3rd June 2015
Review by Stephen Buss
Photography by Kris T. Therrian
The night started off as you’d expect at any small venue. The crowds gathered slowly and the empty room began to fill. Outside, it seemed that some of the gig goers were unsure of what to expect. Oh, they knew Pallbearer were playing but the 100 Club – in the middle of Oxford Street – didn’t seem like the ideal location. The street was bright, it was clean and there was a lot of traffic on the pathways. This wasn’t the traditional venue to find a line up of heavy metal killers but they’d soon learn that these bands knew just how to make any venue their own.
Bast stepped on stage with a huge presence. This London based metal band has graced the stage with some huge names since their formation in 2008. Being only a three piece, you would be forgiven to believe that they couldn’t fill this long stage, obviously meant for larger bands. But the trio didn’t let it faze them. They controlled the stage and the room with a loud opener that turned everyone’s head. Their bass effects were pushed to the limit, which resulted in a large amount of feedback that would normally hurt a sane person’s ears but the slowly growing crowd weren’t worried about tinnitus. They were here for the music.
The breaks between each song were met with another downed beer but no comments, just tuning. If they were standing for parliament, the phrase ‘no comment’, from intense questioning, would have suited the amount of conversation well. Bast were here to promote their music and get it into every Pallbearer fan’s head. It would have been good to have a little more to remember of their performance. A little personality thrown in every now and again would have broken the silence after the final chord of a song or the twisting notes of a guitar being tuned. With so much tuning going on, you’d have thought they had a second guitar ready with the new tuning already set up. But Bast were offered a few rousing cheers, sadly nothing to stir the bones. Once, I thought I heard a whistle.
The silence seemed to form a sort of atmosphere that the band might have been aiming for but as they dragged on and members of the crowd returned to their conversations, that atmosphere was somewhat lost. Then suddenly another rush of beats hit you in the chest and they had moved onto another fast paced rhythm.
It did feel a little like Bast thought that their crowd should feel privileged to be there, to be entertained by the band, to be allowed to hear the songs and the doom vocals that spelled disaster for all those within ear shot. But as the crowd grew, so did their enthusiasm for the songs. Towards the end of Bast’s set, heads began nodding along agreeably but still no excessive energy was wasted. Obviously they were reserving their strength for the arrival of Pallbearer.
The crowd now filled out the space between the three central pillars at the 100 Club. All of them seemed to be metal heads on parade. There was no young blood here. The heavy, hard riffs, that Bast were blasting out now owned this territory. They’d picked up the pace and delivered.
The lack of speaking between each track seemed to be just what the crowd wanted. They were calling for nothing but the music, that now seemed to engulf the room. The crowd called for riffs to sacrifice and in response, Bast played harder, creating waves that rushed through the audience’s chests.
The 100 Club didn’t seem the right setting for a metal night. Yes there were red walls and two bars – obviously they were set up for more packed rooms – but the room was wide. There was going to be no big pits here tonight. The walls were covered with pictures of many famous acts that had taken to the stage here before but they were all pop or rock acts. None of the bands here tonight would find themselves on these walls anytime soon.
Bast answered the cheer before their final song with some movement. Wind milling through their riffs, the crowd joined in unison. They seemed set to play larger venues but as the headline act. Bast’s refined presence on stage, along with their powerful songs, were made for a crowd already in full swing – which they achieved towards the end of their set. They ended with cheers that rose from the throats of the crowd and offered a quick but muffled thanks in return.
Latitudes arrived on stage with a keyboard and laptop – Apple Mac at the ready. But don’t let their tech distract you. This formidable five piece took to the stage with ease. Signed to Shelsmusic and travelling over from Herts, their wind milling fans were out in their masses, parting the sea of work hair cut metal heads to control the front. With the first bass slap, they had the eager crowd in the palms of their hands.
The vocals were clearly meant to be an angelic wave and occasionally they had that sense and feel. But Gabriel’s army couldn’t hide the overwhelming reverb that hid the real tune. As the set continued this came under control and we were offered vocals to match TesseracT.
