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Moth Complex
Tranquil Fury
Underworld, London
Friday March 6 2009



An odd selection of bands, this. Three rock outfits topped off by gothic traditionalists. It's a bit like putting gravy on an apple crumble.

But what the hell. I'm a great advocate of bands mixing it outside their own scenes, their own staked-out areas, trying to generate a bit of crossover instead of playing to the same old crowd. This gig might be a bit of a result for everyone in the end. And anyway, the first band is called Wake, which sounds...kinda spooky, doesn't it? I wonder if they're a goth band in disguise?

Wake take the stage, and I can answer my question in three words: No, they're not. Wake, in fact, are a kind of middle-of-the-road emo outfit, sufficiently mainstream in overall sound to be contenders for classic rock radio playlists, but with a singer who's clearly been necking the angst pills. Scrunching up his face as if someone's just tipped a bucket of woe over his head, he keens and wails in a soaring tenor, elongating every vowel sound to an unfeasible extent. It's as if someone once told him that he's a Really Good Singer, and now he has to over-emote every line of lyric just to prove it.

Half way through the set, it occurs to me that this is what Muse would sound like if they recruited Thom Yorke to do his furrowed-brow agony thing over the top of their elaborate rockisms. That thought in itself is enough to point me barwards.

  Tranqil Fury  

Tranquil Fury (hey, d'you see what they did there?) have obviously been listening to plenty of American rifferama metal. They're heavy of guitar and choppy of rhythm - there's a guitarist on stage quite shamelessly touting a Flying V, which shows an admirable sense of purpose, even if his comedy shorts show a frightful lack of style.

The riffs churn, a certain Rage Against The Machine-style staccato rhythm pushes through. There are sundry 'sensitive' interludes when the guitar gets all twingly-twangly and the vocals go all soaring - you know, the way Metal bands always express that pesky sensitivity thing. It's no-surprises stuff, but it's delivered well. I suppose, if straight-down-the-line no-messin' metal is your bag, the boys do good. But I'm no metalhead, and Tranquil Fury are a bit too generic and undistinguished for me.

The singer prowls back and forth, looking bizarrely like a misplaced Beasie Boy, and I notice he's wearing a T-shirt bearing the slogan 'This ain't no disco'. Personally, mate, I wish it was.

  Moth Complex  

The proceedings are wrenched in a somewhat more contemporary direction now, as the trip-rock stylings of Moth Complex shudder and grind from the Underworld's long-suffering PA. Trip rock? Yep - it's like trip-hop, but it's got...well, balls.

I've become a little weary of trip-hop stuff over the years since it was unwittingly invented by the likes of Portishead and Massive Attack. I've heard too many bands who think that all you've got to do is shove a loping rhythm behind a bland ballad, and - hey presto! - instant trip-hop coolness is yours. But Moth Complex shake up the trip-hop juice and make it fizz again, and it's about time someone did that. Yes, they've got the loping rhythms, but they hit 'em good and hard. And there's some robust guitar in there too, muscling around like a rogue boxer in a night club, making its presence felt and daring all-comers to put their fists up.

The resulting sonic barrage is given focus by the singer, who delivers a precise, controlled, vocal as she stomps around with a slightly nervous assertiveness. And yes, 'nervous assertiveness' isn't just me trying to be oxymoronic (hey, Tranquil Fury, I can do it, too!). There really does seem to be a touch of nerves about her performance. The way she frequently clasps the microphone, two-handed, in front of her face, as if trying to hide behind the hardware, is a bit of a giveaway. This sets up a slight air of tension which I'm not entirely sure is intentional, but in a way it all fits with the churn and stomp of the music. Churn and stomp? I think I'll have some of that.

AdorationIt's been three years since Adoration played their first gig. Three years in which not much has happened, aside from the original line-up being substantially replaced by a bunch of new musicians, some of whom, apparently, have something to do with the Nephilim, and/or related bands.

That in itself isn't much of a big deal, mind. These days, it seems like half the bands on the UK goth scene have one or more of McCoy's old sidemen lurking in the shadows.

And, of course, the UK goth scene tends to progress on a geological timescale, so that three-year hiatus - surely a career-killer in any orher generic area - isn't actually a problem. Adoration can still plausibly claim to be a new band, and something of a supergroup to boot.

If I recall the original Adoration from three years ago, the band was then a robustly no-nonsense gothic rock juggernaut, all hammering riffs and hollering vocals. Well, Adoration are still firmly based in the gothic rock zone. They haven't gone space-techno or anything during their Quiet Time. But now, with a six-piece line-up (which includes three - count 'em, three - guitarists), the hammering riffs have given way to a meticulous pirouette through the lands of filigree and shadow.

Everything is precise, everything is arranged with punctilious detail. The three guitar parts interact with tip-toed precision, as the music builds to a structure so detailed and yet so monolithic it's as if the band had decided to replicate Chartres Cathederal in sound. The vocals are restrained, downbeat: in fact, most of the band apprear restrained and downbeat, gazing at their fretboards as if communing with their muses. It's only on the final song, 'Overground', that the pace really picks up, and Adoration's gothic rock juggernaught accelerates to more than a steady 30mph.

AdorationI suspect that Adoration's introspective air and attention to muso-detail is exactly what a large chunk of today's goth scene wants. As the scene crowd ages, and the younger, more punky types look elsewhere for their darkly-tinged excitement, Adoration could find themselves acclaimed and lauded by the more mature denizens of the dark side.

The goth scene's drift into meticulous maturity might be a slightly paradoxical situation - after all, it was the punky types who, in the early 80s, invented goth. And, personally, speaking as an older punky type, I don't think I'm ready for Adult Oriented Goth myself. But I'm sure there are plenty of people who have been waiting for a band just like Adoration to come along. The audience is out there, if they want it.

Maybe that three-year hiatus was a blessing in disguise. Now, Adoration might just be able to hit the right place/right time nexus on the nose.


Essential links:

Adoration: MySpace
Moth Complex: Website | MySpace
Tranquil Fury: Website | MySpace
Wake: MySpace

For more photos from this gig, find Adoration by name here.


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