As I noted recently in my chat with the promoter on /Talk Show Host/058, Chaos Theory Music have reached their tenth anniversary by being a fearlessly uncompromising promoter, doing things in different ways and indeed bringing diverse, interesting music to an increasingly open-minded crowd. Which meant that their tenth-anniversary celebration at The Dome and Boston Music Rooms last Saturday was a must-attend event for me.
/Memory of a Festival/034/10 Years of Chaos
/Memory of a Festival/Venue/Dates
/The Dome and Boston Music Rooms/NW5
/Memory of a Festival/Links
/Memory of a Festival/Related Posts
Despite terrible weather on the day – mainly a pain in the arse for most of us in getting there – there was a healthy turnout even earlier on in proceedings, and an impressively diverse audience (as well as performers) in terms of gender and race, something that frankly is not often the case in the spheres of music that we move in (and we must do better on that). My own plan to see every band was rather scuppered by a considerably later night than originally intended at Exit the Grey, but that was my own fault, and I made a late change of plan to ensure I got there in time for one particular band, and as a result, I saw and have covered twelve sets from eleven bands (more on that in a moment).
If you’re new here, by the way, welcome to my musical ramblings on /amodelofcontrol.com. I ostensibly cover industrial and experimental music – or at least that’s how it started out sixteen or seventeen years ago, and I started writing about music back in 1996 – but over the years I’ve widened the reach for it to cover basically whatever music I want to cover. The site is self-funded, carries no advertising, and is almost entirely (aside from very occasional guest voices) my own opinion. I may well be a little blunt on occasion, but that’s the way I prefer to express my opinion. That said, though, I’m here to celebrate the music I hear. I want to shout from the rooftops about how great many bands are, and I’d rather concentrate on that if I can help it – life is too short to be negative about everything.
If you like what you’re reading, drop my page a like on Facebook, leave a comment, get in touch. I’m always happy to shoot the shit about music or catch up with people at gigs I attend. All photos here are from Instagram feed, there are more shots from the day there that I couldn’t fit in here.
Anyway, on with my thoughts on this long day.
Having had to get from the bus stop to the venue through an unexpected hailstorm (yeah, just what I needed, that), I made it into the venue in good time for the first band of the day that I wanted to see, VASA. This did mean I missed a few bands before this, but realistically, having been up until about 0400 the previous night at Exit The Grey, it’s probably a good thing I didn’t come any earlier, as I’d never have lasted the whole night!
VASA was well worth the early-afternoon start for me, though. My immediate reference point was first album-era And So I Watch You From Afar, with a set of joyous abandon from the band – a band clearly loving what they are doing and smiling through their set really helps get any unfamiliar members of the audience onside, I can tell you. Their sound – the odd synth element on a backing track – is post-rock that contains peak after peak and precipitous drops, leaving the quiet, reflective moments for between tracks, and it is all the better for it, this being a thrilling, entertaining half-hour that not for the last time across the day, left me wanting much more. New album Heroics is also worth forty-minutes of your time.
A band that were new to me – and one that I won’t be sleeping on again – was Norwegian band Årabrot. Unusually, they were on the bill twice, with advance notice that they were going to do two different sets, and they really weren’t kidding on that front. This first, early-afternoon slot on the main stage saw them perform their score to Fritz Lang‘s Die Neibelungen, while the latter set saw them do the entirety of their recent album Who Do You Love.
This one was an intriguing, beatless set that was more familiar with brutal power electronics and malevolence. Lead vocalist Kjetil Nernes (also playing the guitar and a world of effects) was fascinating enough to watch in all white and a gigantic hat – looking like some kind of outlaw country icon – while his bandmate Karin Park (who has been involved in Norwegian Eurovision entries as well as writing and performing pop music in her own right, apparently) twisted all kinds of fearsome noise out of a bank of synths. Putting the noise into noise rock, that’s for sure, the set was a slow-burner that eventually had the bass hit you like a tsunami of sound, and when the guitars arrived, it was in a dense storm – and absolutely mesmerising.
