Årabrot / Rabbits / Bastard Of The Skies @ The Star & Garter, Manchester, 15/10/2014
A Future Noise gig has sadly become a rare event these days, unlike in times of yore when there seemed to be one every couple of weeks, and tonight’s is as much a quality lineup as one would expect to see from Dave and co – thunderous sludge rock from Blackburn’s finest, Bastard Of The Skies, gnarly no-wave hardcore muck from Portland power-trio Rabbits and off-kilter avant-noise-rock from Norway’s Årabrot. How’s that for only a fiver?
Being the opening band on a midweek gig when there are several other shows happening across the city drawing potential crowd members away is a tough gig, but if anyone can batter their way through it and come up smelling of roses, Bastard Of The Skies can.
Kicking off with the one-two punch that opens last album Tarnation, the roiling dissonance of Drug Monarch and the dynamic, lurching A Punch In The Fucking Lungs, the Bastards impress as much as ever – despite working in new bassist Ben, playing one of his first shows with the trio since the recent departure of long-time bass-monster Claire Horrocks. Although he looked a little lost onstage and isn’t as visually striking as Horrocks, his basswork was thoroughly sturdy and the boy done good.
Drummer Matt Aldred bashed seven bells out of his kit as usual and guitarist/vocalist Matt Richardson gave his standard 100%, regardless of the sparse crowd, as visually evinced by the twisted grimace that contorted his face and the rivers of sweat that slowly soaked his t-shirt across the course of the set.
As ever, a rock solid set from a rock solid band who deserve a lot more recognition.
As the room began to fill a little more, Portland, Oregon’s Rabbits hit the stage and let loose a racket of flailing drums, hoarsely hollering vocals and twin guitars that alternately lumber doomily and needle unpleasantly, coming on like some kind of three-way love in between the brute hardcore power-violence of Spazz, the black-humoured sludgy noise-rock of Killdozer and the angular icepick-to-the-temple approach of No-Wavers DNA and Mars.
Lead by ex-Angel Hair, The VSS and Slaves/Pleasure Forever guitarist – and Rich Hall lookalike – Joshua Hughes – a man who once, perplexingly, lectured me on the dangers of heroin when one of my old bands played with Slaves, back in 1999 – and joined by hairy axeman and second vocalist Seth Montfort and energetic drummer Kevin Garrison, the trio knock out woozy, wonky blasts of paint-peeling hardcore filth unhindered by bass – Montfort’s sludgy guitar holds down the bottom end with aplomb.
Rabbits smashed their way through a set that covered a wide selection of their back-catalogue, including three tracks from Untoward, their latest LP, Ever Mind, Pack Up Your Shit and So Fake It’s Real, and a couple of my favourite tracks of theirs, We And Zoo from their second album Bites Rites and seven-inch track War Oh My with nary a moment to breathe. Filthy fun and I loved every minute of it.
It only seems five minutes since I last saw Årabrot – it was actually back in May with The Body – but in that space of time they’ve grown and mutated, picking up a couple of additional band members – second guitarist and synth man Håvard Skaset and percussionist Joakim H. Johansen – and releasing a new EP, I Modi, and oddly magnetic frontman Kjetil Nernes was diagnosed with, and fought against throat cancer. That’s quite the busy five months!
Luckily Nernes appears to have made a speedy recovery, following an operation that has left him sporting a gnarly neck scar, his pained vocals are just as nasty as ever and the expanded live lineup has blown the sound up even further – the additional percussion in particular – making the band themselves, ironically, sound healthier than ever.
Playing a set that draws largely from their last self-titled LP and the new EP – Ha-Satan Deofol , Throwing Rocks At The Devil, and bass-driven new song The Grip Of The Family, A Cinch were all aired – and ripped into savagely by the band, completed by off-kilter drummer Magnus Nymo and utterly magnetic bassist and backing vocalist Guro S. Moe.
Njernes, as ever, presented a compelling focal point, his awkward spindly form topped with a wide-brimmed preacher hat and toting his aluminium guitar, his voice and demeanour belying the health issues that he recently suffered, and lit only by a series of floor level lamps projecting upwards.
The lighting, the presentation, and the odd angularity of the tunes meant that taking your eyes off the stage for even a second was unlikely to happen, and with the churning bass of Moe, the added layers of Skaset’s bleeping, chaotic synth parts and the sheer hefty thwack of the rhythm section you couldn’t ignore the sound even if you wanted to.
As good as they were last time, tonight Årabrot were devastating and utterly riveting.
Scribed by: Paul Robertson
Photos by: Lee Edwards