Category Archives: Live

Nathan Gray live @Dynamo: Losing your religion

I’ve sene Nathan Gray perform a bunch of times now. For some reason I completely missed out on the Boysetsfire thing when it was a thing, so I was late to the party. Last night I got to experience the latest form of expression for his thoughts, the Nathan Gray Collective live in Dynamo.

Photo’s: Justina Lukosiute

For me Gray is one of the most compelling and expressive vocalists that I enjoy listening to. His delivery is from the heart and with an open-wound like bravado that I think is very praise worthy. In recent years, Gray has undergone a transformation and a search. From a Christian upbringing, I first caught the singer live with I Am Heresy in the same venue. I swear to you, there were 7 people there for that show. I was one of them.  A few weeks later Boysetsfire sold out the venue.

With his solo work, he further explores the angst that comes with losing your religious foundations. Densely electronic, vaguely folky, but a great vehicle for Nathans vocals, I needed to check this out.

The Devil’s Trade

Warming up is one guy in a hoodie, on the stage with a guitar, playing the most harrowing folk music. Much like a downtrodden country singer, ony using twangy, noisy guitar as support for his deep sonorous voice, Dávid Makó is the man behind the project. He also sings in Stereochrist and plays in HAW.

You’d never guess that the man sitting here is from Hungary by his thick, southern slur vocals. He could well be a cowboy in the deep south with his big moustache and muscular frame. His songs are great and captivating, but I particularly feel enthralled by the Hungarian folk songs he adds to the set. The mystic, sing-style language is always something special when used for singing.  There are some technical issues, so an acoustic here and there is added. Even those are delivered with force. I really recommend anyone to check out his music.  Truly, listening to this again right now and I feel shivers down my spine.

Add to that the humble presentation of the man , the unconventional play and conviction and there you have something very special.

Nathan Gray Collective

The smiling trio makes their way onto the stage, dressed in grey shirts, the look is more industrial as predicted, like the neo-folk groups. Still, this is something else and way more personal and direct.

I would like to describe the way the opening song hits me. ‘Heathen Blood’ is like  a sledgehammer to the knees, it’s direct honesty, the pain in the voice of Gray and the frustration in the delivery are pure catharsis for the listener. I’ve come to terms with my own disposition towards the faith, but I just recognise the fury, the unrelenting sorrow that is voiced in this song. As Gray has said he was inspired by Skinny Puppy, this is exactly the immense impact that those guys make with way more effort. Nathan does it by just opening up to his crowd.

In a steady pace the band then moves through the tunes. Dan E. Smith is the main partner in crime for Gray, who plays guitar and delivers the electronics. It makes the whole sound more controlled and deliberate. The choice for electronics forces a new way of song writing for Gray, but in a sense many songs stay close to the emotional and melodic delivery that I’m familiar with. The high, soaring passages, but here and there we get a little bit of a dancy tune, like ‘Skin’. Most of the time the electronics do their work, but here and there I miss the organic connection between Gray’s natural voice and some more straight forward guitar work. It’s a personal note. Musically it works and Gray is a powerful frontman like always. Sweating profusely, his black handkerchief remains at hand for the rest of the set.

In between songs, Gray has a bit of banter ready for the visitors, but it’s mostly upbeat and shows that the man is enjoying playing this night, even for a relatively small crowd. The band plays a good 1,5 hours, where clearly some songs really work and some are not as convincing. Gray himself is always grabbing your attention though, with a delivery that is not only strong but urgent. As if this is something he needs as much as his fans. When the band closes with ‘Corson – An Ode to Vital Existence’ from the solo debut, it’s another powerful reminder that personal changes bring something new. It shows the hardcore roots of finding hope even when you’re down. It’s a parting gift from the struggling frontman. I say struggling, because I feel his quest for enlightenment is still fully going on.

I’ve got the book on the table here and I’m ready to read his autobiography ‘Until the Darkness Takes Us’. I expect it to be the next thing that hits me like a brick in the face from his work.

