Alunah + Transport League + A Pale Horse Named Death @ The 02 Academy2 Islington, London

23rd March 2019
Review & photography by Claudia Black

Tonight was a rare trip to the O2 Academy2, located on the upper level of the Angel Shopping Centre in Islington. The last time I was here was 4 years ago to see some female punk bands and not much has changed inside the venue. The layout is the same and the toilets are the same level of awful, but on the plus side the sound was good and at least there was one non-alcoholic beer on sale, albeit a San Miguel. There was a good crowd in for the main support band and for the headliners, but alas the opening act didn’t have the privilege of this increase in numbers, but that’s the curse of playing first I suppose. So, three bands that have all flown under my radar until tonight but have now firmly impressed themselves into my brain with the force of a cattle brand so that for the rest of the night I have a hybrid sound of all three rocking around in my brain until I fall asleep!

First off we have Alunah, a doom rock quartet from Birmingham whose sound is similar to Black Moth, Cold In Berlin and Mother Witch & The Dead Water Ghosts. Their set consisted of 5 tracks, 2 from their Amber and Gold EP released last year, what I’ll assume are 2 new tracks (Trapped and Bound and Dance of Deceit) and a cover of Chris Isaac’s ”Wicked Game” as a finale! I like them, there are some good chops here played by Dean Ashton along with some lazy melodic bass from Daniel Burchmore! Sian Greenaway in her velvet jumpsuit topped with red mullet styled hairdo provided the eye candy and conduit for the musical verbiage. As alluded to above, the venue at this stage was thin on crowd and big on bare floor, it’s a shame more people were not in to see them because they are a good band!

But warm up the crowd they did in readiness for…

…Sweden’s Transport League. What can I say about these guys? Bloody brilliant! First gear to fifth in the space of a few bars and a maintaining of that pace throughout the set. There’s not much chatter here other than the usual introductions just in case you didn’t know who they were and the obligatory directions to the merchandise stand for when the set ended. Why should there be any more chatter? The music spoke for itself. If you like groovy, hip-grindingly good metal that boosts your oxytocin and dopamine levels then this is the music for you!

The band were formed in 1994 and produce good honest and humorous tropes with titles like ”Swing Satan Swing”, ”Holy MotherFucker”, ”Monster Human” and ”Cannibal Holobeast”. They remind me of Rob Zombie mixed with ZZ Top and Black Sabbath topped with Corrosion Of Conformity. I wasn’t the only one in the crowd who’d not heard of them before, there were a fair few but I suspect many left the venue afterwards, searching briskly through their Spotify app to find them, I know I did! The intensity of what filtered from that stage had the power to draw people closer like the tractor beam on the side of a Borg cube!

Well and truly assimilated, we now wait ten minutes or so for…

A Pale Horse Called Death! A band from Brooklyn NYC formed in 2011 with former Type O Negative members Sal Abruscato on guitar and vocals and Johnny Kelly on drums. This is who the crowd had come to see tonight, and they made their feelings of appreciation known throughout the set. Due to the early death of Type O Negative frontman and bassist Pete Steele in 2010, it was decided to cease operations because there was no point carrying on without the driving force of the band. But still with plenty of things to say and play, A Pale Horse Called Death came into existence not long after. It’s a different beast but there are still strands of Type O Negative DNA strongly coursing through every pore of the band’s being! It’s understandable, and because of that a few individuals in the crowd kept shouting out for Type O Negative material. They were suitably teased but not indulged!

Not knowing any of the songs previously, what I focused on was the overall feel of the music and the interplay between instruments! My eyes flicked back and forth from lead guitar to rhythm and then to drums and bass etc, gradually getting hypnotised by the solid production and tightness of playing! Like a house where every brick has been slotted into its the rightful place, I stared in admiration at the masterful construction! The music is of the depressed, murky and introspective kind, and the feeling I got was of faded matte blacks and dusty surfaces and lace things ripped, torn or frayed. Quite clearly allusions to a mind in a tormented and tempestuous state. Do you know that woodcut of crashing waves by Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai? A bit like that!

When I got home I listened to the set list again and could not pick out any one track as a favourite so did not bother wasting energy hunting for one! It’s just far easier to enjoy what I heard as a whole piece! I found that reliving the set as an art piece, as entertainment, as instruction on songcraft and finally as a tool of demonic exorcism would elicit more reward!

In summary, a most excellent night had by all. If I had to criticise something it would be the venue curfew that stripped a few tracks out and the fact that only San Miguel non-alcoholic was sold behind the bar! I mean seriously, there are plenty of good non-alcoholic beers out there so why do the pubs in this area only get in the crap ones?