All Tomorrow’s Parties – I’ll Be Your Mirror

Slayer / Sleep / Wolves In The Throne Room / Melvins / Yob / A Storm Of Light

25 May 2012

Alexandra Palace, London


As a quick background, All Tomorrow’s Parties, named after a Velvet Underground song, was set up in 1999 as a more intimate festival for mainly post-rock, avant-garde, and underground hip hop.  The event set the blueprint for the likes of Hammerfest in using a Butlins holiday camp as its base.  It’s since expanded to the USA and spawned an offshoot with the I’ll Be Your Mirror events taking place in cities around the world.  Incidentally I’ll Be Your Mirror was the b-side of Velvet Underground’s All Tomorrow’s Parties single.


Artists are selected to curate the events, with Mogwai curating and headlining the Saturday of the 2012 IBYM London event which also featured Dirty Three, Mudhoney, Codeine and many others.  ATP themselves curated the other nights.  Sunday was to be headlined by The Afghan Whigs but the shorter format Friday was the most metal of any ATP to date, with the key enticement of seeing Slayer playing Reign In Blood in full.


Having managed to arrange the day off, I headed up to Alexandra Palace on a sun drenched afternoon alone, with Johan and his trusty camera due to join later in the early evening.  Acquiring a wrist band was much quicker then expected so there was time for a pint outside with views across London with the other early birds, as we waited for the doors to open.


On finally heading in, the entrance hall housed the usual merchandise stands, a Rough Trade records stand and an art installation which consisted of some cut out cartoon characters and a large print of the Reign In Blood album sleeve.


Art Installation Art Installation


The first room from this was the West Hall which housed the rather large second stage.  First up in here was A Storm Of Light who we had previously caught last October at the Camden Underworld.  Like then, apocalyptic projections were used behind the band and given the much larger venue these were far more effective.  Conversely the bands static performance, on a stage possible the size of the entire Underworld venue, meant the performance itself was far less intimate.


Drawing a set entirely drawn from their latest album, the powerful PA ensured the band’s Neurosis like rumblings commanded attention.  Whilst this was all played against a backdrop of destruction, war and post nuclear wastelands, mainman Josh Graham himself was quietly and politely spoken between songs.  Highpoints were Missing and closer Black Wolves but, with backing noise between tracks, the set was a cohesive whole and was a good way to start the day.


A Storm Of Light setlist:

Silver / Missing / Wasteland / Wretched Valley / Collapse / Black Wolves


Next up on the same stage was the doom of Yob.  With the band already on stage, vocalist/guitarist Mike Scheidt thanked ATP, finished his beer and held it aloft until some cheers came back from the crowd.  He then unscrewed a bottle of wine, took a sip, comically performed some stretches and finally kick started Prepare The Ground.  Through its long instrumental introduction, Scheidt and bassist Aaron Reiseberg were just a mass of hair as they headbanged along whilst shirtless drummer Travis Foster aggressively attacking his kit.


With his microphone set oddly so he faced across the stage, Scheidt’s high pitch vocals had an other-worldly, gruff, Geddy Lee quality which sat well with the pounding doom metal.  Following Burining The Altar, Yob initially take a more subtle approach with the steadily building Adrift In The Ocean.  However those feeling relief to their eardrums were soon to be pulverised as the epic song built once more to thumping rhythms and huge metal riffs.


Yob setlist:

Prepare the Ground / Burning the Altar / Adrift In The Ocean


First up in the large Great Hall were The Melvins who I last encountered 20 years ago, when they opened the main stage at Reading on the Sunday headlined by Nirvana.  To be honest I have a love/hate relationship with the bands recorded material.  Much like today’s gig, when they want to rock they seriously do, but their experimental tangents often leave me cold.  Opening with a cacophony of noise didn’t bode well and it took a while for a Buzz Osbourne riff to finally crave my attention.


Oddly it was the call and response vocal and Adam & The Ants like twin drumming of The Water Glass that hit home.  However, it wasn’t long before my attention had once again wandered, as did I to the bar then back to the West Hall.


