Bristol is quickly gaining a reputation as a hosting hub for some of the most inspiring, compelling music to emerge from the UK; music that is most often described with the prefix ‘post‘ to delineate its radical forward-thinking grandiosity (post-rock / post-punk / post-metal / post-samba-jazz-fusion etc etc). The city’s liberal bohemia is the perfect environment to showcase the more esoteric, experimental side of heavy music and the scene that is building there, surely due in no small part to the success and quality of ArcTanGent Festival, is one of the friendliest and most open-minded in the whole country. It’s encouraging then to see more live music events spring up in the city (even despite the tragic imminent closure of one of the venues responsible for this scene flourishing, The Stag and Hounds) and Effigy are the latest promoter to exhibit the country’s most exceptional unconventional bands.
Manchester’s Pijn deliver an astonishing synthesis of elegant splendour and unfettered distress that manages to side-step the usual conventions appropriated by most of the post-metal pack. Their rhythm section is something to behold, gradually increasing or decreasing tempo to give a feeling of lurching disquieting unease, a trick most bands wouldn’t be able to employ without collapsing into a horrific mess. If the rhythm is the heart, Joe Clayton’s consolidation of beautiful and savage fretwork is the soul. He wrenches notes from the darkest depths one moment whilst achieving moments of stunning shimmering transcendence the next. Pijn use vocals sparingly, but when Clayton does let out a roar, it is the apoplectic torturous cry of a wounded animal. It would have been nice to see some of the additional instrumentation present on their debut EP Floodlit (including violins, cellos, saxophone and lap-steel guitar) but even stripped down to their core three-piece component, Pijn’s songs are majestic.
Dialects are fast becoming not only one of the UK’s most promising instrumental bands but one of the most energetic and downright jubilant post-rock bands this country’s ever produced. They stick out like a sore-thumb amongst the rest of today’s dour, sorrow-fuelled line-up, but they don’t suffer for it at all. The Scottish quartet see-saw between animated mile-a-minute effervescence and blissful, spaced out vibes, which makes for an intoxicating brew. Dialects have moved on exponentially since the release of their debut 2015 EP LTKLTL and it shows, the band having abandoned all the songs from it in favour of fresher, mostly unheard compositions. It’s a brave move, but in Dialects case, it merely highlights how quickly and efficiently this band is moving forward. For some reason, this band still remain unsigned, although with performances like this, that won’t be the case for long.
Conjurer are devastatingly heavy, riding the ferocious, unpredictable line between math complexity and brutal dissonance. In this regard, they’re similar to the likes of Botch, or even Coalesce, two of the most intelligent and under-rated bands in the history of heavy music. Such lofty comparisons may be dismissed as mere hyperbole, but as a live band, Conjurer are the aural equivalent of bringing a mortar to a knife fight and have the potential to be one of the UK’s most vital, uncompromising bands. They manage to mix elements of doom and hardcore to create one almighty thick, slushy primordial soup. Conjurer are about to enter the studio to record their debut album and if they can harness the raw intense power of their live show on to wax, they’ll deserve to be considered one of the finest heavy bands in the country.
Combining black metal and post rock, whilst an undeniably potent and heady amalgamate, is fast becoming passé amongst the metal elite brigade after the deluge of bands that have swamped the genre in the past five years. However, Bristol’s very own Svalbard can count themselves as one of the UK’s finest iterations. Their wall of noise is cataclysmic, yet strangely hypnotising, no doubt the result of mixing evocative delayed lead guitar-work with a battering barrage of blastbeats. Vocalist / guitarist Serena Cherry’s agonised howls are an emotional baring of the soul that prove deeply affecting up against the merciless waves of violent, oppressive, reverb-drenched guitar. Their 2015 debut album One Day All This Will End is a fantastic spring-board for their affecting and devastating sound and one hopes that they’ll broaden their horizons even further for their second album.
It feels as if Employed to Serve are on the cusp of truly great things. Their brand of nasty hardcore manages to achieve something rare for music that is this down-right deranged and unwieldy; in amongst the barrage of anarchic, vitriolic fury are hooks that don’t so much coax the listener as batter them senseless. The band are a turbulent, vicious assault on the senses, all at the top of their game in their respective instruments and as a live unit, they’re chaotic whilst inexplicably being tight as a gnat’s arse. Vocalist Justine Jones is an inspiration to anyone involved with a scene fuelled by passion rather than financial reward; her abilities as a hardcore vocalist are exemplary and her commitment to her craft is laudable. I Spend My Days (Wishing Them Away) is a great primer for the more doom-laden grooves that infuse forthcoming second album The Warmth of a Dying Sun; the fact that a new song is one of the highlights in a set full of stunners from their awe-inspiring debut album Greyer Than You Remember is an extremely encouraging sign for the future. Employed to Serve are fast becoming a very special band and if you’re vaguely interested in punishing hardcore that is not for the faint of heart, it is essential you check them out.
It’s disconcerting going from the untamed bliss of devastation that is Employed to Serve into the more spaced-out heavy, bong-worshipping vibes of Bossk. The five-piece suffer ever-so-slightly from following such a powerhouse performance but once the blood has cooled and the heart’s stopped pumping at 120bpm, Bossk begin to make a whole lot more sense. In 2016’s Audio Noir, the band released one of the best post-metal albums of the year, a record so meticulous in its craft, it was released 11 years after the band initially formed. Songs such as Heliopause and Kobe are the stunning results of the their patience and dedication to creating something incredible, and Bossk’s uncanny knack to marry ambient textures with lumbering, doomy grooves is way beyond the majority of their peers. Few bands manage to combine Explosions in the Sky atmospherics with Black Sabbath infused riffs and make the joins not only seamless, but completely natural. Once the crowd has got into the head-space, their hail-to-the-leaf, woozy vibes make for a superb way to end an incredible day of unconventional music.
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