From the moment I step inside the Islington Academy, its clear that Jex Thoth’s live show is all about the atmosphere. As the band’s gear gradually takes shape around the stage, gothic candles flicker and the heavy scent of burning sandalwood fills the room, transforming the soulless interior of the venue into the site of some kind of dark, occult ritual. Indeed, when the band eventually take to the stage, this is the all-pervading atmosphere of their set. It is a well considered match for Jex Thoth’s slow, melodic, funereal doom, which combines fuzzed out guitar drones with swirling, psychedelic organ.
Musically, the performance is impressive enough to impress any discerning fan, with the dark, ethereal atmosphere of tracks like Keep Your Weeds and The Divide from 2013’s fantastic Blood Moon Rise translating perfectly into a live setting. However, the real focus of the set from start to finish is on the band’s vocalist, who takes the band’s moniker as her stage name. While the other members stand, still and imposing, in front of guitar stacks, she staggers across the stage in a black cape, without missing a note, as if possessed by an evil spirit. This kind of performance has a kind of innate theatricality that heavily divides opinion, and certainly there are a fair few in the crowd who remain unimpressed, but I find it hard not to be drawn in by Jex Thoth’s immense stage presence as she dances across the stage, trailing smoke from a burning piece of sandalwood held roughly on the end of the knife that she clutches in her hands. Divisive she may be, but for me at least, Jex Thoth’s dedication to stagecraft turned this set from good to fantastic.
Ufomammut take to the stage in a manner which is equally assertive, but totally different, setting the tone for the set to come. Without saying a word for the entirety of their performance, they stand ten feet tall, static, commanding the room with wave upon wave of intensely loud, heavy psychedelic riffing. Aside from the hypnotic, psychedelic projections that act as their stage backdrop, and the occasional whirr of a synth, this is old school, no frills sludge metal; three guys, cranked valve amps, long, repetitive riffs and minimal, delay-drenched vocals that wash over the crowd like a tsunami. From the monumental opening chords of Somnium, the 10-minute epic of an opener on recently released Ecate, to the dying feedback that marks the painfully early end of the night, this is an undeniably impressive performance.
And I can’t end the review without an apology. I really wanted to catch the night’s openers, London’s own Sedulus, but I missed them due to a tube-related mishap. Suffice to say, in my experience, the band put on a great live show, and I’m sure they were well worth checking out tonight.
Scribed by: Tal Fineman
Photos by: Enzo Mercedes