Bongripper / Conan / Humanfly / Nomad @ The Star & Garter, Manchester 21/04/2013

Bongripper / Conan / Humanfly / Nomad @ The Star & Garter, Manchester 21/04/2013

This was the fitting consolation for those North Westerners who didn’t go to Roadburn 2013. YAY! I’m back in Thee Star & Garter, Manchester’s grimy piss-scented home of the RIFF. It lives here, skulking in the cellar with the beer and the rats. It comes out on certain gig nights to ring your ears and make your sphincter tremble. It certainly did tonight. I’m afraid I missed first on the stage band Wort but I did turn up just in time to view local cranium-maulers Nomad throw down the beats and get jiggy with it. They are an entertaining bunch of up-for-it loons who trawl a kind of Bolt Thrower-meets-Sepultura-style pseudo-groove metal din that’s big-hearted and rampant but a little low on originality. Maybe originality is over-rated anyway. Anyway, they plugged away and powered through and thumbs up to ‘em, especially the genial singer for actually talking between the songs (I do like to hear a bit of communication between the band and the crowd) and to the drummer for being a woman and not a man and dispelling certain lazy stereotypes about girls not being able to drum and metal being for humans who have testicles and not ovaries.

Unsung national treasures Humanfly are a latter-day Yes and King Crimson channelled into the avatars of four blokes from Leeds (or who live in Leeds) who have grown up listening to stacks of hardcore and post-rock too and playing fast and hard in previous bands like Canvas. Talking of drummers, as I did in t’previous paragraph, their drummer (Dave Jones) is fucking A: a real pro, a man who makes it look easy because he is just so good. Talk about tight, they oozed like liquid jazz-rock coursing through the black veins of Miles Davis gene-fused with Matt Pike, coming on like an obsidian octopus god with ADHD and cosmic diarrhoea.
A superb foursome who have been treading the boards for years now, Humanfly originally sounded more like Isis than owt else and now they are sounding like their creative yearnings and musical adroitness has broken free and is running starkers around the world screaming into the faces of fascists. The Yorkshire proggers played a few new crackers off their latest platter (‘Awesome Science’) and while they were a little too cerebral for some in the crowd many of us were more than happy to soak up a vibe that was 1974 and 1982 and 1999. Hats off to the vocals of John Sutcliffe too – I love his Ozzy-toned stylings that flood like warm syrup over the blasting drums and guitars.

Conan and Bongripper released their new split 12” the day after this gig and whilst the Cro-Magnon battle doomers didn’t play the mightily muscled and very lengthy ‘Beheaded’ track they did treat the packed room to two new ‘uns and oh how brutally fine they were. I’ve seen Conan a good half a dozen times or more in the past few years and they always CRUSH and MAIM and SWOOP and SOAR – a band who were always going somewhere. Dig that bloated steamrollering sound driven by Paul’s clever and relentless battle-drumming and Jon’s unique floating far-away voice as it drifts out high over our heads like a silver hawk shitting out drugs.

I once wrote this about Conan when I first started listening to them: “With an filthy ocean-sized sound like the ten-fold bastard offspring of the Melvins and Moss and Discharge (slowed down to a creaking groaning standstill) and brain fried krautfuck-space-rock and chugging heavy metal monstrosity from the deep sweating south of the states, Conan pierce your eye and inject your headspace with a huge swell of furious rising depression and distant narcotic alienation.”

I couldn’t really do put it any better today, apart from the fact they are a tighter and better drilled beast than ever before, and have taken a signature sound forged in the love of all that is truly heavy and have made it their very own, along with an album visual and a lyrical theme that earmark them as the complete concept package when it comes to a contemporary take on subterranean down-tuned metal. Conan make early 21st century Merseyside into Seattle in the late nineties and turn the simplest two note riff into a big fuck-off baseball bat that smacks you over the head a thousand times until you pass out with pleasure.

Bongripper did tonight what they did this time last year at Roadburn – they commanded the heads of every human under the roof to nod (from a setting of gentle all the way up to full-on head-bang). There is no nod resistance to these heavy duty Chicagoans, for they peddle such high calibre riffometry that it becomes a science of exact prediction, positioning and timing. Numbers like ‘Satan’ are perfect reductionist slices of their fiendish technology; odes to the stripped down power of heavy metal but recast in ironic hues and delivered with a savage string-bending joy the like of which has not been heard since the riffing on ‘Dopethrone’ many moons ago.

Anyone who has ever felt the thrill of Iommi’s six-string black magick must succumb to Bongripper’s skilful synchronic rock. They distill the essence of what that moustache man did with a multi-note refrain and turn it into art – ten minute chunks of bubbling riffing beauty that make the hairy headed misfits swoon and nod like they are held in thrall to an extended HEAVY METAL ORGASM. After one hour of peerless riff-orgy they had to unplug for fear of causing lasting structural damage to a Victorian landmark and we all gradually and happily filtered our way out into the dope haze growing outside the front door of the pub and into the black night of a Mancunian Sunday, our appetites for riff-based sound food adequately slaked for the time being.

Scribed by: Adam Stone
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