It’s fair to say that both Yob and Pallbearer have been something of a big thing lately, with both of their 2014 releases pretty much guaranteed to be on the best of year lists for every doom aficionado and Shoreditch-dweller who likes a bit of the ol’ 50bpm. It’s surprising, then, that tonight’s epic double-headlining extravaganza is in Glasgow’s shoebox-du-jour Audio, with the event not only selling out but with people actually arriving early for once.
The room is chock-full of hair and sweat when openers Buried Sleeper plunger the room into the depths of sludge and thought-provoking soul-crush. Apparently Yob themselves requested their presence, although anyone with an ear for heavy tones and steely build-ups would have pegged them for a fine addition to the bill anyway. They lift ever-so-skilfully from the masters – a flicker of Sabbathian blues here, some of Neurosis’ emotive, atmospheric finesse there – but they blend them in a truly unique hybrid sound, free of pretention and premeditation. Doem Kraai offers up a fine old-school riff-fest, but it’s the newer material that closes their brief set that sells them as someone to watch. Hard, unpredictable drumming and flurries of guitar that sound like an unholy fusion of Kyuss and Tool sear the eyes and ears, orchestrated with skill and executed with a loose pizzazz that’s an intuitive leap for the band. The Sleeper, it seems, has truly awakened, and I can’t help but feel that not only do they deserve the levels of stardom reserved for the rest of tonight’s bill, but also that they might even get it.
For all the anticipation, or maybe because of it, Pallbearer get off to a rough start, Brett Campbell’s amp refusing to play by the book and leaving Worlds Apart one guitar down. While Campbell is rightly irked, he doesn’t let it show too much, still lending a heart-rending croon to the titanic emotional turmoil that the Little Rock quartet dredge up. They’re masterful and moving, a heavyweight hammerfall of melancholia that nonetheless can keep a crowd fired and ready. When the problems are ironed out, they reach a whole new plateau, Campbell’s guitarwork sharper and more inclined towards darkly psychedelic strains than the hard, rootsy Devin Holt, while bassist Joseph Rowland is an absolute metal machine, grimacing and emphatically banging his head as though he were trying to shake it loose. It’s an appropriate response when The Ghost I Used To Be kicks into gear, the downhill freewheeling and sharp braking of its mournful closure the night’s most emotionally tumultuous moment, although the inclusion of Foreigner in their set offers both a welcome air of reflection and another fond memory for the veterans to leave with. They take a sound that is slow and heavy in every sense and make it into something that spits fire; despite what the gods may have thrown at them, they come out smelling of roses and brimstone.
So Yob must have struggled to match up to such bravado and sonic might, yeah? Not a chance. Setting monitors up mid-stage, effectively penning Mike Sheidt on one side of the stage while Aaron Rieseberg and Travis Foster take the remainder, it’s a unique setup for a unique act. The steady, lysergic strum of Ball Of Molten Lead rings and escalates, building up into an explosion of downtuned wonder that sparks similar reactions crowdside, igniting a steady crush that only threatens to get worse. Sheidt is on exemplary form, not only musically but also in the ease with which he works the crowd, urging them on with roars and flaring solos alike. As they boldly stride into new material, the effect is readily apparent, In Our Blood a head-nodding trawl through Cosmos and Hades alike, the only fitting response to which is a steady cranial oscillation in keeping with Foster and Riseberg’s downpour of sludge, each strike and strum crashing around the ears like the Walls of Jericho, while Nothing To Win inspires a stream of crowdsurfers that never seems to abate. It’s a rare sight, and a curiously heart-warming one at that.
The one thing that shines through is how versatile Yob are, individually and as a cohesive unit. Foster is a deft, sprightly drummer who is capable of vibrant splashes of technicality, yet he is a rock-solid slo-mo pacekeeper with a loose, hard flair in keeping with the glorious expressivity of Marrow, while Rieseberg can lock step with the rest while injecting a fluid blues-led counterweight of his own making. There’s little that can be said about Sheidt that hasn’t been said, but there’s always room for a recap. He can sound like a demon and a shrill, beckoning angel; he’s got the grit of Lemmy and Matt Pike, but there’s a love of the good clean fun of Leaf Hound and the cerebral obstinacy of Neurosis too. He leads the room on a merry chase through decades of heavy sounds before throwing an almighty curveball at the last hurdle with Quantum Mystic, an earth-shattering doozy that’s enough to work up a final sweat before the lights come up. Any one of the bands tonight could have headlined a show and it would have been a crowd-pleaser, but having all three and then throwing this at us as a finale? Well, that’s just spoiling us.
Scribed by: Dave Bowes
Photos by: Alex Woodward (www.crimsonglow.co.uk)