White Hills / Årabrot – London 24/03/2012
The Lexington, London 24/03/2012
Completely Sold Out doesn’t cover it, this place is rammed. In fact, it’s probably beyond rammed, it’s people-locked, it’s tessellated with bodies, it’s cemented in, it’s…you get the idea. White Hills are here to promote their stunning new LP ‘Frying on this Rock’, and the heaving crowd are eager to simmer in their New Yorker juices as fans young, old and somewhere in-between pack into the upstairs venue on Pentonville Road, North London. The only thing off here is the complete lack of draft beer in the venue, resulting in some hilariously bearded rockers feeling the need to order all manner of bizarre, fancy hippy cocktails just in order to get a simple drink on.
Tonight’s choice of support band with the Norwegian punk-edged noise-metallers Årabrot could be described using many interesting phrases. But as your humble scribe casts his gaze across a sea of hipster haircuts, dragged-along girlfriends and ‘60s revivalist wannabes being completely blow-dry flattened by three near-psychotic Scandinavians pummelling the living shite out of their heavily laboured equipment, the phrase that springs to my mind is: fucking inspired! Naked except for three pairs of black jeans between them and looking in serious need of a good meal, the trio are as utterly monstrous as the gathering storm of publicity that surrounds them suggests. Finding a terrifying gap between High On Fire, Lightning Bolt, The Jesus Lizard and Darkthrone and putting a jackboot stiffly through it, there’s a real feel that this band are actually rather dangerously unhinged as eerie tribal drums, rabidly snarled Shakespearean vocals and cacophonous bass-bound rubble leaps from the speakers. A guy stood in front of me has a decibel-counter app on his phone and clocks Årabrot in at 115db mid-set. Ouch. If only the venue were a little darker and dingier here, this would be spell-bounding. Exiting with a dual-team drum-beat that echoes Mayhem’s ‘Silvester Anfang’, complete with solo guttural wails, this is utter domination as the throng break out into a polite, but nerve-struck applause.
Just watching White Hills set up their gear is a mini show in itself! Heaps of peddles are to be arranged, amps carefully dialled in and, most importantly, stage attire configured. A guy stood behind me makes some hilarious observations on frontman Dave W: “He’s like a short Alice Cooper… Or Ronnie James Dio playing guitar!” He’s not far wrong as, clad in a black shirt with red flowers, leather trousers and the obligatory red eye-shadow, Mr W looks every inch the rock star he’s about to demonstrate that he is. Across the stage, the yin to Dave’s yang, blonde bombshell bassist Ego Sensation strides on with her handbag to set up whilst dressed in red velvet short-shorts and a scarlet velvet blazer. Naturally. If ever there were a rock and roll Bonnie and Clyde, they’d struggle to better Dave and Ego tonight. Behind the kit, Nick Name looks positively inconspicuous in a simple black t-shirt, but following a band intro tape which sounds like it’s being read out by The Clangers, he explodes White Hills into anthemic opener ‘Pads of Light’ with some truly incredible rhythms.
The band are on fire from the off, dual vocals and deafening guitar walls crash down as the trio plough forward almost into the crowd itself. There isn’t a better psychedelic rock band in the world right now for shows like this, the fuzz, the feedback, the riffs and the rhythms are all perfected beyond comparison. The band showcase all five tracks from the new record, including the glorious one-note torture that is ‘Robot Stomp’ which gets a surprisingly upbeat response from the audience.
A few things remain a little tame – there’s no light show whatsoever provided by the venue, nor does anyone in the crowd do much more than simply stare at the band and nod their heads, but the music is perfection itself regardless. ‘Radiate’ gets an airing and ‘The Song of Everything’ blends seamlessly into ‘You See You Dream’ as Dave flexes and writhes around the stage smashing his guitar across his body and rolling across the floor to the huge set-closing climax. Nick Name is on fire, pummelling his kit one minute, and switching to muted drum sticks to roll his way through Acid-Town the next. Metronomic. The encore is perhaps the pinnacle, a super heavy and super spacey full length version of ‘H-p1’ with Dave and Ego grinning from ear to ear as scorched chords shatter the evening’s bliss and smash it back through a kaleidoscope of cosmic fortune. Dave could probably solo like this for days, but hits the 11pm curfew bang on as promised.
Two utterly unique bands then standing out alone from the pack in their respective genres, whatever those are, and showing the true power of great live music. Now where’s my beer?! Oh, yeah, damn…
Scribed by: Pete Green