Retro Bar, Manchester 04/08/08
An enjoyable solo blast up the A34 to a delicious Monday night noise fest in the Retro Bar, a pub that seemingly has grown like a tumour out of the corner of a multi story car park on Sackville Street. Very handy for today’s motorised gigster, such as I.
With my caffeine powered leisure drink in hand I descended the steps into the flotex-carpeted bowels of this gory 60s built establishment to encounter a bare-chested young Yorkshireman leading his storm troopers of slime into battle: Rotherham’s youthful and wilfully introverted Berserkowitz. Along with bands like Limbic Riot, Berserkowitz represent the new wave of young down tempo outfits that are predominantly emerging from the industrialised north of England. The torso flexing side-burned singer was a committed and very entertaining young man, clenching his fists and destroying his throat, and occasionally baffling and amusing the crowd with eccentric between song outbursts about folk in mining villages or summat. The music was a thick slow-riff based grime broth of carboniferous muck, thrown up like slag (mining term) from the last dying pits of the South Yorkshire coalfields. The drummer was particularly skilful and what the band lacked in experience, they made up with in self belief. Essential. Their demo cost “tuppence” apparently. Fucking bargain!
Next up were Manchester’s very own drop tuned titans They Are Cowards. Having seen them a month before at The Bandstand in Hanley, I knew what to expect. Tight, ferociously loud. These gentlemen, of course, have had much experience playing as three quarters of the legendary Atavist but with the addition of guitarist Paul they are really starting to hit their stride. The only band of the night that really required earplugs, as the bassist’s throbbing low end frequencies were beginning to affect my delicate inner ear, and that my friend, is the mark of a serious band. Each osmium-heavy song was a perfectly constructed ode to depression and futility. They played a churning and immensely well rehearsed set of confrontational attitude-infused sludge (that I can’t wait to hear on CD) for roughly 25 minutes. Impressive. Made my sphincter slightly tingle. Not a bad thing.
Blackburn’s Bastard Of The Skies came on after with a driving 30 minute set that I felt was good but never quite delivered. Their music differs somewhat from the other three bands in that they predominantly employ mid tempo rhythms and have a more ‘post-rock’ sound that in places even recalls a more grunge-orientation (yes, grunge!) than the influence of doom sludge (for want of a better term). Still it makes sense on a four band bill to include something that is a little different from a generic (but always beautiful to these ears) sludge sound. Their debut mini-album is very listenable and well worth buying, maybe tonight I just did not feel receptive to their particular brand of post-hardcore.
A quick soundcheck and Barrovian uber-misery meisters Volition stood firmly glaring, looming on the stage like tattooed Celtic warriors in the Furness mist, ready to begin the sonic assault, vocalist David standing level with the crowd, self contained, perfectly poised to deliver a supremely confident performance. Volition are quality, they demand your attention. They exuded a brooding and gradually rising menace, each excellent musician a perfect cog in this machine. The vocalist is in a class with front men like Paul Catten, he screams with an astonishing power, contorting his face and body with utter conviction, producing both high and low end register vocals, yelling and grunting like an isolated inmate of Broadmoor, conjuring up a performance that was soaked in a bitter anger and frustration that harked back to the dark, seething alienation of 80s anarcho-punk fused with the un-faked nihilism of Eyehategod’s Mike Williams. After their mesmerising 40 minute performance I was supernaturally compelled to buy their great debut CD afterwards. Go and see them, they deserve a bigger audience.
Brilliant gig in a decent place (thanks to Load Of Noise & Future-Noise). I had three Red Bulls (fuckin’ rock ‘n’ roll), couldn’t sleep, now I’m writing this, eating yesterdays unfinished chilli, which ironically resembles sludge.
Scribed by: Adam Stone
Photos by: Lee Edwards