My quest to apparently visit every possible London gig venue of appreciable size this year continues (this was my fortieth show this year, at twenty-nine different venues, with at least another ten shows to come during 2012), and this time it was to return to the impressive setting of the Roundhouse for the first time since December 1996. Back then – I saw Suede – the venue was a crumbling shell, but now it has been superbly rebuilt, keeping the original features, making it one of the best venues I’ve been to in London. Great views – even with a number of pillars around the edge – lots of bars, a brilliant sound and – for once in this city – friendly and helpful security that don’t treat you like criminals. What a nice change!
It was no wonder the venue was only half-full at best, however, by the time we arrived and Warbeast were already well into their set – we’d come from the World’s End, where just about everyone looked to be on their way up after a couple more beers. Those who turned up later missed a solid, if unspectactular, thrash set played by a band, and particularly a guitarist, who look like they’d just stepped out of an audition for Conan The Barbarian. Make no mistake, this was a bit of a throwback, but a relatively entertaining one at that.
Talking of entertainment, Orange Goblin continued in that vein, their seemingly evergreen stoner metal having no end of catchy anthems about zombies, John Carpenter films (a marvellously grimy The Fog) and some songs that are built around some seriously groovy riffs (the brilliantly titled Quincy the Pigboy). Yeah, so the lyrics and titles are frequently stoner wackiness, but the music is no slackerville – ultra-tight metal that deserves to be heard by the wider audience that gigs of this size and quality will surely result in.
Eyes of the South
Lysergik Funeral Procession
Pillars of Eternity
Ghosts Along the Mississippi
New Orleans Is a Dying Whore
Bridge of Sighs (Robin Trower cover)
Hail the Leaf
Stone the Crow
Bury Me in Smoke
No such need to prove anything for DOWN, mind. While only sporadically active as a unit, as befits a band that for most of them is a side-project, of course, there was no sign this evening that this was just a knockabout. Things here are deadly serious, and at least for Phil Anselmo, very different from his perhaps better-known work with metal titans Pantera.
The ghosts of his past were not ignored, either, with a dedication to Dimebag Darrell for one song that resulted in the whole room chanting his name, and also in the dark, murky (and perhaps repentant, at points) imagery invoked in the lyrics. And the riffs.
Oh, the riffs.
Sludgy, Black Sabbath-influenced metal like this is all about the bottom end and the riff, and this set was full of immense examples of both, an hour or more of monstrous grooves that generally had a lot of heads nodding, and on occasions erupted into the odd moshpit. And despite Anselmo’s occasional rambling between songs – some coherent, some mumbled into the microphone, some really quite entertaining – this was a show for the fans, rolling out all of the old favourites that are the reason we loved the band in the first place.
In fact, the generosity in the set meant so much of a focus on the first two albums, and the odd dip into the new EP, that the third album was ignored totally, if I’m thinking right. Not that it was missed – what was played here was pretty much all brilliant entertainment, from a band that by Anselmo’s own admission “may not be around here again for a while”.
If they aren’t – and this means either new music or more shows – they’ll be much missed.