Haunting The Palace: ATP's I'll Be Your Mirror Slayer Day Reviewed
, June 5th, 2012 05:56
Noel Gardner, Amanda Barrokh and Toby Cook were on hand to witness one of ATP's finest days recently at Alexandra Palace...
You have to hand it to ATP... when they do something well they raise it to an art form. The metal day at this summer's I'll Be Your Mirror festival at Alexandra Palace in North East London will always be remembered by us as a singular event. Admittedly Storm Of Light and Wolves In The Throne Room lost out to the uncommonly good weather, the former especially not doing themselves any favours by projecting holocaust footage onto a giant screen at the back of their stage when it was 30 degrees and perfect ice cream temperature outside.
Yob looked and sounded like they had been beamed down from a different, more positive, galaxy however - the strength of their doom only matched by the grain of Mike Scheidt's NWOBHM vocalisations and uplifting Buddhist/ Yogic sentiment. No other heavy rock band can make doing a standard hits set seem so weird and unhinged as Melvins can. Despite some confusion as to which line up we'd be getting (caused by yours truly after a week spent listening to the new Melvins-Lite album Freak Puke) and then a few minutes of initial disappointment at not getting to see the new line-up of Dale, Buzz and stand up bassist Trevor Dunn of Fantomas, it becomes clear rapidly that we're in the presence of one of the greatest party bands ever. The symmetry of the band is fearsome, with Dale and Coady's drumming a joy to behold and Buzz and Jared's messianic groove mongering impossible to resist.
Sleep are peerlessly good. They have the confidence to mess about with the standards somewhat. For attention deficit fans they play a version of Dopesmoker that is only 35 minutes long and a version of 'Holy Mountain' that somehow makes the original sound cold, arid and tremulous. Matt Pike has clearly taken a physical beating on the road over the last two years, Al Cisneros has practically transformed into a Marabou Stork and Jason Roeder will never quite be able to replace Chris Hakius, but still mere mortals should fall to their knees and praise the cosmos for such beautiful reverberations. And Slayer are still the guitar based band by which all other guitar based bands who aren't The Fall should be judged by... and almost certainly be found lacking. Gary Holt has big ice hockey boots to fill, standing in for Jeff Hanneman and his default setting is to over compensate by indulging in very showy, flash, fret histrionics, but credit where credit's due... he makes newer material like 'World Painted Blood' his own. Anyway, don't just take my word for it. This is what the Quietus team thought...
Forty-five minutes is not enough time to spend with a band of YOB’s epic proportions. However they crammed what they could into a short but ultimately satisfying set. Sprawling and psychedelic, they are a band who don’t pull any punches. Relentless riffs meld hypnotically with heavy yet languorous drums.
In just three songs YOB showed the ATP crowd that they had the power to enthrall and transfix. They vigourously headbanged their way through material from post-reformation albums Atma and The Great Cessation. The set showcased Mike Scheidt’s awe-inspiring vocal dexterity. His all-embracing style notably referenced Lemmy’s gravelly tones and Rob Halford’s British theatricality in a nod to NWOBHM that is rarely seen in doom metal.
By the end of ‘Adrift in the Ocean’ the crowd appeared to have lost themselves in a sea of mesmerizing sound. If there was one criticism it was that we were all washed back to shore too swiftly.
I have often said that one drummer is never enough. Today, The Melvins proved the undisputable power of double percussion. Coady Willis joined Dale Crover to produce the pummeling tempo that identifies The Melvins as one of the most vibrant and enduring punk-metal bands of our time. It was an early performance and sunlight was still streaming through the windows of Alexandra Palace’s Great Hall casting a spotlight on Buzz Osborne’s shock of Sideshow Bob hair, which stands out as a metaphor for the band’s unique and unruly sound.
Hot, sweaty and introspective I opted to observe from the sidelines but reports that returned to me from the pit told tales of bruised euphoria. Resurrecting the Big Business line up they spat out a barrage of hits and steered clear of the left-field territory they have been know to venture into lately as Melvins-Lite.
Perhaps conscious of the ATP demographic they played their cover of Wipers ‘Youth of America’. A calculated move which enjoyed a storming reception. Old favourites such as ‘The Bit’ and new fare such as 'The Water Glass' and ‘Evil New War God’ from The Bride Screamed Murder alike were all imbued with fresh energy. They could be accused of playing it too safe but given the diversity of the audience it was most definitely the right move to make. Ending with a shuddering rendition of ‘The Bit’ they proved exactly why they have secured their place in music history.
Do Matt Pike, Al Cisneros and Jason Roeder seem miniscule on the Alexandra Palace’s arena rock-sized stage because of the enormity of the sound they make, or despite it? And other things not to think about while Sleep wade through the majority (around 45 minutes given over to it in an hour-long set) of Dopesmoker, lest you ruminate and ruminate and marinate and oh SHIT they just finished. Part of you wants to get lost in its never-ending blankets and caverns; part of you wants to acknowledge that, as much as Sleep are one of the most significant door-openers for ritualism, drone and the avant-garde in metal, they are (were) also incredibly astute creators of primal rock might. (‘Dragonaut’ and ‘Holy Mountain’, both pre-‘Dopesmoker’ album tracks, serve to show this tonight.) So that latter part of you settles for doing what most likely looks like slow motion replays of an air guitar competition.
I fucking love Slayer. I love the energy, immediacy and the danger; I love the technicality; I love the slightly ridiculous theatre coupled with a level of supreme integrity – the fact that they can play an ATP and be down with the arty, hipster-y types without having to be responsible for Lulu; I love the fact that when you hear tracks like ‘World Painted Blood’ or ‘Hate Worldwide’ live you’re reminded just how fucking good their newer material is; I love that they dedicate ‘Dead Skin Mask’ to “all the romantics”; and I fucking love hearing Reign In Blood in full. Luckily, tonight Slayer are all these things and more. Ok, so as much as Exodus’ Gary Holt is one of the best shredders around and a more than adequate replacement for Jeff Hanneman, I’m not sure I like his ‘look mum! I can play with my guitar behind my head and do unspeakable things with the tremolo arm’ shtick, but when that’s the only real gripe (and that they had to play ‘Reborn’ twice because someone fucked up) and when, after a killer encore that includes ‘South Of Heaven’ and ‘War Ensemble’, several thousand people in the early stages of severe neck trauma are smiling more than Tom Araya was throughout the entire show, you know you’ve witnessed something pretty special.