Shrine 69, Another Dead Hero, Meadows & Hobopope & The Goldfish Cathedral at The Northcroft Social Club, Sudbury, 20 May 2011 (metal/ pronk/ heavy rock) (The Northcroft)

The Northcroft seems to be going all out to turn itself into one of Sudbury’s busiest venues. They’ve been putting on a variety of local and regional acts from all areas of the musical spectrum, but tonight their upstairs room was hired out by some of the noisy bastards.

The opening ceremony was provided courtesy of Hobopope & The Goldfish Cathedral, appearing in a duo configuration. HPATGC is Paul Rhodes’ name for some of the stuff he does, but he was accompanied by Ted Mint on guitar: Ted Mint must be pretty dedicated, because the HPATGC material is fiendishly complex. I have to admit, I was there primarily to see Rhodes gig his stuff, which I have reviewed and listened to a lot, but only seen performed once before.

I wouldn’t say they played a blinder exactly. I don’t think the material is well served by the backing tracks approach that Rhodes uses, although it’s clear enough why he does it: his material demands some technically accomplished, highly disciplined players to do it justice, but he lives in a small town and he’s not in a position to pay. To see this stuff tightly played by real musicians would leave your jaw on the floor, but Rhodes and Mint played their guitars pretty good and gave a good, involving performance. It wasn’t always clear when they were playing or when we were meant to clap, but I liked the effect: with the bizarre gypsy comedy drama that was projected on the wall behind them proceedings took on the character of performance art, with the boundary between playing a gig, and just standing there chatting to your mates while the backing track plays, becoming thoroughly blurred.

Rhodes songs are amazing, out-there, psychedelic pronk masterpieces, and he’s a major talent in my book. I’m dying to see a full band absolutely nail his stuff, but until that happens, this was a tantalizing taste of the possibilities.

Meadows are a band I knew only from the two tracks that were included on the Dusty Curtain Face Sampler I reviewed a few weeks ago. What I heard there promised much, and they delivered live. Their sound is best described as equivalent to entering a building site, standing directly under the pile driver, and having it crush you to death. Repeatedly. They will start a song with a raging tsunami of distortion, grinding around in a swirling pool of sludge metal/ thrash riffcraft, and then, to differentiate the next section, they’ll make that twice as heavy.

For shits and giggles (whatever that means) they played a couple of Napalm Death style 3 second thrash-ups, but mostly they were a lumbering juggernaut of obnoxious, murderously loud, unhinged aural violence. At times it almost sounded like like ambient noise or power electronics, as the layers of distortion obliterated all possibility of distinguishing any detail. Sometimes they stood three abreast with their backs to the audience, as impenetrable visually as they are sonically dense. I like Meadows a lot, and I blagged a CD for a future review. Their music defies description. And it takes a lot to make me admit that, because I’m, like… a really good describerer and stuff.

Next up, Another Dead Hero take a slightly different approach (thankfully, as I think I’d be another dead critic otherwise). What they played was pretty consistently heavy, although I heard it said that they’d picked their heaviest material for the night, knowing what company they were keeping; it was, however, very varied and carefully arranged. I’d love to sum Another Dead Hero up with a genre label, so you’d know what they sound like, but there isn’t one that covers them.

Their material is definitely metal, and they take a pretty progressive approach to it: not progressive in the sense that the rhythm is too complicated to nod your head to, and not in the sense that they have twenty minute songs during which they noodle themselves up their own arses. It’s progressive in that they don’t restrict themselves stylistically, but range freely across much of the metal landscape, arranging their songs in ways that exploit a wide dynamic range, and they’re not afraid of melodicism. There’s a noticeable element of doom in their sound, but also a lot of groove, with some pleasing basso continuo type behaviour in the bottom end. I’ve also blagged a CD to review from this lot, as I enjoyed their set a great deal, and will definitely be looking to see them again.

Shrine 69 have been the victims of one of my live reviews before, so I won’t re-hash too much of what I’ve said in the past. They play classic old school heavy rock, and they nail it stylistically and sonically: takes me right back to the early 70s (well, maybe not, I was a toddler at the time, but you know what I’m saying.) The previous occasion I saw them was their first gig, and they were good then, but in the intervening period they’ve tightened up, and their vocalist has grown in confidence. There’s nothing fancy about this band: they have precious few pretensions, and no desire to break new ground. They’re very simply a shit-kicking, well oiled, hard grooving, bluesy rock machine. In truth they’re probably heavier than many bands were in the 70s, but by todays standards they’re more rock than metal. As before, they played a very entertaining set.

Self promoted gigs can be a bit hit and miss, what with people asking bands to play with them because they’re mates, but this one hit the jackpot in terms of quality. There was a decent crowd but it should have been packed to the rafters: it’s honestly a bit weird that there are so many top flight bands around that are to all intents and purposes unknown. Any one of these acts could build enough of a following to make a living if they wanted to get in the van and flog it up and down the country, but in the meantime, I’m glad they make the effort to come out and entertain me in the delightfully scuzzy environs of The Northcroft Social Club.

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