(Andy Synn reports on a show he witnessed earlier this week in Manchester, England, with performances by Gorguts, Psycroptic, Dysrhythmia, and Nero Di Marte. And Andy also shares with us some videos he shot during the show.)
When it comes to running gigs (and I speak from experience not only of booking shows, but running them, and playing them… sometimes all three in the same evening) there’s a wide variety of things that can go wrong. Some of them can be fixed with only a minimum of hassle. Others… cause larger problems. For example, and this is just off the top of my head here, a six-hour ferry delay…
Yes, that’s what happened on Monday, meaning that I arrived at the venue for 6 o’clock (when my ticket stated doors were set) only to find that they’d now been pushed back until 7. Fortunately, I eventually bumped into a couple of mates (Hi Jon! Hi Chris!), which certainly made the whole experience a lot more palatable. UN-fortunately the stated door time came and went, with nary a whisper of anyone being let into the building. Something strange was afoot.
It was gone half 7 when, out of nowhere, the tour bus and trailer suddenly pulled round the corner, unleashing a flurry of activity as band and crew members scrambled to unload the necessary gear and merch and rush it into the venue to set up, with only a quick mention in passing that – with a little luck – the first band was going to be onstage within the hour.
At this point Chris and I retired to a nearby pub to join his Spires bandmates in playing the waiting game in slightly more comfortable surroundings, crossing our fingers that at least some of the lost time would be made up and that none of the bands were going to be dropped from the bill…
When they finally let us into the venue, sometime shortly after 8 o’clock by my slightly hazy memory of things, I rushed up the stairs to make sure I caught as much of Nero di Marte as possible, since, truth be told, they were actually the night’s main draw for me.
Now I’m not saying I wasn’t keen to see Gorguts. I was. VERY. And their performance later in the evening was everything I hoped it would be. But there’s just something about Nero di Marte that clicks with me in a very special way.
Although the Italians had barely 20 minutes of allotted stage time to work with, they certainly made every second count, inundating the slowly filling space with waves of abstract dissonance and obscur(a) melody.
Yes, the band are clearly heavily influenced by the headliners, and I don’t think they’d deny this, but they’ve taken this influence and woven it into a sound that is clearly their own, heavy on gloomy atmosphere, heavy on groovesome technicality (particularly in the scintillating drumwork of Marco Bolognini), and just generally heavy all round.
Closing with a riveting rendition of “Il Diluvio” (which you can see below), this was one performance that I can safely say left the audience clamouring for more… for more reasons than one!
Much like the openers, Pennsylvania three-piece Dysrhythmia also owe a certain debt to tonight’s headliners, so you shouldn’t be surprised to hear (if you weren’t already aware) that guitarist Kevin Hufnagel and bassist Colin Marston have also been part of the modern-day Gorguts line-up since way back in 2009, and are thus pulling double duty every night on this tour.
Unlike the headliners, however, the Dysrhythmia experience is a much less heavy one (though it does have its moments of jarring harshness and plunging, low-tuned intensity), with a focus more on jazzy experimentation and outlandish instrumental weirdness, with Marston’s mind-bending uber-bassery taking a lead role through many of tonight’s tracks, allowing both Hufnagel and insectile drummer Jeff Eber to explore and extemporize to their hearts’ content.
Granted, the band’s more… cerebral… approach to music occasionally came across as a little dissociated and clinical but, despite the fact that they were performing a set of all-new and unreleased material tonight (at least, I think that’s what Hufnagel whispered into the mic at one point), the group still made a real connection with the crowd, and left with more than a few new fans under their collective belt.
Definitely the most “straight-forward” and outright aggressive band on the bill, Psycroptic brought the antipodean thunder without restraint, though it took them a couple of songs to properly settle into their groove.
And groove they most certainly did, pounding the audience with a plethora of hectic, hook-heavy riffs and gut-rumbling bass-lines, underpinned by Dave Haley’s unerring percussive pummelling and topped off with Jason Peppiatt’s belligerent, Anselmo-esque bark.
Sticking pretty much exclusively (if memory serves) to music from the post-Ob[servant] era, the quartet played firmly to their strengths, wisely focussing on the groovier, more immediately digestible side of their repertoire, and saving the more overtly technical moments for when the set needed an extra flashy flourish or dizzying twist.
There were times, however, when the liberal use of backing tracks and the occasionally overbearing presence of Haley’s triggered kick drums in the mix meant that the fullness of their live sound did swing a little too close to “artificially enhanced” for comfort, but all in all it was still a damn good set, even if it didn’t quite hit the same heights as the rest of the bands on the bill!
With the evening pressing inexorably onwards, time constraints ultimately meant that the night’s headliners, the inimitable, irrepressible Gorguts, were forced to cut their set short in the end. However… however… after rampaging through the opening facemelter of “La Toit Du Monde”, band-leader (and legendary Tech-Death messiah) Luc Lemay took to the microphone to announce that the band were then going to play the entirety of their new, still unreleased, EP Pleiades’ Dust – all thirty solid minutes of it – in one fell swoop.
I don’t know if any of the other shows on the tour got this, though they probably did, but still… an announcement like that, coming as a complete surprise to about 95% of the audience in attendance, was enough to wash away any lingering bad vibes stemming from the Canadian legends’ truncated set length.
If tonight’s performance is anything to go by, then Pleiades’ Dust is going to be something very special indeed – right up there with Meshuggah’s unimpeachable I — featuring humongous waves of the band’s signature, otherworldly riffing style and kaleidoscopic cascades of nagging, neurotic anti-melody, all of which swell and crash over the top of Patrice Hamelin’s erratic, exotic, genre-blending drumming and Lemay’s monstrous, growling vocals.
Although the EP is constructed as a single, continuous composition, it still contains several clear “movements” (or, at least, such was my impression), with certain more atmospheric or ambient sections allowing both the band and the audience a chance to catch their breath before being swept up once more in the musical maelstrom.
To make things even better the band still had time to drop in a pair of extra tracks after completing their herculean rendition of Pleiades’ Dust, finishing the night off with a pulverising run-through of “Forgotten Arrows” and the untouchable “Obscura”, along with a solemn promise to return and make up for things next time around!