Of Mice & Men
The Mo Club, Southampton, UK - 16/4
Grand MagusPrevious Next
support Primitai + Diesel King
author EW date 03/03/13 venue Underworld, London, UK
Having noticed that the European dates for this tour saw Grand Magus strongly supported by Angel Witch and Enforcer, it was to be hoped the same was here in the UK as well. Alas we did not, but what we did have were two young British bands of differing styles propping a performance from the Swedes which rates among the very highest of any club performance I have seen, ever.
Being unacquainted with these sludgey Londoners beforehand meant initial impressions were based on the stature of frontman Mark, a being who would look more at home on the rugby field than in the limited confines of the Underworld. His teammate's music was no less heavy, pursuing leaden weights recitals of that sturdy, unapologetic southern sludge style which with a self-imposed speed limit of no more than 10mph giving a few decent opportunities to nod along in approval. However the sound of their two EPs thus far is very much a recital of the reused and recycled song structures standard of the genre and unrepresentative of anything unique happening just yet for my fellow city-dwellers. Stll, the extremely positive audience reaction (a factor throughout the evening) told a story, and as the band departed with Mark stating "We have been Lostprophets and I'm Ian Watkins" there was a sense of victory at what Diesel King had achieved.
Up-and-coming traditional metallers Primitai pedalled a much more classic style than DK, accentuated by galloping NWOBHM-influenced rhythms, frequent flourishing solos and the strong yet strained vocals of Guy Miller which left many a positive impact on the assembled throngs already packing the floor. While it is fair to say there are more than a few acts derivative of the classic British metal template circa early 1980's of which Primitai might well be one, they go about their business of instilling an identity all of their own with a sense of glee at just being in the here and now and able to do so.
Much can be determined from the song titles of a band and it is here where Primitai rather sell themselves short. Bringing us "Buried Alive", "Pound for Pound" and "Sin City" among others does not sell the band's themes as being of any great depth or intrigue, a pity as the music has clearly had more attention given to it. Guitarists Srdjan Bilic and Nick Saxby offered plenty of solos between them, some of them it has to be said being mere chances to show off skills than for any great benefit to the songs, but finishing with Bilic soloing while standing on the legs of his crouched comrades shows just the level of confidence in the band. Perhaps a little too nice at this stage, a little more rough than the edges could see Primitai and their solid live performances start to take make waves in the near future.
Looking every bit the grizzled old men to the young(er) support acts Grand Magus strode out to the find the Underworld bursting to the seams with the more underground metal fans now being accompanied by increasing numbers of what I would classify 'Classic Rock' magazine fans - a sign if every there was one of the band's increasing mainstream appeal - and success. Frontman and guitarist of the three piece act JB has never been the most vocal in between songs, preferring to offer gentle encouragement and simple introductions to the songs in order to let his exemplary vocals and axe skills (and beard) do the talking, but as way of declaring just how well tonights performance was going he was brought to the conclusion that this night was to rank as one of the best night's of his life. The feeling was genuine and you could see why - the splendidly written vocal lines in the likes of "Kingslayer", "Starlight Slaughter" and "Silver Into Steel" were being sung back at him louder than ever and the band responded in kind, performing with an added intensity to songs already harking to the glories of powerful and true, denim-clad metal.
By way of proving just how image conscious the band are (not), JB's recent forays into the look of an hasidic Jew made for an intriguing proposition when watching the man sing decrees of anti-organised religion, as is the case in personal highlight "As the Oar Strikes the Water". More than just his recognisable and consistent vocals which stand out however is the man's fantastic soloing - Primitai could do worse than to listen to how essential each sounds within the context of each song, never at any point descending into the waters of musical masturbation. Rounding out the true power trio is bassist (and frequent provider of backing vocals) Fox plus the recently added drumming prowess of Ludwig Witt whose own contributions should not be under-estimated in providing such a classic performance; all abetted by a sterling performance from the venue soundman who provided a perfect show of his own.
If there was one factor defining the high spirits of all this evening it was the crowd chants of crew members Steve and Andy's names following JB's public thanking of them; one of those evenings where the serious business of heavy metal is perfectly combined with a tipsy jovial atmosphere. Perhaps it was the all-round glee at seeing Grand Magus at last assume the position of concert headliners or the fact their set stuffed of brilliantly meaningful tunes had come across so note-perfectly but this was not only the finest of my 11 experiences with the mighty Swedes, it was one of the finest I've ever seen.
All photos taken by Teodora Dani. Click here to view the full set.