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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Gig Review: Pelican + High On Fire – Barfly, Birmingham, 15/12/07

With two such wildly differing bands, tonight was always going to be about subtlety and aggression; serenity and conflict. This scenario slowly plays out before our eyes but with more passion and intensity than we could possibly have ever expected.

Pelican

The joss-sticks are lit and Pelican hit us with their instrumental brand of guitar-driven post-metal, opening with “Dead Between The Walls”; undoubtedly the star of the new album. Trevor De Brauw, strikingly reminiscent of a young Bryan Adams, is rapidly forming complex shapes with his fingers whilst across the stage Laurent Lebec pounds his head back and forth like a chicken as he loses himself in the song. “Bliss In Concrete” follows before they launch into the 11-minute epic, “March Into The Sea” in which the band impressively change tempos as one, slowing the pace to a plodding march before winding it up to a galloping roar. The two leads never seem to play the same chord at the same time, constantly harmonising over the driving bass.

Throughout the gig the boys have had their eyes closed, at one with their soundscapes and only once are they truly disturbed when the soundman inexplicably cuts the electrics to spew forth a torrent of techno music. “What the fuck?” yells Bryan Herweg. Apologies are issued and the band returns to their catatonia in which they find time to fit in “Pink Mammoth” and “Aurora Borealis” before coming back to “City Of Echoes” and a well earned roar of approval.

High On Fire are all spit and fury; grimy and unsettling – a three-piece intent on deafening us with their four amp full-stack set-up. Contrasting with the check shirts and secretive tattoos of Pelican, Matt Pike is a painted whore of a front-man. He paces the stage like a caged beast raising his fist in triumph and demanding the same of those before him. “Fury Whip” is first out and immediately the cheekiest grin in metal is displayed as Pike shows just how well he can shred those riffs. “Waste of Tiamat” really impresses as his insane 9-stringed lead creates a torrent of chiming underneath which Jeff Matz’s bass throbs with the monstrosity of a revved-up Formula One engine and Des Kensel’s double-kick beats relentlessly into you. It is seriously loud and the constant noise never abates; ever-pressing, crushing all those present against its giant wall of sound. “Cometh Down Hessian”, “Turk” and “Death Is This Communion” are all screamed along with the baying crowd.

The set ends all too soon and Pike seems to concur by raising his guitar and howling at the sky. If Pelican were the calm before the storm then High On Fire truly were that storm. Breathless and invigorated we file out soundlessly – or maybe that’s just because I have no ears left.

Photo courtesy of Rich E

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