MAMMOTH WEED WIZARD BASTARD
If you happened
to catch Batushka when they hit the UK last year, the chances are that you’ll have overheard some heated debates over who is the true face of, er, non-faceshowing Polish black metal – Batushka being the scene-stealing relative newcomers, tonight’s headliners considered the genuine article. Both bands have reached breakthrough status – could have sold out a far bigger venue than the Underworld if they’d wanted – and it’s a sign of their pulling power that the venue’s already full for openers Their depressive take on BM reaches epic, heart-scorching proportions as frontman Nathan Vander Vaet holds on to his mic like Ian Curtis back from the dead. If lose some mystique points by soundchecking in civvies in front of the crowd, the actual, spikeadorned barrage that follows allows no space beyond being totally immersed in the moment. Not so much songs as brutally efficient displays of power, this is death metal as sputtering gun turret, hurling fusillades of blastbeats through a miasmic whorl of riffs and parched chants to implacably and pretty much mystically arresting effect.
Somewhat disappointingly, Mgła’s pre-set soundcheck reveals their faces, proving at the very least that they’re not actually the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. But properly suited up in regulation leather jackets, hoods and mesh, there’s a bleak power erupting through the uncomfortably packed venue that soon gets transfigured into something celebratory. A band who’ve kept genuine kvlt status while proving sonically accessible, at their heart is the same kind of gothic, 80s pulse that drives the twilight-journeying likes of Nachtmysium and Tribulation. Mgła weld it with both an otherworldly, atmospheric level of conviction and a gristly momentum that binds a sardine-packed crowd to states of rapt, reverberating wonder. THE LEXINGTON, LONDON
Wrexham’s MaMMoth Weed WIzaRd BaStaRd rustle up a cosmic, doom-laden stoner storm that is much better than their ridiculous moniker would suggest. Their secret weapon is vocalist Jessica Ball; her ethereal, sultry vocals glide over the music, giving the band a hypnotic, intoxicating fusion that sounds like Chelsea Wolfe fronting Sleep. After a few minutes of warbling feedback, they hazily and heavily collide into the opening riff of The Spaceships Of Ezekiel from their career-best latest album, Yn Ol I Annwyn. The music is powerful but it’s obvious that something is off, with Jessica showing visible frustration that The Lexington’s PA can’t handle their expansive, atom-smashing sound. Unfortunately, it’s Jessica’s vocals that suffer most, a barely perceptible soft murmur sunk in the vortex of swirling, sludge-textured riffs that peel out around her. Given that the technical issues are predominantly with vocals, it seems a wise move to launch into the instrumental Katyusha, although at 13 minutes in length, it does start to drag a little towards the end. MWWB are an excellent band, vastly superior to many of their stoner contemporaries, but tonight just simply isn’t their night.
Mgła: the non-face of Polish black metal