The Masque, Seel Street, Liverpool | Friday 21st October 2011
Doom metal is probably the most ‘niche’ of all metal sub-genres. In other words, it is the least liked, the most hated, the most misunderstood. Very often, even among metalheads, it’s met with a look of bewilderment, or worse, plain disinterest. In a sense, this is understandable; doom is slow, dirge-like, depressive and often emotionally draining. It’s not catchy, you can’t dance to it and you can’t get away with pretending to be a pirate or a viking whilst attending a doom gig. Yet, for me, it represents many of the best qualities to be found in all of music; it has depth, it has soul and, due to the general apathy in much of the metal fraternity, you can be fairly sure that the musicians involved are not just in it for money or pussy, but in fact have a genuine love for what they do…
Liverpool and doom metal are certainly not mutually exclusive, but aside from Anathema - considered pioneers in the genre - none of the city’s other doom progeny have ever really gone beyond cult status. Whiplash brought doom to Liverpool’s metal masses for the first time in six years. The Prophecy played at that show, and it seemed somewhat fitting that they should open the show this time. Hailing from Halifax in Yorkshire, the quartet lived up to their home county’s reputation as the UK’s home of all things doom and gloom. Vocalist Matt Lawson boasts a soulful singing voice along with his guttural growl, and guitarist Greg O’Shea plays with enough feeling for the whole band. Along with John Bennett on drums, O’Shea lends the band a jazz tinge in their cleaner, more restrained moments. The Prophecy definitely deserve to be more widely known and appreciated than they are, especially with three full length albums to their name.
Active for nearly twenty years, Birmingham’s Esoteric have had a long time now to hone their sound, which happens to be extremely captivating. With an extremely rare level of atmospheric, snail-paced intensity mixed in with death and doom metal elements, this is the kind of music which has the power to take you to another place, as long as you are prepared to allow it. Give in to Esoteric, and they will work their way into your system and set up camp in parts of you you didn’t know existed. One factor in the band’s killer sound was the fact that all three guitarists had an excessive array of FX pedals. I’m not sure if they even used all of them, or if some were there for merely for show, but either way, the band were certainly engaging visually as well as sonically. Vocalist Greg Chandler even made use of a Madonna-style headset, although with all the pedals, there was no room on the stage for dancing. Extraordinary.
Headlining the night were Danes Saturnus. Unfortunately they had to cut their set drastically due to a delayed flight, and frontman Thomas made sure to thank easyJet for this during their performance. Undeterred, they pulled off an excellent set which brought the night to a close in a suitably engrossing fashion. Defined both by sublime, melancholic moments and strident, bitter death metal interludes, the band’s live set is thoroughly engaging and occasionaly unpredictable. While their sound is certainly more traditional than that of Esoteric, Saturnus have the songwriting skills and dynamic flexibility to keep an audience guessing. Brimming with melody and an authoratative command of the crowd, the band ensured that the punters left the happy…if ‘happy’ is the right word for a doom gig.
So, much as expected, this was a fairly stunning gig. As heavy as the majority of Whiplash gigs end up being, this, for me, has had the biggest impact so far. To these ears, doom is as powerful and hard-hitting as metal gets. But that’s just me, and perhaps I’m biased. If you think I am and you are unfamiliar with doom, discard this review and check out these - and other doom bands - for yourself. You may just be pleasantly surprised by what you hear.
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