Mutation / The Empty Page @ The Deaf Institute, Manchester – 29th October 2017

Mutation

It takes a brave soul to venture out on the first Sunday after the clocks go back. Every instinct tells you to stay indoors, safe from the dark, the cold and the explosion of pre-emptive fireworks. Some may say it takes an even braver soul to leave the house to go and get pummelled by a band promising to make your ears bleed with their racket, but when it’s a trio as intriguing as Mutation, it’s one of those journeys that simply has to be made.

The Empty PageThe calm before the storm at Manchester’s appropriately-named Deaf Institute comes tonight from The Empty Page. Recent winners of Indie Week UK, if you went solely off the band’s debut record, you’d maybe think they were a bit of a “lighter” choice to open up for the brutality of Mutation, but in the live arena the band are surprisingly heavy. Drummer Jim, for the first time front and centre, is an absolute beast behind the kit, keeping things tighter than Scrooge McDuck, while Kel and Giz seem even more animated than usual, putting extra effort into teasing out the power and emotion from songs like Deeply Unlovable and Wardrobe Malfunction. Always engaging and entertaining in equal measure, The Empty Page have been going from strength to strength in recent weeks and are hitting top form as their micro-tour of Canada approaches.

As Mutation prepare to unleash their cacophony, the crowd seem wary of getting too close to the stage for a few reasons: a) It’s pretty high b) the drumkit is precariously placed right at the very front of it and c) Mutation make so much noise they’d get a dead elephant bouncing. In three albums, Ginger Wildheart and his merry band of miscreants (live, this means Scott Lee Andrews of Exit_International on bass and longtime Ginger collaborator Denzel pounding the skins) have created a wall of discordance so dense and arrhythmic that it was certainly an eyebrow-raiser to see a tour announced. 

How on Earth would three people recreate such a sonic maelstrom? Almost effortlessly is the answer to that. Openers Authenticity and Toxins from latest album Dark Black marry a Ministry-sized amount of bile with a strangely cathartic dose of euphoria while Friday Night Drugs and Carrion Blue throw that little Endless Nameless hook at you repeatedly until you nibble.

Arguably the star of the show is Vennart/Young Legionnaire drummer Denzel. Acting as ringleader, his position front of stage makes perfect sense, nodding at both Ginger and Scott to ensure they’re ready for the next onslaught before each and every song. As soon as he brings the guitarists in he transforms into a furious animal, pounding his kit so ferociously that cymbals start to escape from him, only to be brought back under control as white noise washes over us in between each song. Closing on an absolutely punishing Deterioration, there is a suitable finality to proceedings – no encore, no banter, we’re left with just the darkness and our ringing ears.

It’s certainly a divisive sound (interestingly there are only single figures of women in tonight; quite unlike your average Wildhearts-related show), but Mutation really gives Ginger an outlet to experiment and try new things even after 30-odd years in the business. For fans new, old, or of something else entirely, this is an absolute beast of a show that really has to be seen to be believed.

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Feed The Rhino + Night Verses + Baby Godzilla @ Sound Control Manchester – 20th October 2014

Baby Godzilla @ Sound Control

Baby Godzilla – On top of the world.

Monday nights haven’t seen the best of turn outs at Manchester gigs in recent weeks, but all that’s about to change with the massive throng piling into the Sound Control basement for tonight’s openers Baby Godzilla.

I’ve been to all but one of Baby Godzilla‘s Manchester shows as well as their chaotic and rammed Camden Rocks performance that saw even Ginger Wildheart peering in through the window like Tiny Tim left out in the cold, but tonight they take it next level.

The usual suspects get the usual BG treatment, with the bar, the rafters and the balcony all clambered upon with gusto, but to carry off a show that actually features damn good songs alongside all the chaos is another thing entirely. Screeching out ‘Powerboat Disaster’, ‘Whorepaedo’ and ‘The Three Legged Race.ist’ whilst riding a battered Marshall around the room can’t be easy, but the big early doors crowd lap it up and help out on lead vocals as and when required. Baby Godzilla: destroying bigger venues near you soon.

Night Verses have got their work cut out after such carnage but carry off their main support slot well. The band play a soulful and intense brand of post-hardcore that grabs the attention of casual onlookers as well as die-hard fans with vocalist Douglas Robinson in particular living every beat of every song.

The band aren’t scared to throw in some ambient atmospherics and guitar effects either, and both serve to really enhance their sound. An intimate affair in a very different way to BG, Night Verses prove they’re worthy of a second look.

Feed The Rhino are on their third album now and have left some time since The Sorrow And The Sound‘s release before hitting the road. And it’s worked. Tonight there are a lot of FTR fanatics about, all screaming along to whatever they throw out, whether old or new. There’s also a huge mix of people here, with older guys in Download shirts mixing it up in the pit with kids in Guns N’ Roses shirts who are young enough to be Axl’s grandchildren. All are flailing wildly, yet good naturedly, as the Rhino blast through an opening salvo of ‘Behind The Pride’ and ‘Deny And Offend’ from their latest opus.

‘Left For Ruins’ and a thermonuclear ‘The Burning Sons’ get things absolutely riotous and by the time ‘Finish The Game’ and ‘Tides’ rear their horns, stagedivers are jumping on top of crowdsurfers who are themselves writhing on top of other crowdsurfers. It’s pleasing to see that Sound Control’s side of stage security keeps a watchful eye on proceedings rather than ham-fistedly wading in as many others would, preferring instead to let the crowd (helped by FTR frontman Lee Tobin’s safety advice) keep each other on the straight and narrow amidst the chaos.

‘Flood The System’ brings a close to the hour-long set, and even though you get a lot of ‘we love you guys’ shtick at metal shows these days, tonight Tobin seems genuinely taken aback by the reaction as well as the turnout. Manchester, for a dingy Monday, you’ve done yourselves proud. Feed The Rhino, Night Verses, Baby Godzilla; thank you very much for the ammunition.