Friday, November 02, 2018

To the extreme


Norwich might be something of a geographical outpost but the first band on tonight's bill demonstrate that the city isn't a cultural isolation chamber soundproofed from the outside world. In truth, you could hear Deafheave in space let alone East Anglia, so it shouldn't come as so much of a surprise to recognise the American titans' influence in Cassus' blistering assault, which is frequently awe-inspiring in its complexity and precision.

Unfortunately, while possessed of a paint-stripping scream, vocalist Natty Peterkin cannot carry off the singing occasionally required of him, the quiet coda to set-closer 'Reduced Possibility: Engendered Determinism' leaving him painfully naked and exposed without the fig leaf of noise to hide behind.

Faced with the prospect of a Norwegian band named Blood Command, especially in the present company, you might likely anticipate an ashen-faced, fastidiously serious black metal outfit. You probably wouldn't anticipate a shaven-headed, moustachioed, high-kicking guitarist wearing sportswear and a sweatband; or stadium rock hand-clapping; or the chorus of Bryan Adams' 'Heaven' casually dropped into the middle of a song.

Darting bewilderingly between punk, metal, emo and pop rock, Blood Command are a postmodernist's idea of fun, if not mine. As they depart the stage to Belinda Carlisle's 'Heaven Is A Place On Earth', I'm left wondering on what level and in which dimension it might all possibly make some semblance of sense.

If anyone knows about throwing curveballs, though, it's Rolo Tomassi. The headliners have been bending heavy music into odd, intricate shapes for more than a decade, toying with time signatures and keeping headbangers on their toes. Very few metal bands have the ability to create a surging moshpit in an instant and then confuse its participants into motionlessness the next, as they do on more than one occasion tonight (the strobe lighting only adding to the disorientation). Fewer still think so far outside the box as to work with dance/pop/hip-hop superproducer Diplo, as they did on second LP Cosmology.

Hell, Rolo Tomassi don't even look like a metal band. Nothing quite prepares you for witnessing them live - not even previous sightings. You can't help but marvel at the ferocity and dynamism of their music, and at the fact that such unholy noises can possibly emanate from vocalist Eva Spence, jack-knifing about on stage as though she's being electrocuted.

The set draws deeply on latest album Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It, with 'Rituals' kicking us off and 'Balancing The Dark' stirring the slamdancers into action. Meanwhile, 'Contretemps' and 'Aftermath' (together with 'Opalescent') prove that they can do epic as well as manic, achieving a kind of heavy serenity reminiscent of Deftones. The sequencing results in a gradual loss of momentum, though, and it's left to 'Estranged' to restore (dis)order and to 'A Flood Of Light' to illustrate that they're capable of reconciling their bipolar impulses within a single song.

(An edited version of this review appeared on the Buzz website.)

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