(by MWJ)

So again the application of defibrillators enables us to start another day. But venerable age is catching up on Elliot so he bails out in Wrexham, thinking he’s got away with stealing my stuff. Up to Manchester and atmospheric conditions in the grym frostbitten northern wastes are seemingly perfectly suiting an evening of black metal from the US headliners over here for a few dates (Birmingham last night!). Though it has kept the lady entrepreneurs off the streets in the vicinity of the venue, I believe they call it the credit crotch.

I only had a bit of the bands material and while I have indulged in the riding the knife edge between the depths of severity/silliness in black metal in the past am not usually over fussed about checking much out. Enjoyed Watain and Mayhem’s filth at Hellfest but at the same time found Marduk and Dimmu Borgir tedious. However, WITTR are more interestingly “green” black metal and while they are traditionally obscure about their motivations and messages their interpretations are far more to do with Gaia than Satan, and that strikes a chord with me, the daytime treehugger/axemurderer. Not sure if they named themselves after Gelert but there’s ya link2wales anyway.

Early to arrive then and sink the only pint of the evening as I am bizarrely using the evening to mellow after the previous two days destruction. WITTR bassist joins me at table for his rider pasta and chats on rockstar attitudes (they’re as underground as mycelium) and the importance of the rhythm section (like it was ever in doubt).

Once access to upstairs is allowed we are swiftly assailed by a surprise addition to the bill, Stuntcock. Featuring legendary underground vocalist Paul Catten (Medulla Nocte, Co-exist, Lazarus Blackstar among others) his oral contribution to this is warped up with the rest of the sonic noisecore experimentalism, manipulated live with a table top of electronics. The other half of the band is a bassist delivering colossal feedback grind in a Halo stylee, instant win. They blast on-off in contrast with sampled gentle notes and are done in about 10minutes, enjoyable in this small dose.

Next we have locals Hammers, more conventional in band set up but still delivering a phenomenal level of ferocity with their chosen means. Three of them sharing vocal roars, their distorted hardcore at furious pace with occassional lulls in the storm that provide respites of light though the imminent threat is still there, overall bringing to mind the best vein of His Hero is Gone as one of their acknowledged influences. One of the guitarists has the same kind of burning eye intensity of Scott Kelly, no doubting his conviction at what he’s screaming. I’m inspired to buy one of their 7”’s (tapes also available!), spoilt for choice over the handmade paper sleeves. Highly recommend them for any of the local promoters to get them down these parts.

They introduce themselves as “We are Cowards” but pull no punches in their onslaught of noise. Colossal distorted doom in the vein of other locals Atavist (there may well be some member crossover), the drums are absolutely leathered in the first epic song, the bass is massive, yum. The vocals are a harsh, random scream more akin to BM although they almost become a bit more audible towards the end, the singer taking time out in their sparsity to stare worryingly at the crowd. The band show some degree of variety in their style, locking into an intriguing hypnotic groove riff in their penultimate song, and also throwing in the odd mellow passage for contrast/relief. Think it’s early days for them but the prospects seem good.

Finally, with not much messing seeing as it’s an early Sabbath finish, WITTR take the stage in front of a place that’s fair rammed now. To me the uninitiated the tune-up is seamless to a few bars of drawn out atmospheric chords but there’s no mistaking when the song kicks into to the most humungous explosion of relentless noise I’ve heard since I don’t know when. Two guitars and bass are in a head down thrash-out double picking frenzy while the drummer is just gob-smacking, not just in his intensity but the fact that there are but the briefest of occasional breakdowns and he keeps the spazz-out up through the entire hour-ish set. Sparse and harsh shrieked vocals again from the two guitarists, but the hook is provided by the vast melodies that gradually unfold in the epic fury of the riffs. In this respect they come to resemble a black metal Neurosis, just at 4 times the speed, and interesting that they too share this earth spirituality creed expressed through this heavy avalanche. The mood is somewhat curtailed by the fire alarm going off half way through (probably caused by the smoke machine, or the folks on the pipe) and the power being automatically cut. There are jokes on doing an acoustic set but then with fans on, windows open and probably the battery taken out of the sensor they are back with the fury. It is an immense pummelling experience, bringing out some impressive hair wind-milling in some but most are just on the nod of appreciation of the effort going into the results. While it’s not that complex what they do, and therefore in some ways familiar to what’s gone before in the constricted genre, their sheer relentlessness has few peers. When they slow to a stop eventually there is universal appreciation.

Just the thing to warm your soul on a winters evening, I head back West before the snow reaches deadly over-the-sole height.

(click for pix)