Back downstairs, then, to watch Memory of Elephants. Like VASA – and in common with many nominally post-rock bands, as it goes – they have a great line in song titles (Teflon Wombat being a particular favourite), and as a fan of louder post-rock and what that entails, they were enjoyable to watch, even if I couldn’t help feeling that I’d heard some of it before. What I definitely hadn’t heard before was the striking presence of VŌDŪN, a band who subvert a few expectations and then some. Mixing West African influences (Vodun is as I understand it the West African origins of voodoo as we know it) and Sabbath-y Doom, they are an arresting presence on stage, and the vocalist has an astonishing, powerful voice. Adding additional members for part of the set – a saxophonist, another percussionist and a backing vocalist with just as powerful a voice – only made the set all the more brilliant. The tide of positive comments about this band when I posted an Instagram shot suggests that I’ve got some catching up to do.
I have less catching up to do with GOLD, as I’ve been following them for a while, and having passed up a couple of chances to see them live previously, I wasn’t missing this. I wasn’t disappointed, either: for a band named after a precious metal, they are an interestingly forbidding and initially gloomy presence on stage. Their sound is perhaps best described as Dark Rock, their muscular sound helped by no less than three guitarists (which made the six-piece look a little cramped on the smaller Boston Music Room stage, too), and at points they make great use of them, Taken By Storm, in particular, unleashes a furious mid-section that is, I suspect, quite like going through a whirlwind.
Vocalist Milena Eva is an intriguing presence to watch onstage, too. Unlike the rest of the band who were all in black, she was in shades of grey. While initially static, fixing the room with a steely glare, she gradually seemed to loosen up and indeed make subtle changes to her appearance from song-to-song, and also revealing the strength and range of her voice as the set unfolded. The thundering power of recent single He Is Not (about dealing with the reality of death while moving on with your own life) and the small-town tragedy of Things I Wish I Never Knew (with the kind of detail that can only come from personal experience, I suspect) are both songs that drag you in and envelop you, and more and more of the set proved the same.
/He Is Not
/Things I Wish I Never Knew
/Taken by Storm
/Please Tell Me You’re Not the Future
/You Too Must Die
/Why Aren’t You Laughing?
/Truly, Truly Disappointed
*I think this set is correct, from my notes!
Elsewhere, the searing dispatch of populist politicians in Please Tell Me You’re Not The Future (that could be aimed at any number of people, frankly, from their native Netherlands to a whole lot further afield) struck a clear chord with the audience, while the feminist statement of Why Aren’t You Laughing? (see also the video for it) is something well worth heeding, too.
Thinking about it after the set, though, what sets GOLD apart from any supposed peers is the sheer emotional force of what they do. Their sound and themes have immense power, and by the end of the set it was clear that the entire crowd appreciated them, and I know from a few friends at least, that they made a number of new fans. Here’s hoping they return to the UK again, and soon – easily the band of the day here.
I’ve been beginning to wonder if I was some kind of Jonah to Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, seeing as every time I’ve seen them previously, they’ve had significant tech issues. But Praise Be! Their tech worked here, and we were subjected to the full range of what this band can do. If you’re not familiar, they are, as the name might telegraph, a stoner doom band, but one that has integrated space and sci-fi themes to a point, a subtle dusting of electronics, and also remembering that tunes and melody are rather important too. Which makes them less of a self-indulgent band than many of their peers can be, frankly, and also perhaps helps to explain why they have become so popular, as they clearly do cross over. Their best set that I’ve seen yet.
The sheer diversity of musical styles on show across the day meant that pretty much anything fitted in with an open-minded crowd, and Polish black metallers Furia certainly appeared to be a popular booking, with a big crowd having squeezed into the smaller Boston Music Room for them. As befits a black metal band, there was lots of dry ice obscuring the detail onstage, but as it began to clear, it revealed a shirtless, corpse-painted band, all in blue jeans. Subverting the classic look, perhaps, but otherwise, they were every bit the classic black metal band I’d hoped for. There were incantations, there were howled vocals, there were blast beats, there were nods to classic Mayhem in particular. In other words, it was Kvlt as Fuck, and fantastic to boot.
