Clutch & Valient Thorr & Lionize
@ The Roundhouse, London
15th December 2016
Review by Nathan Slack
Photographs by Carina Martins
What better way to start the festive celebrations than to head to the lush venue that is Chalk Farms infamous Roundhouse. When you’re used to seeing your favourite metal bands on the smallest stages, crammed into tiny spaces with sweat dripping from low ceilings, seeing bands like Clutch at the Roundhouse with its spacious and high domed ceiling, is a real and rare treat.
As most bands are winding down in preparation for Christmas and New Years, Baltimore’s best head to UK shores for a handful of dates before jetting back to the States, seeing out 2016 in style with a New Years Eve bash in Cleveland, Ohio.
Lionize have the unenviable job of opening to an almost empty venue and quite possibly the largest empty room they might ever play in. Fair play to them though, they seem undaunted and by their 3rd song their brand of hard rock/ funk fusion has won me over and the ever increasing punters around me reward them for their tight performance. At the beginning of their half hour set, lead singer Nate Bergman’s vocals are a tad drowned out by the crushing drums and guitars which actually set my teeth on edge but soon enough that issue is resolved and his voice starts to come out clean and true.
No stranger to opening for Clutch, having toured with them in 2013, Lionize seem right at home and make it no secret that the ever professional and hard working headliners have taught them everything they know. They leave the stage having turned the crowd in their favour but I ask myself the question “are we warmed up yet?” Not quiet sure but if Valient Thorr’s reputation is anything to go by maybe that’s about to change.
I gave these crazy guys a listen before I came out tonight having not come across them before and to be honest I was more than a little confused when they took to the stage and blasted out their first few tracks. From their name they sound like they are a Folk/Black Metal band from Norway and on CD they sound like a bluesy stoner rock band, clean vocals, well produced so when they came on stage with their bare chests and blue denim cut off vests and thrash out their opening tracks in a cacophony of guitars and gibbering indecipherable lyrics I’m a little perplexed.
Certainly full of character, Valient Thorr seem to relish being on a large stage for once and their lead singer confirms this by saying that they had played some small venues in their time, Camdens Underworld for one and “F***ing Plymouth!” but it was nice for a change that the band be afforded the comfort of space so they could “strut their stuff!” And strut they did. This band ended their first track and it made me smile and I even let out a little laugh of glee. This is going to be fun!
The lead guitarist looks like he could be Lemmy’s twin brother and would feel at home in a Motorhead tribute band and the bassist’s wild curly hair is in constant movement as he twangs about the ample stage. They really make the most of it and the singer, now bare chested, struts up and down the stage during and in-between songs asking the crowd, “do you know what I’m talking about?” The answer is no unfortunately, the crowd haven’t got a clue and I think their performance is mostly lost on them and might have been something they haven’t witnessed before.
But thats the thing with Valient Thorr, they seem to try to defy what your expecting from them and bravo to them, sadly though I felt it went over most heads in the crowd. Keep doing what your doing though, you crazy shambolic lot!
Now for Clutch. Have to say not sure what I was expecting from the crowd and i noticed several groups of people with full beers in their hands right where the mosh pit usually is and I thought to myself…better drink those quickly or you’re getting your own pint knocked into your face. They didn’t hear me sadly and when Clutch finally took to the stage and went straight into fitting opener “The Mob Goes Wild” the crowd erupted in unison and, as predicted, it rained beer.
Enthusiastic fans moshed their hearts out on a slippery, soupy floor and I’ve never seen people so happy to fall on their behind and get covered in beer whilst they’re down there. Lead vocals come out clean and the sound was immense from where I was standing…well..less standing more of the trying not to fall over.
The performance drops off a little by songs 4 and 5, “Firebirds” and “Immortal” but the band reconnects with the crowd with stand out track “A Quick Death in Texas” with its unmistakable riff and the crowd starts to sing along to the better known track.
The next 4-5 songs go by in a blur of sweaty bodies and after the memorable “Regulator”, Chris Brooks of Lionise comes on stage to provide backing keyboards to “100001110101” and “Escape From the Prison Planet”, songs that they don’t usually play live unless they have a keyboardist on tour, gratefully supplied by openers, Lionize.
It’s a great testament to the bands hard work as they complete tour after tour, that they can play a large venue like this and fill it and own it. Their performance is tight and they all seem like a group of likeable down to earth guys doing what they love best. After exiting the stage Clutch come back on and play arguably their best track, “Electric Worry” and it gets the biggest pit of the night.
Signing off with “X-Ray Visions” they wish us a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. The lights come on as they exit left and Motorheads The Ace of Spades blares out of the speakers almost as loud as the bands I’ve just heard and it seemed that some still wanted to hear more shouting “That’s the way I like it baby!!” as I make a swift exit. Yes, yes it is.
The Mob Goes Wild
50,000 Unstoppable Watts
A Quick Death in Texas
(Notes from the Trial Of) La Curandera
10001110101(with Chris Brooks of Lionize playing Keyboard)
Escape From the Prison Planet (with Chris Brooks of Lionize playing Keyboard)
The Wolf Man Kindly Requests…