Little Devil Black Ritual II

On a saturday night it’s a good moment to head to the Little Devil in Tilburg for a drink and some pitch black metal, because it’s time for the second edition of Little Devil Black Ritual.

The festival took place last year as well and it is a two day event, but it’s well worth checking out some of the bands hailing from the deep underground of the Dutch black metal scene. Opener today was Asgrauw, who I missed. Luckily I entered in time to catch the best named band ever: Dood.

Little Devil Black Ritual is not a creamy, popular black metal bands festival, but manages to dig our gems from the underground that are hard to catch live or sometimes just barely known. It’s not for those who ‘listened to Mayhem…once’, but for people who love the darker sound. Though rather conservative in outlook, I’ve enjoyed my stay here and would recommend it to any who are into this music.

Dood

Dood means death in Dutch and the band is remarkably young with only having existed for a good 5 years. They did release two albums and embrace every element we have come to ascribe to the black metal style. Though their sound is not something to brag about, their masked vocalist does add a certain je ne sais quoi to the performance. There are some technical issues with the keys, but they’re buried deep in the walls of guitar work.

Though I can enjoy their performance, there’s something about them that is just too easy. Like their name, the choices the band makes for their whole expression are somewhat predictable and middle of the road as far as black metal goes. It’s not very exciting for those who like to push further. That’s alright though, the foundation of any genre is the dedicated few holding the fort. It gives credence to the existence.

Orewoet

Orewoet seems to deviate a little from that. Named after a dutch romantic novel by the writer Emy Koopman (it seems, I have no conclusive evidence), the group has only just released their first offering titled ‘Afrodisiacum Der Vroomheid’ on Heidens Hart Records. The group has plenty of experience on the stage, having played in bands like Ehtraid Engrin, Gestalte and Weltschmerz. The controlled and measured way in which the performance is delivered and the great delivery are witnesses of the experience this band brings.

Their overall sound is rather oldschool, without much pretense or progressive elements to it. That mentality they also bring to the stage,  no bullshit with this group! Orewoet delivers their furious music as it should  be done. Musically they fit in with the more conservative Finnish sound methinks. Great band, who I’d like to hear more of.

Hekel

Though I have to admit to liking their name, the band Hekel is not something that really attracts me. Though I can submerge myself in their hypnotic, ritualistic sound in album form, it can be rather dull live. There’s the act, the mystery and the performance, all in place, but after the energy of Orewoet it simply does not hold up much for me. Good material, also their EP on Heidens Hart was enjoyable, but live a rather static affair.

You have to appreciate the amount of ambiance they bring with the looks and items gathered. This band has been active for 23 years and truly does have that oldschool sound to them and a dispassionate delivery that shows contempt the way black metal used to for performance conventions. In that static delivery emerges a ritual, a seance of sorts that you as a listener are part of.

LVTHN

The Belgian black masters of LVTHN have been very productive in recent times, which explains their rapid rise in the scene and headliner spot. The direct impact of their name equals their sound, which is confrontational, direct and fierce. De vocals of their frontman are delivered with a frantic urgency. It’s the righteous headliner for tonight.

Improvised altars adorn the stage, but there’s little in the way of show to the fierce act of this group. Blistering black metal with an almost claustrofobic feel to it at times. The delivery is great, a tight show and a whole lot of energy. The eerie passages of dissonant guitars break the surge of sound at the right times. Apart from their frontman, the band appears to focus on delivering the sound more than anything. Truth be told, head and shoulders above the rest this evening. The closing act for a great night of Dutch black metal.

Next year again!

Foto’s: Justina Lukosiute

Flag dominates in Hasselts Muziekodroom

Unfortunately I post reviews on here to rarely, but yesterday I went to a show which I hardly could not write about. I’ve been a Black Flag fan for a long time and apart from the recent abominations (sorry Mr. Ginn) I’ve got it all on vinyl proudly presented on my shelves.

