THE EARLS OF MARS
PLUS: SERPENT VENOM, DORRE
ECCENTRIC ENGLISH DIRT-PROGGERS TAKE LONDON ON A MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR
■ THERE’S A certain kind of screw-loose mad genius that you only get with the English. Imagine an endearingly crackers maths professor who can hold a 500-part equation in his head as naturally as falling off a log, but might as well have birds tweeting around his ears. That’s basically Brit prog-twiddlers The Earls Of Mars in a nutshell: vastly intelligent, yelling at the stars and as English as a cup of tea. And teeing up this craziness are Belgium’s Dorre, who create a colossally heavy doom abyss into which they try to suck everything – your ears, daylight, reality – to hypnotising effect. Next, London’s champions of all things slow and low, Serpent Venom, arrive to squash The Black Heart with riffs of pure Sabbath steel. Well, eventually they do. First they have to send members offstage to fi nd other members, then set the vibe with a couple of minutes of dense feedback. But – by Iommi’s crucifi x! – when those enormous riffs rumble forth they are simply astonishing. Fans of hulking, slow doom that charges at you like a bison fi ghting its way out of a tar pit will fall in love with this lot instantly. But the most love tonight is reserved for The Earls Of Mars, who somehow manage to get people singing along joyously to their insane, proggy hymns as though this is a Justin Bieber gig. Musically, they’re a bit like Clutch or Orange Goblin fed through Alice’s Looking-glass, a sound that’s recognisable, but twisted into strange, intriguing new shapes. Frontman Harry Armstrong, meanwhile, is part grinning keyboard demon, part wide-eyed preacher man, delivering his sermons to God-knows-what like Jim Morrison’s scruffi er, further-out brother. Mad? Yeah, but lovably so.