Melvins Melvins


Melvins setlist:

Hung Bunny / Roman Bird Dog / The Water Glass / Evil New War God / Manky / A History of Bad Men / Youth of America (Wipers cover) / A Growing Disgust / The War on Wisdom / The Bit


Wolves In The Throne Room were a major draw for me today, particularly as it was a possibility this could be their last UK show, with the band threatening to go fully reclusive on their homestead.  A variety of side banners stood on stage, picked out in very low blue light.  In fact so low was the light that the guitars carried small blue lights in order that the players could see the frets.  Cue one annoyed photographer on his return from the pit.


However, as a spectator this all set a fitting backdrop to the band’s trance inducing black metal.  Thuja Magus Imperium set the tone with droning guitars interweaving as the pace moved from funeral slow to hyper fast but all the while having a meditative effect, with the crowd simply staring stage wards transfixed.  Whilst the sound could have been better, Wolves In The Throne Room took top honours for me today and if this really does turn out to be their last UK show, I’m glad I attended.


 Wolves In The Throne Room Wolves In The Throne Room


Wolves In The Throne Room setlist:

Thuja Magus Imperium / Dea Artio / I Will Lay Down My Bones Among the Rocks and Roots / Prayer of Transformation


From the number of t-shirts being sold, Sleep were obviously a major draw today and are greeted on stage by an expectant crowd.  With the Great Hall’s glass ceiling only partially obscured by some black drapes, the three piece play pretty much in daylight, leaving the music to do the talking.


The set is bookended by two sections of the epic Dopesmoker, with the opening rolling on a repetitive riff for what seemed like forever.  Guitarist Matt Pike’s guitar positively roared as bassist Al Cisneros held down the bottom end strumming his bass across its fretboard.


A cheer rang through the venue as Holy Mountain made its presence felt and the band invoked the spirit of Sabbath with an awesome rendition of Dragnaut which really took the set to its peak.  Cisneros noted that playing between Slayer and The Melvins was a really special show for Sleep, before advising, “If you have a hashish pipe, please light it at this time.”  Sonic Titan and From Beyond followed before the band were back into Dopesmoker once again.  A personal grumble would be not getting to experience The Druid live, however this was a solid enjoyable set from the doom metal legends.


Sleep Sleep Sleep


Sleep setlist:

Dopesmoker (Part I) / Holy Mountain / Dragonaut / Sonic Titan / From Beyond / Dopesmoker (Part II)


There’s a real change in vibe as a massive Slayer logo backdrop was put in place.  I wondered to myself whether a band had ever had something similar at an All Tomorrow’s Parties event, as I watch the Slayer shirts heading to the front and those with weekend wristbands curiously congregating further back.


Bathed in red light, Slayer opened in a low key fashion with a couple of songs from their last studio album.  It doesn’t seem what the crowd want, but a huge cheer rang out when Tom Araya commenced his recognizable “They say the pen is mightier than the sword” speech.  If Die By The Sword livened things up, Chemical Warfare pushed things further with stand in Exodus guitarist Gary Holt seemingly with ants in his pants, though sticking, as I expect he was instructed, to his side of the stage.


Following Hate Worldwide, Araya asked us if we were feeling romantic, with Dead Skin Mask completing the opening part of the set.  The backdrop suddenly changed to the Reign In Blood album cover and Slayer were off and running with Angel Of Death.  Whilst they have played the album in full before, it was a major pull for attending and has stood the test of time as true classic.  The fact that it is only half an hour long, which some of the other bands here have single songs longer, means it does not clog up the set and there is little that you could describe as filler.  Obviously there are tracks the band rarely play live outside the full album performance and a fouled up Reborn had to be restarted.


The band’s set length is limited to 75 minutes tonight so there was just time for three more following the Reign In Blood performance.  South Of Heaven’s twin harmony guitars rang around the venue.  In contrast Snuff felt perfunctory, with War Ensemble ending the set on a high.


Slayer Slayer Slayer


Slayer setlist:

World Painted Blood / Psychopathy Red / Die by the Sword / Chemical Warfare / Hate Worldwide / Dead Skin Mask / Reign in Blood / Angel of Death / Piece by Piece / Necrophobic / Altar of Sacrifice / Jesus Saves / Criminally Insane / Reborn (partial) / Reborn / Epidemic / Postmortem / Raining Blood / South of Heaven / Snuff / War Ensemble