It felt like a bit of a comedown for the next couple of hours, though, as try as I might, I couldn’t get into either of the next two bands. The dual-female vocals and dreamy harmonies over grimy doom that made up Undersmile really should have appealed to me, but I found it rather samey, and not half as great as their much-heralded and anticipated return suggested. Many of my friends loved it, mind, so maybe I’m the one in the wrong. I had no doubt, too, that Nøught would be a technically impressive band (band leader James Sedwards was a National Guitarist of the Year runner-up in his younger days, apparently), but for me, it just didn’t click at all. It was all well and good marvelling at how brilliantly skilled the whole band were, but nothing in it moved me, and after a while, I drifted away for some downtime before the noisy pummelling I was about to receive.
And my god, Teeth of the Sea once again delivered on that front. It isn’t exactly news that Teeth of the Sea are a loud band live – they’ve long been a physical, never mind aural, experience in that respect – but as promised on /Talk Show Host/059 last week, they very nearly did start bringing debris from the ceiling. When they have played longer sets, there are usually places to catch the breath before the next onslaught, but there was pretty much no respite for forty minutes here, over just five tracks.
/Setlist/Teeth of the Sea
/I’d Rather, Jack
Most artists would kill for a closing track as good as Gladiators Ready, but here Teeth of the Sea tossed this monster away first, that cyclic bassline propelling the song into an industrial-acid-techno frenzy that takes residence in your head, before they dived into the perhaps more straightforward techno of I’d Rather, Jack. The glowering, monstrous bass of Hiraeth – I’m fairly sure that would have registered where I live, the best part of two or three miles east – shook out any cobwebs and probably some loose change, and kinda cleansed the palate before yet another astonishing run through the mutant space-funk-electro storm of Responder, which seems to get a new intro each time and still never ceases to amaze as that beat takes centre-stage for the final run-in.
Seriously, Teeth of the Sea remain one of the greatest, mind-bending live bands around at present, who wield their electronics and instruments like weapons and know exactly what they are doing with them. If you’ve not seen them, I suggest you sort that post-haste. Just take earplugs, you’ll thank me for that.
The second set from Årabrot was rather different to their first. This time saw them expanded to a three-piece with a drummer, as they played songs from their 2018 album Who Do You Love, and it was as hard-hitting as the first, but in a different way. With thundering drums high in the mix, and metallic, savage guitar work – and a cold, harsh emotional feel – there was a distinct nod to Swans and eighties No-Wave in what they performed here, and I’ll certainly be giving this album a listen at some point (I’ve got a long listening list right now!).
Finally, it was the main-stage headliners Zu. Quite unlike any other band here, they are also an astonishing, technical band to watch. Normally described as a three-piece, they were newly expanded here to four – drums, guitar, bass and baritone saxophone, and that latter element was perhaps the key to understanding what they are about. Basically, they appear to be a group of supremely talented jazz musicians who happen to also be interested in noise-rock and metal, and the end result is a dizzying, brutally heavy sound that absolutely destroys, but is also exhausting to watch, never mind play. If I hadn’t been on my feet for the best part of ten hours at this (as well as that lack of sleep the previous night, thanks to that 0400 finish – oops), I might have been able to stick around for the whole thing, but I had to stop before I fell over. Hopefully, I’ll have another chance to appreciate this virtuoso band who are clearly at the peak of their powers.
The end feeling, though, was of a job exceptionally well done by the entire crew. The day passed by without incident or issue, what looked initially like a very tight schedule indeed was adhered to, and critically the bands all sounded fantastic – indeed I can’t remember a day event like this where the sound was so good across the board. It covered a vast wealth of styles, and summed up Chaos Theory nicely – no borders and all are welcomed regardless of what or who they are. They just have to be interesting and worth seeing. They can consider this a job brilliantly done, and here’s to the next ten years. I’ve no doubt they will ace it.