Shrinebuilder

support Wolves in the Throne Room
author EW date 02/12/10 venue Scala, London, UK

According to the proverb of a little-known Irish brewery who manufacture black stouty heaven good things come to those who wait. It had been over 2 months since my last concert, an extraordinarily long time by this writer's standards, and thus the opportunity presented upon me of Shrinebuilder and Wolves in the Throne Room live was the perfect opportunity to rigorously test that saying. Nevermind that the gig was in seedy Kings Cross at the drab Scala and the temperature outside began with a 'minus', I was determined to lap up the good things that waiters like I deserve. THE WAITING WAS OVER.

Wolves in the Throne Room

Feeling like a concert virgin again despite the 245 concerts behind me a naively bought £3.90 glass of fetid lager was suitable encouragement to enter the fray and prepare for WITTR's live ritual. Many black metal bands claim to perform rituals when actually they mock the look of a startled, demonic panda and fart out inauspicious noise on stage; with WITTR it really is akin to one. The simple lightshow, liberal usage of dry ice and shadowy presence of the bands three members, faces incessantly obscured by hair, make for a live experience few others can offer. It is unfortunate in the extreme that the opening blows of their 45-minute slot were hampered by muddy sound as the band wrestled to hammer the rhythmic melodies out of their two guitars (no bass) and drumkit but by the time “I Will Lay Down My Bones Among the Rocks and Roots” presented its stunning hypnotic passages as the performance’s concluder thoughts of two months waiting had disappeared into the cold north London sky. Proving there are no defined rules constituting a great live performance, WITTR’s policy of minimal movement and even less spoken word should be a disaster but a basic prior knowledge of the band’s music is the key to entering a dimension where all other entities cease to exist and the music becomes your oxygen. The void into which all fell before WITTR’s Underworld performance a couple of years ago is behind lock and key, that particular show remaining a pinnacle from my gig-going life, but the audience diligently lapped up what these American outcasts had to offer in an avid reminder that while most struggle to inject any passion or emotion into their music, some can.

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Shrinebuilder

Wouldn’t you just rather the notion of a ‘supergroup’ didn’t exist? When presented with members of Saint Vitus, Sleep, Neurosis and Melvins (among others) before you objective assessment goes out the window, swiftly replaced by warm sentimentality towards the honest creations of these four blue-collar hard-working doomdogs. With just a five-song album behind them Shrinebuilder push the very limits of a functional headlining band (this point did raise in my mind the question of which songs they would choose to perform from their vast collective back catalogues in the need to fill out stage time), going so far as to utter not a word outside of the lyrical script in an effort to ensure at no point was this a run-of-the-mill show performed by run-of-the-mill guys. The unwelcome sound gremlins of WITTR’s performance were noticeably absent in a set gloriously kinder to the soundman as the varying guitar tones of Wino and Scott Kelly and distinctly audible bass of Al Cisneros beat out the atypically structured riffing of “The Architect”, “Solar Benediction” and the three other offerings on their self-titled record. Close your eyes and you could imagine watching any number of potentially great bands in your presence with the shared vocal wonders of Wino, Kelly and Cisneros (Wino in particular sounding positively impassioned). However in no small part to the withdrawn nature of Shrinebuilder’s members, whose music does not possess the primal intensity of WITTR to allow for non-existent audience communication, the band’s performance did not build on the highs of its sum parts, eventually recoiling to the inconsistent quality found in repeated listens to the album. Where one thunderous riff of lurching doom will melt your ears another of distinctly more average build will come a-callin’ and the grandeur of the supergroup in front of you slowly loses its shine. To be tough is fair as this is not yet the finished article of a mesmerising band, which time alone will see to in the gluing of these scene veterans close together. A solid foundation to a new Shrine of doom has been built; expect the next album and tour cycle to raise the structure to the sky.

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