29th October 2019
Review By: Beandog
Photos By: Ryan Whitwell
There’s no greater testament to the quality of tonight’s line-up, which has been assembled by Live Nation and presented in North London’s Boston Music Room, than the speed at which the venue is filling up on an otherwise ordinary Tuesday evening.
If the familiar sting of the post-weekend return to work is still being felt, it’s certainly not by those who have ventured out and arrived early to catch the first of four bands on tonight’s bill.
The Boston Music Room and its bigger sibling, The Dome (which sits on the same site), has built a strong reputation of hosting consistently good shows. Its roster is seemingly drawn from a pool of credible and/or up-and-coming bands; either on the cusp of success or enjoying that sweet spot of popularity coupled with underground integrity.
The first of tonight’s acts have travelled the furthest to be here; taking part for the duration of the tour, Armed For Apocalypse have made the trip over from California. They take to the stage with enough people in the room to ensure a decent atmosphere and get straight on with the business of laying down some crushing, hardcore-infused heavy metal.
Their sound borrows from the complete spectrum of extreme music, from a rolling sludge attack to the full-throated bellow of death metal. Ultimately, AFA are a celebration of the riff and from where I’m standing, with my pint in hand, nodding my head to the aggressive, crunching guitars, it’s wonderful to see the crowd being won over by the band’s formidable performance. Throwing themselves into their music as if it were a headlining show, pushing through sudden time shifts and tempo changes: I’m reminded of another savage crossover band, Vision Of Disorder, and it appears others in the room are sharing my appreciation. As each song comes to an end the cheers get louder. This seems to be from a result of growing enthusiasm, and a rapidly increasing number of people arriving at the gig.
By the time LLNN walk on stage, the room has filled and there is a sense of eager anticipation in the air. The Danish band made quite a statement last year with their Deads album, so it’s no wonder that even their brief line-check has everyone’s attention. Washes of synth sound out over the PA, punctuated by thick, distorted guitar chords and the occasional vocal roar from both frontman Christian Bonnesen and keyboard player Ketil G. Sejersen. There’s a playful glint in their eyes, a confidence that comes from knowing how the weight of their post-metal, space doom is about to land squarely in the ears of a crowd who probably only have half an idea of how heavy the LLNN live experience could be.
Opening song Armada comes chugging into the room, weighted with plenty of over-driven bite and augmented by the liberal use of retro sounding synths. These two elements are integral to the band’s sound and the immediate effect is to ensure LLNN sound far larger than the room in which they are contained. They sound absolutely massive; not even an mid-set equipment failure can diminish the power of their delivery.
Uniquely, there is a whimsical flair to the set. Some of the electronic pads evoke the soundtrack work of John Carpenter, which evokes a nostalgic familiarity that shouldn’t work with the bleakness of the band’s overall sound. The smiles and laughter on the faces of the musicians’ faces are, again, at odds with their music, but it all adds up to become one of the highlights of the evening.
In contrast to LLNN‘s sense of fun, the Brighton based Earth Moves seem cold and aloof. Their set is delivered with deadpan efficiently and as a result, feels clinical and rather detached when compared to the previous set.
However, there’s no denying the calibre of musicianship. Each song seems to grip tighter with its complexity and once I’ve adjusted to the shift in mood I find myself captivated by the band’s performance and I warm to their brooding intensity. A song like Catatonic impresses with its sluggish waltz that simultaneously reminds me of The Cure and Neurosis. By the time Conjurer’s Dan Nightingale jumps onstage to lend the band his larynx, I’m fully on board and resolving to check out the band’s back catalogue.
For Nightingale, it’s a momentary warm-up for the main event. It also demonstrates the clear camaraderie among the touring musicians, and as Earth Moves conclude their set they express how much they’ve enjoyed the past few live dates before making their exit.
After a short break, the headlining band take their place and seem in very good spirits. Since the release of Mire in 2018, Conjurer have been riding a steady upward trajectory that suggests it won’t be long before the band are playing in much bigger venues than this one. The enthusiastic cheer given by the crowd carries a sense of celebratory appreciation that completely supports this prediction. The band responds by tearing into almost grindcore levels of potency via their opening track, Thankless.
From the start, everyone on stage sounds crisp and on point. Conjurer are a laser tight band as standard, but tonight their musicianship has been further honed by the repetition of touring and there is a commanding confidence in their stage presence. This is best demonstrated by Conor Marshall, who begins the evening by throwing his neck into Cannibal Corpse levels of windmill headbanging, which doesn’t let up at all. Every accelerated riff is punctuated by him tossing his skull around, flanked by his band-mates, who bellow out the lyrics over the top of the molasses thick music.
The crowd’s reaction is one of rowdy enjoyment and they push forward, into the sound, hands raised aloft as Dan Nightingale leans towards them, peeling out another track from a set-list heaving with impressive songs. Indeed, you would be hard pressed to walk away feeling disappointed with the track choice tonight. Every song from Mire gets an airing, as does all the material from their 2016 EP. It’s a generous offering that increases the sense of excitement in the room.
Quite simply, Conjurer are a world-class act. The energy they are putting into this show would rival any band you could name and the musicians appear to be revelling in their current status as one of the UK’s fastest rising stars. Crucially, they have the chops to effortlessly put their money where their mouth is. Drummer Jan Krause is a phenomenally powerful player, whose technical prowess propels each riff and aural gear change with slick precision. This allows the rest of the band to dig in and enjoy the transfer of energy that starts with the band’s own performance and cascades out into the audience. They throw it back to the band via their urging cheers and an erratic, churning mosh that makes the band’s concluding rendition of Hadal all the more visceral. Tonight has been a triumph!
It feels significant that after their main set, Conjurer return to encore with a Mastodon cover. As the dexterous lead lines of Blood & Thunder rattle through the crowd, I find myself making a career comparison between the American band and the young men in front of me on stage. My strong opinion is these boys are heading for similar levels of success; at the very least, a level of success that, much like Mastodon, is defined on their own terms while retaining their integrity.
Get on board now and enjoy the ascent!