So when this band comes around, minus the black, I need to cover this.  Together with T.S.O.L. the band is playing in Hasselt tonight. Flag is Dez Cadena, Keith Morris, Bill Stevenson, Stephen Egerton and the almighty Chuck Dukowski. Of the five only Egerton was not an orignal Black Flag member. Flag is not allowed to call itself ‘Black Flag’ due to Gregg Ginn claiming all the rights, plus the guys claim that they’re just not that good anymore.

All that’s missing is Henry Rollins, but Milo Auckerman is hanging out with the band today. But regardless, there’s more on the bill.

For example, opener Cheap Drugs. The group hails from Antwerp/Ghent and plays old fashioned hardcore punk with a notable rattling, driven energy of a band barely containing the fury in itself. It’s early days, so the group seems to realize pretty clearly that the crowd is not going to go down with their music yet, but they to their credit keep the pace high and energetic. The group has an album out for a while now, titled ‘Angst’ and it demonstrates their sound, which is sitting somewhere in between the classic hardore like Black Flag and Minor Threat and the slightly later European wave, it’s a good show and like any good hardcore show not too long.

Cheap Drugs (source facebook band)
Cheap Drugs (source facebook band)

A lot stranger is the high pitched screaming that greets you when you enter to see Cocaïne Piss. Their sound is much more lose, wild even and putting to the front their lady vocalist who seems to have little boundaries. Dashing over the stage in a mad dance, she finally decides to go see the fans and scream in their faces, dance with them and roll on the floor. All the while madly screaming the lyrics of ‘Cosmic Bullshit’ or ‘Sex Weirdos’, the last two singles by the group. It’s a swirling storm of, as the band says, glittershitstorm, but so cool and entertaining. Love this band!

Cocaïne Piss (photo from band Facebook)
Cocaïne Piss (photo from band Facebook)

Since T.S.O.L. is running late, the old boys from Flag are warming up tonight, as they say it. The band launches into a long set full of classics and truth be told they sound as energetic and frantic as ever. Keith Morris spits words out with venom, while the rest of the band works hard to keep the pace high. The crowd bursts into action and sings along to classics like ‘Fix Me’, ‘Wasted’ and ‘Police Story’. Notable is Dez Cadena, who has just has recovered from a battle with cancer. He’s here and clearly loving it.

Central on the stage is the ever energetic Chuck Dukowski, stomping his feet and slapping his bass with the same energy he always had. It’s a pleasure to see these guys at work and loving it. Towards the end, Dez takes over on vocals for a while, so Keith can take a break. Surely, the band launches into the all time favorites like ‘Rise Above’ and ‘Nervous Breakdown’ to close of with ‘Louie Louie’. It’s by then a sweaty mess in front of the stage. Due to the late arrival of the other headliner, the band comes back to jam some more. It’s just icing on the cake.

Flag IIII (photo from every press release)
Flag IIII (photo from every press release)

I’ve not been aware of T.S.O.L. for long, but I did know their frontman Jack Grisham, who strikes an imposing figure on stage at first. It’s soon though, that you notice that he’s a warm hearted frontman with a lot of wit and fun. The band puts out some great jams, which are largely carried by the rhythm section. Grisham sounds like a mixture of Jello Biafra and Bruce Dickinson. He sounds like  a strong and convincing figure.  The music is infused with a certain rock’n’roll swagger, distinguishing the band from later acts in the punk/hardcore scene and cementing their unique sound. It’s music to dance to!

We checked out a bunch of their songs, but due to the late hour we had to turn back home early. It’s great to see bands like this touring as hard as they do. Respect for those guys and specially for Jack Grisham and his boys, since theyir trip here must not have been a nice one. It proves that making hardcore for a life time is not for the money, but for the love of the music.

Photo’s all by the bands themselves, I just borrowed them from Facebook. Sadly I am unable to make decent photo’s with my phone.