams for ‘Temptation’s Wings’ and ‘Hail the Leaf’, it’s clear that the Southern heavyweights release something primal in all who listen to them.

After all, a sonic Royal Rumble between Crowbar, Pantera, Corrosion of Conformity and Eyehategod couldn’t do anything else. But the real magic comes at the opening hammer-on pick of the ‘Stone the Crow’ riff; booze and sweatshirts are launched ten feet upwards, and its anthemic chorus unites 5000 drunken tenors and mezzo-sopranos.

The tremendous finale, as both Warbeast and Orange Goblin join the gents onstage for ‘Bury Me In Smoke’, sees copious man-hugging from the metal giants, with billows of smog, chest-rattling bass, and brother-love spilling onto the rows of Black Label Society cuts in front of them. Down and the boys might provide the soundtrack to a lion taking down two zebras and drilling a lioness in the backside.

They might make you want to growl and snarl and roar and break things, but they all prove that the manliest thing about being the biggest, baddest bastards of all is passion for their craft and tribe: huge, hairy monsters planting sloppy kisses and back-slaps on each other, while swigging their beers and rocking their tunes.

An epic closure to an amazing night!

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