Live Review: Drowning Horse, Space Bong, Craig McElhinney, Alzabo

9 November 2015 | 3:46 pm | Christopher H James

"Drowning Horse have mastered subtle shifts in volume."

Challenging the limitations of what one guitar plus drums can do, Alzabo built up from a lumbering death march to a mechanical strut. It was steamy work, particularly for the drummer who gave in to the urge to disrobe from the waist up midway through the set.

In between the mayhem, the eerie laptop soundscapes of Craig McElhinney — accompanied by hypnotic projected images — drew stragglers toward the stage like entranced ghouls toward a sacred light. The heavy, pulsing drones seemed to melt and reconfigure time as McElhinney diligently tweaked the knobs of his mysterious electronic boxes.

Officially a six-piece, tonight Space Bong swelled to seven, featuring two vocalists — one a brute of a fellow on guttural lead growls, the other a taller gargoyle-like bloke on atmospheric backing growls. Lurching haphazardly about the stage like a volatile episode of Game Of Thrones, they bristled with an infectious energy; a rare quality in doom/stoner circles. Not always razor tight (a pitfall of operating as seven-piece?) Space Bong clearly love to play live and the effect of their enthusiasm was evident as the crowd wolfed it down.

A perfect picture of concentration, Drowning Horse abstained from stage banter preferring to propagate an atmosphere of intense focus. Exploring how certain timbres can only be created through extreme volume, the tremolo riff of their opener Dead River converged into one undulating burst of noise that sounded like the air being violently sucked through the broken window of a jet at 38,000 feet. Over a one-note mantra, Echoes exemplified how Drowning Horse have mastered subtle shifts in volume on their towering second album Sheltering Sky, as it built from an echoing lament to oceanic waves of sound. While drummer James Wills' smashes on UFO-sized cymbals caught the eye — looking something like the scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey where the ape bludgeons a skeleton — it was his ability to find exactly the right space in behind the refracting walls of static that was key to the band's overall offensive. The set built toward an inevitable climax, an overwhelming celebration of pure noise that caused ears that were protected by earplugs to continue to ring the next morning as if infested by a squadron of ill-tempered howler monkeys.  

Don't miss a beat with our FREE daily newsletter