Unearthly Trance / Ramesses/ Lazarus Blackstar – Manchester 15/04/09

The Star & Garter, Manchester 15/04/09

I still have a ringing in my ears, two days after the event. I blame it on machismo – I had plugs in my pocket but I felt too effeminate sticking them in. Anyway, consider it official – Lazarus Blackstar are indeed the heaviest band in the UK. We heard ‘Son Of Sorrow’ booming out as we approached Fairfield Street in the car, and it shook Piccadilly like an ancient earthquake. LB were stunning, even better than the last time I saw them (at the ep launch party last year) – more confident and focussed, more hostile and strident, their delicious charcoal doom sludge twisting and lurching upon the deafening axis of Gordon’s battering rhythms. I want to see them playing on the back of a carnival float, making children cry and all the adults angry and confused.

Lazarus Blackstar

Ramesses suffered from a bad sound from the PA. Too loud without the clarity (although maybe my ears had been initially raped by LB’s black pit of sonic misery). Consequently, the entrancing subtlety of their demonic quasi-black metal sludge was too often buried. Chilling arpeggios were drowned out by a whistling wall of noise. Moans aside, they were of course blinding. Mark Greening’s drumming is ferocious as it is unorthodox and the band operate as a viciously efficient unit, ploughing robotically through turgid riffs that reek of an unhealthy obsession with all things dark. Ramesses epitomise the true rancorous sound of home-grown doom sludge – the sublimely evil down-tuned riffs, the lank hair hanging over grimacing faces, the large brass skull rings on Adam’s bass playing fingers (nice touch). They kicked arse in forty minutes of paranoid psychotic weed-fuggled metal hellfire. I want to see them play out the closing credits of ‘Countryfile’, on the back of a lorry, at a cider festival in Dorset.


Unearthly Trance (three short tattooed men with good thick beards, cropped hair and baseball caps) revealed themselves as the true masters of the ceremony. Benefitting from an improved sound, they opened with the cataclysmic ‘God is a Beast’ and drove hurtling through an awesome set culled from their past four albums, plus a ripping His Hero Is Gone cover. Ending on ‘In The Red’, they played like their lives depended on it. Had they entered into a Crowley-esque pact (I am aware of Lypynsky’s fascination with magick and the occult) with a minor deity? Their blood and semen in return for musical powers?? (I’ve been giving my semen for over twenty five years now, and I’m still a very mediocre guitarist).

Unearthly Trance

I was utterly mesmerised by each member’s individual performance – Ryan Lypynsky’s straining voice and lithe guitar playing was beyond incredible; Jay Newman’s bass playing was as gruntingly powerful as a very big strong animal (like a prehistoric rhino); and Darren Verni is one damn fine drummer; he wielded his blurring sticks with the power and brute force of a classic rock drummer raised on NYC hardcore but with the deft rhythmic touch of one who could play jazz (let not jazz be a dirty word – I’m referring more to late sixties Miles Davis and John Coltrane, not bloody Acker Bilk and Kenny G). UT are the cutting edge, no mistake.

Three ACE bands, but UT ruled. They have made me go back to their albums and listen to them afresh, albeit with tinnitus. Will the humming go? I’ve not had it this bad since Slayer’s ‘Reign In Blood’ tour (Nottingham Rock City, 1987). That went, eventually. I was young then, and my ears were youthful and strong and could bounce back. Now they are older they cannot fight off amplifier induced aural rape like they used to. Such is the price paid in order to hear the raw power of the live riff. So be it. Live by the sword…

Scribed by: Adam Stone
Photos by: Lee Edwards