The heavy beats created by the drummer’s fast and technical approach to the music became intertwined with the bass to create a powerful ripple through the room that was hard to ignore. Those already moving to the beat embraced it and those at the bar turned to join the now large audience. There was no moving. You found your spot and had to own it. Apart from the two light sides, marked by the bars, the dark room was now packed. Breathing had to be done in unison to ensure that everyone could catch a breath.
Latitudes didn’t let up. There were no long silences here. Loud feedback and minimal melodies were quickly cleared away by fast paced riffs, which their drummer somehow managed to compete with. The battle raged on through their third track. Only suspended for a quick breather and then they ploughed on through again and hit hard. They weren’t playing around. They created a wall of sound that would impress Devin Townsend and the entire Strapping Young Lad crew.
As they continued to fill more blank space with a Between The Buried And Me classic writing technique, with music intended to awe the crowd, the room swelled with movement. It seemed that Latitudes wrote every note of their music out before even dreaming of touching an instrument. They were in unison, galloping to each chorus as one and then diving through to clean, clear openings.
There was no arrogance in their music, they had simply fallen in love with their own creation and the crowd was seeing the attraction. The motion of the crowd and swaying was being slow danced into submission.
The 100 Club continued to fill up. More and more people were arriving for Pallbearer and some even taking a seat at the back of the room and to the sides to avoid the crush in the centre. The blue and red lighting continued to flash raising the question, why do bars have such a fascination with red and blue lights? It’s a photographer’s nightmare. The fuzz from the bass woke everyone up and then the vocals drove everyone back into a calm, hypnotised state.
Their climax, to round off the set, had the energy, essence and skill of Protest The Hero. With a huge, powerful end that broke any silence in the room, Latitudes left the stage and left the crowd clambering for more. It was the perfect close to a great set.
Pallbearer finally took to the stage and the crowd swelled once more. Gracing London, from their home in Little Rock, they took their local underground metal scene by storm and are now signed to Profound Lore Records/20 Buck Spin. They claim to pay homage to doom metal of old while looking forward. Eager to see their favourites, everyone pushed forward but there was still no room. The audience was a real cultural mix, all waiting for their band. Pallbearer was in the building.
Head bangers moved in unison and the moshing monsters came out to play. The whole crowd roared in unison as the first song erupted. Pallbearer had this crowd in a vice grip. They were here to play and everything they did felt powerful. The heavy riffs dictated the movement of the crowd and the sludge being squeezed through the speakers captured everyone. These seasoned rockers knew their talents and exploited them to draw the crowd closer.
Pallbearer’s bassist and drummer were in complete unison. They created a strong backbone for everything to be layered on but just together, they created enough to please the crowd. They brought the scene alive. The scene is not dead. Each hit felt like it was going to knock you backwards. Like a sledgehammer smashing through a wall. Their music wouldn’t let up. The crowd had found their new faith and attached themselves to this awe inspiring noise that simply took your breath away.
The lights from the bar and the room darkened. We’d entered Pallbearer territory. They reigned supreme over their chosen few, who were already basking in the riffing glory. It was as if Dracula had taken control of the room. The band knew every step, every motion that their fellow members would take and with that confidence, their performance became the new light to crave.
The cheering crowd filled any gaps left in the room but only the band could tame them. The wave of music held the crowd. Motion was paused by an occasional guitar squeal or when everyone was thrown off balance by killer beats on the bass drum. But this crowd was now truly alive. A living mass that called for more Pallbearer.
The night was a huge success and every band delivered. It would have been good to see Bast perform to a larger audience because towards the end of their set, they really came into their own. Latitudes controlled a huge room and showed themselves to be a fantastic band. Pallbearer simply stood out as a band that truly knows their stuff. There were no two ways about it. They came, they delivered and everything they did was big. The sooner they’re back in the UK, the better. But they should continue sticking to the smaller venues. The tight space allowed everyone to feel that they were a part of something bigger. If there was too much breathing room, that effect of being involved would have been lost and those that managed to make it through the doors wouldn’t feel as privileged to hear Pallbearer live.