Photos (c) Louise Brady
On a properly autumnal evening at the Fleece, we are gifted with a lineup that would excite anyone with even a passing interest in loud guitars and raw wordsmiths.
Kicking off with the Southwest’s flagship for gritty punk-rock (and general noisiness) Idles are on top form tonight. Setting the tone beautifully for the evening to come (though you won’t find much conventional ‘beauty’ in their searing sonic squall), they tear up The Fleece with a set full of vitriol and venom. A palpable sense of unease and tension hangs over the venue throughout — in the best way possible. Frontman Joe Talbot stalks the front of the stage like a caged animal, emitting real fervour and whipping up the crowd like a particularly angry ringmaster. The pummelling drums and white hot sheets of guitar noise open up the night well; they bring so much commitment to the moment that you can’t help but be swept up in the maelstrom of sound they produce.
Detroit’s Protomartyr are the personal draw for this reviewer tonight; their ‘Under Color Of Official Right’ album from last year being a highlight of 2014 for me. Promoting the recently released ‘The Agent Intellect’, they’re currently riding a wave of rave reviews for their third album in as many years. Their all-too-short set proves a fantastic showcase for an idiosyncratic sound, one that’s unmistakable in the context of the current crop of guitar outfits.
Unassuming vocalist Joe Casey has one of those voices that shouldn’t work but does, his bark complementing the greyscale, tonal wash of the band’s music to a tee. He spits his lines with the cadence of a rapper and all the feeling of someone who has lived through hard times before breaking through the other side. There’s certainly a redemptive quality about this band — and tonight demonstrates the pure joy its members take in creating their signature sound; dour, intense, cathartic.
A typical Protomartyr song is a construct of a simple, locked groove from the rhythm section with spidery guitar lines snaking above and Casey spewing out his observations, set dead centre. The effect is hypnotic. Mid-set, as they launch into the galloping drums of ‘Trust Me Billy’, you sense a band really hitting their stride. The final track for this evening (and lead single from the most recent album) ‘Why Does It Shake?’ is a great finisher. Benefiting from some abrupt tempo changes between verse and chorus, we nod our heads collectively in appreciation.
Canadian headliners METZ make one hell of racket for a three piece… and they create a true thrill-ride for lucky Fleece attendees tonight. Channelling the snarling post-hardcore and noise-rock sounds of generations past, they brew up a heady and intoxicating cacophony of earth-shattering riffs, watertight bass-drum interplay and maniacal screaming. This music is pure release, though there’s certainly more subtlety to METZ than one might think. Melodies harking back to 50-60s era US pop-rock are evident, lurking beneath their grungy, grimey stew.
They’ve been garnering praise for their recent album ‘II’, and it’s easy to see why based on tonights show. For me this band brought to mind elements of 90s cult behemoth Drive Like Jehu, alongside hints of UK post-punk from the 80s. A curious and eclectic mix, but addictive nonetheless. METZ are the aural equivalent of a runaway train, but here is one train you perhaps wouldn’t choose to get off, despite risks to your personal safety. Visceral stuff all ’round.
Check out ‘Wet Blanket’ right here: