Ghost Brigade / A Storm Of Light / Intronaut
12 October 2011
The Underworld, London
It was an evening of few words at the Underworld with precious little crowd interaction all night. First up were Intronaut from Los Angeles who were new to me prior to being announced on this tour, but whose latest album Valley Of The Smoke had gradually wormed its way to repeated iPod plays.
Whilst the band’s stage manner was somewhat nervous, the playing certainly wasn’t. Chief architects were the rhythm section. Danny Walker’s drumming was frantic, building complex rhythms on which Joe Lester’s bass dominated proceedings. Lester effortless moved around the fretboard, throwing in jazz chords and harmonics. From where I was stood it appeared his bass had frets but his fluid style meant it didn’t sound like it. Tony Choy’s playing sprung to mind as I marvelled over his technique. On top of this Sacha Dunable and Dave Timnick paint soundscapes using their guitars and a twin vocal approach.
Progressive, psychedelic and, at time, plain heavy were descriptions that sprung to mind with recent Cynic, Ihsahn, Mastodon, The Outer Limits era Voivod and even Ozric Tentacles all reference points. The high point was the majestic Core Relations which featured mid way through a set which left me with a thoroughly stroked chin.
Elegy / Above / Vernon / Core Relations / Past Tense / Nostalgic Echo / The Literal Black Cloud
Josh Graham may be better known as the visual artist for Neurosis but he also fronts his own band A Storm Of Light. It’s therefore no surprise to see a white sheet against the back wall of the Underworld, which was filled with a variety of images and footage of the likes of stampeding buffalo, fire and planes across the bands set. Actually the unconventional set up of the Underworld meant for the first half of the set I couldn’t see the screen, but repositioning myself the visuals certainly added to the performance.
In addition to the visuals, sound samples filled the gaps and the need for talking between songs, with an uneasy cymbal like ring seemingly alerting the band to commence each song in order to sync with the footage.
It’s no real shock that the sound dwells in a similar area as Neurosis, mixing doomy sludgy riffs with post-rock and tribal rhythms. Graham’s vocal often seemed buried under the weighty riffs of the likes of Tempest, which was the sole song not drawn from latest album (draw breath!) As The Valley Of Death Becomes Us, Our Silver Memories Fade.
Musically not as intriguing as openers Intronaut, the addition of the visuals raised A Storm Of Light’s performance, but for me they ranked second tonight.
A Storm Of Light setlist:
Missing / Silver / Wasteland / Tempest / Black Wolves / Collapse
There seemed to be a bit of a changeover in the crowd when Ghost Brigade took to the stage, with the more obviously metal members of the crowd heading down stage front. A few had also departed and the Finnish band’s sound seemed to echo around the Underworld rather than envelop us, as it had when I last saw Ghost Brigade support Amorphis.
Ghost Brigade make it clear this is a tour to promote new album Until Fear No Longer Defines Us by playing the bulk of it. However, it’s early days on this promotional run and it did feel that the band are still gelling with that new material. Frontman Manne Ikonen actually has lyrical reminders on his setlist to remind him which song is which and seemed less confident than at the aforementioned Amorphis show. With little to say to a partisan crowd, the bearded Ikonen clung to his microphone stand, peering out from under his woolly hat.
This is cold music and with the Underworld air conditioning on full it’s presented in a similar atmosphere. However, whereas a band like Katatonia uplift, for me at least, Ghost Brigade just weren’t holding my attention and seemed like an anti-climax following the acts the preceded them. With that in mind I must concede that I headed for the door before the Finns wrapped up their set.
Ghost Brigade setlist:
Clawmaster / Divine Act of Lunacy / My Heart Is A Tomb / Hold On Thin Line / Breakwater / Suffocated / Torn / Traces Of Liberty / Instrumental / Grain / Into The Black Light / Soulcarvers