Monday, 10 March 2014

Live Review #008: Esoteric w/ Wodensthrone, Barshasketh and Enneract

"It's been a while"... Seemingly, this phrase is creeping (perhaps ironically) awfully frequently into my vocabulary as a euphemism for "I don't write nearly as much as I should". Nonetheless, again, I shall indulge in saying it; It's been a while since I wrote a live-review. There are a few reasons for this, the best excuse among which is that I've been quite busy with various things; some of them interesting, many of them not, and several of them sandwiches. Nonetheless, it only takes a few minutes of reflection to discover, or rather, remember, that there has already been a legitimately impressive selection of gigs thrown at Scotland this year so far, and, as ever, I've endeavored to be at as many of them as I can manage; live music being among the finer things. It would seem, then, that I really should get my shit together and review more of them. To that end, I'm determined to get one done now, and hopefully another in a week or so, when, all things permitting, I shall have just recovered from seeing Overkill. Until then, I'll see what I can spew forth into paragraphs about seeing Esoteric last Friday.

I'll open up this review by very openly admitting that I was drawn to this show chiefly by the promise of Wodensthrone. When I say, however, that I went to the show to see Wodensthrone, and not Esoteric, you might initially be fooled into thinking that this was a matter of preference. It was, in fact, a matter of oops, I've never listened to Esoteric before in my life, and now it's too late because I'm already on the train to Glasgow. Esoteric, as I shall later mention, would have easily taken their deserved share of my enthusiasm had I known what they sounded like beforehand. Nonetheless, there is a certain pleasure involved in being wildly surprised and exceptionally pleased with the band on the lineup you've never listened to - something which, in my experience, seems to happen quite often. The fact is, there wasn't a single band on the lineup which I wasn't looking forward to to some extent - granted, both of the opening bands, I had already seen this year, but perhaps it says something about their quality that the fact wasn't something deterring whatsoever. There are some local bands, or even bands in general, where you can safely mutter that "once is enough" - not so with either of the local support acts this night.

The venue is Ivory Blacks; it's medium sized, and serves it's purpose reasonably well. As ever, the sound is about right, the drinks are about drinkable and the doors are about seven. They actually are, too, which is fairly unusual. Either way, the first act on are Glasgow black-metal power-trio Enneract, who play experimental, slightly-post black metal something or other. Of all the bands on the bill, Enneract's set feels most steeped in deliberate theatrics, with smoke machine use, and the band deliberately facing away from the crowd. The noise interludes and subtle experimental sections which the band deploy also add to their presence on stage. Their songs are enraged, slightly twisted affairs, with driving tremolo bass-lines which bully the guitar slightly, albeit not killing the guitar tone altogether, instead filling out the lower end to give the band a rather unique humming tone amid the inherent misanthropy and deafening roar of their tracks. The percussion is exceptionally energetic and tight, and the sound comes through quite well, which really hammers home how ridiculously good the bands drummer is; a man possessed with wrists more athletic than a man who, upon finding a genie, wished for infinite pornography. Most of the set is composed of blast-beats and disgustingly intense beats which make me feel like an awful drummer myself, which is - for the most part - entirely true. Regardless, this blend of all out energy and eerie interludes gives Enneract an aura which manages to successfully raise them from being the trio of guys I was chatting to before and after the set, to being something else on the stage - the fact I knew them well dissolves utterly during the liminality of their performance, and perhaps that says something about what they do.

Next up are the second local-ish band; Barshasketh, who, in stark contrast to Enneract's relatively warm tone, cut through the air with a freezing gale of chilling, razor-sharp black metal. Superficially, it might be considered to be in the vein perhaps of Finnish acts like Sargeist, but in truth, their sound laced with a greater leaning towards what could perhaps be described as an artistic style. There are many bands who embrace and aspire to make their black metal sound artistic and austere, and many of them fail,  falling off the end of the great pier of pretentiousness and vacuousness. Barshasketh, however, succeed. The band have a sound which is truly tangible and substantial - not pretentious at all, but instead exceptionally genuine; thickly atmospheric, intricate and striking, with fantastic leads, shimmering tremolos, and driving vocals and percussion. It shows not only in their energy and stage-presence, but also  in the atmosphere and tangible buzz of excitement which they conjure at their shows. Time and time again, the band manage to carry themselves on stage with exceptional presence, and strike their audience with the feeling that they are witnessing something very, very real. There is no such thing, it seems, as a causal Barshasketh show, and they are all the mightier for it. A few songs in, something on the drum-kit breaks mid-song, causing a grinding-halt, but it is swiftly fixed, and the band continue unperturbed to finish their set, delivering what can only be considered a further great performance in a series of extremely great performances.

Wodensthrone are next. The crowd as a whole seems to be very much looking forward to this, and I can safely say I'm among them. Wodensthrone were one of the first black-metal bands I discovered, after the initial and standard-schooling in Gorgoroth, Burzum and Mayhem. As such, they are a band very close to my heart, and not in that condescending way many people use the phrase to mean "I only still listen to them for nostalgic reasons". No. I've always been a genuine fan of the band, and always intend to be, as I can safely say that the band are among the finest black-metal acts in the UK today, or ever. When all of your songs are about ten minutes long, it can often be difficult to draw-up a set-list which pleases everyone, but it was fairly obvious that Wodensthrone had had a solid attempt at doing so, plunging through songs from both of their records, helped along by relatively  favorable leveling on the part of whoever was doing sound that night - the result was an extremely tight performance, where the songs involved were truly done justice in a live setting. The set closed with "The Name of the Wind", the outro of which served as a fantastic conclusion to the set, truly offering a crescendo of the bands mighty, and truly heart-stirringly epic sound. It's always a pleasure to hear a band who have such elaborate, sprawling and grandiose songs to successfully capture them and validate them in a live environment, and where some bands fail, Wodensthrone undoubtedly succeeded.

As it turns out, I really ought to have listened to Esoteric beforehand - if their studio work hit anything like the colossal power of their live show, then I can safely say I intend to listen to all of it. Every ounce of the bands show oozed with atmosphere, from the echoing, reverb-laden vocals, right through to the deep, quintessentially funeral-doom guitars. A few of the intricacies of the lead guitar were muffled-out in places, but nonetheless, the songs came through only a few steps short of crystal clear. As you might expect from a funeral-doom band, their songs were extremely long - I'm told, in fact, that they had a four-song set, but even for their extreme length, every track was easily dynamic enough to keep the listener - even on like me who had never heard any of these songs before - interested in what was going on. The set was an almost perfect length. Sometimes, even the best live bands can leave you sitting, wondering "will this be over soon?", but Esoteric seemed to avoid this, playing a set which, to my ears at least, was just right - nothing about it dragged. Ultimately, I wish I could be more elaborate in my review of Esoteric, but as a band I didn't hear until they came on stage that very evening, there is only so much I can bring to mind to mention. I can conclude however, by saying that it is often the bands which you come to see without listening to beforehand which make the most pronounced impression, and Esoteric are such. As their set progressed, it left a trail of converts in its wake; and if many people in the crowd hadn't heard them before... I suspect many in that same crowd are enthusiastic to hear them now. Ultimately, it is perhaps best summarized by two people I overhead in the crowd in the lull between songs; one said to the other; "See, I told you they were fucking good".

Esoteric on Facebook
Esoteric on Metal Archives
Wodensthrone on Facebook
Wodensthrone on Metal Archives
Barshasketh on Facebook
Barshasketh on Metal Archives
Enneract on Facebook