Pet The Preacher
Wednesday June 18 2014
As Neil out of The Young Ones would say: heavy, man.
The Underworld has established itself these days as London's venue for up and coming heavy metal bands - a niche that seems to be generating some decent business for the dear old place, even if it means I don't get down there very often. A little heavy metal goes a long way with me.
But on this occasion, while things are likely to
get decidedly heavy, there's not much metal in the house. Tonight's bands
are coming from more of a seventies heavy-blues direction: Black Sabbath,
rather than Yngwie Malmsteen.
Certainly, I think it's fair to say that Black Moth are flapping in the same general direction as Iron Butterfly. They're a heavy heavy sack of fuzz action, riffs 'n' distortion deployed to head-messing levels - but although the lads in the band seem to get more lairy, hairy, tattoo-encrusted and downright rock every time I see them, the band still retains an acessibility which most other practitioners of the heavy arts don't have.
This is largely down to vocalist Harriet Bevan, who gives it a full-power Janis Joplin blast throughout, while still managing to come across as engaging, friendly, and reassuringly sensible, even as the boys churn out the slabs-o-noise while headbangin' like good 'uns in the background.
this combination of cruncherama riffage, rampant rock 'n' roll showboating,
charm that make Black Moth stand out in the rock zone. They're a band that
could equally easily play a full-on metalfest or an indie event, and capture
the hearts (and, let's hope, wallets) of both crowds.
I suspect Pet The Preacher's appeal is slightly more selective, since they're a grizzled, beardy, stonertastic power trio, playing a low-slung grindhouse blues that occasionally picks up its faded denim flares and canters off in a somewhat NWOBHM direction. But the band's uptempo outbreaks are kept under strict control: they always rein themselves in, and get back to the serious business of down-home riffin'.
Pet The Preacher are like an eighties
broadcast of the Friday Rock Show made flesh: traditional good ol' boy
rockin', as if grunge had never come along and moved the goalposts. I
half-expect to hear the disembodied voice of Tommy Vance boming through
the PA between songs. I can't say I'm an instant convert to the Pet The
Preacher fanbase, but for that unexpected memory of long-gone Friday
nights, I'm unexpectedly appreciative.
Over from San Francisco with a sound that's all overheated valves, walls of fuzz and no-shit down-tuning, Acid King lope and chug and rumble, like a tank dragging itself through a swamp. The guitar and bass make a mighty distort-o-racket, but in a way the band's lead instrument is the drum kit. The drummer doesn't just keep the beat - he sketches the outlines, fills the gaps, adds colour and punctuation, and tugs everything forward on an almost jazz-inflected flurry of beats.
Guitarist Lori S, stationed in front of an unfeasible tower of Marshalls like the guard at the gate of the city, wails a vocal that seems to follow behind the music, rather than being pushed out in front of it - a counter-intuitive technique that for all the heaviness of the proceedings gives the band a psychedelic, dreamy feel, as if ghosts are lurking in the riff-machine.
Throughout the set, there's no real change of tempo, and definitely no light and shade. Acid King's distorted dreamscapes all take place in a fuzzy twilight, and they aren't about to let go of the concept for anybody. But their murky swamp is a strangely compelling place to lose yourself for a while. Just watch out for Neil coming the other way.