Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Live Review #003: Dragged into Sunlight w/ Bossk, Sunsmasher and Headless Kross.

As you might know, I don't review every band I see live; instead, I generally try to review the ones which are a bit different - the shows where the bands involved manage to make it really feel like something noteworthy and special. As soon as I knew that Dragged into Sunlight would be playing Glasgow, based on how they sounded, their aesthetic, and the tales I'd been told about their truly malign stage show, I suspected that they would be the kind of live experience which would be worth writing down, and I can safely say I wasn't disappointed.

The Audio in Glasgow is quite an interesting venue; very small, compact, and minimalistic, but at the same time, really well equipped in terms of lighting, smoke-machines, and very reasonable sound-mixing indeed, something which the generally knackered aesthetic of the venue itself might not suggest; in other words, it's the sort of venue where you probably shouldn't bother to lock the toilet cubicle, because if someone tries to get in, the whole thing will just fold up and collapse anyway. As the evening went on, the place was full enough to be packed, but not full enough to be ridiculous, which felt like a nice balance; certainly, there was enough space to check out the merch tables, where Dragged into Sunlight were selling all kinds of alarming weaponry; more like a satanic bizarre than a merch table at a gig; namely bongs and T-shirts which even your friends might be a bit offended by. Bossk have an interesting assortment of things too; apparently including soap. 

First on were Headless Kross, a local sludgy-doom outfit who I've seen a couple of times before. The signature the band possess tends to be their ability to bend around the normal constraints of time and space, making a thirty minute set feel like an hour. This night, in addition to doing just that, they were on top-form. The sound-mixing gods had smiled on them a lot, and the set was tight, with a splendidly creamy, straight-to-the-face tone, causing all of the instruments to blend into a splendid, rafter-reverberating doomy display.  The vocals, particularly, came through more clearly then usual, and had an interesting echoey, almost ethereal effect on them, which they seemed to share with the next band. Perhaps Headless Kross are an acquired taste, perhaps they've been on a steady slope of becoming tighter and more enjoyable to listen to, or perhaps both; whatever the case is, I enjoyed their set more than ever before this time around, and the rest of the audience seemed to share their enthusiasm. I think the promoters decision to host mainly doom-metal opening acts was a wise one; it was a very refreshing affair indeed not to be swamped with the usual modern death-metal acts which Glasgow has to offer. Granted, some of them are great, but everyone needs a rest once in a while.

Sunsmasher are also local, although all I really know about them is that they apparently used to play more slowly than they do now. It's probably just as well that Headless Kross rattled the building for a while to warm it up, otherwise Sunsmasher's tone might well have made it fall down. To my ears, Sunsmasher go down a similar road to Headless Kross, albeit catering more to the extremes; the tone was less friendly and more crunchy; the sort of tone that when the first chord is struck, you look at the person next to you and make your very best "fucking-hell" face, as your hair waves around at the whim of the sound-waves passing your head. It's probably just as well that I had a chance to practice my "fucking-hell" face before Dragged into Sunlight came on. Ultimately, whilst I'm not too familiar with Sunsmasher's material, I found their set very enjoyable indeed, a second helping of dark, doom-laden goodness for the evening, perhaps a little darker than Headless Kross, but nothing like as dark as what was to come.

Bossk are one of those metallic post-rock sort of outfits, once again, a band I'm not too familiar with. As an exception to the evenings dark feel, Bossk tended towards being very serene, floaty and at times very beautiful. The juxtaposition between the sections which are instrumental and the sections which have a vocalist is a bit jarring, and I must confess that I strongly preferred the latter; to each their own, of course. Bossk have an interesting stage presence, particularly in light of the peace which their music tends to have; it's not so much a "look at us" vibe, but a far more honest "listen to this" one. Most of the set was very tranquil; the kind of music which you can sway back and forward too, or it would have been, if I didn't keep bumping into people while trying to do so. The rest was punctuated by relatively heavy, bouncy passages which were sort of doomy, but at the same time exuded a rock edge which felt overtly non-metal. Perhaps if, in you're vocabulary, "non-metal" is synonymous with "non-good", I can safely say that this isn't the case; Bossk seemed excellent and fascinating to listen to, indeed, I can certainly see why the band are favour of the month just now. Generally, the crowd seemed very enraptured by the show; divided into three groups - people who had heard of Bossk, people who hadn't, but were enjoying it, and that guy, who knew every single one of their tracks inside out, and was very vocal of his approval. If I'd known any of their songs at all, I'd probably have felt the same.  

There is a form of epilepsy which you can have which eventually goes away. I used to have it, but I certainly don't any more. How do I know it's gone away? Because I stood through Dragged Into Sunlight's set and am not dead. I've never seen a band quite so intent on murder-by-strobe light. Everything about the band's set is intense, beginning even before they properly take to the stage. Slowly, candles are lit, one by one. A deer skull is mounted on the stage-left, and then a second on the right. A friend looks at it and remarks "this is going to be silly, isn't it?" The "frontman" - a candelabra with a rams skull mounted on it, and the only thing which will face the audience for any length of time, is placed in centre stage. Then the lights go out, leaving nothing but the glow of the candles. In my head, undertakers theme chimes for a moment, and then the joke fades away.

Like the bands studio material, a malign, dark spoken word sample ushers the beginning of the bands set, before the band bursts into their material, with their backs to the crowd almost constantly; like a black mass. The murky sound of the bands studio work is very faithfully and effectively reproduced in a live setting, and the whole set sounds great; the murky churning, the darkness, the suspense filled sections - all are extremely well deployed, amid sick, satanic red lighting, and ferocious, almost constant strobe lighting, which obscures the band further from view, even then the vocalist is facing the front. I couldn't even count how many of them there were, and I think that's a great manoeuvre by the band; the mystique and darkness of the affair is greatly reinforced by it, and I think it's the best coming together of stage-show and music that I've seen in a long time; perhaps ever. Dragged into Sunlight make an effort, and it pays off. Amid the strobe lighting, the whole crowd's attention is grasped, with no hope of escape; at one point there's a pit, but I didn't manage to notice, because I was too busy clinging to the bar for my life, and nodding my head in awe - across from me, the bar-woman looks miserable, hunched on a chair, perhaps hoping that all of these moshers will leave so she can go home; certainly, Dragged into Sunlight is harrowing for the people that want to be there, let alone unwilling bar-staff.

Ultimately, the band played quite a short set, perhaps thirty-five minutes, but it felt like enough; not too short, not too long. Afterwards, you have a feeling of relief, the feeling of having survived some terrible incident, barely. But I also felt the impact of having been to a damn good show. Dragged into Sunlight are, and I don't exaggerate, one of the best live bands I've seen in a long time... and you barely even see them.  It's uncomfortable, intense, and punishing, but at the same time, it's very, very good.

Dragged into Sunlight Official Site
Dragged into Sunlight on Facebook
Dragged into Sunlight on Metal Archives
Bossk Official Site
Bossk on Facebook
Bossk on Metal Archives
Sunsmasher on Facebook
Sunsmasher on Metal Archives
Headless Kross on Facebook
Headless Kross on Metal Archives